Ex-POW completes Great Escape challenger

A GULF War veteran who spent 40 days as an Iraqi prisoner of war has completed a charity challenge in honour of the 50 World War II heroes immortalised by the film The Great Escape.

Ex-RAF navigator Robert Ankerson of Barn Close, Hartford, joined seven other men to complete the 2,868 mile trip through Holland, Germany, Poland and finally Austria on his Triumph Bonneville.

The group had initially hoped to raise �10,000 for Help for Heroes and the Royal British Legion, but according Mr Ankerson, who turned 61 in Berlin during the trip, that target has been smashed perhaps totalling closer than �15,000.

“The whole trip was a success without incident or injury,” he told The Hunts Post.

“We had such superb support from a variety of people including the Dutch army, the British army, the Polish army and international law enforcement motorcycle club the Blue Knights.

“We were eight individuals from a variety of backgrounds who just gelled – our camaraderie mirrored that of the escapees of the prisoner of war camp, and there will be a good many reunions in the future.”

The trip followed the route of the escapees who broke out of the Stalag Luft III prisoner of war camp for airmen in 1944, and far from being a physical challenge proved to be more of an emotional one.

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“This was definitely an emotional journey,” added Mr Ankerson, “and each of us had our own personal reasons for doing it.

“We laid a wreath to the original escapees at the memorial of the Stalag Luft III in Zagan in Poland, and then in Poznan laid flowers on each of the graves of 48 out of the 50 original escapees.”

Mr Ankerson said the hospitality of people and their respect for the memory of the dead had been second to none throughout the trip, and it was something he would never forget.

To find out more about the trip go to www.greatescape2.net.