Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Great Escape Project

As a boy growing up in Australia I loved reading my father's old World War Two books. One of my favorites was "The Great Escape,' a story of a mass escape by Allied POWs, causing a huge recapture effort that diverted German troops from the war effort. Since this was the objective of the project, (the prospect of many of the prisoners actually making it to safety was slim) the project was considered a success. Unfortunately, the German chose to punish the escapees by executing 50 of the 76 who escaped.

But what a project this was! The preparation and planning and duplication of effort to mitigate risks. The incredible details that went into forging all the documents, tailoring the fake uniforms and civilian clothes, the rails for the tunnels, the air circulation system, the radios, the list goes on and on. All of it was amazingly planned. Too bad the execution failed by them ending the tunnel about twenty feet shy of the forest. The whole story was well depicted in the classic movie. Here's the original trailer:
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But an article in this week's paper showed just how incredible the tunneling itself really was. A group of British-based engineers, battlefield archaeologists, historians and modern-day Royal Air Force pilots, tried to replicate the work of the prisoners using their techniques and were unsuccessful. They couldn't safely make the tunnels in that sandy soil and had to quit.

Did the prisoners simply have more time and more incentive than the recreators to complete their project? One of these days I'm going to have to study this project in detail from a Project Management perspective and write it up properly.

Anyway, if you have time, check out the four videos below that detail the making of the movie.
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