Escapes from Maze Prison

Escapes from Maze Prison

Maze Prison , one of the highest security facilities in Britain, became in 1983 under attack from the organized mob of prisoners that forever marked the prison history of that country. During the ensuing struggle, rioters that consisted mostly from the members of paramilitary IRA soldiers managed to kill and wound several prison guards, hijack prison meals lorry and escape to the freedom in the largest prison break that England ever saw. In the following few weeks 18 of them were recaptured by English officials, but other 18 managed to successfully escape to freedom.

Maze Prison (also known as Long Kesh) was located in the former Royal Air Force station of Long Kesh, in the outskirts of the Northern Ireland town Lisburn, some 9 miles southwest of Belfast. During its active years between 1971 and 2000, this prison became prominent role in recent Irish history, most notably 1981 inmate hunger strike that resulted in death of Bobby Sands, famous Officer Commanding of the Provisional IRA prisoners. His death from malnourishment became one of the most publicized moments in the IRA history, with over 100.000 people attending his funeral in Belfast.

As the tensions inside the prison intensified over the years, IRA prisoners (most of them imprisoned for murder or bombing that killed innocent civilians) finally executed their escape plan on 25 September 1983. Over the previous months they slowly identified weak security points in what many believed was the most secure prison in Europe. With the help of 6 smuggled handguns, they took control of the H72:30 pm, managing to prevent the raising of the alarm my injuring several guards. Twenty minutes later, entire prison block was under the command of the prisoners, without alarm being activated. To maintain their plan, prisoners took the guard uniforms and remained in prison until 3:25 pm when the unsuspecting food truck entered the H7 block. After they have secured the vehicle, 38 prisoners and truck driver that was held in gunpoint started their way to the main gate. 10 prisoners dressed in uniforms exited the truck and managed to take control of the main prison gatehouse, but this time guards managed to sound alarm. In the following 20 minutes prisoners became under attack from the guards, which produces several casualties on both sides. In the following gun battle total of 35 prisoners managed to escape through the gates of Maze Prison, thus making it the biggest prison escape in British history and biggest in Europe since the end of World War II. During the escape 19 prison officers were injured (13 beaten, four stabber, two shot) and James Ferris after suffering a heart attack.

Prisoners that managed to escape the prison were welcomed by the IRA members that helped them to hide from authorities. In the following media coverage, IRA celebrated this event as "The Great Escape" that heavily boosted their moral. On the other side, English government greatly increased their security measures on all prisons that held IRA members.