Great Escape prisoner of war Frank Stone dies aged 91

Frank Stone returned to the site of the camp for the first time in 2009

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One of the few remaining survivors of a German prisoner of war camp immortalised in the film The Great Escape has died.

Frank Stone, who died aged 91, was taken to Stalag Luft III in Zagan after his bomber crashed in Germany in 1940.

The 18-year-old RAF gunner was housed in hut 104, home to 76 airmen who attempted escape via a tunnel in 1944.

However, the alarm was raised before Mr Stone, who had helped dispose of soil from the tunnel, could join them.

During an interview with the BBC in 2009, Mr Stone, of Hathersage, Derbyshire, said the atmosphere on the night of the escape had been "electric".

The Great Escape

Prisoners of war at Stalag Luft III in Zagan, Poland
  • Stalag Luft III opened in Spring 1942
  • Air Force personnel only
  • At maximum it held 10,000 PoWs, covered 59 acres, with 5 miles of perimeter fencing
  • Wooden Horse escape on the night of 29/30 October 1943
  • Great Escape on 24-25 March 1944
  • Of three tunnels, only one, 'Harry', completed
  • 'Harry' was 336 ft (102m) long, 28ft (8.5m) deep

"It was all very tense - but at 5 o'clock, a shot rang out and we knew they had been discovered."

Of the 76 who made their break for freedom using the tunnel, known as Harry, 50 were subsequently shot after being recaptured and only three men managed to get away successfully.

Mr Stone said: "It was very sad and we were advised not to make any further attempts to escape."

He was finally freed towards the end of the war.

His widow, Jane, said: "He gave lots of talks about the escape and always said he was doing it in memory of those 50.

"Frank could never understand why people where so interested in him but they were. We often had to put extra talks on so more people could come."

Stalag Luft III, which was 100 miles south-east of Berlin, held about 10,000 RAF crew at the height of its occupation.

In 1947, 18 soldiers who shot those who were recaptured were put before a military tribunal in Hamburg.

Thirteen of them were executed, while the rest received long prison sentences.

The story of the escape was made into a film in 1963, starring Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson and Donald Pleasence.

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