A FOOTBALL player who escaped from a prisoner of war camp to help play his team to victory is part of the inspiration behind the Help for Heroes campaign.

Barnet FC, in Barnet Lane, has seen its share of war tragedy in the past as well as being associated with war heroes who survived.

One such was striker Lieutenant Denis Kelleher whose story makes that of the seminal war film The Great Escape look tame.

Lieutenant Kelleher, 26, escaped from a prisoner of war camp in Germany in March 1944 with RAF pilot Stuart Campbell, 22. Wearing just blue Navy overcoats over their uniforms, they outwitted the Nazis in a two-day dash across the country.

Posing as Dutch merchant seaman and after months of planning, they decided their only hope was to play it cool.

They spoke to German police, bought train tickets and even sampled the local beer on the way but suffered exhaustion and near starvation in the process.

After 22 days they walked into their homes in England asking: “Hello folks, how's the war?”

Lieutenant Kelleher, who scored 286 goals during 358 first-team appearances for the club, rested for just three days before leading his team to a 2-1 victory against Grays Athletic on March 25, 1944.

A hero in more ways than one.

See this week's Times Series newspapers for more on the Help for Heroes campaign.