Memories of Stalag 383
Damned Dangerous Sport
Forged papers made for my father Eric Evans who escaped in 1942 or 1943. He was helped by the French in his attempted escape. Along with 4 others they made their way towards the Swiss border where they were eventually captured, apparently several months later.
Perhaps the most sincere tribute ever paid to the Hohenfels Gallopers was the official German threat to murder them.
This threat was embodied in lurid posters and handbills distributed through the Stalag. 'Escaping is a damned dangerous Sport!' the posters warned and, quoting from an alleged secret British order about sabotage in enemy territory (an order supposedly addressed to Commando groups), they claimed that this absolved the Reich from treating escaped prisoners of war as soldiers and gave it the right to put to death as 'gangsters and saboteurs' any escapees found in certain 'Defence Areas.'
Stalag 383 was plumb in the middle of one such sacred zone, it seemed, and the posters, in blood-red letters, warned again: 'Stay in the Stalag where you will be safe. Otherwise, you will certainly lose your life.'
Now, the only time when it is not necessary to doubt a Nazi's word is when he is promising to do something murderous; and, since we knew all about the then recent butchery of fifty RAF Officers from Luft. III in Bavaria, there was no reason to suppose that the posters were printed as a bluff: no reason to doubt that the local werewolves were whetting their knives.
Nevertheless, so far from discouraging would-be members of the Gallopers Club, McCallen told me that his always lengthy waiting list was rather extended by the posters. They did, at least, advertise that the Huns were getting rattled, and that the Gallopers had not just wasted time, and the only pity was that the gauntlet was flung down at so late a stage in the war. Like a character I remember in a Will Hay film, many of the new Gallopers were released before they had time to escape and were inclined to be a bit peeved about it. They'll have to be prisoners in another war before they can test their deep-laid plans.
Which reminds me that it is no part of my purpose to 'blow the gaff' on anything that might assist future gaolers of British prisoners, so if the following brief outline of escapes from 383 contains unexplained phenomena, just assume, as you did about that last illusionist's show you saw, that it was 'all done by mirrors.' Better still, write to Michael McCallen and ask him to put his experiences in complete book form, meanwhile being satisfied with this, his own draft version of escape activities.
Michael McCallen speaking: There were many escapes from Stalag 383 - some through the fence, others via the sacks that carried out the waste wrappings from personal parcels, some by dressing up as civilian workers and going out of the gate on the sports field when the new huts were being built. Then some escaped at night time, going through both main gates dressed as German Feldwebels, as was done by George Beeson and Ginger Suggit; and a few got out by lying in a grave until the sports field was locked at night and then getting throuogh the single fence at the South West side of the camp.
A less spectacular way was to 'take a walk' off one of the fatigue parties, though this wasn't very popular with camp authorities since it tended to jeopardize vital supplies, especially in periods of shortage. One man put on his home-made civvies under his uniform and trailed off the hospital party outside the camp, but was in the clink within a few minutes, being detected by accompaying guards.
The bath house sometimes proved a means of escape - I am thinking now of the effort made by Lennard and Wilkinson who, with the help of their friends, smuggled their kit out with them on the bath party (the baths being some distance outside the Stalag gates) and made their escape through the window high up in the wall at the rear of the bath house. Lennard was dressed in German uniform, his rucksack slung carelessly over his shoulder, and avoiding the scrutiny of the German guard in charge of the party he ambled up to the Kommandatur, picked up a bike that was standing there and peddled off. I think it was near Munich that he was gathered in again.
I remember, too, a jolly good performance by Phil Meikle and his men, which involved throwing a ladder against the fence and a gang plank across to the outer fence (forming a bridge) as a means of escape. To divert attention, a dummy figure was thrown up on the fence wall away from the base of operations, and then the lights of the perimeter were fused (by means of a length of cord, a small stone at either end, being slung up over the electric cable that ran round the camp, and causing both positive and negative to meet, thus causing a short). But the Hun made too much of a hullabaloo for the operation to be a success and no one, I think, got out, though I've an idea that Tuggles Heath went into the bunker as a consequence of it.
