In "The Great Escape" how did POWs develop film?

I just watched the WWII prison camp movie “The Great Escape” and something, uh, escapes me…

Since the movie is based on real events, I’m wondering how this happened:

The POWs swipe a guard’s wallet, then trade it back to him for a camera, so they can take photos for the phony IDs they’ll use after escaping. But how did the POWs develop and print the photos? They only received a camera and some film for the wallet, no developing chemicals or equipment to print the photos or photo stock paper, and this was before Polaroids…Are we just to assume that the POWs also got developing materials from the guard (and where would he get that) and that wasn’t shown in the film, or is there something I am missing?:confused::confused::confused::confused::confused:

You’d be amazed how easily photographic film can be developed. If you want it done to a very high quality, it takes a well-stocked darkroom, but if you just want it done roughly and cheaply, you can do it in your own kitchen.

Coffee, vitamin C and washing soda serves as a developer, for one thing. It’s not clear that orange juice, for instance, has enough concentration for the vitamin C part, but it’s a thought. Of course, POWs would have had to scrounge like hell to get orange juice … stop bath is acetic acid - got some vinegar? I’m not sure what you would use to fix the image.

They didn’t show a number of tricks used to have goods smuggled in by “humanitarian” packages in case they were needed for a future war.

In the movie they didn’t show that the POWs got magnets to make compasses from the loudspeakers around the compound, but it was in the book

My grandfather was in prison camp in Romania. He said that they were all given as allowance every month, and the Nazis allowed them to order stuff. And they all saved up and bought…rucksacks:dubious:.

He did like to pretend it was like Hogans Heroes in there though. His way of coping with dead friends, 3rd degree burns, and the hunger. But if true, I imagine a pint of vinegar was fully possible.

even if you could get vinegar to devlop the film and some kind of paper to print it on you still need one of those machines needed to print the negatives

Nitpick - the vinegar wouldn’t be the developer. Acetic acid is what is normally used as the “stop bath” which stops the action of the developer. The developer being the “caffenol” - coffee or tea could provide the caffeine:

The vitamin C is optional, actually, so they probably don’t have to get orange juice. And you might get away without the stop bath, just rinsing the negatives well.

I’m still not sure what to substitute for the fixer, which is normally sodium thiosulphate.

A photo enlarger is just a sort of projector - pretty simple to rig up with just a box and a simple lens - using the sun as a light source if necessary.

If you use a big enough negative, contact prints will suffice and no enlarger will be necessary at all. Since they were making identity documents, small prints would have been the order of the day. Most any roll film camera larger than 35 mm would have put them in the contact print ballpark.

Unless the film was 35mm, an enlarger wouldn’t be necessary. A contact print, where the negative makes direct contact with the print paper, would be more than satisfactory.

[edit] **Ninja’d. **[/edit]

They no doubt escaped from the hole in the floor under the stove, stole Col. Klink’s staff car, drove into town, liberated the chemicals and paper from the local Gestapo HQ and returned when Sgt. Shultz, who saw and knew nothing, was on duty at the gate.

Back in the 1960s there was a kids hobby item that consisted of negatives of the 3 stooges and other stuff and special paper, you would lay the neg over a piece of the paper and put it out in the sun for an hour or so, and a photo would be printed from the negative…so the pows could print this way, but theyd still need to develop the film and get the paper

i believe in the film they asked for a 35 mm camera

Why did the guard want his wallet back so badly?

Imagine you’re a guard at a German WW2 PoW camp, and the commandant finds out that you let the PoWs pinch your wallet, which contains all your official paperwork.

Eastern Front for you, soldat.

Yes, but the guy with my wallet could be shot trying to escape. :slight_smile:

In the book, Paul Brickhill recounts how a contact gave one guard some chocolate in return for an innocuous-but-proscribed item and asked him (the guard) to sign a receipt so he (the contact) could account for drawing the chocolate from camp stores. Being somewhat dense, the guard signed.

According to Brickhill, the guard became a veritable fount of information, sample documents, indelible ink, photographic supplies, and all manner of other stuff that no self-respecting prisoner was supposed to have. Better that than having the receipt given to the Kommandant and being turned over to the Gestapo for collusion with the enemy.

(Brickhill also recounts how the Gestapo searched the camp after the breakout. Being accustomed to people cowering before them, the agents simply left their greatcoats in the anteroom of one of the huts on the assumption that no one would dare touch them. When they departed, they took nothing that the prisoners didn’t want them to find; but they left minus a significant amount of their own paraphernalia, which would have included a service pistol had cooler heads not prevailed and convinced the prisoner who’s pinched it to put it back. Brickhill says that the Gestapo never made an issue of the theft, in part because it would have caused German casualties: the camp guards would have died laughing.)

The camera itself could be used as an enlarger.

This is a fantastic National Geographic special about the true story behind The Great Escape.

Indeed - or it could even be done without a lens - using a pinhole-type arrangement instead.