View Full Version : Prisoners Rolex Watch Scheme?!

09-02-2006, 06:36 AM
The article below was in The Times today. The Rolex watch scheme mentioned at the end just sounds totally bizarre to me - not sure how they thought they would recover the money ...

The Times September 02, 2006

A CARTOON of the prison break depicted in the film The Great Escape has emerged in a prisoner’s war diary.
The cartoon — drawn ten days after the event and accompanied by a poem lamenting the shooting of 50 of the escapees — appears in a scrapbook that belonged to Clive Nutting, a prisoner who was involved in the two most celebrated escapes of the Second World War.

Nutting, although a Corporal in the Royal Corps of Signals, was a prisoner in Stalag Luft III, a camp primarily for RAF officers 100 miles southeast of Berlin in what is now Poland. He witnessed and helped to prepare the prison breaks depicted in the films The Wooden Horse and The Great Escape.

His unpublished diary, which will be sold at auction by Bonhams & Goodman in Australia on September 11, records daily life at the supposedly escape-proof camp.

The most vivid page features a drawing, by an unknown artist, recording the remaining prisoners’ shock when they were told that 50 of the fugitives had been shot. The accompanying poem tells how the escapees thought that the breakout would be fun.

“Fifty fine fellows/ With good stout intentions/ Trusting no doubt in Geneva conventions/ Reckoning not with the mind of th’ Hun/ Fifty fine fellows/ And now there are none.”

The poem, dated March 24, 1944, concludes that the murders will not be forgiven. “Will we forget/ Or pardon this? Might we?/ I’ll wager a bet/ Not bloody likely!” The murders were ordered by Hitler.

Nutting, a shoemaker before the war, helped to create disguises for escapees at the camp’s shoe workshop.

His son, John Nutting, said that his father had been proud of his part in the escape attempts. “He did make, along with the others in the boot shop, materials that were used in the Great Escape. He told me they made belts and shoes from leather stolen from the German officers who had their boots repaired in the workshop.”

He also helped to distribute the sandy soil removed from tunnels by dropping it out of the legs of his trousers, as depicted in the 1963 film, The Great Escape, which starred Steve McQueen and Richard Attenborough.

Nutting was also an active participant in the Wooden Horse escape, which inspired Eric Williams’s book and the 1950 film of the same title. Prisoners knew that guards had set up sensors to detect vibrations from tunnelling activity, so they disguised their digging by setting up a vaulting horse in the exercise yard. Nutting was one of the prisoners who repeatedly jumped over the horse while the diggers laboured beneath it.

Nutting’s son said that his father liked both films, despite changes to the story of the Great Escape required for a Hollywood film.

“He thought the tunnelling scenes were good [but] he laughed about Steve McQueen jumping a motorbike over a wire fence.”

The Corporal was also likely to have contributed his possessions to the escape attempts. The Luftwaffe, which ran the camp, estimated that materials stolen for escape attempts included 4,000 bed boards, 1,699 blankets, 161 pillow cases, 34 chairs, 52 tables each capable of seating 20 men, 90 double-tier bunks, 1,219 knives, 478 spoons, 582 forks, 30 shovels, 1,000ft (305m) of electric wire, 600ft of rope, 3,424 towels, 246 water cans and 69 lamps.

The diary will be sold as part of a lot that includes Nutting’s Rolex watch, which he got while a prisoner in the camp. Rolex operated a scheme whereby prisoners would only have to pay for watches after the end of the war. The combined lot is expected to fetch up to £20,000.

09-09-2006, 05:45 AM
Another letter in The T|imes (9th Sept 2006) referring to teh Rolex watches!


Sir, I vaulted daily over the Wooden Horse; I helped disperse the excavated sandy soil, and I knew well the three successful escapers, Ollie Philpott, Michael Codner, and Eric Williams.

There were two camps at Stalag Luft 111, East and North compounds, and there was no overt communication between the prisoners in the two. The successful Wooden Horse escape was from East Compound, the tragic Great Escape from the North.

The siting of the Wooden Horse was not chosen to conceal tunnelling vibrations from prison sensors. In East Compound each hut stood on stilts two or three feet above the ground. Thus any tunnel initiated from a hut required two trap doors, and this doubled the possibility of discovery. Hence the decision to place a vaulting horse halfway between the hut and the camp perimeter fence, to cover a single escape hatch, thus halving this possibility.

The sand excavated was a bright contrast to the surface soil and thus had to be disguised. It was packed in long cloth tubes suspended in each wide trouser leg from a halter round the neck. We shuffled round the camp perimeter trampling the sand into the ground as we pulled the draw strings in the end of the tubes.

I did not know Corporal Nutting, but like him I still have a Rolex watch, a magnificent gesture of faith by the Rolex Watch Company.

Lowestoft Suffolk