Talking of the bunker, when the majority of the men who had gone through the first tunnel were captured and put into clink, the Hun put them on bread and water and they only had soup every third day. So we contrived to get Red Cross food into them. At first this was thrown across from the camp to the bunker, which was just on the other side of the road running round our camp; but the sentry objected too strongly to this and another means had to be devised. We knew that the Huns in the prison were often amenable to bribes, so one day, when there was a soup issue, Slim Somerville, a Kiwi (who had spent a long time with the guerillas in Greece), and myself, took around the jugs with a German escort, and tried as discreetly as we could to get the Germans to take in the tins of food we had secreted in our jackets.
But it so happened that an Unteroffizier was there, so the guards wouldn't play. Slim engaged them in conversation while I turned my back and dropped a few tins of odds and ends into the jug of soup in the hope that our men would fish them out when the soups were taken to their cells. Unfortunately, the guards chose to examine the soup before they took it along to the cells and, of course, found the tins, with the result that the Kommandant was informed and rewarded Slim and me with three days each for our pains.
I must say something of two determined gallopers - George Beeson and Ginger Suggit. I don't think there were two men of greater initiative in the camp than these men. Beeson had started a tunnel in the Spaniards' room in Number Two Company and had succeeded for a long time in doing what others had failed to do - keep it quiet. Not until a few days before it was due to be used did I know of it, and the very night prior to the escape attempt the Huns dropped on it. But George didn't give up. It wasn't long before he got together the makings of a German uniform, and joined in with Ginger Suggit to get out of the camp as Germans. One of the uniforms, I believe, was made of an Australian jacket dyed to the appropriate shade of green-blue, with silver paper sewn around the collar and eqaulettes to indicate rank, dummy pips, war ribbons made to colour on strips of cardboard pinned on the breasts, and belts made from the cardboard of Red Cross boxes, darkened with black boot polish. Their equipment extended even to dummy pistols, and Ginger made up the passes which gave them their German identity and permission to enter and leave the camp. Both could speak German fluently, and one dark night they walked calmly through the two main gates, receiving respectful salutes from the guards. Their excursion came to grief at Stuttgart.
George Beeson was instrumental in bringing into the camp a number of French P.o.W.s from the French Lager across the road from our camp. He heard that the French had a good system for getting men across the Rhine into France, and so that he could negotiate in the best way he smuggled himself into the French camp to see their camp leader about getting a place in his list of prospective escapees. The arrangements he made were that five of our men (I think that was the number) should change places with the same number of Frenchmen, the conspirators exchanging identities completely. It was the idea to have our men sent out on French working parties to facilitate their departure via the French route.
For this job our men needed a stack of commodities, both for their own personal requirements and for bribery and reward on their journey. Old Mac (MacKenzie, the 383 camp leader) didn't so much as blink an eyelid when I presented the terrific list of stuff required from the Red Cross store. It included biscuits, chocolate, cocoa, coffee, soap and cigarettes, and German money. But the stuff was there, as was the clothing some of the men required. Transportation of all that stuff to the other camp tended to be a difficult problem, but it was gradually convoyed across with the help of Doug Farley and Topper Brown, and George Beeson was the first 383 man to change over to the French Lager. In his place came Wally Whitehead, a Glasgow born man, living in Paris with his French wife. Wally came in one day with the refuse cart which was manned by Frenchmen, and the change over was not difficult, George taking his place in the cart fror the return journey to the French camp, and the German guard in charge choosing to see nothing.
George was soon followed by Ted Hardman; but something went wrong with the works when George made his break from the French camp and was picked up by Huns, for checking up respective strenths of the two camps they probably suspected that Stalag 383 must be harbouring a Frenchman, otherwise our number, and not the French, would have been reduced by one.
