An avid and incorrigible tunneller, often using nothing more than a butter knife, he dug eight tunnels, some of which were 40 feet below the surface.
He absconded from working parties, cut perimeter wires and jumped from moving trains. When imprisoned in Stalag Luft III in Poland he helped organise what was to become known as 'The Great Escape.
This was a bloke who didn't want to sit back and forget. He was energetic, determined and bold.
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This is a wonderful book that reminds us of the men who took heroism for granted and expected no reward other than doing their job.
John Fancy was born near Driffield in Yorkshire and trained in land mangement at Hymer's college in Hull. He worked in Scarborough for the Parks and Gardens dept of the local council, and in 1935 decided to join the Royal Air Force. A slight eye defect scuppered his plans to be a pilot, but he became an air observer ( navigator) as war loomed. Posted to a Blenheim squadron in Suffolk he did some ferry work to Finland, then in 1940 took part in numerous bombing campaigns. On the 14th of May, the day that he discovered his wife was expecting their first child, he took off on a bombing task to attack the bridge at Sedan. His aircraft was hit, and caught fire. Fancy helped save a number of the crew who were more injured than he was and the aircraft crashed in the grounds of a chateau. Badly burned, he was taken to a hospital, and whilst there he determined he would escape as soon as possible.
Fancy certainly tried. Sixteen attempts!
This is a fascinating book, written with humour and compassion. There are no mock heroics, just a pragmatic account of his time in prison camps and his escape attempts. There are a number of photographs covering the time in the camps, but being mindful of how difficult it was to take them, one appreciates even the small amount there are.
John Fancy died aged 95 in September 2008, having survived the war and becoming a market gardener. One gets the sense that he was a bloke you would welcome taking for a pint. I can say nothing more praiseworthy than that. I wish I had met him.
It's an excellent book. Warm, funny yet with an overlay of tragedy. I read it in less than a day and a half, and will re-read it again. Buy it. Search for it and get it!
4 fungal caps to it.
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