Author Topic: William Ash - the real Virgil Hilts?  (Read 663 times)

Hope

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William Ash - the real Virgil Hilts?
« on: August 30, 2015, 10:15:04 PM »
A biography of William Ash - who is generally thought to have been the model for Steve McQueen's 'Great Escape' character, Virgil Hilts - is due out early in September.  If this BBC article is anything to go by, it could be a fascinating read.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-34058540
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Owlswing

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Re: William Ash - the real Virgil Hilts?
« Reply #1 on: August 30, 2015, 10:31:44 PM »
More fascinating to me with regard to the film, The Great Escape, is the fact that Virgil Hilts was in it at all.

No Americans took part in the Great Escape having all been removed to another camp some thime before the escape.

This appears to be another case of Hollywood seeing that the Americans have no wartime history of such escapes or escape attempts inserting fiction into fact.

U571 - the film of the capture of the Enigma machine gives credit for the aquisition to Americans - rubbish, of course, it was Poles who decrypted the machine and passed the metodology to the British. It was U-110 that was attacked by three British destroyers and from which the machine was recovered and passed to Bletchley Park and Alan Turing.

Another instance of Hollywood reshaping history to suit American tastes was, of course, Errol Flynn's escapades in Burma!
« Last Edit: August 31, 2015, 11:55:26 AM by CMG KCMG GCMG »
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Hope

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Re: William Ash - the real Virgil Hilts?
« Reply #2 on: August 31, 2015, 09:23:55 AM »
This appears to be another case of Hollywood seeing that the Americans have no wartime history of such escapes or escape attempts inserting fiction into fact.
As the story of William Ash shows, Americans certainly had a good record of such escape attempts - see the story about the Latrine escape route he was in part responsible for planning - but I would agree that it seems odd that Hollywood wanted to insert an American into the Stalag Luft III story.  If they wanted to create a truly gory escape film that included an American they could have created one around the aforementioned Latrine Escape from Oflag XXI-B

Quote
Another instance of Hollywood reshaping history to suit American tastes was, of course, Errol Flynn's escapades in Burma!
Except that Merril's Marauders - an American unit - undertook deep penetration missions in Burma during the Second World War, and the film you refer to - 'Objective, Burma' is loosely based on a 6 month-long mission they undertook during 1944 which ended in the defeat of the Japanese at Myitkyina. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merrill%27s_Marauders / https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Objective,_Burma!
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jeremyp

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Re: William Ash - the real Virgil Hilts?
« Reply #3 on: August 31, 2015, 09:36:11 AM »
Steve McQueen and James Garner were in the film for only one reason: box office.
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Hope

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Re: William Ash - the real Virgil Hilts?
« Reply #4 on: August 31, 2015, 09:49:18 AM »
Steve McQueen and James Garner were in the film for only one reason: box office.
True.
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Owlswing

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Re: William Ash - the real Virgil Hilts?
« Reply #5 on: August 31, 2015, 11:56:30 AM »
Steve McQueen and James Garner were in the film for only one reason: box office.

Exactly my point! (Please note Hope!)
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Owlswing

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Re: William Ash - the real Virgil Hilts?
« Reply #6 on: August 31, 2015, 11:58:48 AM »
This appears to be another case of Hollywood seeing that the Americans have no wartime history of such escapes or escape attempts inserting fiction into fact.
As the story of William Ash shows, Americans certainly had a good record of such escape attempts - see the story about the Latrine escape route he was in part responsible for planning - but I would agree that it seems odd that Hollywood wanted to insert an American into the Stalag Luft III story.  If they wanted to create a truly gory escape film that included an American they could have created one around the aforementioned Latrine Escape from Oflag XXI-B

Quote
Another instance of Hollywood reshaping history to suit American tastes was, of course, Errol Flynn's escapades in Burma!
Except that Merril's Marauders - an American unit - undertook deep penetration missions in Burma during the Second World War, and the film you refer to - 'Objective, Burma' is loosely based on a 6 month-long mission they undertook during 1944 which ended in the defeat of the Japanese at Myitkyina. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merrill%27s_Marauders / https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Objective,_Burma!

William Ash was Australian NOT American!

And in case you "skim read" yet again I said that the Americans were transferred before the actual escape and none went through the tunnel despite having taken part in the preparations for it.
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Hope

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Re: William Ash - the real Virgil Hilts?
« Reply #7 on: August 31, 2015, 12:08:01 PM »
William Ash was Australian NOT American!
Wrong.  I think you are confusing William Ash with Errol Flynn - who certainly was born in Australia, spent various parts of his youthhood in the UK and then moved to the US where he became a naturalised American citizen sometime after the war iirc.  Ash was born 'into a lower-middle-class family in Dallas, Texas' (wikipedia)
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Owlswing

