On March 24, 1943, 76 allied airmen performed a daring escape from Stalag Luft III, a German prisoner-of-war (POW) camp. The events were heavily fictionalized in the iconic 1963 film, “The Great Escape”. In fact, it omits the crucial role that Canadian airmen played in the building of the tunnels, and ultimately the escape itself. In fact, a Canadian Pilot Officer, Wally Floody, was a technical advisor for the 1963 film. The following is his story. 

Flight Lieutenant (F/L) Wally Floody was born on 28 April 1918 in Chatham, Ontario. Upon the declaration of war on Germany by Canada in 1939, F/L Floody joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). On 27 October 1941 he was shot down during a mission in Germany and was reported as a POW on 3 November 1941.

For his part of the planning of the escape, F/L Floody designed, organized, and built three tunnels called “Tom”, “Dick”, and “Harry” – all of which went 30 feet below ground and 106 meters long. He was often the lead digger and became trapped on several occasions in cave-ins and had to be pulled out by the heels.

As fate would have it, one of the tunnels was discovered and F/L Floody was sent to another POW camp before the escape began. This incident likely saved his life, as only 3 of the escapes made it to freedom, while 73 were recaptured, with 50 of them being summarily executed.

The F/L Floody’s war concluded with the capture of Luckewald by the Russians on 22 April 1945. He was presented the Order of the British Empire (OBE) on 2 October 1946 for his persistence and courage in the face of danger, which serves as a shining example for the Canadian Armed Forces. This March we remember F/L Wally Floody.