The Great Escape

by Paul Brickhill
255 pages, Biography/History
Reviewed by Ariel_of_Narnia

A piece of history well-written, though sprinkled with mild language and some vague sexual content.


Stalag Luft III was the new home for many Allied officers. For many of these, the new camp meant more time surrounded by barbed wire and nosy guards. One man unites a good number of these prisoners into a common goal: escape.


Some men distract German guards with kindly gestures. A few others blackmail at least one guard. There are cases of stealing useful items from the Germans. All of these are seen in the light of prisoners of war desperate to escape.
The prisoners have a general care for each other and the escape plan, even if sometimes it's communicated harshly.

Spiritual Content

"Act of God" and "grace of God" are uttered when a few certain events take place. There is a "church room" in one of the huts. Some men joke about an act of faith and walking on water. There are a couple instances of quoting Scripture: one is a joking reference to the meek inheriting the earth, the other an ignorant and unrealized quotation, complete with Jesus' name (used in this case as an expletive).

The Germans bring in a so-called "tunnel diviner" (though it's not clear how exactly he does his job).


A ski accident is related in the first paragraph.
There is a little description of an air-fight, complete with spinning planes, smoking engines, and a man's capture. Captured men are met with guns. There are cases of trigger-happy Germans. A man was immediately killed when he was accidentally run over by a truck. Another prisoner is shot in the mouth. Some are shot in the back. Four suicides are attempted, and three of them are successful.

Some amount of rough-housing, a few accidents, other "accidents".

Hitler ordered the shooting of a number of officers. One officer hangs himself. One Gestapo was said to take pleasure in his executions and his favorite method was to take victims into his room and flog them to death.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Liquor is at one point considered an "important" thing by the author. The prisoners make raisin wine and imitation rye whiskey on occasion, also moonshine for July 4. One raisin-wine party makes a man tipsy. The Germans give the prisoners (on rare occasions) imitation beer that is compared to horses' waste.

Sexual Content

Some men were naked (for non-sexual reasons) while they tunneled.

Sex is at one point considered an "important" thing by the author, though he leaves it at that.
At one point, it's said that "here and there, a bottom peeped pale and unashamed out of obsolete pants". There is one mention of German guards searching prisoners "even to the extent of looking into embarrassing parts of the body".
One man's expression is described to be "as though he'd been found in a girls' school without his pants". A couple strip-searches take place (absolutely nothing explicit).

A veiled reference to a man seeing another relieve himself. A few prisoners were placed in what used to be Dachau's brothel.

Two Gestapo officers apparently had affairs and ran off with their mistresses. Other German officers were said to be in the habit of stripping typists at drunken parties. An artist had captured that spirit by painting a mural of satyrs holding naked girls.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

It is mentioned that Bushnell was able to swear fluently in three languages by the age of six. Several uses of "h***" and "d***", a couple of the latter paired with God's name. Some uses "bas****". A couple uses of "a**". Some uses of the British profanity "bloody". "Son of a *****" is used several times. Some unidentified swearing. Some misuses of God's and Jesus' names, including an instance of it in German.


I greatly enjoyed this book. This eyewitness account is written in an easy-to-follow narrative that chronicles the hardships and victories of these men. Details help build the infrastructure of The Great Escape, an event that cost Germany time, resources, and manpower during the Second World War. As indicated above, however, there is obviously significant content that may make this book inappropriate for readers under 13.

Fun Score: 4.5
Values Score: 3.5
Written for Age: adult

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