Creating a Realistic Rebel Resistance Group for Your Story | Small Resistance Groups


Hands down, one of my all time favorite movies/books/stories, is The Great Escape. It's proof that humans are brilliant, amazing creatures who can defy even the worst odds.

And this group of men is an excellent example of resistance on a smaller scale.

So let's break down what happened in this top security POW camp, how less than 500 men resisted the enemy with literally no weapons, less than half rations, and with only what they were able to scavenge, borrow, bribe or steal.

". . . it's my duty to harass, confound, and confuse the enemy to the best of my ability. I'm going to cause such a terrible stink in this Third Reich of theirs, that thousands of troops that could well be employed at the front will be tied up here looking after us." ~Roger Bartlett, Big X

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly the function of a small resistance.

But how do the 3 Major Characteristics of a Resistance Group fit into rebel resistance on a smaller scale?
  • Authority and Leadership
  • Networks and Cells
  • and Meaningful Defiance
Let's take a look. These notes are primarily from the John Sturges film version, but I highly recommend the book as well. It tells the true story and does not disappoint.


 1. Roger Bartlett - Big X
Roger Bartlett is the unquestioned leader of this prison camp resistance. But he answers directly to the superior officer, Ramsey, and MacDonald is his second in command.

Everyone looks up to Roger, they obey his commands, and they follow him unquestionably. Why? He's earned their trust and a reputation as one of the foremost prison camp escape masterminds.

Together these three men, Roger, MacDonald and Ramsey make up the authority and leadership portion of the group.

They are experts in their field, leaders to begin with, unanimously chosen by their comrades. Who better to lead a resistance, no matter how small it is?

Leadership is most important in any situation. Without solid leaders who take in all the information and make the decisions there would be no effective change whatsoever.

2. A Stunning Network of Masterminds
But these men would never have been effective if they had not had a handful of men working in their fields of expertise below them.

I love this part. Here's a quick list of the men who are the "blood and guts" crew, the men who carried the out the orders, the men who got down and dirty for their leaders.

The Scrounger - he secured all the tools, materials, and weapons needed to dig the tunnels, shore up the tunnels, make escape clothing, passports, and everything the Manufacturer needed. Not to mention some life-changing potato moonshine. He was an invaluable part of the whole escape. He begged, borrowed and stole, mostly through The Ferret, Werner, a prison guard.


Tunnel Kings - they were the experts in the tunnel digging business. They knew everything that was needed to get the job done.

The Forger - An artist who forged fake passports and special papers needed for the men to get across Germany, to blend in, and to get home.

The Manufacturer - Made air ducts and air pumps, even manged to make a pick-axe. You needed something built you came to him.

Intelligence - Spied on the prison guards, the commandant, knew everything that was going on in the camp, even among their own men

Disperal - specialized in getting rid of the dirt dug from the tunnels, and he was quite brilliant

The Mole - a small man, fast digger, and quite handy when one wanted to escape quickly

The Surveyor - needed to take measurements of the tunnel to judge how far they still needed to dig

Diversions - while they were making any kind of noise building and tearing up bunks or something, he created any diversion you needed, loud noise or a distraction from a certain person or place in the camp

Tailor - sewed all the clothes, and this included German uniforms, and they needed to look real and authentic

This is the essence of Networks and Cells, and you won't get a clearer picture of how they work than this. To plan an escape of such size, to resist and harass the enemy to the best of their ability, every one of these men needed each other. They couldn't have done it as well or efficiently without each other.

I love this story because all these men united in their fields of expertise, their comfort-zones, working together for a common cause, there's nothing more powerful than this.


3. Uniting in a Common Goal
These men joined the war for different reasons, but their main cause was to fight Hitler, and to restore and secure freedom for those who had lost it, and for their loved ones.

The common goal of these men thrown together in a prison camp: Get home, and "confound, confuse and harass the enemy" with everything they had.

If they could cause such a stink in Germany and draw troops away from the front to come search for them or guard them, they were winning. Can you imagine that? Prisoners in a camp winning?

If they could do this, they weren't just helping get themselves home, they were helping to end the war, defeat Hitler, and save Europe. This was their goal, this was their Meaningful Defiance.

So, there you have it. Even if your story's resistance is small, these 3 Major Characteristics need to be in place for you to have a realistic and believable group of rebels.

Resistance on a smaller scale, such as in The Great Escape, will take more time as opposed to something like the SOE and the French Resistance, just because these groups had materials and resources made readily available to them. But you can also see how resourceful, one can be even in a prison camp.

It does not matter how small your resistance is, they can still create an impact that will stun the world. Humans are amazing.

Let's chat! Is your resistance big or small? What kind of impact will they make on the world? Tell me about it in the comments below.

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