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Photos show WWII Stalag Luft III inmates performing drag-acts and playing sports before Great Escape

A remarkable cache of incredible photos capturing life inside the Great Escape PoW camp has been discovered in a barn.

The images, taken at Stalag Luft III in 1942 and 1943, show Allied prisoners dressed as women doing amateur-dramatics and an action-packed sports day.

They donned bikinis and other extravagant outfits as they entertained their camp mates with performances of ‘Aladdin’ and ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’.

Hundreds of PoWs perched on roofs to watch the sports day which featured sprint races, the long jump, the high jump and a discus competition.

Later in the war, a daring mass-breakout took place from the camp in Sagan, Nazi-occupied Poland, which was immortalised in the 1963 Steve McQueen film ‘The Great Escape’. 

On March 6, 1944, 76 PoWs tunnelled their way to freedom, but all but three were recaptured within days. 

A remarkable cache of rarely seen photos capturing life inside the Great Escape Stalag Luft III PoW camp has been discovered in a barn in Gloucestershire. Above: They donned bikinis and other extravagant outfits as they entertained their camp mates with performances of ‘Aladdin’ (above) and ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’

The images, taken at Stalag Luft III in 1942 and 1943, show Allied prisoners dressed as women doing amateur-dramatics and an action-packed sports day

The images, taken at Stalag Luft III in 1942 and 1943, show Allied prisoners dressed as women doing amateur-dramatics and an action-packed sports day

Inmates mill around during the camp's sports day in August 1942. The photos have emerged for sale nearly 80 years after they were taken

Inmates mill around during the camp’s sports day in August 1942. The photos have emerged for sale nearly 80 years after they were taken

Fifty escapees were executed by the Gestapo on Adolf Hitler’s orders.

The collection of over 40 photos, also featuring poignant images of a funeral at Stalag Luft I, were found in boxes in a Gloucestershire barn.

The vendor, an elderly lady, was doing a clear-out following her husband’s recent death.

Her husband’s family was Polish and a folder the images were found in had a Polish surname written on it.

The collection of over 40 photos, also featuring poignant images of a funeral at Stalag Luft I, were found in boxes in a Gloucestershire barn. Above: British troops pose next to the body of a soldier named as Sergeant J. C. Shaw

The collection of over 40 photos, also featuring poignant images of a funeral at Stalag Luft I, were found in boxes in a Gloucestershire barn. Above: British troops pose next to the body of a soldier named as Sergeant J. C. Shaw

The vendor of the collection of images, an elderly lady, was doing a clear-out following her husband's recent death. Above: Sports day at Stalag Luft III

The vendor of the collection of images, an elderly lady, was doing a clear-out following her husband’s recent death. Above: Sports day at Stalag Luft III

Hundreds of PoWs perched on roofs to watch the sports day which featured sprint races, the long jump, the high jump and a discus competition

Hundreds of PoWs perched on roofs to watch the sports day which featured sprint races, the long jump, the high jump and a discus competition

The inmates also produced a poster (above) showing their cast of characters for their performance of Aladdin in 1942

The inmates also produced a poster (above) showing their cast of characters for their performance of Aladdin in 1942

It is possible that an ancestor was a PoW at the World War Two camp, or knew someone held captive there.

The barn was full of boxes containing thousands of Polish books which had not been touched for decades.

The vendor, who had no idea the photos existed, is selling them with the Cotswolds Auction Company.

Jenny Low, book specialist at Cotswolds Auction Company, said: ‘I think it is safe to say these photos come from the vendor’s Polish side of the family.

‘They were stored in a barn and boxed for many years with thousands of books on Poland and other subjects.

