Extremes of Fortune

From Great War to Great Escape. The Story of Herbert Martin Massey, CBE, DSO, MC

Andrew White

The story of Herbert Martin Massey CBE, DSO, MC, from his flying days in the First World War to life as a prisoner-of-war in the Second World War, and Senior British Officer at the time of the famous Great Escape from Stalag Luft III.
Date Published :
October 2020
Publisher :
Fighting High Publishing
Illustration :
c. 60 black and white photgraphs
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781999812881
Pages : 208
Dimensions : 9.25 X 6.25 inches
Stock Status : In stock


Herbert Martin Massey was by any measure, a remarkable man. He was wounded three times in three separate conflicts, the first of which, in the First World War, almost killed him. Brought down in flames by one of Germany’s great aces, Werner Voss, he somehow recovered from his horrific, life-threatening injuries to continue his flying career in the Royal Air Force, only to be nearly killed once more in the Palestine Emergency of 1936, when his life was saved by the thin metal of his cigarette case. Then, at the age of 44 and having risen through the ranks to Group Captain, he was shot down over Holland on the second of the Thousand Bomber Raids in June 1942.

Massey was taken prisoner by the Germans and sent to Stalag Luft III at Sagan. Here, he was to excel as the Senior British Officer, vigorously defending the rights of his fellow prisoners of war, the men now under his command. Respected and admired by his comrades and captors alike, fate handed to him the decision to authorize the Great Escape, the famous breakout from Sagan in March 1944.

Too badly wounded to join the escape himself, Martin Massey was the man to whom the Germans first broke the news of the execution of fifty of those who had been recaptured. Repatriated to Britain because of his wounds shortly afterwards, it was Massey who brought home the details of the murders which began the process of bringing the perpetrators to justice post-war.

Decorated for his gallantry and leadership six times, men like Martin Massey come along only rarely. This book, using previously unseen documents and photographs, tells his story.

About The Author

Andrew White was born in Brackley, Northamptonshire. He joined the RAF in 1985 and served for 26 years in the Intelligence Branch retiring as a Wing Commander. Andrew served operationally in Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Iraq with both fast jet and transport squadrons; he also enjoyed tours in the Ministry of Defence and operational headquarters at home and abroad. Now a battlefield guide, Andrew takes GCSE students to the sites of the Western Front and Normandy, and A Level students to Berlin. He lives with his family on the Norfolk/Cambridgeshire border.


"Extremes of Fortune is an intimate look at Massey's amazing life through the lens of contemporary letters and memoirs...definitely qualifies as adventure reading for the World War I aviation enthusiast. "

- Indy Squadron Dispatch

"Massey remained in the RAF and retired as an air commodore with many distinctions. This fine biography details his career, including World War II service over Europe, when he was shot down, captured and sent to the notorious Stalag Luft III camp. Extremes of Fortune - From Great War to Great Escape is recommended highly."

- Over the Front

“Decorated for his gallantry and leadership six times, men like Marin Massey come along only rarely… [This] is a first class read and highly recommended.”

- Tin-opener

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