Roger Bushell

236px-Roger_Bushell1Squadron Leader Roger Bushell (picture by chazz88)

Lympne and The Great Escape

There can’t be many people reading this
who are not familiar with the classic war
film The Great Escape. Most of those
will recall the part of Big X played by
Richard Attenborough. The real Roger
Bartlett or Big X was in fact South African
born Roger Bushell who pre-war joined the
RAF, soon to become a pilot.
Bushell became a member of 601 Auxiliary
Squadron, a bomber unit which converted
to fighters in the 1930’s. Part of 601’s
annual calendar was its summer camp at
Lympne, which it attended for several years.
During one such stay on 15th August 1936,
Flight Lieutenant Roger Bushell borrowed a
light aeroplane belonging to Max Aitken
(son of Lord Beaverbrook) to take on an
aerial pub crawl with his chums. After leaving
Lympne, Bushell was attempting to land the
Aeronca C3 near to the Botolph’s Bridge Inn
in West Hythe, when it hit a lamp post and
crashed. The aeroplane was badly damaged,
but Bushell and his chums survived relatively
unscathed. The engine was salvaged and built
into another plane of different design later.
Max Aitken’s reaction is not known, but we can
guess.
Squadron Leader Roger Bushell went on to
mastermind the Great Escape in 1944 after
being shot down in his 92 Squadron Spitfire
near to Boulogne in 1940. He was one of the
fifty escapers from Stalag Luft 111, to be shot
dead by the Germans soon after on the orders
of Hitler.
(Copyright John Simpson)

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