Actual bike used in WW2 escape flick on show at special RAF Benevolent fund film night
NORMALLY, WE’D not be too bothered about seeing a mad old Triumph from the 1950s. But we’ll make an exception here. The RAF Benevolent Fund is holding a special event, in Hammersmith, on March 24th, to mark the 75th anniversary of the mass escape of allied aircrew from Nazi prisoner of war camp Stalag Luft 3. Historian Dan Snow will introduce a 4K ultra-high-definition showing of The Great Escape, and the actual bike used in the famous fence-jumping scene will also be there.
It’s one of three Triumphs built for the film to impersonate German WW2 machinery. Two of the machines were built by American stuntman, (and McQueen’s riding buddy), Bud Ekins in the USA and the jump bike was built in the UK by scrambling star Ken Heanes. All three were ridden by McQueen, Ekins and Aussie ISDT competitor Tim Gibbs, during filming in Austria in 1962. Although McQueen wasn’t allowed to make the jump in the film due to the risk of damaging himself, he secretly had a go the day before, during an early morning practice session with Ekins. The cheeky bugger.
After filming, the bike returned to Heanes’ shop where it was used as a workshop hack until sold to a Norfolk farmer who used it for rounding up his cattle. On his death the bike passed to his cowman who used it for a while, before unceremoniously dumping it a barn until it was discovered and rescued by Dick Shepherd 15 years ago. The bike was a proper mess, but the restoration made use of nearly all of it; the only major part replaced was the front wheel.
The event is raising funds for the RAF Benevolent Fund, and Dan Snow will be joined by 1940s songstresses, the D-Day Darlings. Nice.
Tickets are on sale now – more info here: https://www.eventimapollo.com/events/detail/the-great-escape/