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Per Bergsland
Nickname Peter Rockland
Born (1918-01-17)17 January 1918
Died 9 June 1992(1992-06-09) (aged 74)
Place of birth Norway
Allegiance Norway
Rank Sergeant
Unit RAF 332 Squadron
Commands held Spitfire VB AB269 AH:D

Sgt Per Bergsland (17 January 1918 – 9 June 1992) was a Norwegian POW in the German POW camp Stalag Luft III and one of only three men to escape to freedom in the "Great Escape".[1]

Sports career[edit | edit source]

During in the 1930s Bergsland competed in orienteering, representing the club IL Heming. In 1939 he placed second at the individual Norwegian championship in orienteering held at Modum.[2]

World War II[edit | edit source]

A member of the RAF 332 Squadron stationed at North Weald airfield, Bergsland's Spitfire VB AB269 AH:D was shot down by a German FW-190 during the Dieppe Raid on 19 August 1942. In order to protect his family in Norway from German reprisals, he hid his Norwegian nationality. After arriving at the POW camp, he gave his name as "Peter Rockland" (Per = Petrus, meaning rock in Greek, and Berg meaning mountain or rock in Norwegian) to the Germans.

Stalag Luft III mockup.

In what later became known as the "Great Escape", he was among the 76 prisoners of war who managed to escape from the camp. Only three made it to neutral countries and freedom. He and another Norwegian pilot managed to make it together to Sweden. (For more details about their way to freedom, see the article about his companion, Jens Müller.) The third escapee was the Dutchman Bram van der Stok, who escaped to Spain with the help of the French resistance.[3]

Per Bergsland served as an instructor at flight school in Canada before he transferred to the RAF Ferry Command, where he was assigned to fly with a combat unit. The remaining 73 escapees were captured. Adolf Hitler wanted to execute them all, but Heinrich Himmler persuaded him not to do this, and fifty were shot as an example. The remaining 23 were held in the custody of the Gestapo before being sent off to other camps. 17 were returned to Stalag Luft III, four were sent to Sachsenhausen, and two to Colditz Castle.

Post war career[edit | edit source]

In 1946, Per Bergsland began as a pilot in Fred Olsen Air Transport. He later became Chief Pilot and Operational Manager. Per Bergsland became CEO of Fred Olsen Air Transport in 1968 and CEO of Widerøe from 1970 to 1981.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. The Great Escape - The Three That Got Away(Nova)
  2. Berglia, Knut; Brohaug, Tom-Erik; Staver, Kristoffer; Thuesen, Kaare; Strandhagen, Torgeir, ed (1987) (in Norwegian). Orienteringsidretten i Norge gjennom 90 år. Oslo: Norges Orienteringsforbund. pp. 71–76. 
  3. Daily Telegraph: Obituary - Bram van der Stok. 1 July 1993

Related reading[edit | edit source]

  • Carroll, Tim (2004) The Great Escaper (Mainstream Publishing) ISBN 1-84018-904-5
  • Brickhill, Paul (1950) The Great Escape (W. W. Norton & Company) ISBN 978-0-393-32579-9
  • Burgess, Alan (1990) The Longest Tunnel (Bloomsbury Publishing) ISBN 0-7475-0589-6
  • Durand, Arthur A (1989) Stalag Luft III (Patrick Stephens Ltd) ISBN 1-85260-248-1

External links[edit | edit source]

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