The Great Escape – Books and DVDs

The publication of Paul Brickhill's book 'The Great Escape' in 1951, followed by the 1963 John Sturges film of the same name, have ensured its enduring appeal and legendary status. It also appears to have motivated people involved to tell their tale or at least for those who did not survive for others to try to tell it for them. The result is a large body of work in print and film, which is constantly being added to. Below is only a small selection.

It's worth remembering that the expertise and organisation that made the escape possible was the result of years of experience in captivity. A constant and ever-changing game of cat and mouse evolved. For example, the Germans planted microphones to pick up the sound of digging, and the Allies dug deeper to pass under them undetected (but this didn't always work).

The twists and turns had both comedy and tragedy in equal measure, the ingenuity of the prisoners (like making magnetised compass needles using a magnet, a razor blade and a door hinge) is inspirational, their courage phenomenal.

Also, The Great Escape took place from the British officer North Compound. There were five compounds at Sagan each with their share of stories to tell. Although British NCO aircrew were later moved to another camp to make room for the growing number of captured US airmen they too have their part in the history of Stalag Luft III.



The Great Escape (1963), John Sturges director


The Great Escape (Special Edition) 2 Discs – includes documentaries.



These are divided into three categories:

– Books about The Great Escape

– Books about the people involved in The Great Escape (mainly biographies and autobiographies)

– Books about people and subjects linked to the The Great Escape.


About The Great Escape

The Great Escape by Paul Brickhill (1951). Inspiration for the film. An Australian journalist before the war, he was shot down over North Africa and was himself an inmate at Stalag Luft III.


The Longest Tunnel by Alan Burgess (1990)


The Great Escape by Anton Gill (2202)


Exemplary Justice by Allan Andrews (1976) – the story of the quest to bring the executioners to trial



About the people


Moonless Night by B A James (1983) – autobiography of Jimmy James, one of the Great Escapers sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp


Wings Day by Sydney Smith (1968) – biography of the legendary leader of The Great Escape, Wing Commander H M A Day, written by a former POW. Wings was also one of the Great Escapers sent to the Sachsenhausen.


Lie in the Dark and Listen by Ken Rees (2004) – autobiography of Wing Commander Ken Rees (better known as Shag Rees) who was nearing the tunnel exit when the shot that signalled the game was up was fired.


Lonesome Road by George Harsh (1971) – autobiography of George Harsh, who served as 'Big S'. More focus on his early life as a rich kid convicted of murder and life on a chain gang.


33 months as a POW in Stalag Luft III by Albert Patton Clark (2004) – autobiography of Lieutenant General Clark, who served as 'Big S' before Harsh but later moved to a dedicated American compound.


Under the Wire by William Ash (2005) – autobiography of Tex Ash. An American who came across to help Britain out before the US officially joined in. This Spitfire pilot was a dedicated escaper and a regular visitor to the cooler. Where he was languishing after one attempt when the sirens announced The Great Escape.


Paddy by Partrick Barthropp (1986) – autobiography of Wing Commander Patrick 'Paddy' Barthropp. Battle of Britain Spitfire pilot later shot down over France. Sent to Stalag Luft III he was often Tex Ash's partner in crime (they first met at Dulag Luft). Although a bit sparse on detail for this period of his life.


Reach for the Sky by Paul Brickhill (1954) – biography of the legendary Douglas Bader (and another Brickhill classic made into a classic war film). Gives more information on David Lubbock, only briefly mentioned as the nutritionist in The Great Escape. Bader was only briefly detained at Stalag Luft III but he left his mark.




About links to The Great Escape

A Life in Secrets by Sarah Helm (2005) – a biography about Vera Atkins and her search to discover the fate of the female SOE agents she had sent to France. Follows similar ground to Exemplary Justice. Contains a reference to witnesses seeing the naked body of a British airman at Natzweiler (almost certainly murdered Great Escaper F/O Dennis Cochran). Inspiring accounts of heroism by women agents; horrific and brutal executions; and a worrying examples of incompetence by UK intelligence services.




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