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  • Hodder Paperbacks
  • Hodder & Stoughton

The Great Escaper: The Life and Death of Roger Bushell

Simon Pearson

8 Reviews

Rated 0

Extraordinary Lives, Ext, Biography: general, Biography: historical, political & military, Prose: non-fiction, Second World War

The thrilling true story that formed the basis of the film, The Great Escape.

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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Praise for The Great Escaper: The Life and Death of Roger Bushell

  • This gripping biography... Pearson has done uncommonly well in this, his first book, to unearth so much. - Sunday Times - Max Hastings

  • Told with wonderful relish by Simon Pearson, who has undoubtedly produced the definitive biography of Bushell. - Daily Express

  • 'The Great Escaper is a compelling narrative, one which paints a convincing picture of a true war hero.' - The Times - Allan Mallinson

  • Pearson's biography of Roger Bushell is as gripping as it is informative and wonderful. - Huffington Post

  • This gripping biography... Pearson has done uncommonly well in this, his first book, to unearth so much. - Sunday Times - Max Hastings

  • Told with wonderful relish by Simon Pearson, who has undoubtedly produced the definitive biography of Bushell. - Daily Express

  • 'The Great Escaper is a compelling narrative, one which paints a convincing picture of a true war hero.' - The Times - Allan Mallinson

  • Pearson's biography of Roger Bushell is as gripping as it is informative and wonderful. - Huffington Post

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Simon Pearson

Ed Gorman and Simon Pearson are both journalists and published authors. Ed is a veteran news and war correspondent, who worked for The Times for 25 years and who recently published an autobiographical memoir, Death of a Translator. Simon is a journalist and author who worked for The Times for more than 30 years. He wrote The Great Escaper, a biography of Roger Bushell, "Big X" of Stalag Luft III, which was published by Hodder & Stoughton in 2013 and became a top-10 bestseller.

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