The Great Escape


On 24 March 1944 76 Prisoners of War escaped from Luft STALAG III at Sagan.  The architect of the escape was Squadron Leader Roger Bushell RAF.  He had previously escaped from two other POW camps.  He traveled with Lt. Bernard Scheidhauer, a French RAF pilot.  They made it to Saarbrücken were they were caught on 26 March 1944.  They were to be returned to a camp in the interior.  Instead they were executed on the morning of 29 March 1944 at a location about 20 meters west of where the Kindsbacher Road crossed the old autobahn (direction Mannheim).


A number of accounts have been written about the life of Roger Bushell as well as the Great Escape.  The event caught the imagination of Hollywood and served as the inspiration for the Motion picture “The Great Escape.” Most recently, an article appeared in the British magazine After The Battle which recounted Bushell’s escape, capture, and execution.  Winston G. Ramsey, the editor of After The Battle decided to retrace Bushell’s and Scheidhauer’s fateful journey from Saarbrücken to the point on A6 where they were killed.  The article included a copy of a 1944 aerial view which purported to show the location of the execution.  It also contained a modern day photograph of A6 near the Einsiedlerhof Bridge.  The photos proved confusing.  The Aerial photo from WWI did indeed capture the location. The problem was that the second photo in the article was taken of the new A6 which, at about the Einsiedlerhof Overpass runs further south than the original autobahn.  The old A6 ended past Ramstein near Spesbach, and a part of it was incorporated into Ramstein AB.  Another problem was that the aerial photo taken in 1944 was not of the best quality.


Another issue was the accuracy of historical accounts of the episode.  There was conflicting information about where the execution took place.  Some placed it at or near Landstuhl.  Nowhere in the testimony is Landstuhl mentioned.  Saarbrücken, Homburg and Kaiserslautern are specifically referred to.  Other writers have taken and run with this misinformation over the years.  Words have been attributed to Schultz and Breithaupt that cannot be verified through documentation.  One does not know what amounted to hearsay and what was documented in 1945 and 1946 by British investigators.  The likelihood is that McKenna did have casual conversations with Schultz which may have served as the genesis for later claims.  Again there is no evidence that anyone ever referred to the Kindsbacher Bridge as the first bridge on A6.


My involvement in this project then was to bring clarity to the discussion about the location of where the execution took place.  After a careful examination of the interrogation records of Gestapo agent Schultz, and the driver Breithaupt it was possible to begin to narrow down the location of the execution (Spann had been killed in an air raid in Linz).  At one point Walter Breithaupt stated that they came to a stop shortly before the bridge on A6.  Aerial photos showed a bridge where Kindsbacher Road crossed A6.  Remants of that bridge are still located near the spot where the execution took place.  Moreover, old time residents of Ramstein recall the bridge crossing A6 on Kindsbacher Road.


A final assessment required the examination of aerial photos from the period, road maps, and other atlas sketches showing the area as it was in the 1940s and early 1950s.  Physical measurements conducted by Kai Philipp of the 86 CES at Ramstein Air Base, and Dr. Wueschner 86 Airlift Wing historian helped to settle the matter.  Indeed, the meetings in Kai Philipp’s office were invaluable.  His access to Geospatial software made it easy to measure the distances on the old autobahn.  Once the testimony of Emil Schultz and Walter Breithaupt was compared to the physical evidence it was easy to conclude that the execution occurred right outside Ramstein.



A final note:


Winston Ramsey, Editor, After The Battle would like to contribute £1000.00 towards a marker at the site.  He also has a connection to British Escape Organizations.

The Mews
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Hobbs Cross
Old Harlow
Essex CM17 0NN


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Alte Autoban