The best POW escape books of World War 2

Who am I?

My father, Squadron Leader Peter Stevens MC, died in 1979, when I was 22 years old, before I'd had the chance to speak with him man-to-man about his war. I later began researching his wartime exploits, which would consume a good part of 18 years of my life. I initially had no intention of writing a book; I just wanted to find the original document that recommended him for the Military Cross. I finally located it in Britain's National Archives in 2006. Along the way, I discovered that my father had actually been born a German Jew (he had told his immediate family in Canada that he was British and Anglican), and that some 15-20 family members had been murdered in the Holocaust. Further research showed that Dad had been the ONLY German-Jewish bomber pilot in the RAF, and that he had been the object of a country-wide manhunt by the British Police as a possible enemy spy. 


I wrote...

Escape, Evasion and Revenge

By Marc H. Stevens,

Book cover of Escape, Evasion and Revenge

What is my book about?

The true-life story of the only German-Jewish bomber pilot in the Royal Air Force during World War 2.  Georg Hein was sent to safety in London by his widowed mother in 1934; he committed identity theft in order to enlist at the outbreak of hostilities, stealing the name of a dead London high schoolmate, Peter Stevens.  He trained to become a bomber pilot, and flew 22 combat missions before his plane was damaged by flak over Berlin.

Captured by the Nazis 12 hours after he landed in a Dutch farmer's field, he spent the next 3 years and 8 months as a POW in his own country, without ANY protection whatsoever under the Geneva Convention.  Had the Nazis ever discovered his true identity, the consequences would have proven unpleasantly fatal.  Escape became his raison d'etre, and he made 9 escape attempts, getting outside the wire on three occasions. After the war, Stevens was one of only 69 members of RAF aircrew to be awarded Britain's Military Cross for gallantry in WW2. He went on to serve 5 years as an MI6 spy in East Germany at the height of the Cold War.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Moonless Night: Wartime Diary of a Great Escaper

Marc H. Stevens Why did I love this book?

This is the autobiography of the man I consider the most determined escaper of WW2. Jimmy James was a serial escaper. One of the 76 men who broke out of Stalag Luft 3 in The Great Escape, he was recaptured and was sent to Sachsenhausen concentration camp.  Using a spoon, he dug a tunnel and escaped from there!  This is one of the bravest stories I've ever read of determination to succeed at any cost.

By B.A. 'Jimmy' James,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Moonless Night as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the moment he was shot down to the final whistle, Jimmy James' one aim as a POW of the Germans was to escape.The Great Escaper describes his experiences and those of his fellow prisoners in the most gripping and thrilling manner. The author made more than 12 escape attempts including his participation in The Great Escape, where 50 of the 76 escapees were executed in cold blood on Hitler's orders.On re-capture, James was sent to the infamous Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp where, undeterred, he tunnelled out. That was not the end of his remarkable story.Moonless Night has strong claim to…


Book cover of A Gallant Company: The Men of the Great Escape

Marc H. Stevens Why did I love this book?

While Paul Brickhill's book was written by someone who was actually there during the escape, it is incomplete by necessity, since Brickhill was not himself privy to all of the secrets behind the scenes.  Professor Vance's book required a great deal of painstaking research to uncover the whole story of this most famous escape of World War 2. Brickhill's book gives the basics, Vance's gives every last minute detail.


By Jonathan Franklin William Vance,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Gallant Company as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A GALLANT COMPANY goes beyond the bestselling Great Escape by Paul Brickhill and tells the only full and complete account of the dramatic escape of Allied airmen from Stalag Luft III in World War II that was the basis for the hit movie The Great Escape starring Steve McQueen. Stalag Luft III was a specially built German prison camp designed to hold the most determined escapers - officers and men from the RAF. Their spectacularly daring escape plan was on an awe-inspiring scale: 650 prisoners working for an entire year to build the longest and most sophisticated tunnel under a…


Book cover of Under the Wire: The Wartime Memoir of a Spitfire Pilot, Legendary Escape Artist and "Cooler King"

Marc H. Stevens Why did I love this book?

One of the great "characters" of World War 2 escapes, "Tex" Ash was an American who travelled from his home state to Canada in order to enlist in the RCAF and fight the Nazis before the US entered the war.  A Spitfire pilot of great bravery, Ash was shot down and captured in France. His tale of wild and woolly escapes and escapades makes for a rollicking good read. Some might say that his story is too far-fetched to be true; I believe every word of it.

By William Ash, Brendan Foley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Under the Wire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Determined to take on the Nazis, Texan Bill Ash joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1939 and in so doing sacrificed his citizenship. Before long, he was sent to England wherehe flew Spitfires. Shot down over France in March 1942, he survived the crash-landing and, thanks to local civilians, evaded capture for months only to be betrayed to the Gestapo in Paris. Tortured and sentenced to death as a spy, he was saved from the firing squad by the Luftwaffe who sent him to the infamous 'Great Escape' POW camp, Stalag Luft III. It was from there that Bill…


Book cover of Free As a Running Fox

Marc H. Stevens Why did I love this book?

Tommy Calnan was as brave as they come.  Flying an unarmed Spitfire of the Photographic Reconnaissance Unit, Calnan's plane was hit by flak and set afire.  He bailed out, but was badly burned in the process. Barely surviving his wounds, including third-degree burns to his face and hands, Calnan spent several months recovering in a German hospital. One might think that he had done enough for the Allied cause, but despite his face being badly scarred, Calnan became a serial escaper of great courage and determination.

By T.D. Calnan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Free As a Running Fox as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

5-5


Book cover of The Camera Became My Passport Home

Marc H. Stevens Why did I love this book?

Not strictly speaking just an escape book, this is a highly personal memoir of one American prisoner at Stalag Luft 3. But it also includes much previously unpublished material about The Great Escape and the various participants, including many who never got near the tunnel. A work that encompasses some 30-40 years of research, it includes many private photographs of people and memorabilia that cannot be found in any other source. A great deal of the material came from the POWs themselves, mostly through private correspondence with the authors.

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Book cover of An Italian Feast: The Celebrated Provincial Cuisines of Italy from Como to Palermo

Clifford A. Wright Author Of An Italian Feast: The Celebrated Provincial Cuisines of Italy from Como to Palermo

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Author Philosopher Historian Researcher Gastronomer Bibliophile and reviewer

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What is my book about?

An Italian Feast celebrates the cuisines of the Italian provinces from Como to Palermo. A culinary guide and book of ready reference meant to be the most comprehensive book on Italian cuisine, and it includes over 800 recipes from the 109 provinces of Italy's 20 regions.

An Italian Feast is a gastronomy about Italian culinary history and consciousness, about how Italians cook, eat, and how their food is an intimate part of their culture. It is the first book in any language to comprehensively explore the gastronomy and cuisine not just of Italy, and not just the regions of Italy, but all 109 provinces of Italy, linking each with each other in terms of history, agriculture, economics, and the material culture of creative food illustrated with recipes.

An Italian Feast: The Celebrated Provincial Cuisines of Italy from Como to Palermo

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