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Paul Chester Brickhill (1916–1991)

One of Australia's most successful authors, Paul Brickhill, died a recluse in his Sydney home after failing to fulfil his dream of writing the great Australian novel. 

Brickhill died on Tuesday night aged 74. His successes included The Great Escape, The Dam Busters and the biography of Douglas Bader, Reach for the Sky, which were all made into popular films. 

Close friends said yesterday Brickhill had rarely ventured from his Balmoral flat during the last few years of his life. He had a back problem which necessitated a battery-operated pain relieving brace. 

He was the son of George Brickhill, a noted journalist and a former editor of the Adelaide Mail and Australian United Press. 

The son followed his father into journalism and joined The Sun newspaper in Sydney as a copy boy in the early 1930s. 

A colleague from The Sun, Mr Lionel Hudson, recalled yesterday that Brickhill had been an exceptional journalist. 

Years ago he had told Mr Hudson that he dreamed of writing the great Australian novel. He embarked on the project at his holiday villa at Lake Como, in Italy, but failed to find inspiration. 

"He failed to get a novel out of himself but he was a great non-fiction writer," Mr Hudson said. 

Brickhill's adventures during World War II became the basis for his books, which have sold more than five million copies in 17 different languages. 

His fighter plane was shot down in 1943 and he became a prisoner of war at Stalag Luft III. From that experience he wrote The Great Escape in 1949. 

Brickhill spent the early years of his writing career living in Europe and New York. 

He married Margaret, a Sydney woman. They divorced in 1964. 

After The Deadline was published in 1962, Brickhill's writing career came to a premature end. 

Brickhill is survived by a son, Timothy, and a daughter, Tempe.

Original publication

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Brickhill, Paul Chester (1916–1991)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 27 May 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


20 December, 1916
Balwyn, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


23 April, 1991 (aged 74)
Balmoral, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

heart disease

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

Military Service