WILLIAM ASH (with Brendan Foley)
Bill Ash led a highly unusual life. Brought up in Depression-scarred Texas his left-wing, anti-fascist leanings led him to join the Royal Canadian Air Force at the beginning of war (he was forced to renounce his US citizenship at the same time). Shot down while flying a Spitfire over the Pas de Calais, Ash went on the run but was captured and tortured by the Gestapo and only saved from the firing squad through Luftwaffe intervention. After the war he settled in England and eventually became a radio producer for the BBC. But it was his time in various German prison camps that forms the central part of this engagingly written account as one of the top Stalag Luft escapers – apparently the inspiration for the Steve McQueen character from The Great Escape. Although he never achieved a ‘home run’ he was a constant thorn in the Germans’ side, his modesty only exceeded by his bravery.