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Re: William Ash - the real Virgil Hilts?
« Reply #8 on: August 31, 2015, 04:45:48 PM »
William Ash was Australian NOT American!
Wrong.  I think you are confusing William Ash with Errol Flynn - who certainly was born in Australia, spent various parts of his youthhood in the UK and then moved to the US where he became a naturalised American citizen sometime after the war iirc.  Ash was born 'into a lower-middle-class family in Dallas, Texas' (wikipedia)
[/quote

My apologies - real mix up as I, this time, was the one guilty of skim reading - and I got mixed up with the Escaper who died recently. 
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Owlswing

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Re: William Ash - the real Virgil Hilts?
« Reply #9 on: August 31, 2015, 05:00:07 PM »
William Ash was Australian NOT American!
Wrong.  I think you are confusing William Ash with Errol Flynn - who certainly was born in Australia, spent various parts of his youthhood in the UK and then moved to the US where he became a naturalised American citizen sometime after the war iirc.  Ash was born 'into a lower-middle-class family in Dallas, Texas' (wikipedia)

There were 76 who got through the tunnel - 52 RAF - 8 RCAF - 4 RAAF - 3 RNZAF - 1 Polish AF - 1 British Army - 2 Royal Navy - 3 South African AF - 1 Greek AF - I Free French AF

No Americans.

Added to which there was no-one who passed through the tunnel whose surname bedgan with "A".

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Allied_airmen_from_the_Great_Escape
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Hope

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Re: William Ash - the real Virgil Hilts?
« Reply #10 on: August 31, 2015, 08:15:20 PM »
were 76 who got through the tunnel - 52 RAF - 8 RCAF - 4 RAAF - 3 RNZAF - 1 Polish AF - 1 British Army - 2 Royal Navy - 3 South African AF - 1 Greek AF - I Free French AF

No Americans.
And what does all that have to do with your suggestion in the earlier post that I responded to that Ash was an Australian, rather than an American?
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Owlswing

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Re: William Ash - the real Virgil Hilts?
« Reply #11 on: August 31, 2015, 11:39:00 PM »
were 76 who got through the tunnel - 52 RAF - 8 RCAF - 4 RAAF - 3 RNZAF - 1 Polish AF - 1 British Army - 2 Royal Navy - 3 South African AF - 1 Greek AF - I Free French AF

No Americans.
And what does all that have to do with your suggestion in the earlier post that I responded to that Ash was an Australian, rather than an American?

Will you please learn to read what is printed

I posted -

My apologies - real mix up as I, this time, was the one guilty of skim reading - and I got mixed up with the Escaper who died recently. 

You pointed out that Mr Ash "was born 'into a lower-middle-class family in Dallas, Texas'" and you stated that it was Mr Ash who is generally thought to have been the model for Steve McQueen's 'Great Escape' character, Virgil Hilts.

Virgil Hilts in the film went out through the tunnel

NOW READ THIS -

The list that I posted shows that NOT ONE escaper of the 76 who went through the tunnel was American and NOT ONE escaper who went through the tunnel had a surname beginning with "A".

Mr Ash was not therefore a model for anyone, no matter how "generally thought" - Hilts was a ficticious character introduced into a factual film to get Americans to watch it.

Once again you demonstrate your lack of real knowledge of something you pontificate on!

Mr Ash may well have participated in the preparation of the escape but all the Americans were transferred to another compound in August 1943 and the esacape took place in March 1944 so none participated in the actual escape. 

NOW DO YOU GET IT?
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Hope

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Re: William Ash - the real Virgil Hilts?
« Reply #12 on: September 01, 2015, 09:09:40 AM »
Will you please learn to read what is printed

I posted -

My apologies - real mix up as I, this time, was the one guilty of skim reading - and I got mixed up with the Escaper who died recently. 
Apologies, Matt, I didn't see this, as I simply thought you'd reposted my post - you had accidentally added this comment within the original quotation.

As such, the confusion of the last few exchanges between us means that I have at no time disagreed with your comments about Hilts being an 'interloper'  One small thing, though.  Could he (Ash/Hilts) still have been in on the planning, and perhaps even the early tunnel digging, before being taken away with the other Americans?
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Owlswing

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Re: William Ash - the real Virgil Hilts?
« Reply #13 on: September 01, 2015, 09:18:32 AM »
Will you please learn to read what is printed

I posted -

My apologies - real mix up as I, this time, was the one guilty of skim reading - and I got mixed up with the Escaper who died recently. 
Apologies, Matt, I didn't see this, as I simply thought you'd reposted my post - you had accidentally added this comment within the original quotation.

As such, the confusion of the last few exchanges between us means that I have at no time disagreed with your comments about Hilts being an 'interloper'  One small thing, though.  Could he (Ash/Hilts) still have been in on the planning, and perhaps even the early tunnel digging, before being taken away with the other Americans?

Please read the last paragraph of #11!
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Hope

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Re: William Ash - the real Virgil Hilts?
« Reply #14 on: September 01, 2015, 09:25:03 AM »
Please read the last paragraph of #11!
Thanks for that clarification.
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