However, this was a puzzle that they never solved, for Wally went into hiding in the camp when a man by man check of the Hohenfels inmates was ordered, and they could only conclude that they had been tricked into a false count before. Eventually, we had five Frenchmen surplus to our strength living in the camp, but hiding during most roll calls. Thus it was that three men, say, could make a break from Hohenfels and not be detected at the next count, for it was only necessary to get three of the Frenchmen to take their places and the numbers were correct. It was not until gallopers were picked up in different parts of the Reich and traced as belonging to Stalag 383 (like Norman and Eddie on their Vienna trip) that the Kommandant would order a recount, and by that time the Froggies would be safely concealed once more.
Some perplexed by all this mystery, the Huns made several rigid checks of the camp strength, going through the cards containing photographs and fingerprints and, at the same time, sending squads of guards to search the camp while all prisoners were supposed to be safely locked in the parade ground enclosure. The Frenchmen spent countless hours lying in the most uncomfortable places, often (too often, I'm afraid) under huts on water-sodden ground, and sometimes under the potatoes in the cellar of the cookhouse. Wherever they were, they always eluded the Hun. Vividly do I recall one morning when the Germans brought in their dogs unexpectedly while we were still on parade and made a thorough search of the camp. They prodded under huts, searched each separate one, and combed the bigger buildings, including the two cookhouses. But they grew tired as they reached the last cellar in the last cookhouse - and skipped it - and the Frenchmen, too.
During the great food shortage, the Froggies, who were surplus to camp strength, had to take pot luck with their rations from the cookhouse, but they were always fixed up somehow, and in normal times MacKenzie saw to it that they got the Red Cross issues like the rest of us. The Frenchmen were usually busy men in the daytime - some ran stalls, and Wally Whitehead conducted French classes in the school - but they avoided contact with their friends from the other camp, lest the Germans had the French fatigue parties under observation. Wally, Marcel, John, Charlie, Morris, thank you. You did a great job. I hope you will be rewarded.
One of the Gallopers' escape methods that was both clever and amusing made use of the swill tub. Every morning at 383 a collection of refuse was made from the two cookhouses, the swill being carted away to a farm in the district. The contraption used for collecting the refuse consisted of a hug iron barrel, about four feet high and three in diameter, mounted on two iron wheels and drawn by an old mare in charge of a rather dopey-looking civilian. The tub had a huge lid which rattled merrily as the mare progressed along the camp roads, which were anything but tarmacked. Indeed, the lid sometimes bounced so high that it tended to come back too late to go into the tub.
However, two Kriegies, Ned Lynch and Bob Jordan, made their observations on the routine of this vehicle and decided that it would be worth experimenting with as a route to the outside world. So the first man was assembled with all his kit in a point of vantage near Number Two Cookhouse one fine morning, and while the guard's back was turned, into the tub he goes, disregarding, as far as possible, the odious contents thereof, and dragging his kit after him, leaving Ned Lynch to discreetly replace the lid.
The swill had, of course, been collected by then, so the tub moved slowly off towards the gates. Many hearts missed a beat when the tub perambulated past the guard on the first gate and slowly rumbled up to the second, outside gate. Here again there were tense moments, but the cart passed on triumphantly, for evidently no snoop ever suspected that such a vehicle would be selected as a means of getting out of the camp. So the swill tub rattled up the road, the man in charge idly flicking away flies with his whip, and at an opportune moment, when a good distance away from the Stalag, Bob Jordan silently raised himself out of the tub and made for cover, his footsteps drowned by the din of the iron wheels and the clanging of the loose lid.
This performance was repeated several times, but it had to go wrong in the end, and on the last occasion, as the tub reached the second gate, six snoops formed a circle round it and gaily lifted the lid. Up jumped the escapee like a jack-in-the-box and who was the more suprised it would be difficult to say, for despite their preparedness the Huns seemed genuinely startled at their haul. The would-be galloper got fourteen days for his effort.
