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Gala events pays to tribute to the airmen of the Great Escape

Thousands of people filled London's Hammersmith Apollo and cinemas nationwide on Sunday to pay tribute to the 50 Allied airmen killed in the aftermath of the Great Escape.

The commemoration took place exactly 75 years after 76 men crawled their way to freedom through a 300-foot tunnel built under the notorious prisoner of war camp, Stalag Luft III.

Bucket collectors at gala screeningRAF personnel bucket collect at our gala screening.

Their bravery and ingenuity inspired what has become one of the most famous war films ever made, The Great Escape. Sunday’s event included a gala screening of the film returning to the big screen for one night only as well as an appearance of the Triumph motorbike involved in 'that' fence jump scene.

Historian Dan Snow and military historian Paul Beaver paid tribute to the men who took part in the breakout, and heard from Colin Kirby-Green whose father and step-father were involved. There were also filmed interviews with RAF veterans Jack Lyon and Dick Churchill, sadly no longer with us, and Air Cdre Charles Clarke.

Dan said: "This event paid tribute to all those brave men whose tenacity and determination defined a generation of RAF servicemen. It is vital we remember their sacrifice. The Great Escapers' ingenuity thwarted their guards efforts to prevent their escape and inspired the iconic film, ensuring their legacy will be known by many more generations."

The D-Day Darlings provided the soundtrack to this evening of remembrance and sang a moving tribute to the 50 as their names were displayed on screen.

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