Dad reviews: ‘The Great Escape from Stalag Luft III – The Memoir of Jens Müller’ and ‘Escape from Stalag Luft III: The True Story of my successful Great Escape – The Memoir of Bram Vanderstok’

Hello friends! I’ve been so behind on reading and reviewing and it’s driving me crazy. I have a stack of books generously given to me by Pen and Sword Books and they all sound fascinating but my motivation is currently lacking (I’m having the worst time focusing on any book of any genre right now). So to keep you guys in the loop, I’ve enlisted my dad to read some books so we can compare thoughts and ideas (when I eventually read them too). I did pop a quick poll up on my Instagram a wee while ago and you all seemed to want to hear what my dad thought of the books (apart from my sister who says she has to hear his thoughts too much at home).

My dad reads a lot of non-fiction History books and loves a good Ian Rankin novel – these are generally the go-to presents for Birthdays, Fathers Day and Christmases. I decided to lend him ‘The Great Escape from Stalag Luft III – The Memoir of Jens Müller’ and ‘Escape from Stalag Luft III: The True Story of my successful Great Escape – The Memoir of Bram Vanderstok’ because I knew he had a specific interest in that area and they are relatively short.
As far as I’m aware, only 3 men successfully escaped from Stalag Luft III, so it will be interesting to be able to read the personal accounts of 2 of them and see how similar or dissimilar their individual experiences were.

He read them both very quickly and thoroughly enjoyed them both (as expected). Apparently my dad is a man of few words though, so if you’re expecting long sweeping reviews you’ll be bitterly disappointed – this is basically all I got out of him (if he could send an emoji about them, it’d just be the thumbs up).

‘The Great Escape from Stalag Luft III – The Memoir of Jens Müller’

Jens Muller was one of only three men who successfully escaped from Stalag Luft III in March 1944–the break that later became the basis for the famous film The Great Escape. Together with Per Bergsland another Norwegian POW he stowed away on a ship to Gothenburg Sweden. The escapees sought out the British consulate and were flown from Stockholm to Scotland. From there they were sent by train to London and shortly afterwards to ‘Little Norway’ in Canada. Muller’s book about his wartime experiences was first published in Norwegian in 1946 titled Tre kom Tilbake (Three Came Back). This new edition is the first translation into English and will correct the impression–set by the film–that the men who escaped successfully were American and Australian. In a vivid informative memoir he details what life in the camp was like how the escapes were planned and executed and tells the story of his personal breakout and success reaching RAF Leuchars in Scotland.

Synopsis

This memoir is written fairly simply – stating what happened and the events that occurred in a fairly linear and structured way. It is the shorter of the two books, and Dad mentioned that the author didn’t come across as a ‘writer’, but he never professed to be one. I guess this adds to the charm and authenticity of the read – he was one of the 3 that got out and survived, and wanted to share his story. Overall, he said it was an interesting read. I honestly expected him to enjoy this one a little more since it hints to more links with Scotland.

‘Escape from Stalag Luft III: The True Story of my successful Great Escape – The Memoir of Bram Vanderstok’

On the night of March 24, 1944, Bram Vanderstok was number eighteen of seventy-six men who crawled beyond the barbed wire fence of Stalag Luft III in Zagan, Poland. The 1963 film The Great Escape, was largely based on this autobiography but-with Vanderstok’s agreement-filmmakers chose to turn his story into an Australian character named Sedgwick. His memoir sets down his wartime adventures before being incarcerated in Stalag Luft III and then in extraordinary detail describes various escape attempts which culminated with the famous March breakout. After escaping, Vanderstok roamed Europe for weeks, passing through Leipzig, Utrecht, Brussels, Paris, Dijon, and Madrid, before making it back to England. He reported to the Air Ministry and two months after escaping returned to the British No. 91 Squadron. In the following months he flew almost every day to France escorting bombers and knocking down V1 rockets. In August 1944 he finally returned to his home. He learned that his two brothers had been killed in concentration camps after being arrested for resistance work. His father had been tortured and blinded by the Gestapo during interrogation. He had never betrayed his son.

Synopsis

Unlike the other book this one was written as more of a reflection, with references to what happened but also what led up to the event, the authors thoughts and his feelings throughout. This account apparently had more of a ‘writers’ flow, with more emotive language and descriptions – you can guess this simply by noting it is thicker than the other account (it has 262 pages as opposed to 145). I believe that Dad enjoyed this account slightly more because of the fleshed out details and emotive writing.


I’ve yet to read them so I can’t personally comment on them or Dad’s thoughts, but a good thumbs up review from Dad normally means it is a good, solid read. I can’t wait to get round to them, share my own thoughts and see how they compare!
I plan on sharing more books with him, so hopefully there will be more of these posts and I can coax more than half a sentence from him (maybe).

If you’ve read them, let me know what you thought! Did you agree with my Dad? If not, why? And let me know if you want more of these types of post!

Much love,

Alison x

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