Two Australians, Steve Young and Ted Paton, were the originators of the method of escape via sacks (the method that was used so successfully by the two lads who got to Vienna) and both these Aussies were at large for some time after putting their brainwave into practice. They made other breaks later on, Steve dressing up in civilian clothes, making up his face, and walking out of the gate on the sports field armed with a forged civvie pass. The last I heard of Steve was a card from him talking about 'Nights in Bucharest.'
The sports field was opened in the Spring of '44, and the very day it opened some of Gallopers got together and worked out a scheme to use it as an escape route. Actually, I had been given the idea some months before by B.S.M. Flood - and it was this.
The field was rectangular in shape and, since we were only allowed in it during hours of daylight, was provided with single barbed wire fencing instead of the usual double fences. Well, it was Sergt.-Major Flood's idea to get a party of men to sunbathe all in a group, blankets and overcoats stretched out under them, and while the sentries' attention was diverted, for several of them to cut away the earth with sharp knives and to fill the pockets of the coats and also the sleeves (which had been sewn together at the ends) with the loose soil thus removed.
A sort of grave was thus to be dug and a wooden frame inserted to support the grass sods which were to be replaced to camouflage the cavity. At night, as the sports field was being cleared and locked up by the Huns, a man would conceal himself in the 'grave' and leave his friends to replace the wooden frame. Then, waiting until darkness fell, he would let himself out into the deserted field, replace the cover of the grave, make his way to the single barbed wire fence and cut his way through with out special wire cutters. Before making his dash for the woods, he was to repair the gap in the fence so that the method of exit would not be discovered. We had worked out details as to the method of introducing the necessary tools and timber, and B.S.M. Flood, though keen to get away himself, was prepared to let other men on the Gallopers waiting list to try their luck first.
I gathered a group of men together who were to do the job and, while making a recco of the field on the first day of opening, I noticed another group of men whose very presence there hinted that something was brewing. Investigation showed that they were working on the same plan as my own fellows, so we decided to join forces and make a job of it.
That method of breaking camp proved successful on several occasions, but eventually one of the Gallopers was caught cutting his way through the fence, so the Huns went over the field with a tooth comb until the discovered the camouflaged grave. From then on, of course, the sports field was never closed at night without a search being made, and trained dogs were fetched in to round up any stay-behinds. A pity, really, because that idea might have provided a regular means of exit.
The escapes activity at 383 used to give the Kommandant a bad headache, and he tried to counteract it by placing all known escapees in three rooms where they could be constantly under supervision of snoops, while on roll call they always had to stand at the end of their company lines that they could be quickly checked.
Men I remember in these marked rooms included Fred Stuckey, Ginger Suggit, George Beeson, Archie McKee, Bert Howe, Bob Jordan, Ned Lynch, Ted Hardman and Alex Shelton in Hut 201. Les Murname, Eddie Ramage, Jock Ryan and his brother (alias Winton and Darwin), Fred Courtney, Bob Wilkie and Hughie Grieg, Sid Buttons, Bill Hake and Ted Ainslow in Hut 170. Lofty Williams, an Aussie, Eric Domini, Percy Sekine, Dick Pacey, Geoff Spence, Henry Hall, Tuggles Heath and Bill Opie in Hut 171, and I think Baronowski was there, too.
Anyway, all these men had three, four or more escapes to their credit, and the Hun thought he would be safer by boarding them all together. Needless to say, the snoops called in at these special huts every day at first, so not much could be done in the way of tracing maps and making escape preparations. But this much was done - one day the three huts put their heads together and twenty of them them formed a 'potato party' to go out to the clamps half a mile away from the camp and try a mass escape from there.
