The True Story of the Great Escape

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 31 Mar 2019

Member Reviews

Like the author, I too was familiar with this story through watching the movie (one, I am unashamed to say, I watch repeatedly - how I do love a good war story, and Steve McQueen - definitely eye-candy). I had always wondered whether this was based on one true event or was a compilation of smaller events rolled into one by Hollywood executives. What utterly escaped my notice was that the script was based on author Paul Brickhill's book, also of the same title (which had I bothered to read the dust jacket of "Reach For The Sky" the penny would have dropped), and that he himself was involved!

Back to this book. Vance has made considerable use of the stories of the survivors to piece together a truly remarkable tale of this one or many historic episodes from World War II. I loved reading about the backgrounds of the men involved which puts a much more human face on the characters - and having watched the film, so can see some semblance. And these personal stories were intersperse with events as they were unfolding within Stalag Luft II. For the most part, the movie does follow the actual story, and whilst I was reading, scenes from the movie would replay in my head.

What I found utterly soul destroying was that the fate of these men was sealed by the whim of one man - for embarrassing Hitler, a lesson had to be learnt, a warning sent out. These men were it.

I appreciated the follow up - of the 76 who escaped, 50 were executed (lets not mince words), 8 were unaccounted for (presumed dead), 3 managed to escape to freedom, the rest were returned to their prison camp. What I didn't know was that those responsible were brought to trial in 1947, with the last trial taking place in 1968.

This is a must read - whether a fan of the movies or of the history, or just someone who wants to know more. It is more than a history - it is a personal, tragic story. I was left with so many thoughts after reading this; I wanted to know more; and when I was done, I was left feeling drained but mostly humbled.
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Despite the fact that my husband loves Brickhill's book and feels a deep connection to the story of the Great Escape, I have never read the book or any account of it. I admit to seeing the film some years ago, but I found it too Hollywood. But at the beginning of this year, I read Code Name: Lise . Toward the end of that book, Loftis recounts an escape that Peter Churchill (SOE sabateur and Odette/Lise's soon to be second husband) is aware of but does not take part in. The escape is from Sachenhausen concentration camp and it is effected by a number of escapers from the Great Escape (Dowse, Day, Dodge, to name but 3) who were sent to Sachenhausen at various times after their escape from Stalag Luft III. We were confused because Jack Churchill was named but the events recounted were Peter's and they seemed identical! A read of Peter's memoirs cleared up the confusion of the two Churchills. But I was still thinking of that and how these two amazing stories (Odette Sansom and Peter Churchill, SOE agents and the Great Escape) intersected and how I'd never heard of it before when Vance's book showed up on Netgalley. How could I not request it under the circumstances! 

Many years ago, a bank made a commercial that talked about how well their transactions went. They said that they didn't make millions of perfect transactions per day. They made 1 perfect transaction and then did it again and again, one perfect transaction at a time. That concept has stuck with me and it is a relevant concept here. The story of World War II is not in the millions; it is in the individual stories over and over again into the millions. Each story is different and each story has elements in it that are similar. But the individual is always what draws me back. 

Vance does this incredibly well, giving voice to the individual stories, not the collective narration. He expertly weaves the personality and individual voice into each story of each person. I laughed with them, frolicked in the sky with them, mourned with them, got shot down with them, but always with each individual. It is the backbone and beauty of this book, getting to know the people. They are the story.

And so, the night before being shipped out, I went AWOL with Aussie Al Hake to see his brand new wife Noela. He was right, punishing folks getting shipped out the next morning wasn't a very high priority. 

And I slammed into the "only tree in Holland" with Tony Hayter while trying to give the slip to some Messerschmidts early in the war. Then I fell out of the sky over Sicily with him.

I crash landed with John Stevens near Bardia after mistaking it for Tobruk. 

I watched 22 year old Canadian George Wiley struggle with fear and excitement before the escape, giving his possessions to a hut mate in case he didn't make it. I felt the anticipation, the stress, and the hope.

