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The True Story of the Great Escape (Paperback)

Stalag Luft III, March 1944

WWII Greenhill Books Greenhill: WWII Prisoners Of War Hitler & the Third Reich

By Professor Jonathan Vance
Greenhill Books
Pages: 368
ISBN: 9781784384388
Published: 4th March 2019


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National publicity!

As featured in the Daily Express, March 2019: 'The Great Escape – The truth behind the iconic World War 2 film.'

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'It shows the variety and depth of the men sent into harms way during World War II, something emphasised by the population of Stalag Luft III. Most of the Allied POWs were flyers, with all the technical, tactical and planning skills that profession requires. Such men are independent thinkers, craving open air and wide-open spaces, which meant than an obsession with escape was almost inevitable' - John D Gresham

Between dusk and dawn on the night of March 24th-25th 1944, a small army of Allied soldiers crawled through tunnels in Germany in a covert operation the likes of which the Third Reich had never seen before.

The prison break from Stalag Luft III in eastern Germany was the largest of its kind in World War II. Seventy nine Allied soldiers and airmen made it outside the wire - but only three made it outside Nazi Germany. Fifty were executed by the Gestapo.

Jonathan Vance tells the incredible story that was made famous by the 1963 film, The Great Escape. The escape is a classic tale of prisoner and their wardens in a battle of wits and wills. The brilliantly conceived escape plan is overshadowed only by the colourful, daring (and sometimes very funny) crew who executed it - literally under the noses of German guards.

From their first days in Stalag Luft III and the forming of bonds key to such exploits, to the tunnel building, amazing escape and eventual capture, Vance's history is a vivid, compelling look at one of the greatest 'exfiltration' missions of all time.

I believe this particularly well-researched book will stand the test of time and scrutiny by scholars and normal readers alike and in the end this book will be the gold standard for the Great Escape's history.

Read the full review here

Argunners, Christopher 'Moon' Mullins

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I am speechless. I honestly think this book is an amazing tribute to the soldiers involved and what they had to endure in their bid for freedom.
It was an atmospheric, beautifully written in its harshness, tale of heroism during WW2.
A must read and highly recommended.

NetGalley, reviewed by Sue Blanchard

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I've read a lot about the Second World War this year namely the rise and fall of the third reich and the Nuremberg trials so it was fascinating to read about the great escape from the viewpoint of the officers.
This was a highly entertaining read and I would definitely recommend!

NetGalley, reviewed by Serena Casey

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book is fascinating, sad and very accessible for anyone who thinks that military history is dry as dust!

This book is superb, Professor Vance!

NetGalley, reviewed by Sue Thomas

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

...if you love WWII history, snatch up on it! I watched the movie The Great Escape and even though it was good, it didn't touch the book.

Kudos to the author for bringing the prison break of Stalag Luft III to print!

NetGalley, reviewed by Loretta Runyon

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in escape literature or the Second World War and feel it is an excellent book to introduce a new generation of school boys and school girls to what truly was a “Gallant Company of Men”.

NetGalley, reviewed by Bev Walkling

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is a very human story, from the pilots to the prison guards, Vance refuses to let us imagine any of them as stereotypes from a movie.

Poignant and powerful, The True Story of the Great Escape is a must read for any history lover.

NetGalley, Anne Morgan

As featured in

The Mirror 24/3/19

As featured in

Daily Express 21/3/19

As featured by

The Armourer, April 2019

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is a very well written account and is told in a logical fashion. It is not overly technical, so anyone with an interest in WWII or just history in general will enjoy it. It is fascinating.

NetGalley, reviewed by Joyce Fox

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Would I recommend it? Yes it's a story that needs to be told and read.

NetGalley, reviewed by Elizabeth Means

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

An informative, well written account of the infamous Great Escape. Also has lots of accounts of preceding and following escape attempts that were also made. Easy to read and told the stories vividly and well.

NetGalley, reviewed by Sarah Stirrup

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book does tell the full true story of the planning and taking place of the escape along with what happened to the escapees with fifty of them bring murdered. The author has also got to know those who took part in the escape and it is this which is the difference with other books that I have read on the subject.

The book is well written and contains many nuggets of information that will interest the reader.

Thoroughly recommended.

NetGalley, reviewed by Lee Carson

This is a very interesting book that highlights the tenacity of captured airmen during WWII to escape from POW camps run by the Germans. The detail of the story telling is very complete and shows a great amount of research that went into writing this book.

NetGalley, reviewed by Lisa Farr

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I am an avid reader of WWII historical novels and was so excited for the opportunity to read this one by Professor Vance from NetGalley. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in reading a completely different angle of looking at WWII outside of the Jewish perspective. I can’t count the number of novels I’ve read about WWII, but never have I had the opportunity to see it from the officer’s side. Years ago I watched the Great Escape, but I will certainly be watching it again now that I understand how much truly went into the digging of the tunnels and the prep work for the Great Escape.

I loved this book, could not wait to get back to it when I had to do something else, like work, and had a hard time putting it down. This is one you need to read slow and get the full meaning of what is happening because there is a LOT going on and many people are introduced in this story due to the dynamics of what it is covering. I truly appreciated the background he gave on the flyers, and how they arrived in the camp. As always, I am utterly appalled at the German’s and how they ignored the rules of war. The ending was fantastic, it tidied up the trials and gave us a brief synopsis of the ones that survived. This is a great book, everyone should read this, these flyers were brave, courageous heroes and all they wanted to do was to go home. Showing the talents and expertise it took from such a diversity of men to accomplish this enormous task was remarkable. Great book!!!!

NetGalley, reviewed by Teresa Young

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The book has fascinating detail. I always loved the movie Vance does a great job exploring the individuals involved. Well worth the read.

NetGalley, reviewed by Anthony Philo

As featured in

The Bookseller Buyers Guide

About Professor Jonathan Vance

Professor Jonathan Vance teaches military history and Canadian history at Western University, Canada. He is the author of more than 10 acclaimed works, including Maple Leaf Empire: Canada, Britain and Two World Wars (Oxford University Press) and The Great War: From Memory to History. (Wilfrid Laurier University Press)

Perfect Partner

The Great Escape from Stalag Luft III The Memoir of Jens Müller (Hardback)

'The Great Escape was far more than a Hollywood film; it was an aggressive campaign waged by Allied prisoners against the Nazi security forces in their own back yard - and Jens Müller was a key player. His memoir is a must read for anyone interested in this gripping episode of the Second World War.' Simon Pearson, author of The Great Escaper: The Life and Death of Roger Bushell Jens Müller was one of only three men who successfully escaped from Stalag Luft III in March 1944 - the break that later became the basis for the famous film The Great Escape. Müller was no. 43 of the 76 prisoners of…

By Jens Müller, Jon Muller, Asgeir Ueland

Click here to buy both titles for £23.98
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