The scheme was planned on short notice, and all those men had to be given the usual rations, maps, compasses, money and, in a few cases, civilian clothes. Anyway, they were all equipped satisfactorily, and they paraded at the gates at two o'clock and were placed in charge of the German guards who led them away. Now, normally they would not have stood a chance of being allowed out on a fatigue party, being so well known, but it just happened that the Germans on the outside gate who checked out the potato party were new to the Stalag and didn't recognised them. It was luck, too, that they got by with all their kit, although haversacks were often worn by genuine potato gatherers who liked to bring back a few goods racketeered from Jerry civilians.
However, the party reached the clamps, did a little work, and when the guards and other Jerries working around had been drawn into bargaining for cigarettes, etc., by the men who were not scheduled to escape, the Gallopers slipped away one by one till no fewer than fourteen of them had hit the trail.
It took weeks for the Huns to round them all up again, and the fact of these being marked men before the episode was probably what infuriated the Germans most. The night of the escape, the Huns switched off all the Stalag lights as a sort of token retaliation against the camp and, needless to say, all parties leaving the cage from then on were very rigidly searched - until, as usual, the searchers became dilatory again.
At one time, we had five officers in the camp who had come to Hohenfels for the specific purpose of escaping. They had a long time to wait before their turn on the escapes roster campe up, but eventually they were all fitted up with the necessary gear, rations and papers, and while two of them elected to try a flit from an unloading party at Parsberg station, the other group of three tried the method of escaping through sacks from the Red Cross store. Of the two who got away at Parsberg, one was soon picked up by the many German patrols, but the other, an Australian officer, managed to lift a bike from somewhere and gave the Jerries a very good run for their money. The three officers who exited via the sacks were rather unlucky in that a group of French prisoners had escaped the same day and the district was completely cordonned off by the Huns. All these officers were eventually returned to their Oflags after doing time for their escape attempts.
One of the commonest means of exit at 383 was the direct route through the barbed wire after it had been cut with the clippers, and I did my first job at fence cutting at Hohenfels soon after the Stalag opened in the Autumn of 1942.
McKibbin speaking: Here I must take over from McCallen, who skims so lightly over his own exploits that his narrative gives scant idea of the actual risks he ran.
For this wire cutting business was a risky game indeed. It was a direct challenge to the German guards; it cocked a snoop at Hun efficiency; and it alarmed and infuriated all those charged with the prisoners' custody. They were hell bent to stop it.
Consider this. On all sides the Stalag was surrounded by great double fences of thick barbed wire, the corridor between the fences being sewn with spiteful coiled masses of denham wire embedded in the earth. Overlooking every yard of the camp were five lofty watchtowers, always manned. They had searchlights and machine guns to command the camp. Then, at intervals of thirty yards outside the wire, Hun sentries patrolled all night, a chain of high-hung lamps round the camp perimeter keeping the fence illuminated. Inside the wire, snoops with dogs were on the prowl - no prisoner being allowed to leave his hut at night, save for necessary journeys. So alert were the searchlight controllers that a beam nearly always picked up the night walkers and followed their course to the latrine, obligingly lighting the route back again, too.
Despite all this - despite every aid to gaol keeping that the Kommandant could desire - time after time, both winter and summer, the fences were breached and escapes made through the wire. As often as not, the fence was patched up after the exit, and it was not until escapees were picked up in odd corners of the Reich that search revealed where the gap had been cut.
Imagine, then, the fury of the Huns; their fault-placing inquiries, their bitter recriminations, the oaths and vows of their snoops. Imagine, too, the orders to the guards, and the murderous zeal with which these clenched their rifles - and then you will appreciate the nerve of the cutters.
It was a slow job, that cutting, but not a dull one. For hours and hours on end, in all sorts of weather, McCallen would lie out at the fence, clipping away here, crouching behind a post there, watching the jackboots of the nearest guard, keeping an eye on the sweeping searchlights, and listening for the whispers of his own scouts, placed to warn him of approaching snoops.