I stood in the doorway of Hut 104 watching Dave Torrens run at me. Pawel Tobolski was dressed as a Luftwaffe corporal for the escape and scared the daylights out of everyone when he arrived. 

I froze, terrified with Danny Król when they separated him from Sydney Dowse, knowing it was the end just as Danny did. 

I cried in despair with Des Plunkett, who nearly committed suicide, because he thought he had somehow accidentally given up his friends. I ached with him, was grateful to the Canadians who helped him. (This was probably the most emotional moment for me, because of course, Des and Freddie were some of the last to be picked up. He couldn't possibly have betrayed them.)

I found myself furious that Tom Kirby-Green and Gordon Kidder (Canadian from the same town as my husband) were tortured after their capture. They were the only ones who showed or recounted specific signs of torture! 

With Massey and Murray, I sat in stunned silence being told that 41 escapers had been shot and killed resisting arrest or attempting further escape. I asked "How many were wounded?" and was told none. Then came the horror of seeing that number rise to 47 on the posted list. It was a private hell of grief and fury.

For three escapers, there was no more Sagan, no more cooler. For one, Bob van der Stok, there was more flying. He was eventually taken back into the air force and flew more missions. He was doing what all the escapers had wanted to do: fly again, help with the war effort. He was the only one could do it, for them, for himself, for his family. 

For some, this was not the last escape. Wings Day, Jimmy James, Sydney Dowse, and Johnny Dodge were all sent to Sachenhausen concentration camp. There they would meet with Jack Churchill and Peter Churchill (SOE operative). After building a small tunnel, all but Peter would escape though they were recaptured quickly and spent months in solitary chained to the floor as a result. [I do wish these two amazing stories (Peter Churchill/Odette Sansom and The Great Escape) were discussed together more often. These are two heroic stories of World War II and they intersect in Sachenhausen.] In the end, they would escape one last time, saving themselves and their travel companions when they were taken from camp, eventually to be killed.

Vance does a masterful job capturing the men's emotional struggles in the aftermath of the escape from Stalag Luft III and then their lives after the war. His accounts of the investigation into the murder and then the visits to family to return effects. Promises kept.

I think it is important to highlight that, while Americans helped build the tunnels (over 600 people were involved in the planning and work for the escape), the escape itself had no American participants. The Americans at Luft III were moved to another section of the camp months before the escape took place. Instead, the majority of the escapers were from the Commonwealth with a smattering of others.

One of the interesting side effects of Vance's narrative is the glimpse it gives into wartime Germany. During the various accounts of the escapers' travels before being apprehended, we see the various layers of the Nazi Germany police state and how it affected everyday Germans. Plenty of people here in the U.S. jokingly say they live in a police state. They have no concept of what it really means to live in such a state, especially in a place like Nazi Germany where the police really were there to strike fear into them as much as to "police". I cannot fathom the fears that ordinary Germans must have had, fears not only of the various policing groups, but fear of their neighbors, their employers. And that doesn't even bring into play their fear for people - such as family, even tangential family - as well. 

Occupied territories had it even worse, as shown by the escape stories of Des Plunkett and Freddie Dvorak. Freddie's brother's wife's family was incarcerated because of his escape. It is clear that terror and fear of who might be affected by your actions were weapons the Nazis used against people on a fairly regular basis. But let's be honest, it likely only takes one or two instances like this to bring people into line. No one wants to be responsible for the incarceration, torture, or death of people so tangentially removed from you but who people you love love. That fear will stifle action very effectively.

Jonathan Vance's account of the Great Escape is alive with the personalities of the people who lived it, giving them voice. I cared and therefore I laughed and cried and got mad and was on tenterhooks and was rooting for them. What a beautiful tribute both to the incredible fortitude and ingenuity of these POWs but also to who they were as people with all their foibles and desires, fears and strengths. As I have never read Brickhill's account, I will be reading it now, but he is not the only survivor to have written and I suspect I will be reading other accounts as well. I loved Vance's authorial voice: old school British filled with colloquialisms and military colloquialisms I sometimes had to work to understand. It's a conversational style that helps to bring you closer to the people about whom you are reading, almost as if they are telling you their stories.

