Only after his father's death did Marc Stevens begin to learn the truth. His father had indeed been born in Germany, as Georg Franz Hein, to Jewish parents. His mother had managed to send all three of her children to safety in Britain before the war, eventually committing suicide in Germany. Georg had spent several years in British schools and one year at the LSE before getting a job, but after that his life went downhill, and he was arrested and sentenced to nine months in prison for a series of thefts.
Stevens went through a most remarkable transformation. On 1 September 1939, Georg Franz Hein was released as part of a move to clear space in the prisons. Two days later, on 3 September, as Peter Stevens, he successfully joined the RAF. Indeed one might be slightly alarmed at just how easy it was for a known German citizen to join up! It took the Police and RAF over two years to discover that Stevens was Hein, only making that realization in October 1941, by which time he was already a Prisoner of War.
The book is nicely structured. We begin with Stevens' last flight, a raid over Berlin, and follow it to the point where he realised that his aircraft was too badly damaged to reach home. We then move back to his childhood in a Jewish household in Germany, his schooling, his move to Britain, and his descent into petty crime. After this we follow him into the RAF, through his career as a bomber pilot, and into the German POW system. There his fluency in German made him an essential part of many escape plans, although he was only on the edges of the famous Great Escape. His biggest fear during this period was that the Germans might discover his true identity - if that had happened, then he would almost certainly have been executed.
Marc Stevens has produced a fitting tribute to his father, who emerges as a difficult man in private, but one who played a full part in the defeat of Nazi Germany, starting from a position where he understood better than most the danger it posed, having seen the rise of anti-Semitism during his childhood, but that also put him in great danger once he fell into their hands.
Part One: Fire Over Berlin! (7 September 1941)
1 Long Day's Journey
2 Night Flight
3 The Heart of Darkness
Part Two: Georg Franz Hein (1919-39)
4 Childhood at 19 Rumannstrasse, Hanover (1919-26)
5 On His Own: At the Castle Boarding School (1926-33)
6 High School in London (1934-5)
7 Pass the Torch (1935-9)
Part Three: Peter Stevens in the RAF (1939-41)
8 From Airman to Pilot Officer (September 1939-March 1941)
9 144 Squadron: Hemswell and North Luffenham (April-7 September 1941)
10 Abandon Aircraft! (8 September 1941)
Part Four: Prisoner of War (1941-5)
11 Learning Escape: Dulag Luft, Lübeck, Hanover (September-October 1941)
12 'Orderlies' and a Latrine Tunnel: Warburg and Schubin (October 1941-April 1943)
13 A Wooden Horse and the Great Escape: Stalag Luft III (April 1943-March 1944)
14 End of the Road: Stalag Luft III and Luchenwalde (March 1944-May 1945)
Part Five: Epilogue
15 Patterns of a Lifetime: Hanover, London, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto
16 Rediscovering My Father
Author: Marc H. Stevens
Publisher: Pen & Sword Aviation