This is a true adventure story about the second world war. It isn’t about the many fierce battles of the second world war. It’s a famous story about three men who dared to escape from a carefully guarded prison camp for captured enemy soldiers, sailors and airmen. At that time, Germany was ruled by a dictator whose name was Adolf Hitler. Hitler wanted the Germans to be the most powerful race in the world. He ordered his soldiers to march into the countries surrounding Germany, take over their governments and bring the inhabitants under German control. When other countries realized what Hitler’s ambition was, they declared war on Germany. Britain and France were the first countries to declare war. They declared war in 1939. Italy then joined with Germany and declared war on Germany’s enemies. Later, America and Russia joined with Britain and France and declared war too. War broke out in the whole of Europe and lasted from 1939 to 1945 and it spread to many other parts of the world as well.
During this time, many prisoners of war were captured the German captured lots of men from their enemies and these prisoners of war were usually kept in huge prison camp, closely guarded by lots of soldiers The story is about three men in one of the special camps for military prisoners The camps for military prisoners were not as bad as the terrible concentration camps which Hitler organized in Germany Conditions in the concentration camps were so terrible that millions of men women and young children died of starvation, malnutrition and unbelievable cruelty Most of the prisoners in the concentration camps were civilians – they weren’t military prisoners at all these civilians were put in prison either because they didn’t agree with Hitler’s thoughts and ideas or because they were Jews, a race of people which Hitler hated more than anything else is the world. Many of the civilian prisoners in the concentration camps were Germans as well as the civilians from Germany’s conquered neighbors. But, although the conditions in the camps for military prisoners weren’t as terrible as the conditions in the concentration camps for civilian prisoners, the captured soldiers hated life in prison. They were always trying to think of ways of escaping None of them could forget for a minute that they were in prison. In this story there were a thousand prisoners in the camp which was surrounded by a barbed wire fence more than four meters high. Outside this fence was another barbed wire fence which the same height was. Above the barbed wire fences were very powerful lights which helped the German soldiers to watch the edges of the camp all night Around and above the barbed Wire tenses were many small buildings like boxes on very tall legs. There were always two German soldiers in each box Barbed wire watching and guarding the camp. At night. they used huge, powerful searchlights which were like giant torches. The searchlights shone suddenly on different parts of the camp so that the prisoners never knew exactly when or where they were going to shine. There was also a low fence, five meters inside the high barbed Wire fences. Any prisoner who climbed over that fence was immediately shot by the German soldiers.
Most prisoners in the camp were British soldiers or airmen who had been captured during various battles during the war. Although they all hated prison camp only a few of them ever thought it was possible tunnels and only one in every thirty tunnels was successful. Usually, they were quickly discovered by the German soldiers. The prisoners spent hours every day talking secretly about ways of escaping. They formed a secret Escape Committee which studied the various escape plans and decided what help the other prisoners could give. They spent a lot of time thinking about how to disguise what was happening when a tunnel was being dug. It was difficult to disguise anything in that camp. The soldiers watched all the time and always checked that the prisoners were locked in their huts at night. Sometimes, it seemed that there couldn’t possibly be any new ways of disguising an escape tunnel
Suddenly, one day. John thought of a new way of disguising an escape tunnel. He remembered reading a very, very old story about some soldiers of Greece who had entered Troy, an enemy city, by hiding inside an enormous wooden horse. They had built the wooden horse and disguised it as a present from the gods. The people of Troy had taken it into their city and during the night the Greek soldiers had jumped out of the horse and destroyed them all. “The Wooden Horse.” John thought. “We could build a wooden box and use it in the same way! We could use it to disguise the tunnel entrance. Some of us could pretend that the box was just for us to practice jumping over. The German soldiers know that we’re bored, and they’ll think we’re just playing games. But underneath the box, we can start digging a tunnel.
Those of us who are digging the tunnel can hide in the box while it’s being carried outside. We’ll have to disguise the entrance so that nothing will be noticed when the wooden box is carried back inside each evening. We’ll have to cover the entrance with pieces of wood, and then earth and sand, so that the German soldiers won’t become suspicious. The German soldiers were suspicious of anything new or unusual in the camp. They would certainly be suspicious when they first saw the wooden box. But it was a good idea, John felt sure.
