Monument to the PoWs at Luft III Sagan 

This site is dedicated to former Lt HS "Matt" Mattholie RN who was captured on 18/19.4.1944 by the Germans in Northern Norway after the Operation Mascot attack on the Tirpitz. His Corsair and a Barracuda driven by Lt Cdr RS Baker-Falkner (with Lt Micklem and TAG Kimberley) were lost from the carrier HMS Formidable. After being taken to Narvik Matt spent the rest of the war at Stalag Luft III. 

List of all Fleet Air Arm POWs
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M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X- Y- Z


The German POW camp (called Stammlager or Stalag) was situated in the forest near the town of Sagan (Zagan in Polish), Poland. Sagan is about 160km south-east of Berlin. The camp was established in April 1943, and was one of the six special German POW camps specially build for the ever increasing numbers of POW aircrews. At the height of its existence about 10000 officers and non-commissioned officers were interned in the camp.

Stalag Luft III became famous of what was known as "The Great Escape". On 24 March 1944, 80 Allied prisoners attempted to escape from the POW camp. They had dug a tunnel with the nickname "Harry". Only 15 man managed to escape to free territory. All others were murdered by the Gestapo and SS.

Aerial view of Stalag Luft III


A number of well known Fleet Air Arm Officers were interned at Stalag Luft III, including Lt Cdr J Casson, RN and Lt PE Fanshawe RN both of 803 Naval Air Squiadron , who were shot down together on 13 June 1940 during a dive bombing attack on the German battleship Scharnhorst at Trondheim, Norway. Their Skua aircraft crashed at Stjornfjord, Fosen and both were captured by the Germans and taken POW, first to Dulag Luft near Frankfurt, then eventually arriving at Luft III.

Peter "Hornblower" Fanshawe, whilst POW at Stalag Luft III was a member of the "Great Escape" Executive Commitee. Fanshawe was the real sand dispersal specialist at Luft III.  The method of sand disposal shown in the film "Great Escape" is an exact match for the real events.  Fanshawe was transferred to Belaria shortly before the escape. He was played by David McCallum in The feature film about events in Luft III in the "Great Escape" which was made by the Mirish Company and released in 1963. (see link).

Whilst at Luft III Casson acted as a codemaster for MI9 in PoW camps, and assisted Fanshawe in his role as a member of the Luft III "Great Escape" Executive Commitee. John Casson was also a leading actor in Stalag Luft III along with Sub Lt Rupert Davies RN another Fleet Air Arm airman ex of 812 Naval Air Squadron who had been shot down in his Swordfish with Lt NM Hearle and captured on 22 August 1940. Rupetrt Davies opostrwar became a TV and film actor and played the sleuth Inspector Maigret.

Fleet Air Arm officers interned after the Great Escape included Lt HS "Matt" Mattholie RN who was captured on 18/19 April 1944 by the Germans in Northern Norway following his involvement in the Operation Mascot attack on the Tirpitz. His Corsair, and a Barracuda driven by Lt Cdr RS Baker-Falkner (with observer Lt Micklem and TAG Kimberley), were unable to return to the carrier HMS Formidable. the two aircraft headed for Norway hoping to reach neutral Sweden.  Matt managed to made landfall near a village inland from the Lofoten Islands and traipsed for a day towards the Swedish frontier. He was captured the next day still in Norway and taken to Narvik. Matt spent the rest of the war at Stalag Luft III, but following frequent secret messages sent to him from the Admiralty whilst he was in PoW camp, he discovered that Baker-Falkner and his Barracuda crew would never arrive at Stalag Luft III and it was presumed their aircraft was lost at sea.

Model of Stalag Luft III in the onsite museum


The Great Escape of March 1944 triggered a tragically severe reaction from the Germans. The diversion from Germany's desperate war effort necessary to recapture the 76 men who got away through the escape tunnel reached Hitler's personal attention and he ordered 50 of the recaptured men to be shot.

The Escape Committee at Luft III included  Peter 'Hornblower' Fanshawe RN. and the escapees who were returned to Stalag Luft II included: Lt Alexander Desmond Neely (825 Sqdn Fleet Air Arm, born November 1917), and Lt Douglas Arthur Poynter (Fleet Air Arm, born 1921).

For full list of the 75 escapees see history in Film and for additional information see The Great Escape Stalag Luft III, Sagan, March 24/25th, 1944 by Rob Davis)

See the following website link for a list and biographies of the 50 airmen murdered by the SS and Gestapo.

Three escapers, Per Bergsland (aka Rocky Rockland) (332 Sqdn, shot down in a Spitfire during the Dieppe Landings), Jens Muller (331 Sqdn, shot down 19th June 1942, Spitfire), and Bram van der Stok, succeeded in reaching safety.  Bergsland and Muller reached neutral Sweden, and van der Stock arrived in Gibraltar via Holland, Belgium, France and Spain.  Out of the 73 others, 50 were murdered by the Gestapo, 17 were returned to Sagan, four sent to Sachsenhausen, and two to Colditz Castle.  Word reached England of the atrocity; in mid July 1944 Anthony Eden, British Foreign Minister, made a speech in the House of Commons declaring that the perpetrators of the crime would be brought to justice.

See  Story of Stalag Luft III website for details. Real Video recollections of POW Kriegies from Stalag Luft III. See Web page on the Escape.
 (Requires Real Video Player)
-- Escape by Impersonating
-- Escape Preparation
-- Preparation for the Tunnel
-- Engineering the Tunnel
-- Security for the Tunnel
-- The Dodger
-- Escape and Recapture

When American airmen arrived in August 1944 they noticed that the British POW's still wore black armbands as a remembrance to those who were gunned down in cold blood by the German ZZ.


In late January 1945, the entire camp was rousted late at night and ordered to start marching. They marched near Nuremberg to a temporary camp. From there they were marched on foot to Stalag VIIA in Mooseburg. There they remained until liberated by General Patton's Army on 29 April, 1945. While marching to Mooseburg, they frequently were stopped at farmhouses along the way and given soups and other hot dishes by the occupants of the farm, as the Germans were low on food themselves and certainly did not want to "waste" it on Prisoners of War.


The former grounds of the Stalag Luft III are currently part of a Polish military training area. Near the former camp site is small, but interesting museum. There are no original buildings left, on the woods you can find all kinds of debris that betray the presence of former quarters.




USAF Academy site 'The Story of Stalag Luft 3

 An extensive site with some sound archive material

Polish site on Sagan (in English) 

Polish information about the Camp - includes link to present day Zagan. 

Stalag Luft III Sagan 

Rob Davis's excellent page on Sagan and The Great Escape.

Kreigie documents of Luft III - Website for Lt. J. J. Ryan's WWII Memories 

Website for Lt. J. J. Ryan's WWII Memories - 15th Army Air Force 777th Bombardment Squadron and 464th Bombardment Group and PoW with the british in Stalag Luft III

Sturtivant, R. & Burrow, M (1995) 

Sturtivant, R. & Burrow, M (1995)  'Fleet Air Arm Aircraft 1939 to 1945'  Published by Air Britain (Historians) Ltd, 1995 ISBN: 0 85130 232 7 


Listing of all Fleet Air Arm POWs

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