Escape, Evasion & Revenge
The True Story of a German-Jewish RAF Pilot who Bombed Berlin and became a PoW
by Marc H Stevens
Pen & Sword Aviation.
Paperback 224 pages
This is the remarkable story of a German Jewish boy who came to Britain as the gathering menace of the Nazis overtook his country. A complex child, deeply affected by the early death of his father and a difficult relationship with his mother; he drifted into crime and spent time at His Majesty’s pleasure. On the outbreak of war he took the name of a dead friend and joined the Royal Air Force leaving behind a paper trail as various agencies sought to detain him as an enemy alien.
Progressing to be a Hampden bomber pilot he took his own war to the Nazis, the small matter of becoming a PoW doing nothing to cool his ardour.Peter Stevens is one of those men they used to make films about. An important figure in the escape community, he had a busy time of it while incarcerated in several camps. His early life and the tragedy which destroyed his family makes for fascinating reading, and is for me , the best part of this book.
Stevens’ post war life in Canada is interesting but sketchy and this illustrates the dilemma facing the author. That this book is a labour of love is beyond question, it is a memorial from a son to a father. Unfortunately it doesn’t always follow that a life as intriguing and as daring as Peter Stevens would necessarily translate into a highly readable biography. The author makes it clear that his father, who died when he was young, was not an easy man to know, and one who kept his past and his thoughts with him. This makes for a book which leaves you wanting so much more, but the depth isn’t there to be found. A universal appetite for a window into those heroic men at Sagan seems to smoulder as strongly as ever, but there is no raging fire here and in the Great Escape I was left with a feeling of a story told once too often. If I appear churlish it is because I wanted this book to be so much more rewarding. There is still plenty to take from it but the overall package didn’t do it for me.