The Spirit of Hermanus
Over this holiday season, one of the traditional movie line-ups in the UK is The Great Escape, and it highlights one of Hermanus' greatest sons - Squadron Leader Roger Bushell. Today, he is remembered on the Hermanus Cenotaph at the waterfront.
The third beer in our new beer line up of 'Old Tin Hat' is also making its debut in Hermanus over the Christmas holiday period.
Our Blonde Ale - and it celebrates Roger Bushell, a South African, known as Big X, who led 'The Great Escape' from Stalag Luft III during WW2.
The range supports The South African Legion - South Africa's oldest military veterans charity.
To lean a little more about Roger Bushell and why we are naming the beer 'The Great Escaper' here's his story:
Because of the famous movie ‘The Great Escape’ many believe the man who led the escape from Stalag Luft III Prisoner Of War camp was British, but he was in fact a South African. Roger Bushell was a RAF Squadron Leader during World War 2. His Spitfire was shot down behind enemy lines and he was captured, entering the German Luftwaffe Prisoner of War (POW) system for Allied Air Force personnel.
On his arrival at Stalag Luft camp he joined a committee responsible for all ‘escape operations’ and escaped, recaptured he landed up at Oflag X-C camp. Whilst transferring to Oflag VI-B camp he escaped again, only to be recaptured again. Roughly interrogated by the Gestapo secret police, Bushell was eventually sent to Stalag Luft III camp.
His bad treatment by the Gestapo only reinforced his determination to strike back at his captors as best he could. He became ‘Big X’ heading up the escape committee now committed to organising mass breakouts and disrupting Germany’s war effort.
The "Great Escape", was planned to allow 200 men to escape on a single night. To this end they resolved to dig three tunnels – known as Tom, Dick and Harry. The escape was unprecedented and involved 600 prisoners digging tunnels, converting uniforms to civilian cloths and issuing forged documents.
‘Tom’ was discovered, ‘Dick’ was abandoned, however ‘Harry’ was open. On the evening of 24 March 1944, the great escape went ahead. But things did not go as planned, with only 76 officers managing to escape.
Bushell and his partner where amongst the first to exit the tunnel and boarded a train at Sagan, they were caught in Saarbrücken awaiting a train to Alsace. On Hitler’s orders 50 of the recaptured escapees were murdered by the Gestapo, including Roger Bushell. Posthumously mentioned in Despatches, Roger Bushell is formally remembered on the war memorial located near his family home in Hermanus, South Africa.