What to Watch Tonight with Humax: The Great Escape – A Daring Plan ★★★★

The Great Escape – Part 1 ‘A Daring Plan’ is on Channel 5 tonight at 9pm.

This is the true story of the most audacious prisoner-of-war break-out of World War II, the Great Escape. In March 1944, 76 men tunnelled out of a Nazi prison camp in the greatest escape of the war. Their mission was to cause mayhem in the heart of the Third Reich. Over three programmes, we use stunning dramatic reconstruction, expert testimony from historians — including the biographer of the Escape’s mastermind — military experts and children of the escapees, plus never-before-seen photographs and documents to tell the thrilling true stories of the escape’s ingenuity, bravery and final atrocity.

In this first of three episodes, we reveal how the prisoners of war built three huge tunnels and prepared 200 men for escape. We start in 1942, when the Nazi Third Reich is at its peak, dominating almost all of Europe. We meet the captive British airmen who make it their mission to escape from a brand new Nazi prisoner-of-war camp — Stalag Luft III. Harry ‘Wings’ Day, a British pilot who has been a PoW since the first days of the war after being one of the first shot down over Germany, has made numerous attempts to get away, and it is he who sets up clandestine prison committees to formulate escape plans. He is later joined by Roger Bushell, who comes up with one of the most daring escapes ever conceived, to dig three tunnels out of the most secure and ‘escape-proof’ prison ever built in the war. After failed escape attempts by Harry lead to his transfer to another prison, Bushell and his fellow inmates build the tunnels hidden from view within the prison blocks. Evading listening devices and crack Nazi teams of tunnel-hunters known as ‘ferrets’, they must hide the tons of sand dug out around the prison in plain sight. We go to the site of Stalag Luft III and see the camp remains and some of the tons of sand that are dotted across it. We meet escape expert Guy Waters and learn that all is not as it seems with the camp kommandant and Roger Bushell — for any mass escape to work, there would need to be a surprising level of Nazi and British collaboration.

Guy also argues that the escape is futile, he feels Bushell knowingly led men to their deaths in search of glory. We also meet Simon Pearson, biographer of Roger Bushell, who feels the escape was a noble act of bravery to get the men home to continue the good fight. We hear the personal stories of inmates from their families, including Colin Kirby Green whose father and his friend Roy Longolis guarded against any patrols that might be snooping around looking for the next escape, and also sent complex coded intelligence messages back to England. By August 1943, the three tunnels — codenamed Tom, Dick and Harry — are getting longer every day. Each one has teams digging, round the clock, on a rota system. But, in October, disaster: Tom tunnel is discovered by the ‘ferrets’, and the game could be up. But little do the ‘ferrets’ know that there are two other tunnels right under their feet. The Great Escape is far from over!

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