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Book Name: The Great Escape (Cassell Military Paperbacks)

Author: Paul Brickhill

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Overall Rating: (4.83/5) View all reviews (total 12 reviews)

Absorbing...spine-tingling...puts the average war book so far in the shadow it's not even funny. --Dallas Times-Herald"One Of The Great True Stories Of The War, And One Of The Greatest Escape Narratives Of All Time.&quo; --San Francisco Chronicle--This text refers to theHardcoveredition.


Unbelievable but true

by Ayis Caperonis

The story of the great escape from Stalag Luft III is incredible and Paul Brickhill has done a marvelous job in bringing it back to life as it really happened. This is a great book that I recommend to any History or WWII student!

Exceptional story

by Bryan Jacobs

This is an exceptional book for many reasons. The main escape is truly one of the more tense scenes I've ever read, and it is truly incredibile, but there are more dimenstions to this book.Brickhill gives us a first-hand account of life in a German POW camp. He goes into great detail jury-rigged engineering involved. From building the tools, to digging dunnels, to forging documents, to designing air pumps, all in a covert way in a prison camp environment.An interesting them was that they were escaping to a far more dangerous place then the prison camps. WWII Germany was not a safe place to be picked up by the Gestapo if you were an Allied soldier. Brickhill's complete research into the fate's off all the people involved on the German and Allied sides caps of the book perfectly.I also highly recommend seeing the NOVA special on PBS about The Great Escape after reading this book. They show excavations of the tunnels as well as interviews with the soldiers.

Trust in 104

by Christopher "chrysaetos"

By now, everyone knows the story. I bought the film version on DVD a while back. I laughed a lot and enjoyed the film greatly (I think it's well done).The tale is immense in scope, so I figured I'd read the book. I was in for a huge surprise. Half of the film's ideas come from Brickhill's prelude, and have nothing to do with the actual escape (or camp!). This meant only one thing: Brickhill's tale, thick as it is, is going to be completely original and that much more satisfying a read.Paul Brickhill was the boss of a small group of prisoners who worked as stooges (watching out for Germans espying on their prisoners' doings). He writes fluidly and very well, and his obvious post-war research is superb (he tells the German angle in some parts). The book is easy to read, has moments of humor, and the descriptions are fantastic and there is never, ever, a dull moment from page one.Little did I realize how much the film throws out the horrors of Nazi Germany (or seemingly takes it in stride). The film plays out escaping as a game, and even in the book, characters try to escape constantly. While the Geneva Convention includes a clause that states escaping should not be prosecuted severely, as it is a logical reaction to imprisonment, the reader will recall that Nazis don't necessarily believe in anything other than the word "kill." Therein lies the terror.There is no Steve McQueen here, and, while there is a cooler, it's the least of the prisoners' fears. There isn't a small group of characters that the story revolves around. There are hundreds of people, and Paul introduces them at varying and strategic places within the story. You learn about new escapees up to the very last chapter. Everyone is a hero in his own way.And while I was reading, I admittedly "forgot" about the Nazi terror and was constantly thrilled to see what would happen next, not realizing how everyone's lives were really in constant danger. Chapter 19 is one of the most frightening moments in the book. It is also the introduction of Hitler, and some of his own decisions regarding the Britons, the Americans, and even the Germans themselves.Brickhill's fears aren't of being caught and thrown into a cooler. It is of being caught by the Kriminalpolizei, or the Gestapo, or of starving while eating illegally small portions of German rations (at one point, the prisoners are fed filthy water condensed on a motorcar engine).This book is quite simply amazing. Do not expect the quasi-solo efforts of the brilliant escapes and happy fortunes as occurs in the book "Papillon." Expect frustrations, anger, impatience and, most of all, the miraculous teamwork that results into a years-long plan: the great escape.I read the 1966 Fawcett Crest edition (see "customer images"), which includes an introduction by Brickhill's Stalag Luft III cohort George Harsh, and new illustrations from fellow prisoner Ley Kenyon, based on his own original drawings from the war.

The original Great Escape...

by D. S. Thurlow

Paul Brickhill's "The Great Escape" may be the classic wartime escape account, and the inspiration for the classic movie of the same title. The largest single breakout of POWs from a Nazi detention facility during the Second War World was organized by a mixed group of British and American fliers at Luft Stalag III, many of whom were veterans of previous escape attempts. Under the noses of their German captors, the fliers dug three tunnels, one of which finally reached beyond the perimeter wire and made possible an escape attempt.Brickhill was one of the POWs who worked on the escape project. "The Great Escape" is full of fascinating details on the security plan that hid the tunnels from prying German ferrets, on improvised equipment, and on manufactured escape clothing and documentation. Brickhill's narrative includes the key personalities inside the wire who put the whole thing together and pulled it off.Brickhill does not romanticize the POW life. The POWs were half-starved, suffering from the effects of years of confinement, and in constant danger of provoking German retaliation. That so many sacrificed so much is a testament to all of them as human beings and as representatives of the Allied military effort.This book is very highly recommended to those readers interested in the POW experience and the real story behind "The Great Escape."

