On April 17, 1943, F/Lt Andrew Neilson Orr’s Halifax bomber was shot down over Stuttgart, Germany. After bailing out of his aircraft and free falling in the slip stream as he struggled with his parachute, Orr was unable to walk after landing. He was picked up and taken to a German internment camp and eventually to POW camp Stalag Luft III.
F/Lt Orr would spend the next two years at the camp and was an active participant in what is famously known as The Great Escape. Orr would help with some of the digging for Tunnel Harry and contributed largely to the forging of approximately 400 identification passes, perfect in every detail, each of which bore a head and shoulders photograph.
Luckily, Orr was not one of the men chosen to go through Tunnel Harry on the fateful escape night and remained in the camp until he was moved at the end of the war. The Russians had surrounded the camp and wouldn’t release any prisoners. One day an American jeep full of officers came into the camp and F/L Orr, who had always kept his uniform in pristine condition, jumped in the back of the jeep. Because he didn’t have the appearance of living in a POW camp for two years, the Americans assumed he was entitled to do so and drove off with him in the back. The camp was finally liberated three weeks later.
2021 Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum, Mount Hope, Ontario, Canada.
A transcription of a poem from a wall within Stalag Luft III originally written by Flight Lieutenant Edward Gordon Brettell.
If you can quit the compound undetected,
and clear your tracks nor leave the slightest trace
and follow out the programe you've selected,
nor lose your grasp f distance time and place.
If you can walk at night by compass bearing,
or ride the railways by night or day,
and temper your illusiveness with daring,
trusting that sometime bluff will find a way.
If you can swallow sour frustration
and gaze unmoved at failures ugly shape,
remembering as further inspiration,
it was o is your duty to escape.
If you can keep the great Gestapo guessing
with explanations only partly true
and leave them in their heart of hearts confessing
he didn't get the whole truth out of you.
If you can use your cooler fortnight clearly,
for planning methods wiser than before,
and treat your first miscalculations merely,
as hints let fall by fate to teach you more.
If you scheme on with patience and precision
It wasn't in a day they builded Rome
and make escape your only one ambition
The next time you attempt it you'll get home.
By. F/Lt. Bretel.
Originally copied from the wall of a cell in which would be escapees served sentences of solitary confinement for their abortive escape attempts.
F/Lt. Bretel was among the band of R.A.F. Officers ruthlessly shot when recaptured after escaping from the north compound Stalag Luft III on 25th March 1944.
Photographs of officers in prisoner of war camp Stalag Luft III.
Interior of Room 4 Block Y. North Camp. Stalag Luft III.
November 11th 1943
Names and rank include: F./Lt. Silverston, F./Lt. Orr, F./O. Jeffries, F./O. Heggtevite, F./Lt. Lyons, F/Lt. Douglas.