Great escape survivor is remembered by old school

Steve McQueen in The Great Escape
Steve McQueen in The Great Escape

AN RAF officer who was captured as he took part in the legendary great escape of Stalag Luft III has been remembered as part of the 70th anniversary of the historic feat.

Laurence Reavell-Carter, who died in Hastings in 1985, made it through one of the escape tunnels on the night of March 24, 1944 but was caught during the ill-feted break out.

He was one of the last men out and was waiting in the woods for others to emerge when a German sentry stumbled on the escape.

The sentry had raised his rifle to shoot at two escapers running for the woods when Reavell-Carter jumped out of the bushes shouting ‘Nicht Schiessen!’ which translated as ‘don’t shoot’.

Reavell-Carter survived as a prisoner and after the war continued his service with the RAF.

He received a military OBE in 1946 for his selfless action during the escape attempt and retired with the rank of Wing Commander.

He died in October 1985 aged 71.

To commemorate the role of its former pupil in the legendary escape, Sedbergh School in Cumbria has been holding a series of exhibitions and talks this week

Reavell-Carter attended the boarding school from 1928 to1931.

Before joining the RAF, Reavell-Carter represented Great Britain as an athlete.

He threw discus in two Olympics, including the notorious 1936 Games in Berlin which was attended by Adolf Hitler.

He was shot down in a Hampden Bomber that had been on a mine-laying mission in 1940.

The events were turned into the film Great Escape in 1963.

Leading figures in the ill-fated breakout were played by Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasance and James Coburn.

Stalag Luft III was built especially to house captured allied airmen, mostly from America and Britain.

The camp was the German province of Lower Silesia near the town of Sagan, now Żagań in Poland.

More than 600 prisoners in the camp worked together to achieve an extraordinary break-out.

It was anticipated that 200 would be able to escape. Only three of the 76 PoWs who took part in the Great Escape managed to escape and 50 were executed.