A True Story of the Great Escape: A young Australian POW in the most audacious breakout of WWII

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Allen & Unwin, Aug 26, 2015 - Biography & Autobiography - 296 pages
Shot down in 1942, young Australian fighter pilot John Williams DFC became a POW in the notorious Stalag Luft III camp in Germany. John had joined the air force shortly before the outbreak of war and, in the larrikin tradition, led his squadron into air combat over the deserts of Libya and Egypt dressed in sandals and shorts.

John and his best mate Rusty Kierath were among the 76 POWs who tunnelled their way out of the supposedly escape-proof camp under the noses of their German guards in what later became the Hollywood blockbuster, The Great Escape. Their families never learned what really happened once the pair made it out into the forest.

John's niece Louise Williams has pieced together his life, from his upbringing in a tight-knit family hit hard by the Depression, to his exploits in the air, and the many missing details of the tragic escape. It is a powerful and intimate story of one of the most dramatic episodes of World War II.

'A riveting tale, superbly told' - Peter FitzSimons, author and journalist

'A brilliant achievement. Louise Williams reminds us that the story of the Great Escape should not be owned by Hollywood, but rather by the families of those who made the greatest sacrifice.' - Guy Walters, author of The Real Great Escape
 

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Contents

Introduction
1
1 The Lost Letter
3
2 The Other Side of the Wire
7
3 How to Tell a True War Story
15
4 Great Expectations the Making of a Young Man
17
5 The Next Leg
27
6 Introducing Michal
34
7 Paradise on Sea
39
23 Flipping the Bird
158
24 A Big Flap
161
25 While We Still Have Breath in Our Bodies
168
26 Down But Not Out
174
27 The Face of the Enemy
178
28 In the Bag
186
29 Big X
193
30 Second Time Unlucky
197

8 In Search of a Decent Education
47
9 The Arrest
55
10 The Rise of an Aussie Icon
58
11 Choosing the Future
67
12 The Mother Country
72
13 Ivo Tonder The Last Glimpse
77
14 In Search of the Elusive English Gentleman
81
15 Scotland and the Brave
95
16 The First POW
104
17 The Australians are Coming
108
18 Out in Africa
115
19 A Tale of Two Men and Two Messes
126
20 To War in the Desert
135
21 Reunion
146
22 Holding Your Nerve
152
31 The Swimming Pool
200
32 Another German Friend
207
33 Cooking and Carpentry
211
34 A Ticket in the Lottery
220
35 Shuffling the Cards
223
36 The Bereaved Mothers Badge
230
37 In Memoriam
236
38 Surfing at Manly
244
Postscript the Lost Letter Found
247
Notes
248
Bibliography
272
Acknowledgements
275
Index
277
Back cover
285
Copyright

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About the author (2015)

Louise Williams is an award-winning writer, journalist and editor, and niece of John Williams. She has recreated John's story from family memories, letters, declassified documents, oral histories and interviews with survivors of the Great Escape.

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