Bombs and Barbed Wire
One Man’s Great Escape
Jeff Steel and Michael Adlam
Newport, NSW: Big Sky Publishing, 2021
Paperback 392pp RRP: $29.99
Reviewer: Mike O’Brien, April 2023
Jeff Steel has reconstructed the life of a Royal Air Force flight sergeant in the Second World War. Ambrose Adlam was a flight engineer on Halifax bombers, eventually being shot down, surviving and being captured. He was incarcerated in the infamous Stalag Luft III at the time of the Great Escape. He died in 1962, leaving behind letters including some written in his POW camp.
As a flight sergeant, Adlam was not included in those officers attempting to abscond in the famous Great Escape. Steel’s book is the result of Adlam’s letters, his service record and information gleaned from books about service in Bomber Command and on the POW experiences of RAF captives.
The result is an engaging book but one with a degree of fabrication and reconstruction rather than a first-hand account. There are a few gaps in the knowledge of the author - for example he watches a battalion parade its flags (they were its Colours). He may have been unaware of the recent historical accounts of MI9, the London-based secretive organisation to aid prisoner escape and evasion.
I found the subject of the book was very interesting, but I was put off by the imaginative reconstruction of conversations and events.
The RUSI – Vic Library thanks the publisher for making this work available for review.