Wing Commander W Thomas,Great Escape Survivor dies 87

RIP Sir,And Thank You.

Wing Commander William Thomas - known universally as Tim - helped to dig tunnels at the notorious Stalag Luft III camp during the Second World War where he was held after being shot down over the occupied Netherlands.

As a young officer, he was among approximately 150 British and allied prisoners of war waiting their turn to enter one of three secret tunnels on the night of March 24 1944 as part of the mass break-out plan which later inspired the 1963 film starring Steve McQueen.

But he was still waiting when German guards foiled the effort, capturing all but three of the 76 men who had already made it through.

Fifty were later executed on the personal orders of Adolf Hitler.

He was held at the camp in Sagan, Poland, until its liberation the following year and remained in the RAF until 1967 rising to the rank of Wing Commander.

His knowledge of wartime operations was later put to use advising the production team making the film The Battle of Britain.

A British war hero, he even earned a small part in the film - as a German pilot.

Wg Cdr Thomas's RAF experience was to use flying a Heinkels and Messerschmitts during five months of filming in Spain.

"He did dig. He was certainly involved with tunnelling operations," said his nephew Adam Thomas, who only learnt about his modest uncle's part in the escape attempt four years ago.

"It was every officer's duty, if you got captured, to cause the enemy as much trouble as possible.

"He was literally in his escape gear in the prison camp, and ready to go down the tunnel when the Germans discovered it.

"He was probably fortunate when you consider that of the 76 who escaped 50 were shot.

"He never really said it but I've always thought ever since I found out, it was a good thing that he didn't escape."

Wg Cdr Thomas died in Portugal after a long illness.
No matter your part in the effort, say Bletchley etc, at the time no one knows, it's not "movie" heroic but you've done your bit. You're content with that and get on with life afterwards.

It's good to see, but a pity that it takes so long for that generation to be acknowleged.

I'm fortunate that my grand-parents(God rest their souls) brought me up mostly, so i heard what it was like from them.

They have my undying respect as do all the other silent heros and heroines.

Bless them all.

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