An infantry unit containing between 500-800 men, and commanded by a Lieutenant-Colonel.
A formation of two or more Battalions acting together under the overall command of a Brigadier.
A subdivision of a Battalion, commanded by a Major and consisting of approximately 120 men. Typically there would be four Companies in a Battalion, normally designated A, B, C, and D Company.
The name given to the solitary confinement cells that prisoners would be banished to for a time if they had escaped or proved otherwise troublesome. Typically the period a prisoner would be held in solitary would be three weeks, during which time any contact with the other prisoners was strictly forbidden.
Company Sergeant Major.
A formation of two or more Brigades and assorted supporting units (e.g. artillery, engineers) acting together as one force under the command of a Major-General. Typically a Division would consist of 10,000 men.
Company Sergeant Major.
The nickname given to the German guards who were expert in foiling escape attempts. They would plant and monitor equipment to detect tunneling, lie under huts to overhear conversations between prisoners, or raid selected huts without warning to conduct a thorough search. Their job was to sniff around, as it were.
Geheime Staatspolizei, meaning Secret State Police. The Gestapo were responsible for the suppression of any person or group that they felt were at odds with Nazi ideology, and these people were deported to concentration camps. They were given leave to arrest whom they chose and, where necessary, employ methods from torture to execution. Prisoners of War who were recaptured after escape were brought before the Gestapo if it was believed that they had received assistance from civilians or a Resistance group based in German occupied territory, and extreme methods would be employed to extract information.
The prisoners nickname for their German guards. The term Goon is derived from the Disney character of the same name, described as being ugly, unintelligible, and far from intelligent.
The art of annoying a targeted German guard for the purpose of distracting his attention, often by employing the most childish means.
The watchtowers that lined the perimeter fence, mounting both a machine-gun and a searchlight.
A work party. Under the Geneva Convention prisoners above and including the rank of Sergeant were forbidden from being put to work by the enemy, but privates and corporals were commonly removed from the camp, unless certified unfit or a part of the administrative structure, and effectively used as slave labour at a Kommando attached to the camp, such as a mine, farm, factory, etc.
Short for Kriegsgefangen, meaning Prisoner of War. The POW's named themselves Kriegies.
Section Nine of Military Intelligence. Whereas the more famous branches of Military Intelligence, MI5 and MI6, were chiefly concerned with espionage and counter-espionage at home and abroad, the purpose of MI9 was to assist British prisoners in their attempts to escape. Tools and information were smuggled to the prisoners, camouflaged in every day items (e.g. a flexible saw hidden inside a shoelace, an escape map cast inside of the two halves of a music record, etc). Later in the war MI9 gave lectures to Intelligence Officers who would in turn instruct ordinary servicemen in the art of escape.
Non-Commissioned Officer. Sergeants or Corporals, etc.
Battalions had four Platoons per Company. Platoons normally consisted of 30 soldiers under the command of a Lieutenant.
Royal Australian Air Force.
Royal Air Force.
Royal Canadian Air Force.
Royal Hellenic Air Force.
Royal New Zealand Air Force.
Regimental Sergeant Major.
South African Air Force.
Schutz Staffeln, literally translated as Protection Detachments. The SS were separate to the standard soldiers of the Wehrmacht and were under the overall control of Himmler. The Waffen-SS were the elite of this Nazi corps. The SS worked hard during the war to achieve a reputation as excellent but ruthless soldiers, and there are many recorded instances of them executing their prisoners.
United States Army Air Force. Unlike the RAF, the American air forces during the war were not an independent service, but instead either fell under the jurisdiction of the navy or army.
Standard German army forces; does not include the SS.