Great Escape Pilot Dies

  • E-Mail this Article
  • View Printable Article
  • Text size:

    • A
    • A
    • A

A former RAF pilot who cheated death much more than most of us ever will finally passed away at the ripe old age of 102. Sqn. Leader Eric Foster died peacefully at his home in England, outliving Steve McQueen, the actor that played him in The Great Escape, by more than 50 years. McQueen died of lung cancer in 1980 at the age of 50. Foster's never-say-die attitude when it came to his distaste for German prisoner of war camps prompted his legendary status and was an influence in the creation of the movie. After surviving the crash of his Wellington bomber in Germany in 1940, Foster escaped from various enemy prison camps a total of seven times. Of course, the fact that he was a repeat escaper means he was better at the escaping part than he was at avoiding capture but it all made for a fascinating tale. After escaping by masquerading as German officer, a member of Hitler Youth, and shimmying down a fire escape, to name a few, he ended up in Stalag Luft III where his exploits formed the basis for the movie. It is perhaps fitting that it was Foster's acting ability that finally won him release. In 1945, he managed to convince his captors that he was insane and they sent him home. He was promoted to Sqn. Leader shortly after.