I expect that there will be a fourth edition at some point (this being the third edition). Not long after this edition came out, we lost the last of the escapers. Dick Churchill passed away in February at 99. Jack Lyon who was in the tunnel when it was discovered and was able to safely return to Hut 104 and helped get others safely back passed away in March at 101.
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For more reviews and bookish posts please visit: http://www.ManOfLaBook.com

The True Story of the Great Escape: Stalag Luft III, March 1944 by Jonathan F. Vance is the historical account of the largest prison break during World War II. Mr. Vance is a Canadian author and educator.

Many people only know of the events in this book from the fictionalized 1963 Hollywood account, but as often occurs, truth is stranger than fiction, and often much more mesmerizing. In The True Story of the Great Escape: Stalag Luft III, March 1944 by Jonathan F. Vance the author recounts the evens which led to the escape, and the aftermath.

This book is being re-released to honor the 75th anniversary of what we call now the “Great Escape”.  Mr. Vance’s well researched and very readable account of the men of Stalag Luft III is exciting and personal. Each soldier gets a mini-biography (peppered throughout the book as they are introduced) , and it is obvious that the author really looks up to these guys.

The English officers saw it as their duty to escape, this they reasoned, helped the war effort by keeping the German troops busy with them instead of on the front lines (amazingly, they were correct). The fascinating thing is that the German officers understood this (in this case, where airmen are concerned at least), and while still punished the captured men, it was with a wink and appreciation of their efforts.
Like a cat and mouse game.

The author goes to describe how the prisoners made their escape materials, clothes, fake documentation, money, and more. They had to be careful and alter their uniforms so they won’t be caught with civilian clothes and executed as spies.

After the “Great Escape”, at the personal command of Hitler all the officers were executed, a war crime which reverberated throughout this horrible war. Even the German guards were shaken and quietly pointed out that it wasn’t them (the Luftwafa) who committed this atrocity.

While the book drags on in parts, I still found it very powerful. The story is remarkable and, while dealing with a short timeline, had much larger implications.
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WOW! You will be totally unable to put this book down! These men were beyond amazing! Smart, and strong. This book is their incredible true story!
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I can still remember the first time I saw the movie, The Great Escape, with Steve McQueen.  Shortly after that I managed to find and read a used copy of Paul Brickhill’s book, which was the basis for the movie.  The story of the brave men who engineered the daring escape from Stalag Luft III has always been fascinating to me.  So, I looked forward to reading Professor Vance’s book about this extraordinary group of men.  

All I can say is that this book was well beyond what I expected.  Thoroughly research and well-written, The True Story of the Great Escape is a story of an ambitious plan, meticulously conceived and simply incredible in its execution.  Professor Vance brings the men behind the plot to life and gives the reader a real sense of the urgency and determination they felt.  It’s a compelling story and the reader will be swept up in the drama.  But, most importantly, the reader will appreciate the perseverance, ingenuity and passion these men of Stalag Luft III felt and their determination to succeed.  Their bravery is humbling and their sacrifice should never be forgotten.  It’s an incredible story and an incredible book.

Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a copy of this book for review.
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The True Story of the Great Escape is a very detailed account of the real Great Escape. We all know the famous movie but that was a fictionalized account. This book includes not just the escape itself but the personal histories of all of the men as well as the escape history of thee men. It is protocol of a POW to escape as often as possible for two reasons, one to get back to your men and second cause as the enemy to use as many resources hunting you. Some of these men over as many as 5 years took escape attempts to an art form. 

