The Escape Tunnel:
The tunnel began under a bed in hut 9 which was the hut nearest the wire to the field which Garfield Davies had ploughed.
It went down 2.7 metres from the floor
of the hut to the roof of the tunnel and the tunnel was 90 cms x 90 cms (3 foot
x 3 foot) square. It then branched outwards for about 60 feet under the wire
to the field. Until the tunnel began to rise towards the opening, it was wide
enough to move along with apparent ease.
Air was supplied, as it is often done, by a hand operated fan forcing air through a long pipe work of condensed milk cans with either end removed. The tunnel itself was lined with old clothes on the night of the escape so that those that escaped didn't emerge covered in mud.
Exactly how the tunnel was excavated was never discovered because no tools were ever found but it is believed that knives and other kitchen utensils were adapted or used for the job. The soil was was disposed of in an extremely bold way. On the end of an 'L' shaped bend in Hut 9, the POWs built a false extension to the main wall and blended it in to camouflage it. The excavated soil was shaped in to round clay balls and then passed through a false air vent into the cavity behind making sure to keep the soil below a 'frosted glass window level'. When the POWs were captured they never divulged how they had got rid of the exacavated soil and the secret remained a mystery until the mid 1980s when vandals kicked the false wall down spilling the clay balls all over the floor !
Click Image to Enlarge
As the work on the tunnel deepened there
was an increasing risk that the tunnel might collapse. To prevent this, any
wood that could be laid hands on was stolen. Oak benches were stolen from the
canteen and when wood became scarce they had the ingenious idea of cutting the
exact lengths from the bed legs so that all the beds were the same height.
The whole dig required meticulous secrecy and to this day is not known who actually organised the escape. It is highly likely that only a select few actually knew this information or the tunnel's location until just before the escape for fear of betrayal.
See Model Of Camp With Garfield Davies' field & The Tunnel Clearly Indicated Click Here
away section of Hut 9 showing the location of the tunnel entrance under prisoner's
bed. When the top of the tunnel was replaced, concrete dust was brushed over
it to avoid detection.
Two: Escape shaft sunk vertically for 18 feet into the escape chamber. This area gave the escapees more room to work i.e. remove clay from the tunnel and pass it up into the hut to be deposited of. Lighting was obtained by using discarded electric cable and connecting it to the hut supply.
escape tunnel was 20 yards long and shored up with timber obtained from the
huts. The air supply was obtained by connecting dozens of milk tins together
which were then wedged into a bucket. A primitive four bladed fan was
rotated with a handle to ventilate the tunnel.
Four: Rock used to conceal tunnel exit
IMPORTANT NOTE FROM Brett Exton: The tunnel was re-opened in the Summer of 2003 and found to be in near perfect condition! (Click here to see photos). However, during the excavation, detailed measurements were taken and these disprove the measurements given on the above model. The tunnel actually goes down about 5 feet and extends about 40 feet under the wire, there was no escape chamber of the nature shown above, although there was a widening at the base of the shaft to enable a person climbing down it to have room to squat and then crouch into the tunnel itself.
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