I’m always one for a good book (if you hadn’t already guessed!) and this time, I’ve been reading one of the latest releases from Pen and Sword, Escaping Soldiers and Airmen of World War One. This book looks at the many different men who became POWs during the First World War, and is a really great read. It’s the first one I’ve dived into since I graduated this summer and it’s kept me hooked – which is a great achievement.
It focuses primarily on the stories and lives of several different men of different nationalities, all of whom were taken captive as a POW during the war. The book also covers stories from the German side of the conflict which is exciting in itself as I for one find myself tending more towards the British and commonwealth experience when I choose my reading material. This book draws therefore on a broad range of experiences, making it all the richer for the reader.
The whole book is incredibly detailed and absolutely packed full of interesting tidbits of information, alongside the necessary facts and figures. Still, this never detracts from the ultimately human stories at the centre of the book – there are so many layers to unpick. By focusing on the men themselves and yet still retaining an astonishing level of detail, the book manages to really bring things to life, being atmospheric and at times almost exciting. It’s so easy to become swept up in the descriptions of flight, the camaraderie between men and the daring escapes (complete with tunnels, trapdoors and all manner of deceptions). Their daring can be encapsulated by a remark made by Hermann Tholens – “where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
Bowman’s book also captures glimpses of life within the camps; how they operated and also how prisoners spent their time. He describes one Welsh camp for German prisoners wherein they were allowed to play cricket, and by some accounts they were also given cooked breakfasts, wine and cigars (though not all at once I expect!) understandably the locals were rather peeved at this idea!
I heartily recommend this book for an extremely detailed, nuanced look at the prisoner of war experience, for both British and German captives and too, for some extraordinary tales of ingenuity and cunning!
Many thanks to the lovely people at Pen & Sword who sent me a copy of this amazing book – it can be purchased on their website here !