Harris, John Norman

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Harris, John Norman

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  • Harris, J.N.

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1915–1964

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John Norman Harris (1915–1964) was an author of fiction and non-fiction. He was born in Fort Frances, Ontario, and educated in Toronto. After attending Victoria University, 1933–1936, he went to England, joining the Royal Air Force in 1937 to train as a pilot. When World War II ensued he served as the captain of a bomber; in 1942 his plane was shot down during the massive raid on Hamburg. He survived the crash, and was interred as a Prisoner of War in the Luftwaffe-run camp, Stalag Luft III, in Poland for the duration of the war. In 1943, Harris was part of a coordinated group effort to break out of the camp. Using a wooden gymnastics vaulting horse constructed from makeshift materials to hide men, tools and containers of soil, a hidden tunnel was dug which enabled three prisoners to escape. The event was re-enacted in the 1950 British film The Wooden Horse.

After the war, Harris returned to Canada with his wife Aileen Dunkeld, whom he married in 1942 shortly before his fateful mission. They had four children including a daughter, Elizabeth, born in 1943. Harris combined a career in public relations at Bell Canada, then advertising at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, with creative and non-fiction writing. The author of numerous articles for periodicals, his acclaimed mystery novel, The Weird World of Wes Beattie, was published shortly before his death. Harris passed away in 1964. He was survived by his wife, three daughters, and a son.

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Victoria University Library - Special Collections

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