Fascinating tales leading up to the historic ‘Great Escape’ effort during the Second World War were shared with a select crowd in Ufton on Saturday.
In the week of the 70th anniversary of the 1944 escape from the prisoner of war camp Stalag Luft III in south west Germany, The Times’ obituaries and letters editor Simon Pearson joined members of the regular Men’s Breakfast event at Ufton village hall on Saturday to speak about his book, The Great Escaper, the Life and Death of Roger Bushell: Love, Betrayal, Big X and the Great Escape.
The book is the first biography of Squadron Leader Roger Bushell - widely known as ‘Big X’ - whose family gave Mr Pearson exclusive rights to the Bushell archive at the Imperial War Museum.
Speaking after the event, Men’s Breakfast organiser Ian Crowther said: “Simon’s talk was enthralling. It was so fascinating that he had decided that there was more to the story than what was available in archive material, so he wrote to the Imperial War Musum to ask for more information and, as a result, he went to South Africa to find out all about Roger Bushell.”
Mr Pearson, whose father served with the Royal Air Force during the Second World War, also travelled to Poland, the Czech Republic and around the UK for his research.
The escape - which was portrayed in a Hollywood film starring Richard Attenborough - took place on March 24 to 25 1944 following an operation led by Bushell in which prisoners dug three 30ft deep tunnels out of the camp. Only three officers made it out.
Surplus proceeds from the Men’s Breakfast event are split between the charity of the speaker’s choice and St Michael’s and All Angels church in Ufton. Last Saturday’s event resulted in £25 being donated to Mr Pearson’s chosen charity Spires, which supports homeless people in Streatham, and another £25 towards the church.