Grades 6 to 12 — Tunnel to Freedom: “The Great Escape”

This program connects to the curriculum of Social Studies and Language and is a suitable activity for Remembrance Day.

Students will learn about the 1944 escape from a Second World War Prisoner of War Camp.

Imagine you are a pilot during World War II and your Spitfire is shot down over enemy territory. Next, you find yourself in a camp with numerous other Allied airmen and many of you have only one goal, to find a way to escape.

Through a variety of activities, such as discussions, observations, games and experiments, students will learn how 76 Allied prisoners of war, eight of them Canadian, escaped from the German camp Stalag Luft III on 24 March 1944. The students will be introduced to the lives of POWs at this camp and gain a deeper understanding and respect for the resourcefulness and bravery of these men in their attempt to escape.

The Great Escape serves as an example of Canada’s Eurocentric, particularly British connections throughout the 20th century. It is also one illustration how the cooperation of the Allied forces during WWII led to stronger postwar military ties culminating in the creation of NATO.

Program Description

Museum Activity
1. For You, the War Is Over

At the beginning of the program, students will be marched to the Appell Ground (Conference Room) where they will meet Kommandant Friedrich von Lindeiner (Education Programmer, Gina Heinbockel-Bolik). They will participate in a roll call, be given a quick overview of the camp rules, and then they will be assigned to their respective huts

Once settled, they will encounter Squadron Leader Roger Bushell (facilitator #1) who will tell them a bit about himself and his plans to escape from the camp. He will introduce some fellow prisoners such as Wally Floody (facilitator #2) and Tim Walenn (facilitator #3) in charge of different teams working on the escape plans. He then engages the students in a discussion about what skills and character qualities are needed to survive in the camp and to eventually escape.

Following the plenary part of the program, students, divided into groups, will participate in three different activities facilitated by Museum volunteers. The majority of them are retired or serving members of the RCAF. Following these activities, the students will once more assemble on the Appell Ground.

2. Images of the Escape

Students will go to the Great Escape display located in the Gallery of the Museum. There the students will be introduced to a diorama of tunnel “Harry” as well as drawings by Ley Kenyon. Through the critical analysis process used for the interpretation of art, students will communicate feelings, ideas and understanding in relation to the items on display.

3. Preparing to Escape

Students will be given a Red Cross Parcel Box filled with a variety of objects similar to those available to the prisoners at Stalag Luft III. The students’ task will be to brainstorm how these items could have been put to use. Students will also use some of the items to create something that would aid the escapers, either while digging the tunnel or after having escaped the camp.

4. Will You Make It?

The students will play a board game designed by the Museum. The objective of the game is to build tunnel “Harry” and prepare for the escape. Chance cards will determine whether or not students will have the opportunity to escape. The final activity of the game will be to pull a name out of a box. At this point, students will find out their true fate: escaped, captured and returned, or captured and executed.

5. Home Run

During the last segment of the program, students will return back to the Appell Ground. Here they will compare their initial ideas about what it might take to survive and escape from the camp with the knowledge they acquired during the activities. Finally, they will watch part of a video documentary about Stalag Luft III.

Pre and Post Visit Activities

– Glossary of Terms

– Map of Europe

– Flags of the Allied airmen’s home countries

– Crossword Puzzle

– Word Search

– Video clips courtesy of Veterans’ Affairs

– Barbara Hehner. The Tunnel King. Toronto: Harper Collins, 2004


For more information, contact Gina Heinbockel-Bolik, the education programmer via email at or by phone at 613-965-3874.

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