Steve McQueen’s Triumph TR6R motorbike from classic 1963 war epic restored to glory

The iconic Triumph motorbike which Hollywood legend Steve McQueen roared to freedom on in the cult movie The Great Escape, is set to return to the stage. 

The TR6R motorbike from the 1963 war epic was rescued from the scrapheap by farm worker Dick Shepherd.

Mr Shepherd found the motorcycle – which was used for the famous fence jump scene in the movie – on a Norfolk farm before he set about restoring it to its former glory. 

And it will enjoy a reprisal when historian Dan Snow brings it to the stage on the 75th anniversary of the legendary real-life escape. 

Hollywood legend Steve McQueen on the iconic Triumph motorbike in the cult movie The Great Escape

Hollywood legend Steve McQueen on the iconic Triumph motorbike in the cult movie The Great Escape

Hollywood legend Steve McQueen on the iconic Triumph motorbike in the cult movie The Great Escape

Historian Dan Snow will bring the bike to the stage on the 75th anniversary of the legendary real-life escape

Historian Dan Snow will bring the bike to the stage on the 75th anniversary of the legendary real-life escape

Historian Dan Snow will bring the bike to the stage on the 75th anniversary of the legendary real-life escape

Immortalised in the film The Great Escape, the mass breakout from PoW camp Stalag Luft III was swiftly followed by terrible retribution – the cold-blooded murder of 50 recaptured prisoners, on Hitler’s direct orders.

On the night of March 24-25, 1944, it was planned that 200 Allied airmen should escape through the tunnel nicknamed ‘Harry’. 

Seventy-six men made it out before the escape was rumbled by guards. All but three of the 76 men were recaptured. 

The escape caused chaos in the German high command and 50,000 soldiers had to be deployed to search for them.

Hitler gave the execution order which saw Gestapo field officers, who had the job of escorting small groups of the men back to the camp, stop off in remote woodland and shoot them.

Each hit squad had to file a report to Berlin stating the 50 men were shot while trying to escape.

In 1945, a small top secret investigation team was set up and was headed by Squadron Leader Frank McKenna, who had been a police detective before the war.

Their job was to identify those involved in the mass murder and bring them to justice.

On the 75th anniversary of the daring attempt, Dan Snow will host a gala screening of The Great Escape at the Eventim Apollo Hammersmith in March 2019. 

The event will feature music from Britain's Got Talent stars The D-Day Darlings and Dan will hear from veterans of the escape which took place at the German prisoner of war camp Stalag Luft III

The event will feature music from Britain's Got Talent stars The D-Day Darlings and Dan will hear from veterans of the escape which took place at the German prisoner of war camp Stalag Luft III

The event will feature music from Britain’s Got Talent stars The D-Day Darlings and Dan will hear from veterans of the escape which took place at the German prisoner of war camp Stalag Luft III

HOW WW2’S GREATEST POW STORY GOT A HOLLYWOOD MAKEOVER

THE HOLLYWOOD FILM
The 1963 film The Great Escape was based on real events, and although some characters were fictitious many were based on real people, or amalgams of several of those involved.

The film starred Steve McQueen as Captain Virgil Hilts, James Garner as Flight Lieutenant Robert Hendley and Richard Attenborough as Squadron Leader Roger Bartlett, and was based on a book of the same name by Paul Brickhill.

Contrary to the film no American PoWs were involved in the escape attempt, and there were no escapes by motorcycle or aircraft.

Hilts’ dash for the border by motorcycle was added by request of McQueen, who did the stunt riding himself except for the final jump.

1959 Triumph TR6 Trophy 

Years produced: 1956-1973

Claimed power: 42hp @ 6,500rpm

Top speed: 110mph (approx.)

Engine: 649cc overhead valve, air-cooled parallel twin

Weight: 180kg (396lb)

Source: Motorcycle classics 

The event will feature music from Britain’s Got Talent stars The D-Day Darlings and Dan will hear from veterans of the escape which took place at the German prisoner of war camp Stalag Luft III on the night of 24-25 March 1944.

Also attending will be 95-year-old Air Commodore Charles Clarke, who spent time at Stalag Luft III as a POW.

He arrived a month before the escape and recalls hearing the shot fired when prison guards found the escape tunnel.

The historian will also explore the history and science behind the operation with renowned historian Paul Beaver and Dr Hugh Hunt of the University of Cambridge.

The film will be shown in 4k definition and the event will also be screened in cinemas across the country. Tickets will be available to buy soon at thegreatescape75.co.uk

Dan said: ‘We will remember the extraordinary bravery of the men who participated in the most daring escape of the Second World War and bring back to the big screen one of the greatest films of all time.

‘Thanks to the RAF Benevolent Fund, it’s going to be a truly momentous occasion.’ 

Deadly toll of escapees executed… and how WWII’s greatest PoW story got a Hollywood makeover

In the spring of 1943, RAF Squadron Leader Roger Bushell conceived a plan for a major escape from the German Stalag Luft III Camp near Sagan, now Żagań in Poland.

With the escape planned for the night of March 24, 1944, the PoWs built three 30ft deep tunnels, named Tom, Dick and Harry, so that if one was discovered by the German guards, they would not suspect that work was underway on two more.

Bushell intended to get more than 200 men through the tunnels, each wearing civilian clothes and possessing a complete range of forged papers and escape equipment.

In the spring of 1943, RAF Squadron Leader Roger Bushell conceived a plan for a major escape from the German Stalag Luft III Camp (pictured) near Sagan, now Żagań in Poland

In the spring of 1943, RAF Squadron Leader Roger Bushell conceived a plan for a major escape from the German Stalag Luft III Camp (pictured) near Sagan, now Żagań in Poland

In the spring of 1943, RAF Squadron Leader Roger Bushell conceived a plan for a major escape from the German Stalag Luft III Camp (pictured) near Sagan, now Żagań in Poland

To hide the earth dug from the tunnels, the prisoners attached pouches of the sand inside their trousers so that as they walked around, it would scatter.

The prisoners wore greatcoats to conceal the bulges made by the sand and were referred to as ‘penguins’ because of their supposed resemblance to the animal.

When the attempt began, it was discovered that Harry had come up short and instead of reaching into a nearby forest, the first man in fact emerged just short of the tree line, close to a guard tower. 

Plans for one man to leave every minute was reduced to 10 per hour.

In total, 76 men crawled through to initial freedom, but the 77th was spotted by a guard. In the hunt for the entrance one guard Charlie Pilz crawled through the tunnel but after becoming trapped at the other end called for help. 

The prisoners opened the entrance, revealing the location.

Of the escapees, three made it to safety, 73 were captured, and 50 of them executed. 

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