One of the interesting things about the story is just how long the planning took and then how quickly some of the men were caught. The book also includes some of the responses the German's had to the repeated escapes. The POWs were kept by the military and their respective divisions so in the case of this story the men were all RAF (or variants) and were dealt with by the Luftwaffe. There did become a point when the SS wanted to handle the escapees instead of the military but due to Geneva Convention that was not allowed. I did not know that Hitler had originally called for all of them to be shot but backed down and just has 50 of the men killed. 

What was also interesting was learning about the other escapees reactions to the news of the deaths (claimed to be during secondary escape attempts). If this is the type of book that you like to read it is very informative.
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I've read a lot about the Second World War this year namely the rise and fall of the third reich and the Nuremberg trials so it was fascinating to read about the great escape from the viewpoint of the officers.
This was a highly entertaining read and I would definitely recommend!
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Thankyou to NetGalley, the publishers and the author, Professor Jonathan Vance, for granting my wish and giving me an advanced readers copy of The True Story of the Great Escape in exchange for an honest and unbiased opinion.
I am speechless. I honestly think this book is an amazing tribute to the soldiers involved and what they had to endure in their bid for freedom. 
It was an  atmospheric, beautifully written in its harshness, tale of heroism during WW2. 
A must read and highly recommended.
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In honor of the 75th anniversary of the "Great Escape", Jonathan Vance's book, originally privately published as A Gallant Company, has been updated and reissued by Greenhill Books. My first reaction on finishing this book was "Wow. Just. Wow." 

The True Story of the Great Escape is a detailed, carefully researched, and finely crafted account of the men of Stalag Luft III and their daring escape attempt on the night of March 24-25, 1944. Vance gives the reader brief accounts of all of the principal POWs- their pre-war lives, how they came to be pilots, as well as the mission when they were captured- in between describing life at the camp. What I found the most fascinating were his descriptions of how the prisoners made things. When the plan for the great escape went underway an entire committee of prisoners made perfectly crafted clothes, forged papers, handheld compasses, maps, and anything else that might be needed- made them from materials they scrounged from the camp or bribed from guards. 

As much as this is a book about perseverance and ingenuity in the face of overwhelming odds, it is also a tribute to the men themselves. Vance honors them all for their bravery and achievements from Roger "Big X" Bushell who masterminded the scheme down to escapees like Canadian pilot George Wiley (my grandfather's cousin). Even though there is no surprise about how this escape will end for most of the men, I found myself hoping for the best and near tears reading what would be final goodbyes in the camp, let alone the orders for fifty of the recaptured escapers to be shot. This is a very human story, from the pilots to the prison guards, Vance refuses to let us imagine any of them as stereotypes from a movie. 

Poignant and powerful, The True Story of the Great Escape is a must read for any history lover.
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This book will be published March 31 and if you love WWII history, snatch up on it! I watched the movie The Great Escape and even though it was good, it didn't touch the book. 

Kudos to the author for bringing the  prison break of Stalag Luft III to print! He started researching for this book when he was a teenager. He was able to contact those mentioned in the book. 

The author gives a short biography of each person and sometimes it's repeated later in the book. One thing that would have been made an easier read in the beginning would have been to have a picture of the POW and write a chapter on each POW. Then continue the story at the end of the biographies. 

We follow the POWs through their imprisonment to the prison break the night of March 24, 1944. Air raids deterred original plans, but the escapees persevered. I have to wonder if weather conditions had not forced many back onto the roads, if more would have succeeded in escaping.

An ingenious group of men all on a mission to escape and get home to their families. Some knew deep down they would never make it home. Others hung onto that to keep them going.
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Probably most people know something of the story behind this book, as the 1963 film The Great Escape continues to be a stalwart of the Christmas television schedules every year.

No Steve McQueen jumping the wire on a motorbike, or Donald Pleasence losing his eyesight while poring over forged documents here, but the true story behind this audacious, and largest, escape of captured Allied soldiers from a prisoner of war camp during World War II, is amazing nonetheless.

