While John Sturgis, producer-director of the movie “The Great Escape” and his script writers generally played fast and loose with the history of the event, they did attempt to include vital elements of the escape committee business leading up to the breakout on March 24/25, 1944.
For example, they fabricated a character named Dai Nimmo (played by Tom Adams) who organized “diversions” within the movie plot.
Among the actual diversionary geniuses inside the North Compound, however, 25-year-old RCAF navigator George McGill (from Toronto,) helped to orchestrate boxing matches and other sport events to distract German guards and allow the penguins to disperse sand among the spectators. And 29-year-old Gordon Kidder RCAF navigator (from St. Catharines, Ontario), taught conversational German to the soon-to-be-escapers.
By rights that winter of 1944, F/O Kidder should have been attending Johns Hopkins University in the United States (the institution had invited him there in 1937 to finish his master’s degree in German). Instead, in the late 1930s, Kidder joined the air force, trained as a navigator, flew nine operations in the fall of 1942, was shot down and was processed to Stalag Luft III in December.
By all accounts a reserved POW, Kidder in the final weeks of X Organization planning is paired with Tom Kirby-Brown as an escape partner; they would have documents and a story worked out that portrayed them as Spanish labourers in transit. While he and Kirby-Brown worked out their patter for the escape, inside the North Compound Kidder conducted “culture appreciation sessions” in the theatre library.
To German captors the sessions feigned compliance to imprisonment; to Kidder’s audience they more likely helped escapers (with some linguistic ability) improve the fluency of their conversational German once outside the wire.