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Ennever & Enever family history & ancestry. Click here to return to the home page WJ Ennever (1869-1947). From the portrait by J Seymour R.A., exhibited in the Royal Academy.

Harry ENEVER

Harry ENEVER

Male 1922 - 2011  (89 years)

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  • Name Harry ENEVER 
    Born 1921/2  Nottingham District, Nottinghamshire Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Military From 1939 to 1945 
    The Great Escape 
    • The great escape

      SIXTY years ago this week, scores of allied PoWs were crammed into a German prison hut, anxiously waiting their turn to climb down into a deep tunnel.
      Immortalised in the 1963 film, The Great Escape, the famous prison camp breakout was one of the most daring escape attempts of the Second World War.
      But only three of the 76 allied aircrew who tunneled their way out of Stalag Luft III managed to reach England.
      The others were recaptured, and 50 were later shot dead by the Gestapo on Hitler's orders.
      One of those waiting to enter the tunnel on that fateful night was RAF veteran Harry Enever, 82, from Walkford.
      He was first captured in 1943, after his Halifax bomber was shot down in flames during a raid over Duisburg, and taken to the camp in Sagan, now in Poland.
      With some of the finest allied escape artists collected in the camp, tunneling work began as soon as inmates arrived.
      Masterminding the escape attempts was Sqdn Ldr Roger Bushell, who announced his plans to put a staggering 250 men outside the wire.
      Work started on three tunnels, with the entrances to the famous "Tom" and "Harry" hidden under stoves in the barrack huts, while "Dick" was concealed under water in a washroom.
      Prisoners somehow had to dispose of tons of sand from the tunnels, which went as deep as 30 feet to evade detection.
      Most was surreptitiously spread around the compound.
      But the escapees also needed wood to shore up the tunnels, and the main source was boards from their own bunk beds.
      "I eventually gave up and donated all my boards to the cause. I scrounged some parcel string to make a hammock instead," said Harry.
      Early on, Harry was recruited as a "stooge", keeping track of the Germans going in and out of the compound.
      All the regular guards or "goons" were given nicknames, and look-outs devised a series of signals to warn other prisoners of their whereabouts.
      "We were so good at watching the guards that the Germans even came to us to check where some of the soldiers were!" laughs Harry.
      But sudden pounces by the German "ferrets" were a constant threat, and Tom was discovered just 10 feet from completion.
      Dick, meanwhile, was being used to store contraband, forged papers and excavated sand.
      But by early 1944, the third tunnel was nearly finished and the POWs drew lots for a place on the planned break-out.
      Harry picked a number in the 80s and was issued with a Hungarian worker's pass, hoping this would explain his limited German, and he mustered a few spare rations and makeshift clothing.
      "To be honest, I didn't hold out much hope that I would get anywhere," he admits.
      But as the men crammed into the hut on the night waiting to go, they faced tense delays.
      When the tunnelers broke the surface, they found they were much further from tree cover than they thought, slowing the rate of escape enormously.
      One prisoner also became stuck in the 350ft-long tunnel and had to be freed.
      "Eventually they called my number and I went to the tunnel entrance," said Harry. "But suddenly there was a rifle shot, and I was sent straight back again, as pandemonium broke out."
      He had just missed his chance to go out in the tunnel before it was discovered.
      It was only much later that the remaining prisoners found out that 50 of their fellow officers had been recaptured and murdered by the Gestapo.
      Despite his experiences as a POW, Harry was so impressed by the German landscape that he vowed to return after the war ended. He did so in 1972, and has been going back every year since, including a visit to the former site of Stalag Luft III in 2002, where there are memorials to the 50 men who were shot dead.

