Stalag Luft III...

 

...the German POW Camp that inspired the Great Escape, more Images of War from Pen and Sword

 

Title: Stalag Luft III

Author: Charles Messenger

Publisher: Greenhill Books

ISBN: 978-1-78438-446-3

This is the 75th anniversary year of the Great Escape, even better known perhaps by the popular film starring Steve McQueen and his famous motorbike jump over the barbed wire fence as he tried to cross the border. The terrible consequence of the real escape, and as told in the film, was the murder of 50 of the 76 escapers who were recaptured. Perhaps many who know of this escape from Stalag Luft III may not associate another famous escape, and an earlier film, using The Wooden Horse, a successful escape of 3 inmates also from the same camp.

The author, Charles Messenger, is a well known historian and he has done another excellent job with this photo history of this famous POW camp near Sagen. The background is given in an Introduction which does include some aerial images of the camp taken during the war, along with maps showing where it was, south-east of Berlin. The main body of the book is then divided into 10 chapters all filled with appropriate archive photos and informative captions. The first looks at the arrangement of The Camp itself. That's followed by a look at 'The Germans', the Commandant and the 'Ferrets'. External Agencies and Prisoner Welfare tells us about the role of the Swiss Government as the Protecting Power, as laid down in the Geneva Convention, and the invaluable support of the International Red Cross.

Chapter 4 shows us details of Daily Life in the camp, and this is followed by details of a number of Prisoner Personalities, which does of course include more about Squadron Leader Roger Bushell, who became known as 'Big X', and who became one of the 50 men murdered in the aftermath of the Great Escape. Chapter 6 considers the 'Intelligence War', and how important it was to both sides, the prisoners and the guards. Then a look at the general topic of Escaping before chapter 8 looks at the Two Famous Escapes, the Wooden Horse and The Great Escape itself. That is naturally followed by The Great Escape Aftermath, the murders, memorials and the hunt for the murderers at the end of the war, to bring them to justice. This also includes a few images from The Long March, when the Stalag Luft III, like many other POW camps, was evacuated as the Russian Offensives threatened them.

The final chapter shows us The Camp Today. The camp itself is long gone, but there is a modern museum, The POW Camps Museum, which includes reconstruction of a hut, a guard tower and a section of perimeter fence. It includes colour images of the replica hut and the internal arrangements, along with a model of the camp which was also used in making the famous film. Recovered artefacts are also on display, forks and spoons issued to the prisoners, remnants of burned documents and at the end, the memorial to the 50 murdered men, along with the headstone markers including Roger Bushell. An excellent addition to this series and fascinating for anyone interested in the 2 films and the history of the POW camps in Germany during the war.

Thanks to Pen and Sword for this review copy.

Robin