Amongst the Aussies was Royal Australian Air Force Wireless Operator Eric Canning, who was captured in North Africa in 1941 and now found himself part of the escape team. This was to be Canning's second escape attempt. Armed with only a liberated pickaxe and a stack of Mk.2 steel helmets, to dig and move soil, the escapers worked tirelessly over 6 weeks to burrow a way out of the camp. Despite a few hairy moments during the dig and the escape the tunnel remained undiscovered.
The goal was to head through Northern Italy towards Switzerland, over the Julian Alps, alas this wasn't meant to be. A mixture of bad timing or bad luck saw the escapers recaptured after several days, having had the misfortune to find themselves amongst a recuperating unit of Italian soldiers!
Despite the attempt failing the courage and determination of these fine young men should not be forgotten. Furthermore, the use of tommy helmets as a improvised shovel was ingenious. The design of the British and Commonwealth helmet goes back to the first Brodie helmet developed and introduced in 1916 during the First World War, often referred to as the Battlefield Bowler. Its wide brim and deep crown design with its easily removable oilcloth lining definitely lent itself to POW's task at hand.