Every job was planned with willing helpers. A daylight reconnaissance would select the spot to be attacked. The expectant escapees would be warned to stand by and a hut near the proposed gap would be chosen as headquarters. Posted in the passages between huts, scouts would give warning of snoops within the camp, while others would keep tag on the outside sentries' movements. Great help was given by our own camp police, Tim Madden and his men keeping watch on certain roads.
But no amount of co-operation could rid the job of risk, and after all the planning it was largely luck that counted; Luck and the coolness of the fellow at the fence.
On his first attempt to breach the wire, McCallen was unlucky. Four or five hours with the clippers was not enough to clear away the coiled wire between the fences, and the idea, later used, of making a sort of bridge across the obstacle with matting was unworkable in this case, because the denham wire was far too high. So Mac repaired the damage he had done to the inner fence, and another spot was chosen for the next night's attempt.
All at 383 will remember the disused double gates near the bunker, and it was this spot which was selected for the second try, the last hut on the left of the main road being chosen for headquarters. Paddy McKenna and John MacKay lived there at the time and also included in Mac's party were Bill Baxter, Geoff Hosking, Jack Hamer, Alan Clarke and Eddie Ramage.
There was cheeful audacity in the very site chosen for the gap, because the gates were a few yards from a watchtower and not more than twenty from a permanent sentry beat outside the bunker. Its advantages were that one of the posts of the inner gate was thick enough for the lean McCallen to hide behind when the searchlight swung his way, and the other could be crouched behind if the sentry came too near. Also, the huts were pretty close, so a quick dive to shelter was on the cards.
Well, it was here that Mac set to work with his cutters and, despite many hold-ups, he cut like cheese through the inner fence and got to work on the coiled denham wire. This, as always, was a tough proposition, especially with the poor pair of cutters available just then. There were four separate strands of the coiled wire, each strand about half an inch thick, and when cut it had a nasty habit of shooting up straight like a released spring and clawing at Mac's face. In many cases, it had to be pulled completely out of the ground into which the base of it had been thrust, and naturally the whole operation had to be conducted without audible oaths.
Every now and again, whispers from his scouts would warn Mac of danger within the camp; but not always did the direction of the searchlight permit him to nip back to the shade of the huts. Instead, he had to trust to a constant manoeuvring round one or other of the gate posts, or a full length stretch in the prickly mass of the denham.
His worst time that night, though, was when the bunker sentry strolled down to meet another guard and the pair of them stopped right outside the gate and commenced a pow-wow about Urlabe (leave). Wishing them protracted Urlabe in Hell, Mac was forced to kneel for half an hour behind the outer gate post. So close was he to the Huns that he could have touched them, and so hard did he try to control his breathing that he almost lost capacity for it. Then, severe cramp developed in his legs, and he was just debating whether to let out a blood-curdling yell, throw the Huns off their balance, and dive for the huts, when a company of Jerry troops on night maneouvres came marching up the road.
This was a signal for the two guards to separate - though it was not a signal for Mac to relax. He had to make himself a part of that post till the company had passed, and such was his success that, to his own and his scouts' astonishment, he was not noticed. Inspired by that, he cut away at the rest of the wire and by one o'clock in the morning the fence was ready for the Gallopers.
Just as he regained the shelter of H.Q., scouts reported that the Huns had changed guard and that the new man was standing stolidly right by the gate and the cut in the wire. It seemed that he would be bound to notice something fishy, but just in case he didn't, Mac gave some last tips to the Gallopers and then popped back to his own hut for a short spell in bed. At three o'clock he returned to the fence and found that the hole had not been touched, so off he went to the H.Q. hut to tell the Gallopers - only to hear that, owing to the high-risen moon and other factors, they had decided to postpone their break. It was never Mac's policy to urge men out against their hunch, but that was the one and only time he was let down by his clients. Needless to say, the gap was discovered by daylight, and from then on the Huns were fully on their guard.
And it was then that the fun really started. So far from giving up in despair, McCallen and Co. sharpened up their cutters. Time after time, at irregular intervals, men got away via gaps they had cut - and, as often as not, it was the fence by the bunker that was breached. A fact which the Huns found annoying.
