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Ministry of Education.
Kaua e rangiruatia te hāpai o te hoe; e kore tō tātou waka e ū ki uta

"Johnny Pohe and the Great Escape", School Journal, level 4, May 2019

01 May 2019

First two pages of the Johnny Pohe story

Porokoru Patapu (Johnny) Pohe was a daring and gifted pilot who flew bomber aircraft in the Second World War. In 1943, after twenty-two successful missions, his aircraft was shot down and he was captured. Johnny was taken to Stalag Luft III, a prison camp deep in Nazi Germany. This article tells the story of an ambitious prison escape that ended tragically for Johnny and for many others.

You can find the story and the teaching notes here:

"Johnny Pohe and the Great Escape", School Journal, level 4, May 2019

Other useful resources

  • Inside Tunnel Harry – Here is a sketch and some further information on the tunnel design.
  • "I Am Alice", Connected, level 2, 2016 – Here is an article on Alice, the tunnel boring machine. Alice was used to make the Waterview Connection tunnel linking State Highway 16 and 20 to complete the Western Ring Route in Auckland.

Discussion questions

  • What do you think were some of the societal and/or environmental issues that influenced Porokoru Patapu (Johnny) Pohe and the other prisoners when they designed and built their tunnel system?
  • For example one of the constraints of building a secret tunnel in the environment of a prisoner-of-war camp was dirt disposal. One of the societal issues was determining who and how many prisoners they could help to escape.
  • What were some of the resources they used and how did they plan to build the tunnel? 
  • What testing did they need to carry out before they used the tunnel?
  • Compare the process for making the Waterview Connection tunnel with the process used by the prisoners. What differences can you see? What equipment did they use to make the two different tunnels?
  • Explain why the equipment used for tunnel making has changed over time.
  • What impact does machinery such as Alice, the tunnel boring machine, have on the social world and the natural world compared with the tunnel building equipment used by the prisoners?
  • What knowledge did the prisoners need to build their tunnel? 
  • How do you think the knowledge the prisoners needed differed to the knowledge that the people using Alice, the tunnel boring machine, needed?

Indicators of progression for discussion starters

Component Indicator Level
Characteristics of technology
  • describe how societal and/or environmental issues can influence what people decided to make, how they would undertake planning, the selection of resources, and how they would make and test an outcome
  • explain why particular technological outcomes have changed over time
  • describe examples of how technology has impacted on the social world over time 
  • describe examples of how technology has impacted on the natural world over time
  • identify that technological knowledge is knowledge that technologists agree is useful in ensuring a successful outcome.

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