The Last in Line?

Jack Harrison, believed to be the last survivor of “The Great Escape” from Stalag Luft III in WWII (which according to the article cannot be confirmed), passed away this past Friday in his native Scotland, at the age of 97 (god bless him!).

As a camp gardener, Harrison was on the dirt disposal team, part of the crew that was responsible for getting rid of the dirt that was dug up in the multiple tunnels started in the POW camp. (Check out some cool pics and more in this article from The Sun)

Harrison was 98th in line of the planned 200 escapees. (In the film–the greatest movie ever made if I haven’t mentioned that yet today– it was 250, much to Steve McQueen’s Virgil Hilts’ amazement in a memorable scene: “250 men just walking down the street….”) Of course, Harrison’s number never came up as the men were found out at number 76. But his legacy remains as part of the greatest POW escape ever undertaken, which made for a fabulous book by Paul Brickhill (there are many other books too, of which I’ve only read the enjoyable The Longest Tunnel by Alan Burgess, but now have to read more… and more and more!) and of course, the epic, terrific, spectacular 1963 John Sturges all-star classic, my all-time favorite film.

For even more info on this story, check out today’s post from the entertaining and superbly detailed film scholar known as Bradley On Film.

RIP, Jack Harrison.


3 Replies to “The Last in Line?”

  1. Humble thanks for the kind words. I actually deleted a reference from my post about the 200 vs. 250 discrepancy between real and reel life, in order to make one of my famously long and complicated sentences a little less so. Why the filmmakers thought 200 wasn’t a sufficiently impressive number, I don’t know, but I DO know exactly why I happened to remember that it was 250 in the film. Whatever else I might say about Steve McQueen, I was terribly impressed with his delivery when he heard from Bartlett (Richard Attenborough), aka Big X, and Mac (Gordon Jackson) about their plans, putting his metal mug down on the stove and exclaiming, “Two hundred and fifty! You’re crazy–you too.”

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