On the night of 24th March 1944, a small army of soldiers escaped from the prisoner of war camp Stalag Luft III, in eastern Germany. Seventy-nine made it outside the wire, but only three made it outside of Nazi Germany. Most were recaptured within days.

It is not just the size of this operation that makes it famous, but the awful fact that fifty of these escapees were tragically executed afterwards by the Gestapo on Hitler's orders, against the regulations laid down by The Geneva Convention.

Jonathan Vance tells this tale of the battle between the captured soldiers and their wardens most skillfully and he has obviously researched his subject thoroughly. I really liked that the main players are introduced by telling a bit about their background stories and how they came to find themselves in Stalag Luft III, The story of how the escape developed really draws you in too, and you hold your breath with the soldiers themselves, each time a team of guards attempts to ferret out their plans.

I did not know anything about what happened after the escape itself, other than that many of the soldiers were executed and very few made it "home", so it was very interesting to read about the events that followed - where the escapees were taken, their further adventures, the international condemnation of the executions, and the trials that followed World War II.

This book is fascinating, sad and very accessible for anyone who thinks that military history is dry as dust! 
This book is superb, Professor Vance!

What strikes me most about this story is the amazing courage, perseverance and ingenuity of the men who were prisoners of war in these camps. Their intelligence, inventiveness and humour under very difficult conditions was incredible and inspiring.
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Many thanks to #NetGalley and Greenhill Books for allowing me to read an advance proof of this story in exchange for an honest review.

As soon as I saw the cover of this book, I knew it would be one that I wanted to read. I still remember the first time (of many) that I saw the Hollywood blockbuster of the film The Great Escape. I have long since learned that it is far from an accurate portrayal of what happened, but I was glued to it and wanted to know all that I could about what happened. I grew up in a household filled with books about escaping during the first and second World Wars. My dad served in WW2 and my uncle was captured in Italy and spent a year in a P.O.W. camp in Germany. As a child I remember playing with neighbourhood kids and pretending we were P.O.W.’s trying to escape from the enemy. I had to laugh when I read the author’s comment in the prologue that “Escape literature has long been a staple of the reading matter preferred by school boys.” Mr. Vance – we schoolgirls found it fascinating too!

This book is not a brand, new book. The author first published a version of it under the title “A Gallant Company” and published it privately. It received several other printings by Pacifica Military History and later Simon & Schuster and now is being re-released on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the escape. This reprint does have some corrections and additions which have been made based on other books which have been printed since the original copy was released.

One of the big pluses of this book is that the author did his research at a time when many of the survivors of the escape, and the others who helped plan and carry out all the details that went into making the escape happen were still alive. This means that he was privy to a wealth of detail that he gained from primary sources who he engaged with and developed relationships with. This adds a lot to the fascination of the book because the reader gets to learn the background of so many of the men involved. It can also be a bit of a drawback because there were so many people involved that it could become a little confusing trying to keep track of who was who. It was a minor issue for me but did tend to slow my reading down a little as I found myself going back at times to clarify my understanding of who and where different men were at different times.

The book goes well beyond just focusing on the story of the Great Escape. It also gives a history of how the men of the Royal Air force in particular came to be prisoners from early in the war onwards and includes details of other escapes made along the way.

I suspect that most people who read this book will know in advance how the story ends. In spite of that, the author does such a good job of telling the story that I found myself holding my breath as I read certain parts hoping that the outcome would be different.

While reading this I found myself looking at other books that I own on the subject of this escape and noted that the original version of this had been used as a reference for at least one. The author has added an extensive bibliography of recommended readings for those who want more when they are finished with this book. There are photographs included in this version but my proof did not include maps which I believe will be included in the final version being released at the end of March 2019.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in escape literature  or the Second World War and feel it is an excellent book to introduce a new generation of “school boys” and school girls to what truly was a “Gallant Company of Men”.

