POWs. Juliet Stockford, whose father Flt Lt Allan Ball DFC was a POW in Stalag Luft III

Thursday 30th March 2023

RAF Wittering held a special history event last week to commemorate Stalag Luft III Prisoners of War (POWs).

The event, which was attended by relatives of former Stalag Luft III POWs, featured POW artefacts and was an opportunity for Station personnel to learn about the experiences of POWs.

Stalag Luft III is best known for two escape plots organised by allied POWs, which were later immortalised in the films The Wooden Horse and The Great Escape. This year marks the 80th anniversary of both escape plots.

Juliet Stockford, whose father Flt Lt Allan Ball DFC became a prisoner in Stalag Luft III after being shot down over Berlin in August 1943, attended with her son Larry. They brought a selection of artefacts from Allan’s time in the camp.

Larry said: “My grandfather was a Path Finder with 35 Squadron and was at Stalag Luft III from November 1943 to March 1944. He took part in the tunnel excavations as a ‘penguin’, dispersing the tunnel sand around the compound through his trouser pockets.”

Flt Lt Ball was eventually repatriated in March 1944 and upon his return to the UK he lectured at RAF Wittering about his experiences at the camp.

Prisoner of War artefacts

LEFT – A selection of artefacts that belonged to Prisoner of War, Flt Lt Allan Ball. RIGHT – A commemorative Allied Ex-Prisoners of War medal.

Capt Stuart Green, whose father Flt Lt Alan Green was a POW in Stalag Luft III, was the guest speaker at a special dinner in the evening. He spoke about how his father, a navigator on 218 Sqn, was captured after his aircraft was shot down in May 1942.

After World War II, RAF Wittering was used as a repatriation site for POWs returning from Germany. The Station’s Heritage Centre has a collection of Stalag Luft III artefacts including a knife ‘borrowed’ from the German camp’s kitchen which was used to dig out the escape tunnels.

Flt Lt Alice Bentley, who organised the event, said: “It was a privilege to meet Larry, Juliet and Stuart and to hear their moving and inspirational family stories. Preserving and sharing our history through events such as this is vitally important, particularly for each new generation of RAF personnel.”

Wing Commander Nikki Duncan is Station Commander at RAF Wittering. She said: “This kind of event is a reminder of the courage, ingenuity and the sacrifices made by service personnel during World War II. Wittering had a role to play in welcoming these brave men back home. It has been a great honour to meet the families and learn about their fathers’ stories.”

Top image: Juliet Stockford, whose father Flt Lt Allan Ball DFC was a prisoner in Stalag Luft III.

All images by AS1 Daniel Smither

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