Paul Royle, one of the 76 airmen whose legendary escape is immortalized in “The Great Escape,” passed away on August 23rd at the age of 101. Royle, an Australian serving in the RAF, was shot down during the Battle of France on May 17th, 1940 and initially spent time in Stalag Luft 1 before being transferred to the notorious Stalag Luft 3 in Sagan, Germany (now, Poland).
On the night of 24 March 1944 he was number 57 in the queue of war prisoners waiting to escape and teamed up with Flight Lieutenant Edgar Humphreys who was the next in line. After being pulled through the narrow tunnel on a trolley and climbing the exit ladder Royle and Humphreys ran for the cover of pine trees and then set off in the direction of Switzerland. They evaded capture for two nights and crossed the Berlin to Breslau autobahn before they were arrested by home guard upon entering a village. The two men were interrogated by the Gestapo in Görlitz, Royle was then returned to solitary confinement in Stalag Luft III but Humphreys was one of the 50 escapers who were victims of the Stalag Luft III murders, having been selected for execution by SS-Gruppenführer Arthur Nebe on the orders of Adolf Hitler.
With Royle’s passing, former squadron leader Dick Churchill, now 94, remains the lone survivor of that august group.
Godspeed and Rest In Peace, Flight Lieutenant Royle.