      Source: Bournemouth Daily Echo 25/3/2004

      More than 70 allied POWs had made their dash for freedom when the tunnel was discovered but dozens more were left behind – including Meadows-born RAF officer Harry Enever.
      Because Harry has spent more than half his life in the south of England, few people in his home city know the dramatic story.
      Now a frail 90-year-old, living in a care home in Dorset, Harry is one of the last survivors of the mass breakout in March 1944 from Stalag Luft III, near Sagan, a Polish town 100k south of Berlin.
      Harry was sent to Stalag Luft III after his Halifax bomber was shot down during a raid over Duisburg.
      He entered a camp where the Germans had decided to cage the most determined escapees under one roof.
      They included Squadron Leader Roger Bushell, a South African-born pilot with a fierce determination to escape, having twice tried and been recaptured. He also had a pathological hatred of the Gestapo, having witnessed its brutal treatment of prisoners.
      Despite having a death sentence over his head if he tried to escape again, Bushell had a plan for a mass break-out of 250 men which would cause chaos for the Germans and strike a massive propaganda blow for the Allies.
      Harry Enever would become part of Bushell's grand scheme involving the construction of three tunnels, nicknamed Tom, Dick and Harry, hidden beneath barrack huts and a washroom.
      The tunnels, 30 feet deep and hundreds of feet long, were marvels of ingenuity, utilising everyday materials squirreled away by the prisoners.
      They included bed boards to shore up the tunnel walls.
      "I eventually gave up and donated all my boards to the cause," Harry remembered. "I scrounged some parcel string to make a hammock instead."
      Although the actual tunneling was carried on by a small team of diggers, hundreds of other prisoners were involved in the elaborate scheme.
      Harry Enever was a "stooge", monitoring the movements of the guards and, by a clever system of signals, passing on the information to the diggers.
      One tunnel, Dick, was quickly converted into a store for all the paraphernalia of escape – forged documents, contraband stores and even sand from the other tunnels.
      Then it was down to just one after Tom was discovered within feet of completion.
      Harry was to be the escape route and, as the tunnelers neared the end, would-be escapees drew lots for a place in the queue.
      Harry's number was in the 80s. Speaking little German, he would try to pass for a Hungarian worker. But he was not confident.
      "To be honest, I didn't hold out much hope that I would get anywhere."
      By the night of March 22, 1944, 220 escapees, including Harry, were ready to go.
      They crammed into Hut 104, tense, excited – even alarmed when a German soldier walked in...until they realised it was the clever disguise of Polish flyer Pawel Tobolski.
      At the end of the tunnel, Flight Sergeant Johnny Bull pushed his way through the last few feet of earth – only to discover it was well short of the tree line and only 30 yards from the camp watchtowers.
      It meant that instead of one man getting out every minute, the escape rate would be much slower. By dawn, only 76 had made it to the safety of the forest.
      Harry Enever waited for his turn. He dropped down into the tunnel entrance.
      "Suddenly, there was a rifle shot, and I was sent straight back again as pandemonium broke out."
      As events unfolded, he was one of the lucky ones.
      Hitler responded with fury, demanding the execution of every one recaptured. Eventually, he was persuaded by senior officers to calm down. He decided that only half of those recaptured would be shot.
      But of the 76 who got out, 50 were executed, including Bushell.
      Singly or in small groups, they were taken from civilian or military prisons, driven to remote locations and shot as they were given the chance to relieve themselves.
      The Gestapo groups submitted almost identical reports that "the prisoners whilst relieving themselves, bolted for freedom and were shot whilst trying to escape".
      Only three of the 76 eventually made it to safety.
      For the rest left behind in Stalag Luft III, there would be no more escapes, and eventually Harry Enever came home to Nottingham, much to the relief of his family, including sister Audrey, who lives in Netherfield.
      "I was 13 years younger than Harry and by the time I was old enough to remember things, he had gone off to war," she told me.
      "And then, on VE Day, he just appeared from nowhere."
      Audrey, married to former city policeman Tim Coleman, is understandably proud of her brother – and not just his war exploits.
      Born into a mining family in Clayton Street, in the Meadows, the Enevers were not well-off but Harry was bright enough to win a scholarship to Mundella Grammar School and, at 16, began work in the City Treasurer's office.
      "After the war, he went back to the city treasurer's but in 1958 he left Nottingham," said Audrey.
      Harry's career flourished. He rose up the local government ladder, becoming a council chief executive in Cornwall before he retired.
      "He came from nothing," said Audrey. "I am so proud of him."
      After the war, a team from the Royal Air Force Investigations Branch tracked down many of those responsible for the 50 murders. More than a dozen culprits were hanged and others imprisoned. A small number committed suicide and others simply disappeared.
      Directed by John Sturges, The Great Escape was released in 1963 and has been a perennial favourite ever since.
      Although it took some liberties with the facts, especially the non-existent character Hilts, played by Steve McQueen, it is widely regarded as a laudable re-telling of the story. Adopting the fictitious name Roger Bartlett, Richard Attenborough played Roger Bushell, leading a host of British and American stars, including Charles Bronson, James Coburn, James Garner, Gordon Jackson and Worksop-born Donald Pleasance.