4.5 stars
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I am an avid reader of WWII historical novels and was so excited for the opportunity to read this one by Professor Vance from NetGalley. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in reading a completely different angle of looking at WWII outside of the Jewish perspective. I can’t count the number of novels I’ve read about WWII, but never have I had the opportunity to see it from the officer’s side. Years ago I watched the Great Escape, but I will certainly be watching it again now that I understand how much truly went into the digging of the tunnels and the prep work for the Great Escape. 
I loved this book, could not wait to get back to it when I had to do something else, like work, and had a hard time putting it down. This is one you need to read slow and get the full meaning of what is happening because there is a LOT going on and many people are introduced in this story due to the dynamics of what it is covering. I truly appreciated the background he gave on the flyers, and how they arrived in the camp. As always, I am utterly appalled at the German’s and how they ignored the rules of war. The ending was fantastic, it tidied up the trials and gave us a brief synopsis of the ones that survived. This is a great book, everyone should read this, these flyers were brave, courageous heroes and all they wanted to do was to go home. Showing the talents and expertise it took from such a diversity of men to accomplish this enormous task was remarkable. Great book!!!!
I was given an advanced copy from Pen & Sword, Greenhill Books through Net Galley for my honest review, this one gets a high five highly recommended 5*****’s
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The story of the Great Escape is well known primarily through the fantastic film which had a star cast but that was only part of the story and some bits in the film were poetic licence.

This book does tell the full true story of the planning and taking place of the escape along with what happened to the escapees with fifty of them bring murdered. The author has also got to know those who took part in the escape and it is this which is the difference with other books that I have read on the subject.

The book is well written and contains many nuggets of information that will interest the reader

Thoroughly recommended
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Thank you to Greenhill Books and NetGalley for an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This is a very interesting book that highlights the tenacity of captured airmen during WWII to escape from POW camps run by the Germans. The detail of the story telling is very complete and shows a great amount of research that went into writing this book. 
I enjoyed the bios of each captured man that is mentioned in the book but this makes for a very long read. One that starts to feel a little monotonous in the telling.
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Title : The True Story Of The Great Escape

Author: Jonathan F. Vance

Pen& Sword

Genre: Nonfiction

Pages

Book synopsis

'It shows the variety and depth of the men sent into harms way during World War II, something emphacized by the population of Stalag Luft III. Most of the Allied POWs were flyers, with all the technical, tactical and planning skills that profession requires. Such men are independent thinkers, craving open air and wide-open spaces, which meant than an obsession with escape was almost inevitable'_ - John D Gresham



Between dusk and dawn on the night of March 24th-25th 1944, a small army of Allied soldiers crawled through tunnels in Germany in a covert operation the likes of which the Third Reich had never seen before.



The prison break from Stalag Luft III in eastern Germany was the largest of its kind in World War II. Seventy nine Allied soldiers and airmen made it outside the wire - but only three made it outside Nazi Germany. Fifty were executed by the Gestapo.



Jonathan Vance tells the incredible story that was made famous by the 1963 film, _The Great Escape._ The escape is a classic tale of prisoner and their wardens in a battle of wits and wills.The brilliantly conceived escape plan is overshadowed only by the colorful, daring (and sometimes very funny) crew who executed it - literally under the noses of German guards.



From their first days in Stalag Luft III and the forming of bonds key to such exploits, to the tunnel building, amazing escape and eventual capture, Vance's history is a vivid, compelling look at one of the greatest 'exfiltration' missions of all time.



My thoughts



Rating: 5 



Would I recommend it? Yes it's a story that needs to be told and read.



