Former RAF pilot was the penultimate surviving member of a group of 76 prisoners who escaped a Nazi prison camp in Poland during second world war
Australian Paul Royle, a former RAF pilot who was one of 76 prisoners who made it through a 110m long tunnel to escape their captors in Poland in 1944, passed away on Sunday.
Royle’s son Gordon told Daily Mail Australia that his death meant that former squadron leader Dick Churchill, from Devon in the UK, was “the last survivor”.
Of 73 airmen who were recaptured, Royle and Churchill were among just 23 who were spared execution by a firing squad reportedly acting on the orders of Adolf Hitler.
The story of the breakout was first portrayed by a fellow prisoner at the Stalag Luft III war camp, the Australian fighter pilot Paul Brickhill, in his book The Great Escape.
Royle has spoken of his intense dislike of the 1963 Hollywood film of the same name, telling ABC last year this was “because there were no motorbikes … and the Americans weren’t there”.
A day after emerging from the tunnel to the sight of a snowy pine forest, Royle and his British comrade Edgar Humphreys were recaptured then brutally interrogated by Nazi officers.
Royle remained mystified as to why Humphreys and other were subsequently killed and he was not.
“Edgar and myself were together when we were recaptured and behaved in the same manner,” he told Air Force News in 2004.
“There’s no reason why one should live and not the other. Rationality didn’t come into it. I haven’t a clue as to why I wasn’t chosen.”
The former flight lieutenant had also detailed his role in the months-long escape plot, which included surreptitiously disposing of soil dug from the tunnel through his trousers under plain sight of guards in the prison yard.
“You’d have to be very careful because the soil from the tunnel was a different colour from the soil on the surface mostly, and you would get a suitable place to put it where there was similar soil,” he told ABC.
Source The Guardian