Royal Air Force Vickers Wellington officer pilot Bertram 'Jimmy' James was the 35th man out of the 76 who escaped from the Stalag Luft III north compound on 24 march 1944 - a mass escape later made famous by the inaccurate 1963 US film The Great Escape.

An officer with 9 squadron operating from RAF Honington he was shot down over the Dutch coast in 1940, captured and eventually found himself at the Stalag Luft III prisoner of war camp, which was for officers only and based in Poland. After many escape attempts he was moved from the east compound to the camp's new northern one, opened in April 1943; along with the camp's other prisoners from the UK, Commonwealth countries such as Canada, and occupied central European nations.

The inmates immediately began to build three tunnels called 'Tom', 'Dick' and 'Harry' with the intention of organising a mass escape of 200 men. The three tunnel entrances were finished by the end of May 1943 but 'Tom' became the focus for further work. 'Tom' was discovered on 8 September so work on 'Harry' was resumed in January 1944 and was completed by 24 March.

On the night of 24 March 80 men climbed out of the 104m (340ft) long tunnel. Four were caught at the tunnel's mouth when the escape was spotted, 76 got away and only three made it home. The remaining 73 were all re-captured.

The UK's Imperial War Musuem web site states that: "News of the escape of 76 RAF officers from Stalag Luft III reached Hitler within 24h. He was outraged and ordered that all those who were re-captured should be shot."

"In the end, following the advice of the Gestapo chief Heinrich Himmler, who suggested that to execute all of the escapers would greatly harm Germany's relations with the neutral countries, this number was reduced to 50. Those selected were taken by Gestapo agents and, between 29 March and 13 April, killed, supposedly while trying to escape again."

In the video interview below James told Flight he was also sentenced to death and sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, but survived and was eventually liberated by the US Army. He spoke to Flightglobal at the Autographica event in London on 12 October.