A short spell in the "cooler"
21st May 1943: The reality of the punishment cell at Stalag Luft III was not captured by Hollywood
Bomber pilot Ken Rees1 had been shot down over Norway in 1942. Now, along with an ever-growing band of his comrades, he was a guest of the Germans, a POW in Stalag Luft III. He is often regarded as one of the models for the Steve McQueen character in the film "The Great Escape". For commercial reasons, it was decided that this character should be an American pilot in the film. However, he was a hybrid creation based on several British officers and some inventions.
This was the first of many trips to the Cooler. You are incarcerated in a small, whitewashed stone cell about ten by five feet, with a bed, a small table and a chair. No heating. The tiny window is barred, with wood rising from the base at such an angle as only to let in light and a view of the sky, nothing else.
Anyone who ever endured a British Christmas in the 1970s will know most of the storyline of "The Great Escape", as the film was repeated so often on television during this season that it became a national joke. The character played by Steve McQueen was such a rebel that he was often sent to 'cool off' in the punishment cell.
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