Many people have seen the film version of the Great Escape but I suspect few will have realised that there is a true story that equals or even surpasses the improbable derring-do of the movie.
This book details the backgrounds of the key participants, the incredible work they had to undertake and the ingenuity they employed in the slim hope of getting up to 200 prisoners out of Stalag Luft III at one time.
Aside from the admiration this book has given me for the real Great Escapers, it's helped me to see the film in a new light as a fairly accurate depiction of the events (with the merest sprinkling of Hollywood pixie dust).
Well worth the read.
on 2 November 2003
I have read many Military books, on virtually every subject. I am an avid fan of the film of the same title and although there are a few minor changes, the film/book depict the same.
I read this book in a very short time and thought that it was an excellent account. I am only sorry that 50 Officers had to lose their lives in order for their tale to be told.
Having been in the Military and taken part in Escape & Evasion exercises, that was pure play acting compared to what these guys had to endure.
Fantastic read and have recommended it to friends internationally!
on 14 April 2009
Anton Gill has produced a vivid account based on the POW, prisoner-of-war camps and episodes and references that have been contributed by survivors and their families.
There were loads of prisoner-of-war camps in Europe between 1940 and 1945. The most famous one is arguably Stalag Luft III, Sagan, where the world longest tunnel was build. Hitler did not only plan killing Jews but also thousands of intellectuals and civilians who were against the Nazis. Despite the inhospitable and adversity conditions given by Gestapos, prisoners showed utmost determination and energy to fight for their freedom. The account includes the astonishing fact that escapers' network extended to Sweden. The book contains photographs and diagrams illustrating the process of construction of the longest tunnel, how the trolley was operated, portraits of officers, examples of paperwork that escapers carried, and how the prisoners were shot, etc.
The sophisticated tunnel allowed a number of prisoners to get out of the German Air Force Transit Camp. However, they experienced extremely arduous journey around the snow capped mountains, and war zone territories where border patrols were stationed. The warfare resulted in a huge decrease in train service and damage in infrastructure. They often missed the connection trains. As the war progressed, the surveillance got reinforced, in particular, around he sea between Germany and Sweden. Toward the end of the war, a number of escapers were arrested, and sent to the prisons which were even more inhospitable. To make matters worse, the Gestapos started shooting the prisoners on the way to their destinations, and this action induced huge loss of relevant record of the gross murders undertaken by the Gestapos. The book also includes letters which the prisoners sent to their wives and families promising to come home soon.
All in all, from Stalag Luft III, 650 people involved in digging the tunnel, 126 people attempted to escape, 73 were recaptures, 50 men were executed, and only three men made their home. The story contained prisoners' heroic challenge of constructing the long tunnel manually, attempting to make themselves home, and having tragic and harrowing ending.