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Passport Photos

Heroes Remember

So, that went on for awhile, so the tension in the camp grew and grew as the time got closer to when the tunnel might break. And there was opted that it would probably have to be sometime perhaps along in March, and so it was essential in forging the documents for the escapees. Many of them were going to use ruses where they would travel by train. So, they had, would be passing through checkpoints, so they had to have passports or other official papers. So, the artists in the camp got busy and created extraordinary escapes stories for each. The problem was, most of them were photo IDs, and so, in order to get a photograph, we needed film and a camera. Well, this is where the theatre came in because the theatre called upon the fact that there was a large number of people in the camp who were actually very skilled people and very intelligent people, too, in the sense that they were all officers. So, in the case of the, in the case of the tunnelling activities, they said, "Well, alright, we'll have to have very good papers for these people, but they'll all have to be dated as well, so we have to choose a specific day when we're going to be ready to break the tunnel." Well, the tunnel was finished. It was ready to go, so they decided March the 24th. That's the date, that's the deadline. What happened on the 24th of March? Well, in the first place, all of us who lived in Hut 104 would have to get out and spend the night in another barrack block. But the Germans often pulled fast quick searches at night, in the middle of the night, and they had a system where every bunk had a photograph, and if you were not in the bunk, then you went off to solitary confinement. So, we were wondering if they were going to do a fast search that night. The other thing that happened was that each of the people would have to get to Hut 104 before blackout time. And at night, the blackouts were big wooden shutters on all of the windows, and they were always pulled to. And when the tunnel was decided as March the 24th for the opening, most of the camp realized that although the ones who were actually going out were better informed than, than others who were doing other activities. But to come back to the theatre for a minute, I wanted to just mention that the Germans recognized that we would be probably a little less trouble to them if we had some diversions. So, when the camp got together and said we should have a theatre. We've got all kinds of talent here. We do have a small kitty because the Germans, at least, pay us a pittance. They... by the Geneva Convention, which Germany signed, supposed to pay us the equivalent rank. So, rather than accept this, the individuals... we all said, "No, no. Let's put it into a group fund. Then we can buy theatre supplies, sports supplies, and other things that might be useful in the camp." Well, to get a camera, the theatre came in, because we said to them, "You know, you are coming to see these musicals, you're coming to see some of the plays we've done, some of the comedy acts. This is a morale booster, and it's going to be someday be archival material. We should have photographic evidence of this." And the Germans said, "You mean, you want some film." And we said, "Yes, we need film to get some pictures." So, the Germans reluctantly agreed to this. When we got the film in the camera, we made four forged passport photos instead, for the escapees. So, that worked well.

Mr. McKiel describes creating the false documentation required by the designated escapees. He also explains how they managed to get photos for these false documents.

George McKiel

Mr. McKiel was born in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, on May 15, 1924. His mother was a war bride, and his family moved to Devon, England, when he was quite young. Mr. McKiel joined 405 Squadron, Bomber Command in 1943, and was shot down and captured shortly thereafter. He spent 2 years in a Polish prisoner of war (POW) Camp, Stalag Luft 3, where he helped 76 officers escape in the Great Escape. After his liberation, Mr. McKiel returned to Canada and eventually earned a PhD in Cancer Research. These credentials have allowed him to consult on Nursing issues as far away as Australia. Having recently returned to Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Mr. McKiel is already involved with seniors' health programs in his community.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
George McKiel
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Bomber Command
Air Force
405 Squadron
Flying Officer
Air Bomber

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