Colin Frank Sorensen - The Man Who Traded Places
One Royal Canadian Air Force Officer who had a very high possibility of making a successful 'Home Run' after the Great Escape traded his place in the Escape Order with a fellow Officer, to give them both a better chance - this is his story, told by his daughter.
Colin Frank Sorensen left Denmark for Canada with his family at the end of August 1939. In 1941, when he was 18, he commenced training in the R.C.A.F. He completed training as a Spitfire fighter pilot in England and was posted to 403 (RCAF) Squadron, then transferred to 232 (RAF) Squadron where he served in North Africa. He was shot down April 1943 and was taken prisoner of war, sent first to the primary interrogation centre called Dulag Luft at Oberusel and then to Stalag Luft III at Sagan, Germany (now Zagan, Poland) where he remained until the prisoners were evacuated by a long and arduous forced march in January 1945.
above as a pupil pilot on Tiger Moths at Elementary Flying Training School, 1941; and below as Flight Lieutenant
Always known as Frank,
he was involved in the tunnel digging operations as a 'sand disperal penguin',
his job being to distribute spoil from the tunnels down his trouser legs, to
be trampled in to the ground by fellow prisoners. His escape number was in the
80's. In a letter he wrote to his brother in July 1945, he said "I've
already told you about camp life in my letters, I might add that I was also
working on that famous tunnel which broke March 24, 1944. As a matter of fact
I was among the next five to go down the hole when the tunnel was discovered.
I was glad to see my forged papers burning away before the guards came into
Frank was negatively affected by the aftermath of the escape and by the long march from Sagan to Lubeck under severe winter weather conditions and a very poor supply of food. He spoke little about his wartime experiences with his family. After his death in 2010, it was learned that he spoke about the escape to a family member when he was approximately 56 years of age, relaying unknown details about the escape. He said he had an early escape number, but traded with someone who had a wife and child to whom he wanted to get home.
It would be reasonable to assume that Frank would have had an early number to escape because of his valuable language skills; he spoke Danish, Norwegian, Swedish and German. In a bitter twist of Fate, the person that Frank traded places with ended up being one of the 50 PoWs who were executed by the Gestapo. Atlhough there was no way of forseeing the tragic consequences of this trade, Frank never let go of the guilt he felt over this happening. Upon telling this story he said "that should have been me." His family doesn`t know who this person was.
Now his daughter is keen to research her father's wartime history and fill in the gaps in his story. Who was the Officer with whom Frank swapped places? Do any Luft III survivors or RCAF veterans remember him?
If you can help with
his research, please contact
her direct (remove the extra 'z' from the email address).
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