The Great Escaper - The Life and Death of Roger Bushell

28 March 2014

Roger Bushell

In the week of the 70th anniversary of “the Great Escape” from Stalag Luft III, the author and journalist Simon Pearson will recount the life and times of Squadron Leader Roger Bushell,  the officer known as “Big X” who engineered the mass breakout of Allied officers on the night of March 24-25, 1944.

The escape, immortalised in the Hollywood film in which Richard Attenborough plays the role of Big X, enraged Adolf Hitler and disrupted the Germans on the home front – just as Roger Bushell,  working with British intelligence, had intended.

Pearson’s book – “The Great Escaper, the Life and Death of Roger Bushell: Love, Betrayal, Big X and the Great Escape” – is the first biography of Squadron Leader Bushell, whose family gave the author exclusive rights  to the Bushell archive at the Imperial War Museum and encouraged him to write the book.

 Drawing on material in the archive, as well as new research in Poland, the Czech Republic, South Africa and the UK,  Pearson tells the story of a man described by his commanding officer as “one of the greatest of his generation”.

Born and brought up in South Africa, Bushell was sent to school in England, studied law at Cambridge,  and became a London barrister – as well as an international skier and  fighter pilot with a compelling love life.  

After being shot down in May 1940, Bushell escaped three times, spending eight months with the Czech resistance in Prague during the build-up to the assassination of the SS chief Reinhard Heydrich.  After being recaptured and sent to Stalag Luft III, he waged an unconventional war on the Nazis, leading an international brigade of prisoners who became one of the most belligerent, imaginative and mischievous “armies” ever to confront Hitler’s “monstrous tyranny”.

Simon Pearson is the Obituaries and Letters Editor of The Times, which he joined in 1986. His interest in military history was stimulated by his father, who served with the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. Pearson, who is 56, lives with his wife, Fiona, and their three sons in south London.


This lecture begins at 2pm in the Museum Lecture Theatre and is free of charge - to book your place please click here

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