Unexpected Lawyers: Roger Bushell

The first in an occasional series about people who I did not realise were lawyers.

Roger Bushell is not a well-known name, yet his deeds are a staple of British Christmas television schedules in the film “The Great Escape.”

Born in South Africa, Bushell attended Wellington College, then Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he took a law degree. Later he was called to the Bar. In between, he was a keen skier and learned to fly.

Having been shot down over France, he was captured. His first escape ended with his capture a few hundred yards from the Swiss border. The second ended after 7 months hiding in Czechoslovakia. His third escape was as part of the Great Escape, which he organised as “Big X”. The aim was to get 200 officers out of the camp, in order to soak up German resources to recapture them. 76 escaped, of whom 50 (including Bushell) were subsequently shot by the Gestapo.

So next time you watch the film, remember that the Richard Attenborough character is loosely based on a lawyer. I wonder what he would have achieved, had he survived.

“His name will ever last in my memory as one of the greatest men of his generation. He was an outstanding leader of men, quite fearless and he had a very fine brain…”


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