The Great Escape

Factual error: Why is Hilts not wearing a uniform? A serving officer captured behind enemy lines in civilian clothing risked being shot as a spy. If a prisoner's uniform was too worn or damaged to wear, it was routine for the German authorities to replace it - a P.O.W. in civilian clothes is an obvious escape risk. He is wearing a pair of tan chinos, a cut off sloppy Joe sweatshirt, both ridiculously anachronistic - Sixties hipster fashions - and nowhere even close to a World War 2 uniform. He is also wearing Army Type III Service boots - something that would never have been issued to a fighter pilot.

Upvote valid corrections to help move entries into the corrections section.

Suggested correction: The character of Hilts was based (in part) on the life of a British OSS agent who managed to pass as pilot by stealing a flight jacket (revealed in the DVD). We can only assume that since the Germans believed the camp was escape-proof, it didn't matter what Hilts was wearing, since he wouldn't be going anywhere.

Cobblers. Hilts is wearing casual clothing typical of the time the film was shot, not when it was set. No prisoner of war would be dressed the way he was. The posting is correct.

I've always assumed that the actor, Steve McQueen, insisted on the outfit so he would look hip per his image. He had a reputation for being a prima donna on set.

Factual error: A convoy of open trucks arrive at the camp bringing the latest batch of prisoners, many of whom are carrying rucksacks and tote bags of clothing and other possessions. Where did they come from? Combat servicemen in World War Two did not carry overnight bags with them - a change of clothes or a handy supply of toiletries was the least of their concerns. A prisoner of war arrived in the camp with the clothes he stood up in and nothing else.

Upvote valid corrections to help move entries into the corrections section.

Suggested correction: These prisoners were being transferred from other camps to this camp. As Big X said, "they are putting all their eggs in one basket." It's likely they are carrying possessions they've acquired during their time in captivity.

What "possessions"? Do you think they had Oxfam shops in POW camps during World War 2? They would be dressed in their combat fatigues and nothing else.

They would have possessions as they would receive parcels from home and Red Cross parcels.

They were universally known for their trading and scrounging abilities. Remember these were the "worst of the worst" in offending.

stiiggy

POWs acquired possessions by hand-making, scrounging, care packages, 'selling' watches and rings to guards or local civilians.

Agreed, there was always a bit of trading going on for little trinkets. As has happened in many wars.

Ssiscool Premium member

The Great Escape was from a POW camp specifically set up to hold trouble makers from other camps. Also, sometimes people expect to be captured and prepare to for it! Today, during funeral of John Lewis, speakers repeatedly mentioned that he was carrying a backpack with 2 books, an apple, an orange and a tooth brush. Which haven't been seen since his head was beat in. A least one German Fortress commander, sworn to defend his fort until he and all those under his command were dead, surrendered with multiple suit cases to make his incarceration more comfortable. Like the character Yossarian in Catch-22. [Spoiler alert: he makes elaborate preparations to the paddle in a life raft from Italy to Sweden.].

Factual error: Many of the prisoners are wearing watches, which is incorrect. Upon arrest a prisoner's watch was confiscated. This prevented them using them to bribe or barter with corrupt guards (and as this film acknowledges, there were plenty of those) as well as making coordination of meetings or escape plans difficult.

Upvote valid corrections to help move entries into the corrections section.

Suggested correction: It is true that most prisoners had their watches confiscated when they were captured. However, British POWs could write to Rolex in Geneva through the International Red Cross requesting a watch. Rolex would supply one with an invoice to be paid at the end of the war. The watches sent were steel because gold watches would have been confiscated by the guards. At least some of the prisoners involved in the Great Escape had these watches. Corporal Nutting, one of the masterminds, requested and received an Oyster 3525 Chronograph - a more upmarket model than the ones favoured by most POWs, which he used to measure the frequency of German patrols. After the war he paid £15 for it. In 2007 this watch and the associated correspondence was sold at auction for £66,000.

Peter Harrison

They are not wearing Rolex watches and the newly arrived prisoners are all wearing watches, which would normally have been confiscated.

