“Any successful escape… would need to be a four-stage event: intense preparation, a foolproof breakout, an evasion scheme, and a bid to cross the border.’
From getting shot down in dogfights to being caught spying in the trenches, prisoners were rounded up in a multitude of ways during The Great War. And once locked up in camps, many tried to escape and were recaptured over and over again; yet, the resolve to get home never wavered. Neal Bascomb’s The Escape Artists is the gripping story of ten British airmen’s ingenious prison break from German hands in WW1.
The story is broken up into four parts: the men’s captures, their transfer to the notorious Holzminden camp (nicknamed Hellminden), the development of the plan, and the escape itself. For a rather short book, Bascomb covers a lot of important background information, including the history of the treatment of prisoners and the Hague conventions, and several key prison escapes throughout the ages. Some of the most enlightening passages show vividly the highs of comraderie and the depressing lows of separation from family. As much as they banded together on the field of battle, they worked to free themselves from the treatment of awful camp directors and make their way to Holland.
The Escape Artists can easily be envisioned as ready for the big screen. The author builds up the story with painstakingly researched details of the fliers lives before the war, while imprisoned, and afterwards, including the reunions decades later. This book joins Bascomb’s other great pieces of wartime nonfiction, and rivals Hampton Sides’s Ghost Soldiers as one of the best accounts of POW escape.
5 out of 5 stars.
Releases on September 18th.
Thank you to NetGalley, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Neal Bascomb for an advanced copy for review.