Exploits of town’s war hero recalled in a new book

Major Tom Stallard is third from right in the front row of this photograph SUS-141113-095054001
Major Tom Stallard is third from right in the front row of this photograph SUS-141113-095054001

A FORGOTTEN hero from Bognor Regis is the main character in a new wartime book.

Major Tom Stallard was the 38-year-old leader of Operation Olympia, the first mass escape from a German PoW camp in the summer of 1942.

His exploits have been recalled in Zero Night: The Untold Story of World War Two’s Most Daring Great Escape.

Its author, Dr Mark Felton, recounts how Major Stallard and his fellow prisoners, who included famous fighter pilot Douglas Bader, conceived a hair-raising plan to scale the camp’s perimeter fences.

He said: “Stallard was a driven man, awarded a DSO during the Dunkirk retreat, who refused to submit to captivity.

“The escape, using four scaling contraptions secretly built by the prisoners, was a great success.”

Of the 41 men who charged the wire, 33 managed to get over and escape. They worked in pairs as they hunted throughout Europe. Three made their way back to England.
Stallard was awarded an MBE in 1945 for his amazing heroism.

But Dr Felton said: “After the war, he slipped into obscurity, working in the wine trade, dying in Bognor in 1978, the first great escape and his part as its leader totally forgotten.”

Zero Night, with 320 pages, is putting that right by attracting widespread media coverage. It is priced £16.99 and is available from www.iconbooks.com, ISBN 9781848317192.