'I owe my life to the Nazis who foiled the Great Escape' says the last survivor





Marching along the frozen roads of Poland and northern Germany this week, a hardy group of young RAF recruits - accompanied by relatives of the survivors of the famous Great Escape of 1944 - are commemorating a legendary moment in history.

Sixty-five years on, they are recreating the deadly 1,000-mile march which the Nazis forced captured Allied airmen to undertake at the end of World War II.

It is a fitting commemoration of the bravery and toughness of a remarkable group of British, American and Canadian airmen, dozens of whom were involved in the previous year's escape from the notorious Stalag Luft III prison, immortalised in the 1963 Steve McQueen film....

Ken Rees, who will be 90 next week, was one of the tunnellers who helped burrow an escape route out of the camp - and was also in the elite party of 76 selected for the escape after being recaptured. He also took part in the Long March out of Stalag Luft III on Hitler's orders....

Ken was almost killed. He was next in line to leave the tunnel when the Germans discovered it. 'Had I got out, I would have ended up like the 50 who went before me. It was a certainty, with my record of stays in the cooler and annoying the Germans generally.'...

He is quietly reflective in old age about what the escape was actually meant to achieve.

'We honestly thought we were going to make it, jump a train to Czechoslovakia or Poland and get home.

'But when I think back on it now, there wasn't the slightest hope of us getting anywhere. It was just the thought of freedom, even if it was only for a couple of nights.

'That's the best we could have hoped for. As it was, the tunnel being discovered probably saved my life.'

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