Our Thanks to Luke Hendry and Adele Matsalla for permitting us to use this article written by Hendry with Adele Matsalla in 2014.
P/O John Fry was a crew member of JB912
George Sweanor was a crew member on DT634
both Halifax bombers of 419 Moose Squadron.

They were the ones who stayed behind
and the ones who lived.

In 1944 during the Second World War, 76 Allied prisoners tunnelled out of Germany's Stalag Luft III prison camp in occupied Poland.
Staying behind were two future Belleville residents who'd helped them but gambled correctly that they'd be safer in captivity.
John Fry of Jordan, Ont. and George Sweanor of Port Hope were Canadian airmen of 419 "Moose" Squadron shot down over enemy territory in 1943. Both lived in Belleville in the years bordering the war. Fry died in 1997; Sweanor now lives in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Fry's eldest child, Adele Matsalla of Aurora, Ont., said her father's Halifax bomber was shot down April 20, 1943 over Szczecin (Stettin), Poland. He was one of six survivors.
"He spoke very fluent German," Matsalla said. "He helped them avoid capture on at least one occasion.
"After a few days of this they realized they didn't have a hope" of remaining free.
Once captured, the pilot officer and bomb aimer used his linguistic skills to teach German to fellow prisoners.
"He did participate in digging the tunnels," Matsalla said. "They would use him to sort of hang around and eavesdrop a bit, because he could understand what the guards were saying.
"He said he did not want to be part of the escape because he really didn't think they had a chance."

F/O George Sweanor

Sweanor, meanwhile, was on security duty, tracking every German in the camp. He'd been shot down on the night of March 27.
"As the escape committee kept taking bed boards from us to shore up tunnels I was forever adjusting Jack's bed boards to prevent him from falling through on me, but he did one night and I had bruises for weeks," he wrote via e-mail.
Though Sweanor's hearing prevented a telephone interview, he granted The Intelligencer permission to quote from his writings, including his e-book, It's All Pensionable Time: 25 years in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

"We were in a large camp that, although primitive, was much better than expected; and there was some Red Cross food, but we were always hungry," Sweanor wrote."We all wanted to get home," he continued, but added, "I had growing doubts about the wisdom of escaping.
"German newspapers were displaying increasing anger over the destruction of civilian lives and property our bombers were causing ... Hitler then ordered troops not to interfere to save downed airmen being beaten to death by irate civilians. Our worried German Commandant kept warning us that the climate for escaping had changed.
"In the relative comfort of our Luftwaffe (German air force) camps, few of us gave the Luftwaffe deserved credit for risking their lives in putting a shield around us to protect us from the Gestapo and SS," Sweanor wrote.
"I thought the official policy of non-fraternization with our guards and making their lives as difficult as possible was stupid as we would need them in a post-war Germany," he wrote in an e-mail to The Intelligencer.
"The damage we prisoners could do to the massive German war effort was minimal while the long-term good we could do by cultivating the respect our guards had for us was immense. Our victorious armies shattered this by mistreating those Germans who had been good to us.
"In spite of German newspapers and magazines that we received reporting increasing German anger at the immense destruction of cities and the slaughter of some 600,000 women and children by our bombers, there remained many of us who hung to the old chivalry of the rights and duty of war prisoners to escape," he continued.
"I was among the majority who knew that escape was no longer a sport and that it was almost impossible to get any distance among 90 million hostile Germans who were now anxious to take revenge on any enemy aircrews who escaped the protection by the Luftwaffe."
Seventy-six prisoners, nine of them Canadian, escaped.
The Gestapo secret police shot 50 of them - including six Canadians - and returned the rest to the camp. Only three prisoners escaped entirely. In retaliation, the Nazis shot one man's brother in Holland and tortured their father to death.
"I remember shaking the hands of young friends as they left for the tunnel and seeing their ashes returned to us," wrote Sweanor.

Both Sweanor and Fry were liberated and returned to Canada.
Fry then taught languages at Belleville Collegiate Institute and at Trenton High School. Sweanor worked in banks in Napanee, Warkworth and Belleville between 1938 and 1941, and after the war remained with the air force for two plus decades.
He then taught various subjects, including history, in Colorado.

Ted Barris Author of The Great Escape:
A Canadian Story

In his book released last year, Ted Barris reports Hitler's secret policemen, the Gestapo, actually wanted the escape to happen.
"The Gestapo disarmed the camp," Barris said in an interview, by telling guards to turn off the microphones that could detect the sounds of tunnelling.
Barris said about 150 of the 600 to 800 Canadians in the camp actually participated in the secret plot.
His book counters the fiction portrayed in the 1963 Hollywood movie The Great Escape, which changed the camp's location and many key facts. In short, there were no motorcycles, no mountains and few Americans. Most of the key players were British Commonwealth airmen, largely Britons and Canadians.

After reading Barris' book, Matsalla began corresponding with Sweanor.
Learning about her dad's service has given her a greater appreciation of what the war generation endured, she said.
"These were ordinary people really put into very extraordinary circumstances."