      Source: Nottingham Post 8/6/2011
    Harry Enever
    Harry Enever
    Nottingham Post story about The Great Escape.
    Harry Enever
    Harry Enever
    Nottingham Post story about The Great Escape.
    Survivor of real Great Escape dies
    Survivor of real Great Escape dies
    Daily Mirror 5/8/2011
    Living 2004  Walkford, Dorset Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Died Jul 2011 
    • 'Great escape' war hero dies, aged 89

      THE funeral will take place on Monday of Nottingham-born Harry Enever – a veteran of the real Great Escape.
      Mr Enever, who died last week at the age of 89, was one of the last survivors of the mass breakout in March 1944 from Stalag Luft III prisoner-of-war camp near Sagan, a Polish town 100k south of Berlin.
      The events were dramatised in the film The Great Escape, which starred Steve McQueen.
      Mr Enever was sent to Stalag Luft III after his Halifax bomber was shot down during a raid over Duisburg. He entered a camp where the Germans had decided to cage the most determined escapees under one roof. They included Squadron Leader Roger Bushell, a South African-born pilot with a fierce determination to escape, having twice tried and been recaptured.
      He had a pathological hatred of the Gestapo, having witnessed its brutal treatment of prisoners.
      Despite having a death sentence over his head if he tried to escape again, Bushell had a plan for a mass break-out of 250 men which would cause chaos for the Germans and strike a massive propaganda blow for the Allies.
      Mr Enever became part of Bushell's scheme involved the construction of three tunnels, nicknamed Tom, Dick and Harry, hidden beneath barrack huts and a washroom.
      Although the tunneling was carried out by a small team of diggers, hundreds of other prisoners were involved in the elaborate scheme.
      Mr Enever was a "stooge", monitoring the movements of the guards and, by a system of signals, passing on the information to the diggers.
      Harry Enever was given a number in the 80s and took his place in the queue of more than 220 prisoners waiting to get out of the escape tunnel – ironically named Harry.
      However, because the tunnel exit was dug yards short of the trees that would have hidden the fleeing men, only 76 had made it to the safety of the forest before it was discovered.
      Of those 76 who got out, 50 were executed, including Bushell. For the rest left behind in Stalag Luft III, there would be no more escapes.
      Mr Enever remained in the camp for the rest of the war, before returning to his home in The Meadows, much to the relief of his family, including surviving sister Audrey Coleman, who lives in Netherfield.
      Born into a mining family in Clayton Street, the Enevers were not well-off but Harry was bright enough to win a scholarship to Mundella Grammar School and, at 16, began work in the City Treasurer's office.
      His career flourished. He rose up the local government ladder, becoming a council chief executive in Cornwall before he retired.
      The funeral is being held at Bournemouth Crematorium.
      Mr Enever leaves a widow, Joyce, and one sister.

      Nottingham Post 4/8/2011
    Person ID I19632  1. Essex Ennevers
    Last Modified 8 Aug 2011 

    Father Harry ENEVER,   Born:  1903, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire Find all individuals with events at this location,   Died:  Jul 1986, Nottingham District, Nottinghamshire Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 83 years) 
    Mother Annie GRAHAM,   Died:  Yes, date unknown 
    Married 1921  Nottingham District, Nottinghamshire Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Family ID F6016  Family Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family (spouse) Joyce R ROGERS 
    Children 
     1. Brian Peter ENEVER,   Born:  31 Jul 1947, Nottingham District, Nottinghamshire Find all individuals with events at this location,   Died:  1971, Liskeard District, Cornwall Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 23 years)
    Family ID F6022  Family Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - 1921/2 - Nottingham District, Nottinghamshire Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsLiving - 2004 - Walkford, Dorset Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 

  • Photographs
    Harry Enever
    Harry Enever
    Nottingham Post

    Harry Enever with a photograph of himself in his RAF uniform during the Second World War PICTURE COURTESY OF BOURNEMOUTH DAILY ECHO


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