Royal Air Force Escape Aids

1. War Pilot of Orange

The following text on escape aids for RAF airmen is from the book, War Pilot of Orange, by Bob Vanderstok, Missoula, Montana: Pictorial Histories Publishing Co., 1987, reproduced with permission of the publisher.  Vanderstok was one of three men who succeeded in escaping to England durng the Great Escape from Stalag Luft III.

“The shoes were very special.  Actually, they were sheepskin-lined, high boots.  The lower part looked like an ordinary shoe with laces and the upper part had a zipper in front.  On one side of the upper part, a small, stainless steel pocketknife fit tightly in a sheath.  The two parts of the boot could be separated by cutting along a groove designed especially for this purpose.  When separated, the lower part of the shoe looked like an ordinary oxford.  The idea of such a  boot was that it could be transformed into a civilian-looking shoe, in case the airman was shot down and had a chance to escape before being caught.

“Another part of the uniform was a small item, but with the same idea in mind.  A button of the pants could be placed on another button to make a compass.  The top button had a small fluorescent dot which always pointed north.  The secrecy of these small details was perhaps not too important, but under certain circumstances they were extremely handy and should not be discovered by hostile people.

“The escape kit was a plastic box which fit snugly in a breast pocket.  It contained two maps, one of Western Europe and the other a large-scale reproduction of a localized area.  The maps were printed on silk.  This was not only much stronger than paper, but meant they could be used for other things.  Torn in strips, the silk maps would serve as bandages, tourniquets, slings, and perform many other functions, such as keeping splints in place.

“The kit had a small compass, a bar of soap, a razor, fishhooks and line, a morphine injection, sulfanilamide tablets, and some food tablets in the form of chocolate-malted candies.”

2. Interview with Frank Dell

Frank Dell, pilot of a De Havilland Mosquito, in October 1944 was shot down over Germany, survived, and walked to The Netherlands where he joined the Dutch Resistance.  For a one-hour interview with him by Richard Fidler of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation,  during which he describes his escape kit, go to  Dell’s book, Mosquito Down, was published in 2014.

3. Other Sources.  Other websites discussing escape aids include:

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