The Great Escape

The Great Escape

A Canadian Story

Book - 2013
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A unique retelling of WWII's most dramatic escape, told through first-hand recollections of the soldiers who experienced it.

On the night of March 24, 1944, 80 Commonwealth airmen crawled through a 336-foot-long tunnel and slipped into the forest beyond the wire of Stalag Luft III, a German POW compound near Sagan, Poland. The event became known as &8220;The Great Escape,&8220; an intricate breakout more than a year in the making, involving as many as 2,000 POWs working with extraordinary coordination, intelligence, and daring. Yet within a few days, all but three of the escapees were recaptured. Subsequently, 50 were murdered, cremated, and buried in a remote corner of the prison camp.

But most don't know the real story behind The Great Escape. Now, on the eve of its 70th anniversary, Ted Barris writes of the key players in the escape attempt, those who got away, those who didn't, and their families at home.

Barris marshals groundbreaking research into a compelling firsthand account. For the first time, The Great Escape retells one of the most astonishing episodes in WWII directly through the eyes of those who experienced it.

Joint Winner of the Libris Award for Non-Fiction Book of the Year 2014

Globe and Mail Bestseller

Toronto Star Bestseller

Publisher: Markham, Ontario :, Thomas Allen Publishers,, 2013.
ISBN: 9781771022729
Characteristics: pages cm.


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Apr 08, 2016

Absolutely fascinating. Particularly interesting (to me) were the ways the POWs scavenged and then manufactured out of tin cans and other found objects, things that they could utilize for the escape, but also for daily chores such as cooking and providing heat. Complete honor and respect to the generations that fought and survived both European wars.

rb3221 Aug 15, 2015

This book describes in detail what life was like, including specific details of the amount of work needed to even try to escape. The 336' tunnel took 11 months to complete and in part used 4000 bed boards, 1000' feet of electric wire, 600' of rope and several hundred tons of sand were moved and hidden. An incredible accomplishment!! As well accurate forged documentation and identity cards were expertly produced for all the escapes.
But was it worth it since of the 76 that escaped, only 3 made back to England and 50 were later executed. This is not fully addressed but Barris does suggest that a huge amount of manpower was needed to re-capture the escapees (even though this is apparently not true).
Two criticisms: Barris does not address the anger, disillusionment, deprivation and depression of being a prisoner, often for years. And secondly, the format Barris uses does not allow the reader to follow any single story as the various tales leapfrog throughout the book. But overall, a book well worth reading.

Norman C. Smith
Feb 21, 2014

This is a very good book, well researched and well written. It covers the period leading up to the great escape, and after as the POWs were being moved away from the Eastern Front, liberated, and then home and after. The only part it didn't really address, unfortunately, was what the escapees did after they got out of the camp. Generally, they are described as having been captured after so many days. I would have liked to see some description of how they hid out while on the run, how they were identified, what gave them away, and so on. Leaving that gap aside, though, this was worth reading.

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