The vendor, who had no idea the photos existed, is selling them with the Cotswolds Auction Company. Above: An athletic inmate taking part in a sprint race during the camp's sports day

The vendor, who had no idea the photos existed, is selling them with the Cotswolds Auction Company. Above: An athletic inmate taking part in a sprint race during the camp’s sports day

Stalag Luft III was established in March 1942 and held captured Allied air force personnel. It was liberated by the Russians in January 1945. Above: An inmate competing in the discus event

Stalag Luft III was established in March 1942 and held captured Allied air force personnel. It was liberated by the Russians in January 1945. Above: An inmate competing in the discus event

Inmates mill around during the camp's sports day in August 1942. Many of the men are seen wearing their RAF uniforms

Inmates mill around during the camp’s sports day in August 1942. Many of the men are seen wearing their RAF uniforms

Fierce competition: A runner is seen taking part in a race as spectators watch on from the sidelines during the PoW sports day

Fierce competition: A runner is seen taking part in a race as spectators watch on from the sidelines during the PoW sports day

It appears that the inmates also took part in a high jump event. Above: One prisoner is seen leaping in the air during the competition

It appears that the inmates also took part in a high jump event. Above: One prisoner is seen leaping in the air during the competition

‘We don’t know if someone on that side of the family was a PoW at Stalag Luft III or how they acquired them.

‘There are photos of an arts and crafts exhibition, various am-dram performances and a sports day, which are dated 1942 and 1943.

‘We’d love to find out more about them to authenticate them but they do seem to be quite important.’

Stalag Luft III was established in March 1942 and held captured Allied air force personnel.

It was liberated by the Russians in January 1945.

The sale of the photos, which are valued at £60, takes place on September 26.

Deadly toll of escapees executed… and how WWII’s greatest PoW story got a Hollywood makeover

In the spring of 1943, RAF Squadron Leader Roger Bushell conceived a plan for a major escape from the German Stalag Luft III Camp near Sagan, now Żagań in Poland.

With the escape planned for the night of March 24, 1944, the PoWs built three 30ft deep tunnels, named Tom, Dick and Harry, so that if one was discovered by the German guards, they would not suspect that work was underway on two more.

Bushell intended to get more than 200 men through the tunnels, each wearing civilian clothes and possessing a complete range of forged papers and escape equipment.

In the spring of 1943, RAF Squadron Leader Roger Bushell conceived a plan for a major escape from the German Stalag Luft III Camp near Sagan, now Żagań in Poland 

In the spring of 1943, RAF Squadron Leader Roger Bushell conceived a plan for a major escape from the German Stalag Luft III Camp near Sagan, now Żagań in Poland 

To hide the earth dug from the tunnels, the prisoners attached pouches of the sand inside their trousers so that as they walked around, it would scatter.

The prisoners wore greatcoats to conceal the bulges made by the sand and were referred to as ‘penguins’ because of their supposed resemblance to the animal.

When the attempt began, it was discovered that Harry had come up short and instead of reaching into a nearby forest, the first man in fact emerged just short of the tree line, close to a guard tower. 

Plans for one man to leave every minute was reduced to 10 per hour.

The Great Escape starred Steve McQueen (pictured above) as Captain Virgil Hilts

The Great Escape starred Steve McQueen (pictured above) as Captain Virgil Hilts

In total, 76 men crawled through to initial freedom, but the 77th was spotted by a guard. In the hunt for the entrance one guard Charlie Pilz crawled through the tunnel but after becoming trapped at the other end called for help. 

The prisoners opened the entrance, revealing the location.

Of the escapees, three made it to safety, 73 were captured, and 50 of them executed.

… and the Hollywood film

The 1963 film The Great Escape was based on real events and, although some characters were fictitious, many were based on real people, or amalgams of several of those involved.

The film starred Steve McQueen as Captain Virgil Hilts, James Garner as Flight Lieutenant Robert Hendley and Richard Attenborough as Squadron Leader Roger Bartlett, and was based on a book of the same name by Paul Brickhill.

Contrary to the film, no American PoWs were involved in the escape attempt, and there were no escapes by motorcycle or aircraft.

Hilts’ dash for the border by motorcycle was added by request of McQueen, who did the stunt riding himself except for the final jump.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk