The Welsh Great Escape

In the dead of night in March 1945, almost seventy desperate young German prisoners of war tunnelled from a camp in Bridgend in Wales and escaped over the sand dunes. The film follows the fate of the POWs, many of them committed Nazis, as they were tracked by armed soldiers, the Home Guard, dogs, local children and Girl Guides as one of the largest manhunts of the whole war got under way. Serious and comic in turn, dramatic reconstruction is intercut with commentary and personal testimony. Two of the German POWs return to the site for the first time in more than 60 years to see the very hut from which they escaped. In addition, we follow the production team as they make the extraordinary and exciting discovery that the 60′ long tunnel, sealed up and forgotten for so long, is, incredibly, still intact – despite being shored up using timber from the prisoners’ bunk-beds.

Produced by

Beryl Vertue, Debbie Vertue

Written by

Michael Davies

Directed by

Michael Davies


Channel 4

First transmitted

30th December 2000 at 9pm


60 mins

Press comments

“**** [four stars] A fascinating, all but forgotten story from World War II.” The Daily Mail

“Escapees, a jailer’s daughter and local children (now grown-up) recount an extraordinary story of cows, girl guides and the ‘natural friendliness of the Welsh’… [with] a rather tongue-in-cheek feel.”The Sunday Telegraph

“We’ve all heard of The Great Escape, the 1963 movie based on the true story of the most ambitious attempt to abscond from a German prisoner of war camp by Allied servicemen during the second world war. This documentary is a little different, but the story is just as compelling.” The Daily Telegraph

“The escape of 67 PoWs from a camp in South Wales is here related in all its inadvertently hilarious glory, with the escapees’ adventures making this a fantastically entertaining film.” The Sunday Times