London, Aug.16 : It was time of memories being revived and emotions being allowed to gush forth. Former prisoners of war returned to Stalag Luft III on Friday to honour the heroes of The Great Escape. The men undertook the journey to the site of the POW camp to open a replica hut built in memory of their comrades who had died.
Hundreds of Allied prisoners were involved in the daring breakout, later immortalised in the film starring Steve McQueen.
The plan involved digging three tunnels - called Tom, Dick and Harry. On the night of March 24 1944, 76 POWs made it out through Harry - which fell 30 yards short of vital woodland cover.
Air Commodore Charles Clarke, 85, yesterday stood at the tunnel entrance and told of the dreadful moment he heard shots ring out - and realized the escape had been discovered.
The Independent quoted him as saying: "It's very emotive coming back, we have very strong memories. When I heard the shots I felt terribly sad that it had been discovered."
Four POWs were caught as they emerged from the tunnel in Zagan, western Poland. Just three made it to freedom, and 50 were shot on Hitler's orders.
An RAF team built the replica of Hut 104, which housed the entrance to the tunnel. They now hope to recreate the tunnel itself.