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The Great Escape – A Canadian Story


On Friday, March 20, 2015, Vintage Wings of Canada kicks off its speakers series with a dynamic presentation by historian Ted Barris on the true story behind the famous Second World War POW prison break known as “The Great Escape”. Hollywood would have you believe an altogether different history – one without its true Canadian face. Barris will be at our hangar to set the record straight.


Friday March 20, 2015


Beer and Pizza Call: 6 PM to 7 PM

Great Escape Presentation: 7 PM to 830 PM plus Q&A


Cost: Members: $10 – includes a hot slice of pizza and an icy cold beer. 

         Non Members: $15 – includes a hot slice of pizza and an icy cold beer.

         (wine, beer and additional will be available for purchase)


In order to have adequate beer, wine and pizza on hand, please register for this event by clicking on this link.


The Great Escape – a Canadian Story and Behind the Glory: Canada’s Role in the Allied Air War, Ted Barris' book about the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan will both be available for sale and signing. Ted Barris has generously offered to wave the normal fee for this presenation which he gives across the country and all proceeds go to offset operations of Vintage Wings of Canada


It’s the war story we think we know … but don’t!


At the mere mention of The Great Escape, people automatically think of a German POW camp, Second World War, tunnels - Tom, Dick and Harry - Richard Attenborough, James Garner, Steve McQueen on his motorcycle, and American know-how. Right?


Wrong! The Great Escape is not an American story. It's not even a British story. Ted Barris’s latest book title clarifies - The Great Escape: A Canadian Story. And that's because the POW who designed the tunnels, three of the four principal tunnel excavators, the chief of security (leading the so-called "stooges" or diversion teams), one of the intelligence chiefs, one of the forgery chiefs, among the organizers of the sand disposal team (called "penguins"), the duty pilot (cataloguing every person coming/going through the main gate), and the custodian of "the canary" (the secret short-wave radio) inside Stalag Luft III (to only mention a few)... were all Canadian!


So, the story that everybody thinks they know, has finally been given the proper telling - based on Barris’s many years of interviewing, research and acquisition of diaries, letters, documents and never before seen photography (taken on cameras the POWs blackmailed via the guards). 


The Great Escape: A Canadian Story was published in September 2013. For most of the 18 months since, it has enjoyed long stays on the national bestsellers lists of Maclean’s, Globe & Mail, Toronto Star, National Post and was featured on “One-On-One with Peter Mansbridge” among other media appearances. In June 2014, The Great Escape: A Canadian Story won the 2014 Libris Non-Fiction Book of the Year Award (shared with Chris Hadfield). Then, last summer, during a speaking tour in the U.S., Ted Barris addressed members of the U.S. Stalag Luft III POW Association, who recognized his book with a Certificate of Honor. The original certificate, awarded annually, will be archived in the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado.


“As always, Ted Barris, our best writer on Canadians at war, paints small personal stories on the broad canvas of epic conflict, and in The Great Escape, gives us the real truth on a story we thought we knew. Riveting.” — Linwood Barclay, bestselling author of Trust Your Eyes



If you have ever had the opportunity to hear a presentation by Barris, you will understand why an evening of his storytelling is so memorable. His dynamic, physical presentation, walking through the audience, speaking and reading without a net, draws you in with his passion, exhuberance and detailed knowledge. This promises not to be a dry historical treatise, but rather an entertaining and delightful evening that will have you on the edge of your seat. We are very fortunate to be able to present this exciting and fun evening to our members and friends. Photo: Quenby Massey



More about Ted Barris


Ted Barris is an award-winning journalist, author, and broadcaster. For more than 40 years, his writing has regularly appeared in the national press – Globe and MailNational Post, as well as magazines as diverse as LegionAir Forceesprit de corpsQuill and Quire, and Zoomer. He has also worked as host/contributor for most CBC Radio network programs and on TV Ontario. He is a full-time professor of journalism and broadcasting at Toronto’s Centennial College.


Barris is the author of 17 bestselling non-fiction books, including a series on wartime Canada: Juno: Canadians at D-Day, June 6, 1944Days of Victory: Canadians Remember 1939-1945Behind the Glory: Canada’s Role in the Allied Air WarDeadlock in Korea: Canadians at War, 1950-1953Victory at Vimy: Canada Comes of Age, April 9-12, 1917Breaking the Silence: Veterans’ Untold Stories from the Great War to Afghanistan … Last year, The Great Escape: A Canadian Story became another of his military history National Bestsellers. 


In June 2014, The Great Escape: A Canadian Story won the 2014 Libris Non-Fiction Book of the Year Award (shared with Chris Hadfield). His feature story on The Great Escape made the shortlist for the 2014 National Magazine Awards.


His writing has also been published in such anthologies as The Canadian EncyclopediaTotal Hockey: The Official NHL EncyclopediaA History of Maple Leaf Gardens … and a volume of learned papers presented to the Canada-Korea Conference at the U of T.


Barris’s remaining books are: Fire Canoe Rodeo CowboysSpirit of the West Positive Power (Story of the Edmonton Oilers)Playing Overtime (A Celebration of Oldtimers’ Hockey)Carved in Granite (125 Years of Granite Club History) … and Making Music (Profiles from a Century of Canadian Music) co-authored with his father Alex Barris. He was also a contributor to the book 101 Things Canadians Should Know About Canada.


Among the awards Ted Barris has received: the international Billboard Radio Documentary Award, the Yorkton Film Festival’s Golden Sheaf, as well as numerous ACTRA nominations. He is an active member of military associations, including the RCAF Association, the Canadian Aviation Historical Society, and the Korea Veterans Association of Canada (he’s an honorary member). He is a patron of the Lucy Maud Montgomery Society supporting that author’s works and memory in his hometown, Uxbridge. In 2010, the town recognized Barris with its annual “Citizen of the Year” honours. In 2006, the 78th Fraser Highlander regiment awarded Barris its Bear Hackle Award to recognize his “contribution to the awareness and preservation of Canadian military history and traditions.” In 2004, the Remembrance Service Association of Halifax recognized Barris and his military history writing with its Patriot Award. In 1993, he received the Canada 125 Medal  “for service to Canada and community.” In 2011, the Ontario (116th) Regiment awarded him its annual medallion of excellence for raising the profile of military history in Canada.


In 2011, he was one of 19 civilians presented with the Minister of Veterans’ Affairs Commendation. The citation reads: “Ted Barris has made such exemplary contributions by generously giving of himself, and so both benefiting veterans and making manifest the principle that Canada’s obligation to all who have served in the cause of Peace and Freedom, must not be forgotten.”


In 2012, the Air Force Association of Canada selected Ted Barris to receive Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee Medal. His citation reads, in part: "The medal … is a tangible way to recognize outstanding Canadians ... who have built and continue to build this caring society and country through their service and achievements."


This summer (2014), during a speaking tour in the U.S., Ted addressed members of the U.S. Stalag Luft III POW Association, who recognized his work in the Great Escape book with a Certificate of Honor. The original certificate, awarded annually, will be archived in the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado.

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