General Prisoner of War

‘Escape’ by Gordon Brettell

Remembering today Great Escaper Gordon Brettell, one of the fifty Allied airmen murdered in the aftermath of the break out from Stalag Luft III. POW Arthur Darlow transcribed Gordon’s poem ‘Escape’ in his POW logbook.

‘Escape’ was copied from the walls of the cooler where F/Lt Bretel (sic) after a vain attempt to escape had spent a fortnight ‘cooling off’. His last attempt to get home cost him his life. He and a large group of his fellow escapees were shot.

If you can quit the compound undetected
And clear your tracks nor leave the slightest trace
And follow out the programme you’ve selected
Nor lose your grasp of distance, time and place.

If you can walk at night by compass bearing
Or ride the railways by light of day.
And temper your elusiveness with daring
Trusting that sometime bluff will find a way.

If you can swallow sour frustration
And gaze unmoved at failure’s ugly shape
Remembering as further inspiration
It was and is your duty to escape.

If you can keep the great Gestapo guessing
With explanations only partly true,
And leave them in their heart of hearts confessing
They didn’t get the whole truth out of you.

If you can use your cooler fortnight clearly
For planning methods wiser than before
And treat your first miscalculation merely
As hints let fall by fate to teach you more.

If you scheme on with patience and precision
It wasn’t a day they builded Rome
And make escape your single ambition
The next time you attempt it, you’ll get home.

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