Harry Royle didn’t simply spring fully formed from my imagination, he is in fact based on a real person. The man behind the fiction, is my late father. He was the classic wronged man, who having made a mistake turned to a life of crime and in the process became a notorious jailbreaker. In 1951 he was Britain’s most wanted man, having escaped from Dartmoor prison and his face made the Front Pages of the national press. In 1954 his story was serialised over a five-week period in The Sunday People newspaper. He was picked up from the gates of Dartmoor by the most famous crime reporter of the time, Duncan Webb.
As a son, I knew him as a generous man with a huge heart and a great sense of humour. He had a strict personal moral code and would help anyone he could. He was a great storyteller and had me believing he was a cousin of John Wayne and an adventure who had prospected for gold in the frozen Yukon. Later I would find out that he was man who had experienced his own share of true adventure. Before Harry Royle came into being, the book started out as a nonfiction book about my father. I began researching with another author, Trevor James. Trevor was once himself an employee of Dartmoor prison and had written a number of books about both the prison and the escapes. We were to have co-written the book, but there wasn’t enough background information to fill a book.
I am intending to finish this book, with Trevor’s blessing and his permission to include some of his own unique photographs of the prison and surrounding area. I am going write the book to show the real-life behind Royle’s escapes. This will be released as a future title. Harry Royle as a character is not intended to make a hero from a criminal, but to show how different things could have been, if another path had been taken. It is my tribute to the man behind the headlines. A man who as a non commissioned officer in the British army fought in both the North African and Italian campaigns. In the sixties he became a private detective.