The Greatest Escape
A gripping story of wartime courage and adventure
By Neil Churches with Edmund Goldrick
Published by Macmillan
RRP $34.99 in paperback | ISBN 9781529060348
Neil Churches first became interested in this story of his father Ralph at the age of fourteen in 1972. It has taken fifty years for the story to emerge in the form of this book, early research hampered by vital source material remaining classified and inaccessible.
The story begins in in Greece in 1941 with Ralph Churches’ capture along with Londoner Les Laws (a jazz pianist by profession).
Fast forward to August 1944 and Ralph was to become a driving force, along with Les Laws with the help of intelligence officer Franklin Lindsay, in the most successful POW escape of the Second World War – 106 Allied prisoners were freed from a camp in Maribor, in present-day Slovenia, previously Yugoslavia.
Of the 106 men who escaped, 100 made it to safety.
Now, the story of how these three men came together – along with the partisans – to plan and execute the escape is told here for the first time.
Finally, Neil Churches can share the story of his father’s extraordinary and heroic role in ‘the greatest escape’, a story he had long wanted to write.
The Greatest Escape is no longer a secret.
And poignantly, Ralph Churches was the only POW still alive on the commemoration of the seventieth anniversary of the escape in 2014. He was 97 years old. Until his dying day, he was grateful to the Partisans who had helped secure his freedom.