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Last survivor of the Great Escape dies aged 99: RAF airman Richard Churchill who escaped death as Nazis thought he might be related to Sir Winston

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 14/02/2019 Daily Mail Reporter

Airman Richard Churchill, the last survivor of the Great Escape, has died at 99 © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Airman Richard Churchill, the last survivor of the Great Escape, has died at 99 The last survivor of the Great Escape has died aged 99.

Airman Richard Churchill was among the 76 men who crawled through tunnels in 1944 to escape Stalag Luft III, a Nazi prisoner of war camp.

a man wearing a suit and tie: Mr Churchill a former RAF bomber pilot during the war was instrumental in the execution of the escape © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Mr Churchill a former RAF bomber pilot during the war was instrumental in the execution of the escape

However, only three of the men got clean away and 50 were rounded up and shot on Hitler’s direct orders.

Mr Churchill was recaptured three days after the escape.

a person lying on the ground: Mr Churchill a former RAF bomber pilot during the war was instrumental in the execution of the escape © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Mr Churchill a former RAF bomber pilot during the war was instrumental in the execution of the escape

He and his comrade Bob Nelson were found by farmers hiding in a barn and were handed over to the Germans.

The RAF man believed he was not shot because the Nazis thought he may be related to Winston Churchill.

a close up of an old building: Down the hatch: A photo taken by officials at the German camp show the inside of the narrow tunnel, named 'Harry', in 1944. Some 76  men made it out before the escape was rumbled by Nazi guards © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Down the hatch: A photo taken by officials at the German camp show the inside of the narrow tunnel, named 'Harry', in 1944. Some 76  men made it out before the escape was rumbled by Nazi guards

After his recapture Mr Churchill, of Crediton, Devon, was forced into gruelling winter marches across Germany.

The Great Escape was immortalised in the 1963 film starring Sir Richard Attenborough and Steve McQueen.

a group of people walking down a dirt road: Making do: Stalag Luft III prisoners are seen walking past a watchtower around the perimeter of the camp in the winter months to keep fit and stay warm © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Making do: Stalag Luft III prisoners are seen walking past a watchtower around the perimeter of the camp in the winter months to keep fit and stay warm

He told the BBC in July last year: 'You fell into a certain category.

'Were you going to sit and enjoy the very few delights of a barbed wire prison camp until you were rescued by your comrades, if you were rescued, or were you going to try and get out of the place and rejoin and drop something on them?

'You could be a quiet person, do nothing much, above all don't annoy the Germans or the Gestapo, or you can try and do the opposite and feel better as the result of doing it.' 

a man riding on top of a grass covered field: The exploits of those who tunneled and escaped from the camp were made into a cult film starring Steve McQueen © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited The exploits of those who tunneled and escaped from the camp were made into a cult film starring Steve McQueen
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