Great Reading

by eism

This was a wonderful book. A real page turner. Some familiarity with the movie, but this is much better. It is amazing to realize the author was actually there. This is a "must read" for any WW2 buff. The ingenuity and resolve of the prisoners is remarkable. It is an easy weekend read and heartily recommend it.

Stalag Breaks with Not Just Any Tom, Dick, or Harry

by George Coppedge

This is a true story, written by a man who was there, Paul Brickhill. The year is 1943, and thousands of Allied aircrews and soldiers find themselves forced as unwilling guests to endure German military hospitality. Led by Roger Bushell, hundreds of Allied officers, worked right under the Germans' noses to prepare and conduct the largest Allied POW escape during all of WWII. Though living on semi-starvation rations and locked up away from the world, these ingenious men craft tools from cans and odd bits of metal, sew suits and civilian clothes from uniforms and shoe polish, make mining equipment from bedboards and duffel bags, and create almost perfect forgeries of German IDs and travel documents. And they manage to do all this despite the very strenuous and determined efforts of their German guards to detect all this.The focal points of all this activity are the escape routes themselves - tunnels called Tom, Dick, and Harry. Rather than pinning all their hopes on a single tunnel, the prisoners start working on three tunnels simultaneously! Although they later give up their effort on two of these tunnels, their foresight later enables them to make their escape as their original tunnel was discovered and destroyed. These desperate men are playing a dangerous game as the German population and government is becoming increasingly embittered and bloodthirsty against Allied servicemen, especially aircrews that are systematically leveling German's cities.After almost a year of planning and preparing, the prisoners set the date for escape. Over 200 men are granted spots in the night's escape roster! They are dressed in their civilian clothes, carrying valid IDs and travel permits, using prisoner-mimeographed escape maps, holding plenty of Reichsmarks, and stocked with iron rations. Everything has been planned to the last detail. (How they managed to secure and/or make all this you will have to read to believe.) When they make their break, it will become the biggest manhunt in all of Nazi Germany's history!The TV show, Hogan's Heroes, is loosely based on this book with many of the personalities and ideas taken from Brickhill's book. What I enjoyed most about the book was the ingenuity and perseverance of these men to overcome such huge difficulties in organizing their unprecedented escape. The book is a breeze to read with the words flowing effortlessly across the page - I had it read in 3 - 4 days. It also has a few hand-drawn illustrations. Not just a great book, but also a true-life story of determination, dedication, and success!

A Classic POW Story....

by Grant Waara

What a wonderful book. I've read it a few times and I marvel at the every day heroism displayed by the hungry, sex-starved men of Stalag Luft III.My own copy is the First Edition, printed by Norton in 1950 and signed by George Harsh who wrote the Introduction. I got it for an astonishing $12 and it's one of the most treasured books in my collection.It's part memoir and historical account. You read as the POWs begin their audacious plan and despite for many of them, what would be a tragic ending, you marvel at what these men had to endure and go through.Despite the tragedy, this is no weepy account. This is a testimony to the human spirit which triumphs in the face of human isolation. They are prisoners true, but they in the end, are the ones to triumph over nazism.The movie of course, inspired me to read the book, but just remember that the movie's characters are fictional composites of the real men. It would do well to remember the old cliche, "the book is always better than the movie," which is entirely true in this case.A Wonderful Book.Read It.

A One-Volume Encyclopedia of an Unforgettable Thriller

by Jan Peczkis "Scholar and Thinker"

I first saw the movie as a child in the 1960's, and became fascinated with the subject, which lead me to this book. The details of the escape are described in minute detail. The drawings included, made by Kenyon, one of the camp artists, are very informative and clear. They show such things as the layout of the camp and its tunnels as well as the stooge system for protecting the forgers from approaching Germans.One can sense every emotion from Brickhill's writing: The cursing of the diggers when buried by sandfalls while excavating the tunnels, the frustration of those attempting to remove the outer cover of tunnel Harry's exit shaft, the shock of the discovery that Harry's exit was as much as 30 feet short of the woods, the fury of the Germans at discovery of the mass escape, etc. One can also see that the evacuation of 200 POWs through one tunnel in one night, even without setbacks (such as the air raid) turned out to be an impossible goal. Most men in the tunnel took much longer than 2-3 minutes to get through it. In fact, several got stuck several times.A major factor leading to the rapid capture of most of the "hardarsers" (those striking out on foot) was the snow on the ground. It forced most of the men to walk on or near the roads, where they were easily spotted and apprehended for questioning.Brickhill also devotes some detail to the pursuit of the German murderers of 50 of the escapees. He recounts the lack of cooperation of the Soviet-imposed Communist puppet government of Poland, in which the previously-German Stalag Luft III campsite had found itself after the establishment of the Oder-Neisse line as the postwar boundary of Poland. (Of course, Brickhill could not have foresawn the fact that after Communism fell in Poland after 45 years, the Polish officials were free to express an avid interest in the onetime site of the camp).


by Mark Wilsonwood

It's a shame the publisher decided to put a picture on the cover of Steve McQueen wrapped up in the barbed wire at the end of his big motorcycle escape attempt. Because, you see, that never happened in the TRUE story of the Great Escape contained in this book. The movie (while good) took serious dramatic license, while Brickhill's book presents the facts. And they are quite inspiring and thrilling enough without the addition of fictional elements such as McQueen's stunt riding.I first read this book while in elementary school, and was hooked to the extent that I've read it many times since over the decades. A truly outstanding story.

