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Terry Jones Michael Palin – Ripping Yarns – Escape from Stalag Luft 112B

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

Escape from Stalag Luft 112B

Germany, 1917. Major Errol Phipps (Palin) is a legend among prisoners of war. He has attempted over five hundred escapes, two hundred of them before he left England. One day, he is transferred to the most infamous prison camp: Stalag Luft 112B. He tries nine escapes en route and one just after arriving, but is stopped by fellow British officers. They are comfortable where they are, bossing the Germans around. One of the officers is called "Attenborough", alluding to Richard Attenborough's role in the film The Great Escape, which the episode parodies very successfully. Escape attempts have to be organized by a special committee which only meets very irregularly. Phipps tries to escape nonetheless. He starts to construct a glider out of toilet rolls, maps the wires and perimeters and starts digging tunnels in the flower beds. One day, he is woken up by the furious guard Vogel (Roy Kinnear): All the others have escaped. To give Phipps no chance to do the same, he is from now on closely watched. One night, the guards ask him for help. They want to escape; they’re fed up with this. Phipps refuses, saying this would be collaboration. The next morning he finds all the guards, except Vogel, are escaping. Vogel tries to persuade him to help him shoot the other guards, Phipps again refuses. When Vogel shoots, he accidentally kills the Kommandant and has no choice but to escape. Phipps is left alone and has at last time to complete all his escape plans. He finishes his glider, digs a tunnel system so elaborate that it later became part of the Munich underground, and builds a giant catapult. He’s about to start a hot air balloon when peace is declared. Major Phipps was the only man never to escape from Stalag Luft 112B. He dies a broken man. Two months after the burial, a hole is found dug from his grave to the cemetery fence: his final escape was his greatest.