No, they are not all wearing watches. Having watched the first half hour to check, the only definite watch I can see is being worn by Steve McQueen. I can't see enough of it to say definitively whether or not it matches the watches Rolex were sending. Many of the others are either definitely not wearing watches (Charles Bronson, for example) or, if they are, it is hidden by their clothes.

Peter Harrison
More mistakes in The Great Escape

Trivia: While Steve McQueen performed most of his own stunts, the only stunt he didn't perform was the 60 foot jump over the Austrian-Swiss border fence. The jump was performed by stuntman Bud Ekins, who later doubled for McQueen in "Bullitt."

Trivia: Paul Brickhill, who wrote the novel the film is based on, was a member of the X organization which planned the escape.

Trivia: The motorcycle used by Steve McQueen is the same motorcycle Henry Winkler used on "Happy Days."

More trivia for The Great Escape

Col. Von Luger: Group Captain Ramsey, in the past four years the Reich has been forced to spend an enormous amount of time, energy, manpower and equipment hunting down prisoner of war officers.
Group Capt. Ramsey: At least it's rather nice to know you're wanted, isn't it?

Colonel Von Luger: Are all American officers so ill-mannered?
Hilts: Yeah, about ninety-nine percent.

Group Capt. Ramsey: Colonel Von Luger, it is the sworn duty of all officers to try to escape. If they can't, it is their sworn duty to cause the enemy to use an inordinate number of troops to guard them and their sworn duty to harass the enemy to the best of their ability.
Col. Von Luger: Yes I know. The men under your authority have been most successful. This man, Ahsley-Pitt for example. Caught in the North Sea, escaped, recaptured, escaped, recaptured. Archibald "Archie" Ives: 11 escape attempts. He even tried to jump out of the truck coming here. Dickes, William: known to have paticipated in the digging of 11 escape tunnels. Flight Lieutenant Willinski: four escape attempts. MacDonald: nine, Hendley, the American: five, Haynes: four, Sedgewick: seven. The list is almost endless. One man here has made 17 attempted escapes. Group Captain, this is close to insanity.
Group Capt. Ramsey: Quite.
Col. Von Luger: And it must stop!

More quotes from The Great Escape

Question: At the scene where Bartlett is running away from the pursuing Germans in the town, a car stops him. Bartlett says something in a foreign language to the German who steps out the car which makes the Germans drive away. Could someone please tell me what is said in the Bartlett/German conversation and what language does Bartlett speak in.

Answer: It's German, although I can't quite make it all out. The Germans tell him to stop (sounds like one says "hey you" in English). He asks what this is all about and, in English, the soldier accuses him of being English. Bartlett acts offended at the idea, and at being threatened with a pistol. The soldier then asks if he's German, he says something in the affirmative, and the soldiers apologize as they climb back in the car.

Question: Why is Hilts the only prisoner out of the 11 or so who are returned to the camp after the great escape the *only* one to be sent to the Cooler? Shouldn't the other escapees be sent there, too?

Answer: The other escapees undoubtedly faced some sort of punishment - Hilts was singled out for the Cooler as he caused the most disruption while free.

Tailkinker Premium member

Question: In the scenes in which the POWs use the bags inside their trousers to distribute tunnel dirt over the compound, how do they put the pins back into the bags? It seems like a pain in the butt to have to take the bags out, just to put them back in, just to take them back out, etc.

Cubs Fan

Chosen answer: The movie is based on a true story and depicts actual events. After dispersing the dirt, the POWs simply removed the bags from their pants, reinserted the pins, and put the filled bags back inside their trousers again. Of course it was a pain, but what other options did they have? Little or none. Carrying out a secret operation in a prisoner of war camp with few resources, they worked with what they had, and made what they had work.

raywest Premium member
More questions & answers from The Great Escape

Trailer not working?

Join the mailing list

Separate from membership, this is to get updates about mistakes in recent releases. Addresses are not passed on to any third party, and are used solely for direct communication from this site. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Check out the mistake & trivia books, on Kindle and in paperback.