Operation Escape 200, later immortalised on-screen as The Great Escape was a plot by Allied prisoners of war to escape from the Stalag Luft III camp in 1944. A trio of tunnels – Tom, Dick and Harry – were dug, in the belief that Germany guards wouldn’t spot all three of them.
Upon the completion of Harry, some 100 men – chosen for their language skills and history of escapes – were chosen to be the first to escape the camp. Unfortunately, prisoner number 77 – a New Zealander – walked straight past a guard tower on his escape, revealing the whole operation to Nazi guards. Of the 76 who went before him, only three – all Scandinavian (fun fact – no Americans took part in the Great Escape, despite what Steve McQueen would have you believe) – made it to safety. Of the remaining 73, the majority were executed. Dick Churchill, an RAF squadron leader, was one of the 24 to be spared execution – allegedly because Nazi officers believed he was Winston’s nephew (there was no family relationship).
Churchill rarely spoke about his wartime experiences, which is a fucker for those of us writing obit of him. He was the last surviving escapee, although Jack Lyon – who was one of the 23 that never got through the tunnel – is still alive.