Written by Old Bluffer 19th Mar 2008
Kindly written by Kooshmeister
Roger Bartlett, better known as "Big X," is the British officer in charge of the so-called X Organization, an underground organization of primarily British officers among the POWs interred in the prison camp known as Stalag Luft III. At risk to life and limb, it is Bartlett's job to confound and confuse the enemy by planning a mass escape from Stalag Luft III. Wearing civilian clothes made from their uniforms and carrying forged identity papers, Bartlett and 71 other prisoners successfully escape from the prison by tunnelling under the barbed wire perimeter fence.
Unfortunately, due to the clumsiness of one of the escaping POWs alerting the guards, the Germans become aware of their escape a little too soon, putting a big damper on their timetable. As the 72 ex-prisoners scatter to the four winds, Bartlett ends up travelling with the X Organization's intelligence man, Sandy MacDonald. Despite a brief setback when a Gestapo agent recognizes Bartlett at a train station, he and MacDonald are almost home free and are boarding a bus, their identity papers being scrutinized by a pair of Gestapo. The papers check out, and Bartlett's German is enough to fool the two agents, but MacDonald is another matter. He falls for a ploy when one of the Gestapo agents says, in English, "Good luck," and unthinkingly replies in English. The jig is up, and Bartlett and MacDonald soon find themselves fleeing on foot from both the Gestapo and several German soldiers.
Although MacDonald is swiftly apprehended after tripping and being surrounded by about a dozen soldiers, Bartlett manages to keep running a little while longer. His proficiency with the German language is enough to convince some soldiers who stop him that he is a citizen of the town and not a fleeing POW, but shortly after this he encounters one SS officer who unfortunately isn't stupid. Complimenting Bartlett on his good German, the officer arrests him on the spot.
Soon, Bartlett, MacDonald, and 49 other recaptured POWs are in a truck being driven back to Stalag Luft III. Or so the Germans have told them. Earlier in the film, one of the Gestapo agents who brought him to the prison had warned Bartlett that if he escaped again, he would sorely regret it, and Bartlett took it as a death threat. So, he is surprised that the Germans are, apparently, welshing on their threat, but he remains wary. Not wary enough, however, as it turns out. The truck soon comes to a halt in the field, and the soldiers escorting them open up the back, ordering all fifty of the men to get out so they can "stretch their legs," since it's "a long way to the camp."
Falling for it, Bartlett and the others get out. Bartlett, walking up to MacDonald, tells him that he isn't sorry that they got caught. They fulfilled their mission to be a big annoyance to the Germans, and he admits that he's never been happier. Before their conversation can go any further, they hear the cocking of a gun offscreen and turn to find one of the soldiers aiming a tripod-mounted machine gun at them. They hardly react at all, apparently resigned to their fate, and the soldier proceeds to open fire, instantly killing Bartlett, MacDonald, and the other 49 prisoners.
Later, Colonel Von Luger, the German officer in charge of Stalag Luft III, will be forced to lie to the senior British officer and tell him that the fifty men were all shot "while escaping."