Advertisement

  1. ITV Report

Diary of 'Great Escape' airman sells for thousands at auction

The diary was put up for auction by Mark Phillips, 59, a retired telecoms project manager from Twickenham, London, the nephew of Viv Phillips. Credit: BPM Media

A unique diary written by a man who played his part in the true story that inspired the blockbuster movie The Great Escape has sold for thousands of pounds at auction.

The 1963 Hollywood film, starring Steve McQueen, James Garner and Richard Attenborough, told the true story of a mass prison breakout through a tunnel dug by inmates.

RAF Flight Lieutenant Viv Phillips helped to build that tunnel and documented life in Stalag Luft III prisoner of war camp, near Sagan, Poland, in his wartime log.

Viv Philipps (left) Credit: BPM Media

The journal, together with the late Mr Phillips’ war medals including a Distinguished Service Order, was sold at Derbyshire’s Hansons Auctioneers to a private UK buyer for a hammer price of £13,500.

It was put up for auction by Mark Phillips, 59, a retired telecoms project manager from Twickenham, London, the nephew of Viv Phillips.

The diary is believed to be the only one of its kind to survive the rigours of the POW camp. I put it up for auction as I had no-one in the family to pass it on to. I hope it’s gone to someone or an institution that will cherish it.

– Mark Phillips, Viv Philipps' nephew
Life in the camp, as sketched by Viv Philipps Credit: BPM Media

As well as anecdotes, sketches, cartoons and poems, the diary contains black and white photos of men held captive – characters who played their part in one of the greatest prison escapes of all time.

Mr Phillips was not one of the mass escapees, chosen by names drawn out of a hat, but he played a major part in building the tunnel.

Of the 76 men who did escape via the tunnel, 3 made it home to the UK. 23 were recaptured and sent back to Sagan. Hitler personally ordered the execution of the other 50 men.