Incredible Bravery

by Paul Rooney "Paul Rooney"

The true story that inspired the movie.This is the attempt to have 250 men escape at one time from Stalag-Luft III by creating three tunnels at once.Due to circumstances only one was used and only 70 men escaped on the night.Of these 70 only three actually made it back to England with 50 of them being rounded up by the Gestapo and murdered. The remainder were returned to this camp or to concentration camps.The bravery and ingenuity of those involved is staggering. They constructed 250 compasses, moulding the casings from broken gramophone records and then adding needles and glass. The entire construction is detailed and is amazing.They moved hundreds of tons of sand, made bellows for moving fresh air about, forged papers. All this was done by scrounging and stealing the required materials. Then the talents of the prisoners were put to use in making what was required.This camp was the one where Eric Williams and colleagues escaped from and was immortalised in The Wooden Horse.The author Paul Brickhill was also a prisoner at this camp at this time but he did not partake in the tunnelling or escape due to his claustrophobia.This a a very moving tale of bravery and determination and another reminder why ANZAC Day is so important, - that we never forget -what previous generations have done for us.

Great story, weak presentation

by Stone Junction "The Suburban Hobo"

It's a rare thing indeed to discover a movie adaptation is actually better than the book that inspired it, but here it is: Paul Brickhill's THE GREAT ESCAPE is a great plot with no characters to speak of.Brickhill gives a firsthand account of the escape of 76 men from Sagan, a German prisoner-of-war camp, during World War II. Through tireless efforts and disheartening setbacks, the men managed to dig a lengthy tunnel 30 feet down into the earth, and 300 feet towards possible freedom. The plan, which originally called for three such tunnels, was the single largest escape in WWII history, and the efforts, patience, and bravery of the men secures their escape as one of the most noble efforts of man.What a pity, then, that THE GREAT ESCAPE is a fairly badly written first-hand narrative, related with all the style of a person making a grocery list. Brickhill has provided the bones of an amazing story, but he neglected to provide any meat along with them.The story couldn't help but lend itself to a fascinating read. The actions of these men could never be anything less than remarkable. But all Brickhill does is tell the story. He doesn't add any true characterization to the hundreds of people who pop in and out, resulting in a lack of empathy for these men. The reader is left wanting to know more, but is frustratingly denied the opportunity. Even the leader, Roger Bushell, is a cipher, easily interchangeable with any other character.It is easy to see why this story makes such fertile ground for a movie. The plot is astonishing, and the complete absence of any true personality leaves the filmmakers free to make up any character they want. Roger Bushell didn't escape from Sagan, Richard Attenborough did. So did Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson.I don't want to seem as if I am making light of the situation. THE GREAT ESCAPE was a shining example of what humanity can achieve under the most strenuous circumstances. But Brickhill doesn't provide us with any reason to care. The story unfolds with all the excitement and tension of someone telling of their day at work. Simplicity in storytelling can be a fine thing, but not where the story demands so much more.

A must read for fans of the movie

by T O'Brien

The Great Escape by Paul Brickhill is a great retelling of the now famous mass escape from Stalag Luft III near Sagan, Germany in the spring of 1944. Brickhill documents in great detail all the little things the prisoners had to do to escape from the so called "perfect camp" they had been placed in. Hundreds of prisoners played a part in the digging of the three tunnels(Tom, Dick, and Harry), forging hundreds of papers, making clothes for all the escapees, watching for the German guards, "ferrets", and so much more. It is astounding as you read the novel how much actually went into the mass escape of 250 officers. Unfortunately, only 76 prisoners made it out before the tunnel was discovered. The book also documents the aftermath of the famous escape as the prisoners attempt to make their way to freedom, and then their subsequent executions at the hands of the Gestapo and SS. This is an excellent book that tells the true story of what really happened during the Great Escape.If you haven't seen the movie The Great Escape, I highly recommend reading the book and watching the movie. While watching the movie, you can see what characters are based on the real people who took part in the escape. The movie takes some liberties, but it is an excellent companion to the book. An interesting fact is that author Paul Brickhill was one of thousands of prisoners at Stalag Luft III where he documented this incredible story. Also taking part in the movie was tunneller, Wally Floody, who served as a technical advisor to director/producer, John Sturges. For an excellent depiction of the famous mass escape from Stalag Luft III, check out The Great Escape, and the movie too!

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