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Lieut Eric Perry "Digger" Dowling
Birth: Jul. 22, 1915
Glastonbury
Somerset, England
Death: Jul. 21, 2008
Bristol
Gloucestershire, England

British Royal Air Force Officer. He was nicknamed "Digger" for helping to construct numerous tunnels while a Prisoner of War in Germany, during World War II. One of his tunnels was used in the breakout from Stalag Luft III, near Sagan, Germany, that became known as "The Great Escape," made famous by the 1963 movie of the same name. Born in Glastonbury, in Southwest England, he joined the Royal Air Force when war was declared in 1939, and was trained as a navigator for the RAF Bomber Command, rising to the rank of Flight Lieutenant. In April 1942, his bomber was shot down over Germany, and he was sent to a prisoner of war camp for Allied airmen. While in the Sagan POW Camp, Stalag Luft III, he helped plan the mass escape that became known as "The Great Escape." The prisoners dug three tunnels, nicknamed Tom, Dick and Harry, thirty feet deep to deter detection. During the digging, Tom was discovered by the guards, Dick was abandoned, and it was through Harry that the men escaped. Over 200 British airmen were to make the escape attempt, but only 76 had actually escaped when the guards discovered the attempt and blocked further escapes. While the characters in the 1963 movie were composites of real men, he would state that his role in the escape effort was most accurately portrayed by actor Donald Pleasance, the flight lieutenant nicknamed "The Forger;" unlike the Donald Pleasance character, he did not go blind from straining his eyes forging documents, and successfully escaped to Sweden. After seeing the movie, Dowling would state that it showed some accuracy in the early scenes, but exaggerated too many other aspects of the escape, especially in the portrayal of Americans in the group. Of the 76 prisoners who escaped from Stalag Luft III, only three reached freedom, including Eric Dowling. Hitler ordered fifty of the recaptured airmen to be shot, to deter future escape attempts. The breakout of the prisoners from a German POW Camp was one of the most celebrated incidents of the war. After the war, Dowling worked as an RAF air-accident investigator in Norway, rising to the rank of Squadron Leader, and then worked for British Aerospace on the supersonic transport, Concord. Dowling married his wife, Agnes Marie, in January 1946 after a six-week courtship; they had a son, Peter, and a daughter, Susan. He died one day short of his 93rd birthday in a nursing home in Stoke Bishop, near Bristol. (Bio by Kit and Morgan Benson) (bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson) 
 
Burial:
Canford Cemetery and Crematorium
Westbury-on-Trym
Bristol Unitary Authority
Bristol, England
 
Maintained by: Find A Grave
Originally Created by: Kit and Morgan Benson
Record added: Aug 13, 2008
Find A Grave Memorial# 28992510
Lieut Eric Perry Digger Dowling
Added by: Anonymous
 
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Rest in peace.
- Mara
 Added: Jul. 22, 2014

- MosherSt.Munger
 Added: Jul. 21, 2014

- Allied Forces
 Added: Jul. 21, 2014
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