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Tim Walenn

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Tim Walenn

Flight lieutenant

Years of service

Royal Air Force

United Kingdom

Place of burial


March 29, 1944

Tim Walenn

24 February 1916 Hendon, London (

Buried at
Poznan Old Garrison Cemetery, Poland

25 (Bomber) Operational Training Unit

Battles and wars
World War II, Western Front

Birth name
Gilbert William Walenn

Gilbert William Walenn (24 February 1916 – 29 March 1944), known as Tim Walenn, was a British bomber pilot who was taken prisoner during the Second World War. He took part in the 'Great Escape' from Stalag Luft III in March 1944, but was one of the men re-captured and subsequently shot by the Gestapo.


Prewar service

Walenn was born in Hendon, north west London. He inherited a love of flight from his father who had served with the Royal Flying Corps in the 1914–18 War and drew aircraft as a child. After school he joined his uncle's design studio which produced designs for wallpaper and fabric. Walenn became a bank clerk with the Midland Bank in the hope of earning enough to pay for flying lessons and was founder member of the Midland Bank Flying Club. Walenn had connections to the East Finchley and Golders Green areas when he enlisted in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve in 1937 as a trainee pilot. Walenn was commissioned as pilot officer on 1 September 1939, and joined No. 97 Squadron RAF as a bomber pilot.

Wartime service

Walenn was confirmed as pilot officer on 29 June 1940 and quickly being promoted to flying officer on 10 September 1940. He was a flying instructor at No.10 Elementary Flying Training School for a year until August 1941 when he joined No. 25 Operational Training Unit where he would be involved in "ops" (operational missions). He was promoted to flight lieutenant on 10 September 1941.

Prisoner of war

Serving with B Flight of No.25 Operational Training Unit, Walenn took off in a Wellington Mark Ic bomber (serial number N2805) from RAF Finningley at 1955 hours on the night of 10 September 1941 to bomb the Misson ranges. At 0531 hours on the morning of 11 September the bomber was hit by anti aircraft fire and had to be abandoned. It crashed in Rotterdam's Ijsselhaven. The entire crew of 5 baled out safely. Walenn was captured becoming a prisoner of war and was sent to Stalag Luft III in the province of Lower Silesia near the town of Sagan (now Żagań in Poland). Walenn was a well known character in the prison camp system for his skilful drawing but also for his enormous handlebar moustache which had to be shaved off for the escape due to its unmistakable RAF style.

'Great Escape'

For the Great Escape operation he used his artistic ability as head of forgery, his team produced forged passports, movement orders, railway documentation and all manner of identity papers to move about Germany. Walenn was one of the 76 men who escaped the prison camp on the night of 24–25 March 1944, in the escape now famous as "the Great Escape".

Travelling in a group of four escapees with Gordon Brettell, Romualdas Marcinkus and Henri Picard, all posing as French and Lithuanian workers they managed to reach a train heading towards Danzig (now Gdansk, Poland). Most likely, they intended to travel to East Prussia and cross the Lithuanian border hoping to cross the Baltic Sea to neutral Sweden. When the Germans discovered the escape they began manhunts. Walenn and his group travelled further than most of the escapees, but were captured by the Gestapo near Schneidemühl on 26 March. The party of four were brought to Stalag XX-B and spent the night there, their presence being carefully recorded by the camp sergeant-major who issued them with clothing more suited to a prisoner of war in the hope of avoiding the possibility of them being charged with espionage. On the following day they were handed over to the Danzig Gestapo. Its officials took the men to a forest near Prusce and executed them. On 29 March his body was cremated in Danzig's Gestapo crematorium.

He was only one of the 50 escapers executed and murdered by the Gestapo. Originally cremated and buried at Sagan, he is now buried in part of the Poznan Old Garrison Cemetery. Walenn's headstone has the inscription chosen by his parents: "In proud memory of our gallant and beloved son".

Walenn's name was amongst those in the list of the murdered prisoners which was published when news broke on or about 20 May 1944.


His conspicuous bravery was recognised by a mention in despatches as none of the other relevant decorations then available could be awarded posthumously. It was published in a supplement to the London Gazette on 8 June 1944.

Other victims

See Stalag Luft III murders

The Gestapo executed a group of 50 of the recaptured prisoners representing almost all of the nationalities involved in the escape.

Post-war investigations saw a number of those guilty of the murders tracked down, arrested and tried for their crimes.


Tim Walenn Wikipedia

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