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Subject: Last 'Great Escape' survivor dies

Written By: Philip Eno on 06/08/10 at 1:13 am
Jack Harrison (pictured far right) was thwarted in his efforts to escape
Mr Harrison became director of education on Bute.

A Scot who is believed to be the last survivor of the "Great Escape" from a German prisoner of war camp has died, at the age of 97.

Jack Harrison took part in the famous breakout from Stalag Luft III in 1944, an event later immortalised on film.

He missed his chance to flee the camp when the German guards discovered the escape plot.

Of those who broke out of the camp only three reached safety and of the 73 recaptured, 50 were shot.

Mr Harrison was working as a Latin teacher at Dornoch Academy in Sutherland when he joined the Royal Air Force as a pilot.

His first mission, in November 1942, was to bomb German supply ships at the Dutch port of Den Helder.

But his aircraft crashed under fire from the ground and he was captured before being transferred to Stalag Luft III on the Polish border.

On the night of 24 March 1944, about 200 prisoners prepared to escape through a tunnel codenamed Harry.

Mr Harrison, who was number 98 on the escape list, was in hut 104 waiting to go down the tunnel when the escape was noticed.

He quickly burned his forged documentation in the stove and changed his clothing from a Siemens engineer back to a POW.

A total of 76 prisoners escaped from the camp but only three reached safety.

The 1963 film The Great Escape starring Steve McQueen, James Garner and Richard Attenborough was based on the events.

After the war Mr Harrison returned to his wife Jean in Glasgow and resumed his career as a teacher.

In 1958 the family moved to Rothesay, where Mr Harrison was appointed director of education for the isle of Bute.

Mr Harrison spent his last years at Erskine veterans' home in Renfrewshire along with his friend and fellow former Stalag Luft III prisoner Alex Lees, who died last year aged 97.

Erskine's chief executive Major Jim Panton said Mr Harrison would be greatly missed by all of the staff and veterans in the home and that it had been a privilege and an honour to care for him.

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