A few jumpy guards were wasteful of their ammo, and men in bed in huts often wondered where the bullets flew. But the Gallopers were lucky - as well as cool and careful - and random shots at night didn't stop them. In fact, the only Kriegie shot near the bunker was the rabbit fancier I have mentioned earlier - and he was plucking grass, not denham wire.
However, the danger of a bullet was always there, and apart from the outside sentries there were the Stalag snoops to dodge, these ferrets being anxious to keep their jobs, which, thouogh thankless enough, were better than duties on the Russian Front.
There were some gay adventures with these inside guards, who were often quite hot on the trail of the cutters. One winter's night, for instance, McCallen, after some hours at the fence, was briefing some Gallopers in the H.Q. hut, when the snoops caught sight of his scouts. Realizing that they had been spotted in their passage-way hide-out, the Kriegies took flight, making full use of the gaps between the huts, and not omitting to warn their colleagues, who also bolted. The whole gang, including Reg Stacey who was co-ordinating that night, rushed past the H.Q. hut, closely followed by the Huns, who hadn't time to shoot but were shouting for assistance.
Hearing the row, Mac and the two Gallopers dived under beds in the H.Q. hut and hoped for the best, while every searchlight in the camp and every guard on the fence assisted the chasers, who were three in number. Dodging through latrines and alley ways and hiding under huts, all the Kriegies shook off pursuit except Reg Stacey, who led the Huns a fine old dance round Two Company while his comrades regained their huts. Reg didn't have a chance to reach his own room, but he dived unseen into a friend's hut, grabbed a pyjama jacket, put it on over his battledress and was in bed beside his pal in half a shake.
The snoops had no time to search suspected huts, because the gap in the fence was now discovered and they were bawled at to fetch their dogs. These animals obligingly picked up a false scent and went tearing up the road past the bunker, with their masters pounding hopefully behind, and McCallen and his Gallopers wishing them 'good hunting.' The dogs, by the way, were often put off the scent of the wirecutters by the use of pepper, but the Huns eventually rumbled this device and pepper was banned from the parcels.
The Gallopers on the night of the chase were Geoff Spence, a Kiwi and Dick Pacey, two lads who were not to be discouraged by temporary setbacks. They had already tried their luck at tunnelling and had burrowed right under one of the watch towers before snoops made a last minute pounce on their hut. Now they were ready to try their luck again - this time in the guise of Belgian workers. They were fitted up with all the necessary clothes, papers and passes, and less than a month after McCallen had first cut the wire for them he repeated the performance in the very same spot, and this despite the fact that snow on the ground made everything harder.
Dick and Geoff got clear away from the camp and made for the valley leading to Berglengenfelde. They had some apprehensive minutes when crossing a meadow, for the ice underfoot made an appalling din, but they just carried on and hoped for some luck, which for then, at least, was granted them. Early in the morning they took a train to Bamberg and from there they travelled to Nuremberg, nobody questioning their movements. Unfortunately, they were uncertain of the platform for Stuttgart, their next stage, and while examining the timetable they were pounced on by Gestapo, who were thick as wasps round this Nazi nest. Even then they nearly bluffed their way, for their passes and papers seemed quite in order, but what sealed their fate was that they had been notified as missing from the Stalag and a description of their appearance was with the police. Needless to say they did time in the bunker - and needless to say they made other breaks later. They were that sort of lad.
But that sort of lad was common amongst the Gallopers, and to list more names and deeds would serve no purpose. The escapees and their helpers did their job - the job of harassing the Nazis - and the proof they did it well is in those posters - the sullen Hun admission of defeat.
'Damned Dangerous Sport' escaping was indeed. And McCallen and his men must rank as Champions.
Since the war Michael McCallen has been awarded the B.E.M. for his services in Germany.
Music : Sweet Lorraine