He ran to tell his friend Peter. At first, Peter was suspicious of the idea. They had thought of so many unsuccessful escape plans before then. “What will you do with the earth you dig up?” he asked. “We’ll have to take it back to the prison huts inside the box with us and then hide it somewhere,” John replied. “It will have to be a very strong box,” said Peter. He thought about it for a while. Then he started to get excited by the idea, too. They went to the Escape Committee and told them secretly of their idea. At first, the prisoners on the Committee laughed at them. But then they thought about it a great deal and organized the other prisoners to help. The other prisoners helped them a great deal. Some of them helped to design and build the strong wooden box from planks. Others formed the box every day and try to disguise what was happening underneath Peter and John
Others helped to decide the best method of digging the tunnel. They used the experience of prisoners who had dug tunnels before and talked about the methods they had used But, first they had to think of a method of stopping the German soldiers becoming suspicious. They decided to spend a week just pretending to practice their jumping and not digging at all Every day, they took the wooden box outside and the athletic team practiced different methods of jumping over it. At first, the German soldiers were very suspicious and stayed close to them all the time. Every night the suspicious soldiers inspected the box but could find nothing unusual about it.
After a few days, the German soldiers became a little less suspicious. They thought that the prisoners were completely mad. But they knew that the prisoners were very bored with nothing to do and so they allowed them to continue. At last, Peter and John started to dig their tunnel. It had to be at least forty meters long to take them safely to freedom. They tried to dig about one meter every day, but their method of digging was very exhausting. They had to lie down, pull themselves along the tunnel and then scratch away the earth with their bare fingers. The tunnel was so narrow that only one man could lie in it He had to dig, and then pull the earth back with him to the tunnel entrance where the other man put it into special bags. Many of the prisoners had cut off the legs of their trousers, explaining to the German guards that it was better to have shorts for jumping. But out of the pieces of cloth they had made bags for carrying away the earth. It was summer, so the German soldiers thought they had made their trousers shorter because of the heat. All the prisoners helped to hide the earth which was brought back to the huts. They emptied the bags in all sorts of strange places Gradually, the tunnel became longer and longer. Peter and John soon realized that they needed a third man to help them to dig. They asked a friend named Philip to join them. Together, they designed new methods of continuing the tunnel. Instead of retreating along the tunnel to the entrance each time with the earth they had dug, they used a basin as a sledge. They pulled it loaded with earth, by using a rope. They brought the earth back to the entrance by that method instead of having to crawl along themselves. Once, the sides of the tunnel collapsed, leaving John unable to retreat to the entrance. It was very dangerous as there was so little air in the dark tunnel. They were able to rescue John that time, but it was always possible that they would be unable to retreat to the entrance because of a fall of earth. Then they would be trapped. But luckily, they survived it all. The tunnel became longer and longer, the muscles of the diggers become stronger and the athletics team became more and more exhausted. But everybody continued to help Peter, John and Philip as much as they could, even though they themselves weren’t escaping. Some bribed a German soldier to bring documents into the camp. Then they copied them for the three men to carry after their escape, to help to disguise who they really were. They made civilian clothes for them out of all kinds of things they’d been able to keep. They even saved some of their food for the escaping prisoners to take with them.
Now they were ready to escape. The whole tunnel was dug except for the last few meters to the surface outside the fence. They, and all the other prisoners, were very nervous. The three men were carried out secretly in the box as usual and the team of men practiced jumping, Underneath, a fourth man disguised the tunnel entrance and rubbed away the footmarks after Peter, John and Philip had disappeared down the hole. The three men stayed in the tunnel for several hours until it was night outside and the other prisoners were locked in their huts. They realized that they would die in that tunnel unless they were successful in digging up to the surface soon. They dug and dug, pushing the sand behind them. They were sweating and dirty in the narrow darkness. Then, at a time which they had previously agreed with the other prisoners, they broke through the surface of the earth and looked up through the hole. They were in the forest and the moon was shining down through the branches of the troops. Suddenly, as they had planned, all the prisoners in the camp made the most terrible noise. They shouted and yelled great deal, pretending to fight so that the Germans wouldn’t notice Peter, John and Phillip outside the barbed wire fences,
The three men climbed out of the tunnel and ran as fast as they could through the forest, the sounds of their friends in the camp disappearing in the distance, they had escaped! They knew it might be a long time before they were completely out of enemy territory, but they had escaped from the camp. They breathed deeply as they ran. It was wonderful to be free.
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