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A True Story of the Great Escape : A Young Australian POW in the Most Audacious Breakout of WWII - Louise Williams

A True Story of the Great Escape

A Young Australian POW in the Most Audacious Breakout of WWII

Paperback Published: 1st September 2015
ISBN: 9781743313893
Number Of Pages: 296

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The first book to tell the story of an Australian POW in the famous Great Escape from Stalag Luft III in World War II, this is a moving account of the far too short life of a talented young man and a family hit hard by the Depression and war.

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.

About the Author

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.


Great Read


Not your bog standard war story for boys,beautifully told with the skill of great story telling about a young man from the northern beaches of Sydney who ended up in a WW2 POW camp.

New Zealand


A wonderful book


A new look at a famous event through the eyes of the family of one of the key characters



Misleading title.


If you are looking for a detailed account of life as a POW in WWII and escape from Stalag Luft III, then this is not the book to read. I bought this book expecting exactly that, as the title suggests, a vivid and detailed account of escape from Stalag Left III. However, you need to read two hundred pages to get to the point John Williams becomes a POW and even then, there is relatively little about his escape. It is, as others have explained, a life story of a young Australian, who surfed at Manly in Sydney, Australia., became a fighter pilot and was shot down and became a POW. That is the majority of the book. However, the story is not told chronologically, as my last sentence suggests. It is told as three stories, childhood, flying careered POW, jumping from one to the other almost on the same page, and what I found most irritating was each separate part was told in a different tense, including the dreadful use to the trendy present continuous'. If you want to read about the escape from Stalag Luft III, try reading the story as written by another Australian Pilot who was actually there. Paul Brickhill.

Torquay, Australia.


A heart rending but truly uplifting story beautifully told.


This is an incredible story of survival and ultimate loss set against an antipodean upbringing embracing rugby and surfing and touching upon incidents in Africa, the desert war and the ultimate misfortune at Stalag Luft 3.



Extremely well written and researched. Hard to put down.


Historical biography which is enriched by meticulous research and skilful and lyrical writing.

ex Sydney


A beautiful story


A new take on a famous event, worth reading! Craig, Sydney

Sydney, Australia


A True Story of the Great Escape

4.3 6


'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

Introduction..1 The lost letter..2 The other side of the wire..3 How to tell a true war story..4 Great expectations - the making of a young man..5 The next leg..6 Introducing Michal..7 Paradise on sea..8 In search of a decent education..9 The arrest..10 The rise of an Aussie icon..11 Choosing the future..12 The mother country..13 Ivo Tonder - the last glimpse..14 In search of the elusive English gentleman..15 Scotland, and the brave..16 The first POW..17 The Australians are coming..18 Out in Africa..19 A tale of two men and two messes..20 To war in the desert..21 Reunion..22 Holding your nerve..23 Flipping the bird..24 A big flap..25 While we still have breath in our bodies..26 Down but not out..27 The face of the enemy..28 In the bag..29 Big X..30 Second time unlucky..31 The swimming pool..32 Another German friend..33 Cooking and carpentry..34 A ticket in the lottery..35 Shuffling the cards..36 The bereaved mother's badge..37 In Memoriam..38 Surfing at Manly..Postscript - the lost letter, found..Notes..Bibliography..Acknowledgements..Index

ISBN: 9781743313893
ISBN-10: 1743313896
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 296
Published: 1st September 2015
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Country of Publication: AU
Dimensions (cm): 23.4 x 15.3  x 2.54
Weight (kg): 0.41