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.
'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
Allen & Unwin
Country of Publication:
29 March 2017
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
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.
Reviews for A True Story of the Great Escape: A young Australian POW in the most audacious breakout of WWII
A riveting tale, superbly told. --Peter FitzSimons, author, Gallipoli