What an incredible story to read as well as an emotional one as well ,its a story that I had already knew a little bit about thanks to the movie The Great Escape but that's all I knew about it. As your reading it you get introduce to the soldiers and see what their lives was like before the War and doing the war and what they was like leading up to that day , many of them knowing that they might never see their loving ones again but still they wanted to try , and that's what brings the story to life is the back stories of the men , while I can understand some might not like it and not care for the information I did , because with out it , the story wouldn't have came to life , it's what helped me understand them more and understand what they where going through . It showed their strength , their courage and boldness to over come the difficulties and face the extreme dangers that was around them and that they faced wither it was from the prison camp, the  German guards or the tunnels.And the  emotions I felt when I read about the murders of the 50 , made me feel mixed ones from been sad to been angry . With that said I want to say thanks Netgalley for letting me  read and review it ,exchange for my honest opinion.
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"..the greatest value in an escape is the number of chaps who get out in the first place, not the number who get home.  Even if none of the hardarsers lasts two days, they’ll have had an impact just by getting outside the wire”

Have you ever watched a movie and thought 'this is so incredible, there's no way it could have really happened that way'?  The ever-popular movie Great Escape, featuring an all-star cast, was one such instance for me.  The scale of the true life feat accomplished by these POWs is beyond amazing.  Jonathan Vance's new book, The True Story of the Great Escape adds rich color to this fantastic prisoner escape, and supports the movie being based largely on real events, although the characters have been fictionalized.

Frustrated by the substantial resources required to prevent frequent escapes by prisoners, German authorities decide to put all of their troublemakers (mainly British airmen) in one location and to fortify the camp so these pesky captives have no way of escape.  They've learned from prior mistakes and believe their newly-designed camp, Stalag Luft III, to be inescapable.  The problem, however, is that by putting all the bad apples in one basket, the camaraderie of creative POW minds encourages thinking BIG.  Like, how can we plan and execute an escape of 250-300 prisoners?  Well, they came close - 76 escaped during a cold night in March 1944.

To pull this feat off, they had to be well-organized.  This was the job of the "X Organization" which was led by Roger Bushell (Roger Bartlett in the movie) as "Big X".  Teams were formed to accomplish specific tasks: tunnelers, map makers, documents (the "travel bureau"), tailors, surveyors, scroungers, security, language tutors, dispersal (of dirt), tool makers, etc.. Engineers were responsible for designing air pumps, tunnel railroad line, fat lamps, and compasses.  Interestingly, the hard part about escape tunneling is not the actual digging, but rather the shoring up of the tunnel with wood (mainly pilfered bedboards) and the dispersal of dirt (165 tons were to be removed from the three tunnels, Tom, Dick and Harry). How all of this could be done under the very nose of the German guards is incredible.

Countless hours of interviews and research were required to compile the factual information of this book. While the level of detail provided by this book is exceptional and laudatory, there is a downside.  Every POW introduced by the book is preceded by several pages of background: where they were from, how they got into the war, how they were captured, etc.  The frequency of this telling of backstories - I estimate accounting for nearly one-third of the book – is distracting from what the reader expects as the real storyline, i.e., the “True Story of the Great Escape.”  At some point I found myself leafing through the backstories to try to find when the central theme picks back up.  

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher, Greenhill Books, for allowing me to preview this book.

The above review was also posted to Goodreads.
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5 stars

This book is a very well told tale of the story of the Great Escape that took place in late March 1944 from Stalag Luft III. 

It details the men – all airmen (who were more prone to escape than others in the military), who planned the escape and set out to complete it. 

It taks about their lives before the war and in some cases, after as well. 

This is a very well written account and is told in a logical fashion. It is not overly technical, so anyone with an interest in WWII or just history in general will enjoy it. It is fascinating. I too saw the Steve McQueen movie several times and I was anxious to read this account. (Yeah, the motorcycle chase was great.)

I want to thank NetGalley and Pen & Sword/Greenhill Books for forwarding to me a copy of this very interesting and very good book for me to read, enjoy and review.
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An informative, well written account of the infamous Great Escape. Also has lots of accounts of preceding and following escape attempts that were also made. Easy to read and told the stories vividly and well.
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The book has fascinating detail.   I always loved the movie Vance does a great job exploring the individuals involved.  Well worth the read.
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