Paul Brickhill
Paul Chester Jerome Brickhill (20 December 191623 April 1991) was an Australian writer
A writer is a person who produces literature, such as novels, short stories, plays, screenplays, poetry, or other literary art. Skilled writers are able to use language to portray ideas and images....

, whose World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 books were turned into popular movies.


Brickhill was born in Melbourne
Melbourne is the capital and most populous city in the state of Victoria, and the second most populous city in Australia. The Melbourne City Centre is the hub of the greater metropolitan area and the Census statistical division—of which "Melbourne" is the common name. As of June 2009, the greater...

 and educated at North Sydney Boys High School
North Sydney Boys High School
North Sydney Boys High School is an academically selective, public high school for boys, located at Crows Nest in Sydney, Australia.- History :...

. Afterwards, he worked as a journalist
A journalist collects and distributes news and other information. A journalist's work is referred to as journalism.A reporter is a type of journalist who researchs, writes, and reports on information to be presented in mass media, including print media , electronic media , and digital media A...


During World War II he joined the Royal Australian Air Force
Royal Australian Air Force
The Royal Australian Air Force is the air force branch of the Australian Defence Force. The RAAF was formed in March 1921. It continues the traditions of the Australian Flying Corps , which was formed on 22 October 1912. The RAAF has taken part in many of the 20th century's major conflicts...

 (RAAF). Under the Empire Air Training Scheme
British Commonwealth Air Training Plan
The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan , known in some countries as the Empire Air Training Scheme , was a massive, joint military aircrew training program created by the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, during the Second World War...

, Brickhill undertook advanced training as a fighter
Fighter aircraft
A fighter aircraft is a military aircraft designed primarily for air-to-air combat with other aircraft, as opposed to a bomber, which is designed primarily to attack ground targets...

 pilot in Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 and the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, before being assigned to No. 92 Squadron RAF
No. 92 Squadron RAF
No. 92 Squadron, also known as No 92 Squadron, of the Royal Air Force was formed as part of the Royal Flying Corps at London Colney as a fighter squadron on 1 September 1917. It deployed to France in July 1918 and saw action for just four months, until the end of the war. During the conflict it...

, a Spitfire
Supermarine Spitfire
The Supermarine Spitfire is a British single-seat fighter aircraft that was used by the Royal Air Force and many other Allied countries throughout the Second World War. The Spitfire continued to be used as a front line fighter and in secondary roles into the 1950s...

 unit with the Desert Air Force
Desert Air Force
The Desert Air Force , also known chronologically as Air Headquarters Western Desert, Air Headquarters Libya, AHQ Western Desert, the Western Desert Air Force, Desert Air Force, and the First Tactical Air Force , was an Allied tactical air force initially created from No...

. In 1943, he was shot down over Tunisia
Tunisia , officially the Tunisian RepublicThe long name of Tunisia in other languages used in the country is: , is the northernmost country in Africa. It is a Maghreb country and is bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. Its area...

 and became a prisoner of war
Prisoner of war
A prisoner of war or enemy prisoner of war is a person, whether civilian or combatant, who is held in custody by an enemy power during or immediately after an armed conflict...


While imprisoned at Stalag Luft III
Stalag Luft III
Stalag Luft III was a Luftwaffe-run prisoner-of-war camp during World War II that housed captured air force servicemen. It was in the German Province of Lower Silesia near the town of Sagan , southeast of Berlin...

, in Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, Brickhill was involved in an elaborate mass escape attempt. He did not take part in tunnelling or the escape itself, due to claustrophobia
Claustrophobia is the fear of having no escape and being closed in small spaces or rooms...


After the war, Brickhill wrote the first major account of the escape in The Great Escape
The Great Escape (book)
The Great Escape is an insider's account by Paul Brickhill of the 1944 mass escape from the German prisoner of war camp Stalag Luft III for British and Commonwealth airmen. As a prisoner in the camp, he participated in the escape plan but was debarred from the actual escape 'along with three or...

(1950), bringing the incident to a wide public attention. He went on to write two other best-selling war books: The Dam Busters
The Dam Busters (book)
The Dam Busters is a 1951 book by Paul Brickhill about Royal Air Force Squadron 617, originally commanded by Wing Commander Guy Gibson V.C. during World War II...

, the story of Operation Chastise
Operation Chastise
Operation Chastise was an attack on German dams carried out on 16–17 May 1943 by Royal Air Force No. 617 Squadron, subsequently known as the "Dambusters", using a specially developed "bouncing bomb" invented and developed by Barnes Wallis...

 and the destruction of dams in the Ruhr valley by No. 617 Squadron RAF
No. 617 Squadron RAF
No. 617 Squadron is a Royal Air Force aircraft squadron based at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland. It currently operates the Tornado GR4 in the ground attack and reconnaissance role...

, and Reach for the Sky, the story of Battle of Britain
Battle of Britain
The Battle of Britain is the name given to the World War II air campaign waged by the German Air Force against the United Kingdom during the summer and autumn of 1940...

 ace Douglas Bader
Douglas Bader
Group Captain Sir Douglas Robert Steuart Bader CBE, DSO & Bar, DFC & Bar, FRAeS, DL was a Royal Air Force fighter ace during the Second World War. He was credited with 20 aerial victories, four shared victories, six probables, one shared probable and 11 enemy aircraft damaged.Bader joined the...


Brickhill died in 1991, aged 74.

Film adaptations

Three books by Brickhill were made into feature films: The Dam Busters
The Dam Busters (film)
The Dam Busters is a 1955 British Second World War war film starring Michael Redgrave and Richard Todd and directed by Michael Anderson. The film recreates the true story of Operation Chastise when in 1943 the RAF's 617 Squadron attacked the Möhne, Eder and Sorpe dams in Germany with Wallis's...

(1955), Reach for the Sky
Reach for the Sky
Reach for the Sky is a 1956 British biographical film of aviator Douglas Bader, based on the 1954 biography of the same name by Paul Brickhill. The film stars Kenneth More and was directed by Lewis Gilbert. It won the BAFTA Award for Best British Film of 1956.-Plot:In 1928, Douglas Bader, a...

(1956), and The Great Escape
The Great Escape (film)
The Great Escape is a 1963 American film about an escape by Allied prisoners of war from a German POW camp during World War II, starring Steve McQueen, James Garner, and Richard Attenborough...



  • "Brickhill, Paul Chester Jerome 1916–1991." Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series, 69: 68–69.

External links

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