Menu Donate Request our help

Helpline: 0300 102 1919

"I came down in snowdrifts"

Former Flight Lieutenant Charles Clarke was imprisoned in Stalag Luft III after being captured on enemy territory. In this blog, Charles tells us about his capture.

"I was shot down. The aircraft caught fire, the wing came off. I bailed out. Three of the others bailed out. And three were killed – obviously could not get out in time.   

"I came down in snowdrifts and I honestly thought that I'd be found in the spring, in one of the snowdrifts, sort of preserved for all time. I started heading towards Switzerland and didn’t get very far. And eventually I had to come down on to the highway because I couldn't cross mountains and I saw some Germans ahead. And I thought I'd run across the river which was frozen, but when they fired I decided for me the war was over.  

"From there, I was taken to a cell. I was in it and I started shouting –  I was in solitary confinement of course – shouting in the hope that there'd be another Brit there. I was told to shut up by the Germans, so I thought, 'What else can I do?'"

"So I started singing a song that I'd heard only a few weeks before. I'd been to see a film. I think Orchestra Wives if I remember correctly. And the song was so appropriate, it was Just Don't Get Around Much Anymore. It just couldn't be better. And I got a reply from someone whistling back, so there was obviously another Allied airman there or someone, but I never knew who he was.  

"From there, I was taken to an air field and we were in the guard room waiting for transport with a warrant officer and two German airmen. And one of them let off his gun and the bullet just whistled across my hair and I honestly thought that he’d tried to shoot me. So I swore at him. But the warrant officer also swore at him, so I realised it was just a clumsy act on the part of the airman.

"From there I was taken to the invigilation centre where we were kept in cells that were lined with asbestos where they cross-examined us and things like that. After a while there I was taken to Stalag Luft III and to this day I can't remember whether I walked or was taken by truck in from the station."

Visit the Great Escape homepage

Sign up to receive the RAFBF e-newsletter