On the night of March 24, 1944, eighty Commonwealth airmen crawled through a 400-foot-long tunnel, code-named “Harry,” and most slipped into the darkness of a pine forest beyond the wire of Stalag Luft III, a German prisoner-of-war compound near Sagan, Poland. The event became known as The Great Escape.The breakout, more than a year in the making, involved about 2,000 POWs and a battle of wits inconceivable for its time. Within days of the escape, however, all but three escapers were recaptured; subsequently, Adolf Hitler ordered fifty of them murdered, cremated, and buried in a remote corner of the same prison compound.
What most casual readers, history buffs, moviegoers, and even some who participated, don’t readily acknowledge is that The Great Escape was in many ways “made-in-Canada.” In The Great Escape: A Canadian Story, bestselling author Ted Barris recounts this nearly mythical escape operation through the voices of those involved, many of whom trained in Canada, served in RCAF bomber and fighter squadrons, were shot down over Europe, imprisoned at Stalag Luft III, and ultimately became co-conspirators in the actual Great Escape. Based on his original interviews, research, and assembly of memoirs, letters, diaries, and personal photos, Ted Barris reveals that many of the escape’s key players – the tunnel designer, excavators, forgers, scroungers, security and intelligence personnel, custodian of the secret radio, and scores of security “stooges” and sand-dispersal “penguins” – were all Canadians. The book reads like a Hollywood movie, but is, in fact, the true story!
Ted Barris is an accomplished author, journalist, and broadcaster. As well as hosting stints on CBC Radio and regular contributions to the National Post, and various national magazines, he is a full-time professor of journalism and broadcasting at Centennial College in Toronto. Barris has authored seventeen non-fiction books. In 2011 he received the Canadian Minister of Veterans’ Affairs Commendation and in 2012 the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.