Hermanus’ Hero: The Spirited Tale of Roger Bushell


Right in the heart of Hermanus, a town famous for its stunning coast and mysterious tales, there’s a story of incredible bravery that’s stood the test of time. We’ve already given a shout-out to the Galpin Squad for keeping some of Hermanus’ best secrets under wraps, but now it’s time to shine a spotlight on a local legend whose courage is woven into the very fabric of our town.

Roger Bushell, whose name is synonymous with the spirit of freedom, orchestrated one of World War II’s most audacious escapes. The 1963 war drama “The Great Escape,” with Steve McQueen in a starring role, brought this astounding story to life, cementing Bushell’s legacy as a mastermind of resistance. As a captured Spitfire pilot during the conflict, Bushell spearheaded the legendary ‘Great Escape’ from the Stalag Luft III, a German POW camp, in the spring of 1943. His declaration that “Everyone here in this room is living on borrowed time… The only reason that God allowed us this extra ration of life is so we can make life hell for the enemy,” ignited the plan to dig three tunnels – Tom, Dick, and Harry. Digging them all at once was a clever move, keeping the Germans guessing even if they found one.

The movie, with all its Hollywood flair, might have strayed from the facts, but it still captured Bushell’s heroic spirit. And here’s a fun fact: although the film shows him as a quintessential British officer, Bushell was actually a proud South African, making his story even more special to Hermanus.

Bushell’s story comes full circle in Hermanus, where there’s a plaque on the local Cenotaph in his honour. This memorial, along with his grave in Poland, stands as a solemn tribute to his and his comrades’ ultimate sacrifice. And get this: the Cenotaph has two cannons pointing inland, not towards the sea, as a sign of peace in times of calm.

Bushell’s legacy lives on at the local High School, where an annual trophy in his name is awarded to the top-performing student, symbolizing the pursuit of excellence and bravery. Additionally, the Hermanus Golf Club hosts an annual event where competitors compete for the Roger Bushell Trophy. His parents, Ben & Dorothy, were also part of our village, adding to the Bushell family’s lasting impact on Hermanus.

As we weave tales of mystery and the vibrant energy emanating from the enigmatic Pilates studio above the Gateway Spar, let’s also remember the deep-rooted courage that runs through Hermanus. By honouring heroes like Bushell, we celebrate the bravery and sacrifices that make up our town’s history. Hermanus remains a beacon of inspiration, where past and present meet to motivate future generations, all against a backdrop of sea spray, mountain mist and spirited valour.

YouTube: The Great Escape Trailer