It’s probably one of the most famous Second World War films.
The Great Escape revels in crafty PoWs outwitting their captors, the menace of Nazi Germany, and war-time spirit of derring-do – captured brilliantly by Steve McQueen’s character Lieutenant Hilts, who fails in his attempt to jump a barbed wire border fence on a stolen motorbike.
Hopefully, twenty-first century daredevil Guy Martin will avoid the same fate – with the expert advice of Trinity’s Dr Hugh Hunt, Reader in Engineering Dynamics and Vibration at Cambridge.
All will be revealed on Channel 4 this Sunday in Guy Martin’s Great Escape.
The documentary sees Guy visit Poland to learn about the original escape from Stalag Luft III, where a secret tunneling team used kitchen cutlery and bed boards to excavate three tunnels – known as Tom, Dick and Harry – intended to get 200 PoWs out. In the 1963 film, Lieutenant Hilts, a fictional character, is one of those escapees, who then tries to jump the border fences to safety in Switzerland.
Guy Martin spent months preparing with a stuntman after coming to Trinity to meet Dr Hunt and get to grips with the maths behind jumping a motorbike – a modern version of the original Triumph ridden by Steve McQueen in the iconic scene.
The documentary features the pair on Trinity’s Backs experimenting with tennis balls, a remote controlled car, and Guy riding a bicycle over ramps of different sizes.
Dr Hunt said:
It was fabulous to host Guy Martin at Trinity and run through a series of experiments. It was all about understanding how speed, height and the angle of take-off interact. Guy was really interested – hopefully he took away something useful for what is a big feat. Of course the maths is one thing – on the ground in Germany Guy will have to use his experience of riding motorbikes to take into account local conditions.