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Great Escape art exhibited

griffithsA new exhibition entitled The Great Escape that showcases the art of Guy Griffiths opened this week at the Hampshire Royal Marines Museum.  Griffiths was a spy inside of the Stalag Luft III during the Second World War and helped PoWs escape to freedom.

He was the first Royal Navy officer to be captured just 11 days after the war began and used his cartoons to give information to the British.  He also forged documents to aid escapees.  The display features footage of him and paintings by the pilot.

The documents he forged allowed the escapees to appear to be Austrian or Hungarian citizens, which was the inspiration for the Steve  McQueen film The Great Escape, in 1963.

The archivist for the exhibit, Matthew Little, stated that Griffith was able to transmit a large amount of information back to his base using his cartoons.  One of his tricks was a pantomime that he published which had a hidden cast list in code that detailed the soldiers who were captured.

Little stated that he also would draw futuristic planes that had the Germans convinced were new inventions by the British leading them on wild goose chases.

Griffiths was captured in September of 1939 while attempting to dive bomb a German U-boat.  After the war ended he became a Navy test pilot until he retired in 1958.

At that point he worked both as a coffee shop owner and newspaper editor until he died from a heart attack in July of 1999.

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