A DIARY written by a Pembrokeshire airman, who helped dig tunnels immortalised in the movie The Great Escape, has sold at auction for £13,500.

RAF Flight Lieutenant Vivian Phillips, from Hook, was captured by the Germans after his plane was shot down during the Second World War.

Seventy-five years on from the famous mass escape from Stalag Luft III prisoner of war camp, a journal filled with anecdotes, sketches, photographs and poems has gone under the hammer, achieving just below its £15,000 guide price.

In the book, Mr Phillips detailed how prisoners worked together to dig various tunnels in the sandy soil.

"It was our job to make the frames which shored up the tunnel," he said.

"All this work was done underground and after long hours in cramped conditions we really did feel done in.

"But at the same time, we felt it well worth while doing.”

Despite his efforts, Mr Phillips' name was not one of those drawn from the hat to leave during the 'great escape'.

Of those who did get out, many were then shot dead by Gestapo.

Adrian Stevenson, militaria expert at Hansons auctioneers in Derbyshire, said: “It’s so compelling, I read the journal cover to cover in one night.

"Everything in it reminds me of the film – the sketches of the camp, the humour and the stories of how the inmates joined forces to build a tunnel to escape Stalag Luft III."

Mr Phillips, who died in 1997, wrote about how prisoners of war fashioned, cups, stoves and shower heads out of Red Cross tins, and saved up their fruit and sugar rations to make 'hooch'.

"Ultimately, the journal underlines a deep camaraderie among men caught up in a terrible situation," said Mr Stevenson.

The journal also describes Mr Phillips’ escape from death after his plane was blown up by enemy fire, and a newspaper cutting being sold with the journal tells how he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order after the ‘gallant part he played in the operation’.

Towards the end of the journal, Mr Phillips penned several touching poems about his wartime experiences, and paid tribute to those who lost their lives after the mass escape.