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Last Updated: Friday, 9 February 2007, 12:38 GMT
Great Escape veterans meet again
War veteran Alex Lees
War veteran Alex Lees meets former prisoners of war
Former prisoners of war from Stalag Luft III, the scene of the Great Escape, have reunited in cyberspace.

Alex Lees, Jack Harrison and Melville Carson took part in a video conference to reminisce about their time in the camp during World War II.

The meeting linked the men from their homes at the veteran's charity Erskine and in Rothesay and East Lothian.

A spokesman for Erskine said the "historic and emotional" reunion lasted more than an hour.

Wooden boards

The daring bid for freedom was immortalised in the classic 1963 film The Great Escape, starring Steve McQueen.

Three tunnels, codenamed Tom, Dick and Harry, were started in April 1943.

The tunnels were dug to a depth of 30ft and shored up with wooden boards from the prisoners' beds.

The escape took place in March 1944 when 76 Allied prisoners of war escaped from the camp.

Only three managed to reach safety and of the remaining 73 who were recaptured, 50 were shot.

Erskine resident Mr Lees, 95, was the gardener at the camp who was responsible for getting rid of the soil from the tunnels.

"I would carry the sand in Red Cross boxes and then dispose of it by raking it through the top soil where I was growing tomatoes," he said.

Gaelic lessons

The last time he saw Mr Carson was at the camp when he was standing in his underwear in the snow.

Mr Carson, 87, from East Lothian, became a prisoner of war when he was shot down over Germany.

He said: "I am fortunate to be alive as the plane crashed and it was quite a mess.

"I remember attending Gaelic lessons in the camp and I can still remember one or two phrases.

"Gaelic lessons were used in the camp as the German guards could only speak German and English so it was safer to discuss escape plans in Gaelic."

Mr Harrison, 94, from Rothesay was an RAF Pilot and was shot down in November 1942.

He was captured and taken to the camp where he soon became an integral part of the Great Escape.


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