Page last updated at 19:53 GMT, Friday, 3 October 2008 20:53 UK

Tributes paid to wartime 'mole'

John Fancy
John Fancy wrote two books about his exploits during WWII

A Devon community is mourning the death of a man whose exploits to escape the camps where he was held during WWII earned him the nickname the Mole.

John Fancy, who was 95, had lived in Slapton for 23 years. He managed to break free from three different PoW camps using a 10in butter knife.

He dug eight tunnels under camps in Poland, Lithuania and Germany and helped several comrades to escape.

His daughter Janet Fancy described him as "irrepressible".

At the start of the war Mr Fancy joined the RAF as a navigator and was shot down over France nine months later in 1940.

John Fancy's knife
His daughter Janet Fancy still has her father's butter knife

He spent the next five years in different prison camps digging himself out, escaping three times and each time being recaptured.

"He dug himself out incessantly so they moved him about," said Ms Fancy, who lives in Slapton.

"He was a real charmer but above all he had patience, he was quite irrepressible."

She still has the butter knife, inscribed with the German eagle emblem.

"How he got it home, we've no idea," she said.

He was eventually released in 1945 and became a market gardener and wrote two books about his experiences.

The Tower Inn in Slapton has his portrait displayed on the wall.


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