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Only 76 prisoners made it through the more than 100 metre-long main tunnel before a guard relieving himself spotted hot air coming from a hole in the March snow.
The alarm sounded and 73 men were recaptured.
Adolf Hitler, furious about the break, ordered 100 prisoners executed. But Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels told him that might cause the Allies to harm German POWs. Hitler dropped the number to 50.
German soldiers loaded 50 prisoners into trucks to supposedly bring them back to camp,” King once told the Journal.
“When they stopped for the men to relieve themselves, they machine-gunned them in the back. The men were not executed, they were murdered.”
After the war, King returned to Winnipeg and married his fiancée, June. The couple had been together since the age of 14 and June had sent hundreds of letters to imprisoned King. They moved to Edmonton in 1964 and were together until June died in 2011.
Last year, several streets, a pond and a gate in the new Keswick neighbourhood in southwest Edmonton were named for King.
“Dad was always very humble and happy and loved flirting with female staff in his Kipnes Centre for Veterans,” says daughter Cathy. “He was also a fun guy to be around and my partner Bruce Saville and I took him with us everywhere.
“He enjoyed Rotary and Masonic memberships, supported the YMCA and curled until he was 90. He was a member of St. Timothy’s Anglican Church, helped with Meals on Wheels and regularly visited friends in hospital. Dad was also the President of the Canadian Prisoner of War Association.”
One of Cathy’s last fond memories is the day before he passed away, her father was shown a photo of his four-day old great-grandson William. “Dad had a great smile and said: ‘Oh wow, he’s got lots of hair.’”