Description of the collage of items seen in Artefact #3, plus a diagram and description of Stalag Luft III, the POW camp in which Mr. Elliott was imprisoned.Donald Elliott
Donald Elliott in front of his Vickers Wellington as it gets "bombed-up."Donald Elliott
Top to Bottom:
Operations Record Book - Details of Work carried out; Photo of Don Elliott in front of his Wellinton as it is loaded with bombs; Flight Log book - note the entry for 7, July, 1941 "Failed to Return"; A single passport-style photo of Don Elliott, which, in the event of getting shot down and being able to contact a local Resistance group, could be used in the production of a fake ID card; Bottom left is a reconnaissance photograph of Stalag Luft III, in Sagan, Poland.
Donald Elliott holding his niece, in Canada.Donald Elliott
Passport-type portrait Don Elliott carried with him which, in the event he was shot down, and could get in contact with the local Resistance, could be used to produce fake identification. Beside that photo, to the left is a reconnaissance picture of Stalag Luft III where Mr. Elliott was imprisoned from 1942-1945.
The black and white diagram below the photographs is a key, describing each section of the camp,
"“You were 99 Squadron,” and gave me all the details that someone else had given him and the information. And I didn’t have to decide. And I still don’t know what I would do."
In Frankfurt-am-Main, it was a prison camp [Dulag Luft] where they took every air force prisoner initially, kept you in the cell by yourself for about a week and threatened you with being sent to a concentration camp unless you gave them the information that they wanted about your squadron. Well, they wanted to know who your commanding officer was, where you’d been attacking, how many aircraft you’d lost, that sort of thing. You were supposed to refuse, just give your name, number and that’s what I did, but the chap who was interviewing me said that he would let me sleep on it and he would come the next day and I could make my decision by that time whether I was going to help him or not. But when he came, he said to me, “You were 99 Squadron,” and gave me all the details that someone else had given him and the information. And I didn’t have to decide. And I still don’t know what I would do.
When we first got to Stalag Luft III [near Sagan, Poland], we started a tunnel there in order to get beyond the wire. And it’d be two men at the face cutting the sand away would, it was a good area to tunnel because there was chiefly heavy sand, which could be moved. So the two fellows at the face would fill a Red Cross box with sand and for some reason, there was a 90 degree bend in the tunnel at this place, I would pull the sand up, pass it over my body and put it in another Red Cross box, which would be pulled by another man who’d be in the chamber. If you’re going to build a tunnel, you have to start with a chamber because you have to have a place where you can store the sand you can get out of the chamber, you have to have a pump there to pump the air down to the face of the chamber. And you have to have a place to be and, and be ready so that when they opened it up at the top, you can all get out immediately.
So while we were doing this, the two fellows at the face had a light from some sort of a gas contraption of some kind. But anyway, it exploded and filled the whole tunnel with this gas so we all beetled back to the chamber as quickly as we could and operated the pump there that pumped the air in and we changed it so the air came into the chamber. As far as I was concerned that was the end of my escaping days in the sense of trying to get out by tunnel.
We also had the wooden horse there, a vaulting horse, yeah. It was big enough that you could have a man inside it and so we would carry it out every morning and put it in the same place. And the fellow inside would start building the tunnel that had a hole on each side and you’d put a two by four through the holes and four people would carry it, with a fellow inside it, and you’d always put it down on the same spot. He would take the sand off the top of the chamber, open it up and go down and start working. And then when it was time to bring him up, he came up and hung the socks full of sand around the edges of the vaulting horse and you picked it up and carried it into the cookhouse and he got out and you got the sand out and spread it around by putting it in people’s pockets that had holes in them. And the sand went down onto their shoes and was mixed in with other sand as you walked around the edge of the prison.
And then the problem was to always have people jumping over it, you see. And so everybody in the camp had to take some time to do that. So there was always somebody jumping over it, regardless of the weather. Eventually, they got the tunnel beyond the wire and three of them went out and all three of them got back to England.
The Germans were delighted to see prisoners doing any athletics because their thought was that if they were doing that, then they didn’t have enough energy to be trying to escape.