Saturday, August 4, 2018

The Great Escape - Number 1!

Isn't the most interesting part of a prison tour finding out about the famous prison escapes? The top ten prison escapes of all time, are written up by  They are each a lengthy story, so I've included the top 3 from the article:
3. Ronnie Biggs
Ronald Arthur Biggs, more commonly known as Ronnie Biggs, is infamous for his role in the Great Train Robbery of 1963, and for his 36 years living as a fugitive until his voluntary ‘surrender’ in 2001. Initially captured and sent to prison for his part in the Great Train Robbery, Biggs only served 19 months of his prison sentence before escaping from Wandsworth Prison on 8 July 1965 by scaling a wall with a rope ladder and dropping on to a waiting van. He fled to Brussels via boat and then onto Paris where he acquired a new identity and underwent plastic surgery. His 36 years on the run were spent predominantly in Australia and Brazil. On 7 May 2001, Ronnie voluntarily returned to the UK and was immediately arrested and imprisoned. He served 8 years in jail before being released on compassionate grounds in 2009. He died in December 2013.
2. Maze Prison
HM Prison Maze was the location of the biggest prison escape in British history, when on 25 September 1983, 38 IRA prisoners smashed their way out of the maximum security prison, widely considered to be one of the most escape-proof prisons in Europe. Fifteen foot fences and Eighteen foot thick concrete walls topped with barbed wire encircled H-Block, and solid steel doors barred all exits from the prison complex.
Prisoners planned the escape over several months. Two accomplices, Bobby Storey and Gerry Kelly, started work as orderlies to identify weaknesses in the system and six handguns were smuggled into the prison by exploiting these downfalls. Just after 2.30pm, prisoners seized control by simultaneously taking the prison officers hostage, and hijacking a lorry which was delivering food to the block. Officers in the gatehouse were also taken hostage and after several attempts, the main gate was opened. Abandoning the lorry after a makeshift road block was set up by two cars just outside the prison, the prisoners escaped over a fence. The prison was made secure by 4.18pm minus 38 prisoners. Twenty prison officers were injured and one died after suffering a heart attack during the escape.
1. The Great Escape
Devised by Squadron Leader Roger Bushell in the Spring of 1943, the ‘Great Escape’ from prisoner of war camp Stalag Luft III occurred on the night of 24 March 1944.
Bushell was in command of the Escape Committee in the North compound, where the British airmen were housed. His ‘Great Escape’ plan involved the building of three “bloody deep, bloody long tunnels” underneath the camp fences. The tunnels were nicknamed Tom, Dick and Harry. If one of the tunnels was discovered by the Germans, it was presumed that they would never suspect two more might be underway.
More than 600 prisoners were involved in the tunnels’ construction, with Bushell aiming to get 200 prisoners to freedom. The tunnels descended 30 feet below the surface and were only 2 foot square. The walls were shored up with pieces of wood which were mainly scavenged from the prisoners’ beds.
The prisoners were very inventive with their scavenged items. Tin cans became scoops and candle holders; candles were fashioned from the fat off the top of soup served in the camp whilst wicks were created from old clothing. The sand dug out of the tunnels was discreetly scattered while the prisoners walked around the camp.
The 200 potential escapees were divided into two groups. The first group of 100, called “serial offenders”, were guaranteed a place and included prisoners who spoke German well or had a history of escapes. 70 of the men were chosen because they were considered to have contributed most to the tunnels. The second group was chosen by drawing lots.
On Friday 24 March, the escape attempt began. At 10.30pm, the first man out emerged and discovered the tunnel had come up short. Rather than reaching into a nearby forest, the tunnel came out just short of the tree line and perilously close to a guard tower. Even so, 76 men crawled through the tunnel to freedom before the 77th was spotted by the guards at 4.55am on 25th March. Of 76 initial escapees, 73 were recaptured. Hitler order half of the escapees to be executed as an example.

In keeping with the topic, here are more scenes from the interesting architecture of Kingston Penitentiary.

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