Officers march on Great Escape anniversary

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A group of 50 British air force officers set off Tuesday to march from the site of a Nazi prisoner camp to a war cemetery in western Poland to mark 70 years since the Great Escape of Allied airmen and to honor 50 of them who were caught and executed.

Marek Lazarz, director of the Stalag Luft III Museum, told The Associated Press that the group started in pouring rain from a monument marking the place where 76 prisoners of war emerged, one by one, from a tunnel on March 24 and 25, 1944. The 77th man was spotted by guards, who gave chase. The 1963 Hollywood movie "The Great Escape," starring Steve McQueen, tells the story.

In four day, the British officers are to walk some 170 kilometers, ( more than 100 miles) to the British war cemetery in Poznan, where the ashes of those executed were buried after the war. During observances this week, they have met with two British former Stalag inmates, retired RAF airmen Andrew Weisman and Charles Clarke, who were held at the camp after the time of the Great Escape.

Only three of the escapees — two Norwegians and a Dane — made it home. Fifty others, from 12 nations, were executed when caught. A further 23 were sent back to the Stalag or to other camps but survived the war.