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Prison Camp’s Open Door Policy

Heroes Remember

Prison Camp’s Open Door Policy

The Dieppe personnel dug a tunnel two beds from mine, under the bed. A tunnel from there right under the guard’s tower into the tree right across under the path where the Germans marched down every day and into the trees. I worked on an escape committee. I drew all the maps for the people who went out Stalag Gate B air force wherever they came in. So I drew all the maps for them because we used to get… we had one good map. I used to have to trace it in tissue paper off of that good map and make it up so that we had say two prisoners come in from Italy, maybe they are officers, maybe they are sergeants, they would go to the front lazaret where they questioned them and locked them up until they decided where they go in their compound. We would break into that compound and it’s important especially if they are flying officers or someone has just been shot down where you want to get them back with the information as soon as we can if we can possibly do an escape. So we make all this stuff up, they have the passports and everything they make up in the camp. We had everything going there and I have to draw the maps for them, give them the maps and then we dug the tunnel and then at the appropriate time we change over like he comes in tonight, tomorrow they’re going to question you. So we got a guy here, he hasn’t have any particular, no wife or he’s single, he’ll change over so now he’s the right size and everything, they don’t have any credentials. We get him through the wire, he gets down to the compound, he changes uniforms. The other guy becomes him and he puts on the air force uniform and becomes an air force pilot with his name and the other guy comes back to our compound. Now he’s in the army uniform, we give him all the papers, we give him all the directions in what to contact and everything else and we feed him through the tunnel. And we feed him through in daytime, not at night time. You know about ten feet from the guard’s tower, you see the trap door pushes open, out comes a couple of guys, civilians, suitcases and they close the trap door. They wander down the pathway past the guards and in through the bush and away they are gone. They are the guys that we escape, they’re gone so the trap door is all… they cut that out there, they lowered it down and they put all the vegetation on top so we just push it back up and it’s a growing, it doesn’t die. We have to keep it alive. Now this went on for almost a year and we got a lot of guys out of there. Guys that came back from Italy, pilots shot down. We were not allowed to go through it because we were of no use to anybody. These were useful people, some got back, some got to Czechoslovakia and joined Tito’s Forces and got information back but it was all to get back to the underground as quickly as possible and get the information back to England and that was the idea of it. That’s how we got these places to bomb, a lot of it that’s how it got through.

Building and using escape tunnels is quite a process and was only used by those with important information.

Joseph Anthony Ryan

Joseph Anthony Ryan was born in Montreal in 1920. The circumstances during the depression era saw him and his family moving to Thunder Bay, Ontario in search of a better life. Like many during this time, applying to Canada’s military was a way to find work, adventure and purpose, so in the late 30’s he joined the Lake Superior Regiment and began his training alongside the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians). From participating in operations from Iceland to Dieppe to his time as a prisoner of war in Germany, Joseph Ryan’s stories bring us a unique perspective on the price paid for our freedom.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
May 5, 2009
Person Interviewed:
Joseph Anthony Ryan
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Royal Regiment of Canada

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