This case study is an abridged version of Mark Kozak-Holland's eBook: Project Lessons from The Great Escape (Stalag Luft III). It was submitted for publication by email 11/6/08.
It is copyright to M. Kozak-Holland, © 2008.

PART 1 | Introduction to Part 2 | Risk Management Planning 
Qualitative Risk Analysis | Quantitative Risk Analysis | Risk Response Planning
Risk Monitoring and Control | Conclusion | Part 2 - Case Study Exercises

Risk Management Planning

So why was the last option #4 plausible? With at least fifty failed tunnel attempts in a thirty-month time frame the risk was high, resources were high, but the return was potentially also very high. Getting 250 POWs out would cause tremendous havoc for the enemy, and in some ways the lesser of evils. It would provide the greater ROI of the four escape types. There were many benefits especially with keeping a lot of POWs occupied, and raising their morale.

This was critical for #4, as there were many risks to the project many not obvious from the outset. Failure to manage these risks would shut the project down. These risks included discovery of the escape plot, dangerous work in the project, and the escape itself. The intricacies of these risks had to be identified and managed through carefully thought-out management plans. For Roger Bushell, discovery of the escape plot was the trickiest issue and for this he set up the Intelligence Branch to provide layers of security.

Risk Identification

This process reviews previous projects and metrics to provide a starting point for identification of risk. In the camp this was based on keeping track of metrics related to escape attempts and going through a postmortem after each attempt, regardless of whether it failed or was successful.

The first area of risk was escape plot discovery with the tunnels. The shorter the timeline, the less likely it was that the escape plot would be discovered. The principal risk for the escape committee lay in the detection of the escape project through:

  • Traces of the tunnel exposed or poorly hidden
  • Nosy Ferrets[4] uncovering something

The second area of risk involved the dangers of tunnel engineering, see Figure 5. This was hazardous work where men would risk their lives due to potential risks in:

  • Tunnel construction and collapse - Stalag Luft III was deliberately situated in a pine forest, and built on sandy soil. Any tunnel required bracing throughout to prevent collapse.
  • Accumulation of bad air in tunnels - in a tunnel with a relatively small dimension (2 x 2 feet over a 330 feet/100 m), the static air would steadily accumulate an excess of carbon dioxide.
Figure 5: Bracing around the Tunnel Shaft
Figure 5: Bracing around the Tunnel Shaft[5]

The third area of risk involved the escape itself with:

  • Getting through the tunnel and out - the small tunnel dimension posed the risk of collapse.
  • Life on the outside on the run - being able to survive on the outside for days, weeks and months had all sort of challenges.

Bushell and the escape committee were very aware of risk and incorporated its management in almost all the activities they undertook. With the major risks identified we can examine their approach to Risk Analysis, and Risk Response Planning.

Introduction to Part 2  Introduction to Part 2

4. Specially trained Axis intelligence officers who would look for suspicious activities related to a planned escape.
5. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Air Force Academy Library's Special Collections.
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