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  • A Great Intelligence Asset

    ROGER BUSHELL: A GREAT INTELLIGENCE ASSET. LET’S HOPE THE GOVERNMENT WILL ONE DAY EXPLAIN WHAT REALLY HAPPENED AND THE ESCAPE’S IMPACT ON THE WAR An appreciation by Phillip Taylor MBE and Elizabeth Taylor of Richmond Green Chambers Most people are familiar with the story of ‘The Great Escape’ from the book written by Paul Brickhill which was permitted to be published in 1950, and the later blockbuster film produced in 1963- ‘a good film’ said Sydney Dowse, but a film nonetheless. What most people do not realise are the surprising efforts made by the government initially to prevent publication of the story, and the continued secrecy surrounding what went on after the escape in March 1944 as D Day and the end of the war approached. Anthony Eden made a statement in the Commons committing the British government to find and punish the murderers of the fifty airmen, including Bushell, involved in the escape. “The Great Escaper” is the first full biography of Bushell. It’s an uplifting statement of what can be achieved against the greatest odds, and with such sad turns of event thrown in along the way, all of which are unfortunately true. Simon Pearson’s work will remain the definitive account for many years to come until the remaining official papers are eventually released in the middle of this century possibly, if at all, if the public are going to be allowed to see them. Pearson has produced an excellent, well researched and documented account of a most remarkable man taken from the papers in the IWM Bushell archive now available, and substantial interviews. What we have with the biography is a much more rounded picture of Roger as a man: a most useful portrait as so few people remain alive who knew him, and after the various smatterings of the story appeared in other books. Brickhill had much trouble publishing his book at the end of the war. The nobbled, probably fake, dispatches originating from Sweden, printed in “The Daily Telegraph” using most ridiculous aliases like ‘Wing Commander Smith’, have unfortunately assisted the build-up of some silly myths about “Operation 200” or The “Great Escape” as it is now known. The question really is what the security services still have to protect (or hide) as only two escapers are actually alive as we write this review in May 2015 and disclosure would be historically fascinating to read. M19 will, we hope, one day open up all the files, especially on the early part of Roger’s imprisonment in Germany as the public should know more about this man and the exceptional people involved, some of whom we have met. The other uncomfortable issue which remains is the lack of a proper award for Bushell and Pearson covers this sensitively. It is evident to many that Bushell deserved a DSO for the brilliance of this operation (with only the occasional moaner mentioned in the book) but he didn’t get it or any proper recognition for the achievement of “Operation 200”: 3 airmen got home. What Bushell did for us, now partly explained over 100 years since his birth and 70 years on from the breakout is worth much more than any medal. Unfortunately there are still so many things missing in this story, especially covering its important intelligence aspects, including Bushell’s time in Prague of which there has been some discovery of further information but much more still hidden. One thing is for sure, the story of “The Great Escape” will not go away. To meet the people involved, and go to the places where these events took place opens up this valiant story to the very hearts of courage and inspiration displayed by the participants and given to many readers in new generations interested in military history… and rightly so. Like visiting the Moon in 1969, it’s scarcely possible for some to comprehend how “Operation 200” was conceived and conducted unless you have been there: but it was and there’s a museum at Zagan. We will get some fascinating answers one day to complete the generous picture painted by Pearson of this most remarkable and likeable barrister from Lincoln’s Inn. Thank you… this story is to be continued (one day) if MI9 permit!

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