Wattisham and the Great escape

Heritage Corner

March 2019 saw the 75th anniversary of the Great Escape from Stalag Luft 111, in 1944.

One of RAF Wattisham’s own, Flt Lt Edgar Spottiswood Humphreys was one of the men to escape, be re-captured and executed by the Gestapo. Nicknamed ‘the hunk’, Edgar, was initially a sergeant pilot, a member of 107 Sqn flying Bristol Blenheim bombers at Wattisham. On the evening on 19th December 1940 Edgar took off from Wattisham on a night attack against a German airfield in Brittainy. The bomber was hit by flak in the target and crash landed. Humphreys and his crew, Observer G R Griggs, and the gunner LF Brand were captured and became Prisoners of War at Stalag 1 Barth. It was here that Humphreys met fellow POW Roger Bushell, and with whom he made several tunnelling escape attempts. Bushell and Humphreys (on promotion to Flt Lt) were moved to Stalag Luft 111.Bushell masterminded the Great Escape, which was made famous by the film starring Steve McQueen. Humphrey was one of 76 men who escaped Stalag Luft 111 on the night of 24-25 March 1944. He, and fellow escapee Paul Royle became separated from the main group in thick snow, and bitter cold. 24 hours later they were arrested by the German Home Guard, and locked up at the local prison, just 16 miles south of Stalag 111. They were soon joined by other would be escapees, until there were 35 of them. Ten of these men, including Humphreys, were taken away in a covered truck to a clearing near Sagen to be shot and cremated by the Gestapo.Originally Humphreys was buried at Sagen, but now rests at the Poznan Old Garrison Cemetery.

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