In the winter trenches and flak-filled skies of World War I, captured soldiers and pilots narrowly avoided death only to find themselves imprisoned in Germany's archipelago of brutal POW camps. After several unsuccessful escapes, a group of Allied prisoners of Holzminden - Germany's land-locked Alcatraz- hatched the most elaborate escape plan yet known. With ingenious engineering, disguises, forgery and courage, their story would electrify Britain in some of its darkest hours of the war.
Drawing on never-before-seen memoirs and letters, Neal Bascomb brings this little-known story narrative to life amid the despair of the trenches and the height of patriotic duty.
Bascomb (Hunting Eichmann) unfurls a cracking good adventure in this upbeat retelling of the largest Allied prison break of WWI. By way of introduction, he recounts the backgrounds and the captures in no-man's-land between the trenches, at sea, and crashing behind enemy lines of some of the major characters in the drama, such as pilots David Gray, Cecil Blain, and Caspar Kennard and poetry-minded lieutenant Will Harvey. In 1918 they all ended up at Holzminden, a German POW camp so notorious for punitive brutality that inmates referred to it as Hellminden. After numerous unsuccessful attempts, 29 men tunneled out of the camp on July 23 and 24, 1918, and made their way covertly over 150 miles toward Holland; 10 succeeded, while the others were recaptured. But the relatively posh conditions in which officers were kept, the raffish lan of the breakouts, and Bascomb's focus on the escapees' cheer and determination soften the horrors of the Western Front's savage industrialized slaughter; it's not until a third of the way through the narrative that the mortal consequences of trying to escape become clear. Bascomb draws on unpublished memoirs, official histories, and family papers to spin this action-packed, briskly paced tale.