Roger Bushell

Roger Bushell

Squadron Leader Roger Joyce Bushell RAF (August 30, 1910 - March 29, 1944) was a South African born Auxiliary Air Force pilot in Britain who organized and led the famous escape from the Nazi prisoner of war camp, Stalag Luft III. The escape was later used as the basis for the film "The Great Escape". The character played by Richard Attenborough, Roger Bartlett, is modeled after Roger Bushell.

Birth and early life

Bushell was born in Springs, Transvaal, South Africa on 30 August 1910 to Benjamin Daniel and Dorothy Wingate White. Bushell was educated at home, Park Town School, and then Wellington College in England. In 1929, Bushell matriculated to Pembroke College, Cambridge to read law.

Bushell was keen to pursue non-academic interests from an early age. Roger Bushell excelled in athletics and represented Cambridge in skiing.


One of Bushell's passions and talents was skiing: in the early 1930s he was declared the fastest Briton in the Male Downhill category. He even had a black run named after him in Switzerland. This naming was in recognition of the fact that he had set the fastest time to complete the run.

At an event in Canada Bushell had an accident in which one of his skis narrowly missed his left eye, leaving him with a gash in the corner of it. Although Bushell recovered from this accident he still had a dark drooping in his left eye due to scarring from his stitches.


RAF Auxiliary and Legal Career

Despite his sporting prospects, one of Bushell's primary wishes was to fly, and in 1932 he joined the 601 Auxiliary Air Force, which was often referred to as "The Millionaires' Mob" because of the number of wealthy young men who paid their way solely to learn how to fly during training days (often at weekends).

Although Bushell was pursuing a career with the RAF he wasn't hampered in his attempts to become a barrister. From the outset of his legal career many commented on his ability as a lawyer, particularly in criminal defense. After a while, Bushell was appointed to military cases in prosecuting RAF personnel charged with various offenses. These often involved pilots charged with dangerous flying.

Regular Military Career

Roger was the Commanding Officer of 92 Squadron when he was shot down on 23 May, 1940. He became a POW who eventually ended up at Stalag Luft III in (then) Sagan, Germany. He became known as "Big X" of the camp escape committee and was the mastermind behind the mass escape that occurred on the evening of 24 March, 1944. Roger and his partner Bernard Scheidhauer escaped along with 74 other men. He was captured the next day and murdered three days later by Emil Schulz of the Gestapo, helped by others. This was a breach of the Geneva Convention which constituted a war crime. The perpetrators were later tried and executed by the Allies. This wartime atrocity was termed the "Keitel Order", the name given to the shooting of the 50 POWs. Hitler, angered by the escape, had originally demanded that all 76 be killed.

Roger Bushell is buried at the Poznan Old Garrison Cemetery (Coll. grave 9. A.) in Poznań, Poland.

ee also

* List of German WWII POW camps
* Douglas Bader
* Jens Müller
* Per Bergsland
* Bram van der Stok

Further reading

"The Great Escape" by Paul Brickhill ISBN 0-304-35687-5

"Stalag Luft III: The Secret Story" by Arthur Durand, Ph.D.

"A Gallant Company" by Jonathan Vance, Ph.D.

"War Pilot of Orange" by Bram van der Stok

External links

* [ Biography from]
* [] Story of the Great Escape
* [ Roger Bushell website]

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