The Great Escaper: The Life and Death of Roger Bushell - Love, Betrayal, Big x and the Great Escape, Paperback

The Great Escaper: The Life and Death of Roger Bushell - Love, Betrayal, Big x and the Great Escape Paperback

4 out of 5 (1 rating)


Roger Bushell was 'Big X', mastermind of the mass breakout from Stalag Luft III in March 1944, immortalised in the Hollywood film The Great Escape.

Very little was known about Bushell until 2011, when his family donated his private papers - a treasure trove of letters, photographs and diaries - to the Imperial War Museum.

Through exclusive access to this material - as well as fascinating new research from other sources - Simon Pearson, Chief Night Editor of The Times, has now written the first biography of this iconic figure.

Born in South Africa in 1910, Roger Bushell was the son of a British mining engineer.

By the age of 29, this charismatic character who spoke nine languages had become a London barrister with a reputation for successfully defending those much less fortunate than him.

He was also renowned as an international ski champion and fighter pilot with a string of glamorous girlfriends.

On 23 May, 1940, his Spitfire was shot down during a dogfight over Boulogne after destroying two German fighters.

From then on his life was governed by an unquenchable desire to escape from Occupied Europe. Over the next four years he made three escapes, coming within 100 yards of the Swiss border during his first attempt.

His second escape took him to Prague where he was sheltered by the Czech resistance for eight months before he was captured.

The three months of savage interrogation in Berlin by the Gestapo that followed made him even more determined.

Prisoner or not, he would do his utmost to fight the Nazis.

His third (and last escape) destabilised the Nazi leadership and captured the imagination of the world.

He died on 29 March 1944, murdered on the explicit instructions of Adolf Hitler.

Simon Pearson's revealing biography is a vivid account of war and love, triumph and tragedy - one man's attempt to challenge remorseless tyranny in the face of impossible odds.




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Bushell is best known as the leader of the Great Escape. However, he was already a known quantity to the Allies and the Germans before that mass breakout which was the largest by Allied prisoners during the War.Bushell joined the RAF before the War and was shot down on his first combat mission which was over Dunkirk. As soon as he arrived in a POW camp, he planned to escape. He detested Germans and often made fun of them to their face. Even so, at the first camp, the camp commander took a liking to Bushell and cautioned him to be careful. Bushell's first escape ended within a 100 yards of the Swiss border. His second got him eight months of freedom in Prague where he was when Reinhard Heydrich was assassinated. A combination of a crack down on the underground and the fact that Bushell had an affair with a member of the underground but made her angry when he told her he would not marry her after the War led to the Gestapo arresting him. He escaped a firing squad but the people who hid him for eight months were all shot.Now moved to Stalag III, Bushell was warned by the Allied secret service not to escape again because the Germans would shot him. Even German officers warned him to not escape for he would be killed. However, he became the organizer and leader of the escape committee in the camp. He did not care if any escapees made it back to England but rather that they tied up German resources which is exactly what happened with dire consequences for Bushell and 49 others.Contains immense detail plus photographs of Bushell and the people he crossed paths with including the women and German officers. Still, very readable. A real adventure story.