A 76-year-old programme for a PoW match stopped by the Nazi’s found

The REAL ‘Escape to Victory’: 1943 programme for PoW football match that the Nazis cancelled over fears it was really a ruse for prisoners to break free is unearthed after 76 years

  • The 1943 match was between Continental XI and ‘Les Vauxbelets Old Boys’
  • Continental XI was a team of prisoners of war and forced labourers from Europe 
  • The Guernsey-based match was cancelled when the Nazi’s feared an escape
  • ‘Les Vauxbelets Old Boys’ instead played against another team on the island
  • The leaflet was found by Ollie Dowding, 32, with his grandmother’s possessions

A 76-year-old programme of a Nazi prisoner of war football match that was cancelled at the last minute has been found. 

The paper leaflet was for a 1943 match between a team of forced labourers and prisoners of war called Continental XI and local team ‘Les Vauxbelets Old Boys’ on Nazi-occupied Guernsey.

But it was cancelled at the 11th hour after Germans feared the Continental XI might use the match to escape.

The 76-year-old programme of a match between prisoners of war team Continental XI and ‘Les Vauxbelets Old Boys’ was cancelled by the Nazi’s at the last moment

The leaflet was owned by Dorothy Dowding, who worked for the Guernsey newspaper while the island was occupied by Nazi Germany. The match was also due to take place on the island

Ollie Dowding, 32, who works developing sports at the Guernsey Spots Commission, found the programme when he inherited his grandmother Dorothy’s possessions. It was previously thought almost all 5,000 programmes had been lost.

The football match mirrors the plot of the 1981 film ‘Escape to Victory’, starring Sylvester Stallone and Michael Caine, about prisoners of war who play a match against a German team. 

‘My grandmother used to work for the local newspaper, the Guernsey Press, during the occupation,’ he said.


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‘She was going to be present at the game against the Continental XI which had been brought over by the Germans from France, Spain, and Belgium. 

‘There’s not much known about those individuals and who they were. The fact they are named on this program is quite rare.’

The match’s cancellation mirrors the plot of 1981 film ‘Escape to Victory’ about prisoners of war playing a match against a German team

It stars actors Sylvester Stallone (left) and Michael Caine

But the game was cancelled, he said, when the Germans feared they would try to escape.

‘Instead of playing the continental XI they played an island side, sort of a best of the rest.

‘That island side included a player called Len Dudman who was one of the best players from Guernsey who went on to play for Tottenham.’

The Channel Islands were occupied by the Germans for most of the Second World War, from June 1940 until May 1945.  

Another programme from the game was found in 2005, said Ollie, and put up for auction. 

‘It was thought then that was the only program still in existence, it wasn’t until recently that my grandmother died at the age of 98 and we discovered that we had one too,’ said Ollie.

Dorothy lived on the island during the occupation which lasted from June 1940 until May 1945. (Pictured) Dorothy Dowding’s occupation documents

Her grandson Ollie found the leaflet when he inherited her possessions

It was thought that virtually none of the 5,000 programmes for this football match still existed 

‘Anyone from Guernsey is interested in the occupation during the war because it was such a difficult time for the island.

‘My grandmother kept an awful lot from the war, we’ve discovered lots of stuff.

‘There are lots of newspapers that were produced by the Germans at the time and various different items and photographs.

‘Many people would have thrown away because they didn’t want to have memories of such a hard time, but she was quite a hoarder.

‘I’m going to keep it in the family, I have no intention of auctioning it off. I’ll pass it down through the family.’

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