Eric Dowling

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Eric Perry Dowling (22 July 1915 in Glastonbury, Somerset  – 21 July 2008 in Stoke Bishop) was a British Royal Air Force navigator who participated in the World War II breakout known as "The Great Escape".

250 POWs, in all, had been set to attempt an escape via three tunnels ("Tom", "Dick" and "Harry"). One tunnel was uncovered by guards. Another was used to store the earth excavated from Harry. The remaining tunnel, whose entrance was concealed beneath a stove in one of the huts, was too short to allow the airmen to emerge in the nearby woodland, and the men made a dash for over open ground.[1]

76 men managed this undetected, but the next man was spotted and the escape curtailed. All but two of the escapees were recaptured. 50 officers among them were executed on Hitler's orders. Dowling, who personally knew some of those officers, was reportedly less than impressed with the Hollywood film version of the events.[2]

While imprisoned he became fluent in five languages. He achieved the rank of squadron leader. He later worked in Norway as an air crash investigator for the RAF, where he met the woman who would become his wife, Agnes Marie.[3]


They married in January 1946 after a six-week courtship. They had a son, Peter, and a daughter, Susan. After leaving the RAF, Eric Dowling worked for British Aerospace at Filton, Bristol. Agnes Dowling died in 1997.