A True Story of the Great Escape

Reviewed By  Janet Mawdesley       October 27, 2015


Author  Louise Williams

ISBN:                 9781743313893
Publisher:         Allen & Unwin
Release Date:    

Website:    http://www.allenandunwin.com 

So many of us, regardless of what generation we are from have heard in one form another, the story of the boldest escape ever attempted during World War II and the disastrous repercussion. That the real story is nowhere near as glamorous as Hollywood created in ‘The Great Escape’, is told as it should be, through the journals of history and by doing so, has been handed back to the families involved.

Louise Williams has spent many years researching the life of her Uncle John, who was a fighter pilot with the RAF and then RAAF during World War 2, serving in most of the chambers of war. He was shot down over the deserts of Libya and Egypt, becoming a prisoner at what was to become the notorious Stalag Luft 111, a camp that held pilots from all countries, mostly officers; all very bright, bored young men, and gave them very little to do.

That they should come up with an escape plan like no other was only to be expected.

John Williams and his mate Rusty Keirath were two of the 76 men who escaped the camp which was supposed to be escape proof, two of the 73 men who were later recaptured and the two of the 50 shot to death by the Gestapo, in what was, on paper a supposed attempt to escape once again.

Her diligence and perseverance has produced a story that details the life of John Williams, from his birth in New Zealand to his death in Germany at the age of 26, a young man who had seen too much but still had much to give.

It presents in detail the chance occurrence and contact which set her to wondering just why the family never really knew what had happened to John and what other stories were long in waiting to be discovered about her Uncle and the men with which he escaped and served.

In so very many ways the story sets out the very human face of the hopelessness of war; the funny, the challenging, the spirit that has made Australians respected as soldiers and airmen to this day, as well as the heartbreak and heartache that becomes an integral component of any family who has their young men serving in foreign countries.

Told with love, compassion and understanding Louise Williams has written a powerful, emotive and informative story that is without doubt one of the bravest and most astonishing chapters of a war that did change the world forever.