Books - Prisoner of War

 

Allies Forever by Karen A. Patterson

Abandoned to foster homes during the Great Depression, Gladys grew to be a strong woman with an independent spirit. Then she met Red, a gentle man of great humor. Red was seventeen when America entered WWII. Eager to do his part, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, but not wanting to lose Gladys, the two married as soon as he completed his training. Red was shipped overseas to Great Britain, and Gladys began married life alone and pregnant. On Christmas Day in 1944, Red and the rest of the flight crew were ordered on a bombing mission. Caught in a battle with the Luftwaffe, his plane was severely damaged, and Red was forced to bail out over German territory. Captured and wounded, he endured a ninety-mile march before reaching the prisoner-of-war camp. Daily life became a miserable combination of intense cold and starvation. Stateside, Gladys gave birth to a healthy baby boy. For two years she was self-sufficient - taking care of her child, working, and saving money for the future. But when Red returned, he was resentful, angry, restless, and showed little interest in his son. The war may have been over, but for Gladys and Red, their greatest challenges lay before them. Allies Forever is an awe-inspiring testimony to the resilience of the human spirit during war times and a heartwarming story of what it means to be a family…even in difficult times. You won't forget this story anytime soon! Price: £19.95. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or http://www.outskirtspress.com/alliesforever

 

Another Bloody Mountain: Prisoner of War and Escape in Italy 1943 by Vic Duke

A son's account of his father's period as a POW in Italy, and subsequent escape in September 1943. The story traces the route of a 30 day walk through the Apennine mountains to reach the British front line. Firmly located in the context of contemporaneous historical events, the book is generously illustrated with 61 colour photos of both the prison camp and the beautiful scenery of the mountains in the Marche and Abruzzo regions of Italy. "At first…I was a little sceptical about receiving another contribution about escaping. However, you have contributed something unique for the book shows for the first time the forbidding but beautiful countryside over which we had to climb. An excellent and unique book." Keith Killby, escapee in Italy 1943 and founder of the Monte San Martino Trust. Copies can be ordered from Amazon or www.ironcitypublications.com. £11.79 including postage and packing.

 

Behind The Wire: Allied Prisoners of War in Hitler's Germany by Philip Kaplan and Jack Currie

Pegasus Archive review: Behind the Wire superbly describes the typical experience of Allied prisoners of war in Germany. The chapters take a chronological approach by describing each phase confronting a prisoner, starting with their capture, interrogation, arrival in the camp and what they would encounter there, in terms of their fellow prisoners, guards, meals, and the wide variety of entertainments which were devised as a means of diverting the mind from what would otherwise be an extremely tedious and uncertain existence. Other chapters touch on escape, the terrible conditions which many endured on the long march of 1945, their eventual liberation, and an area which is often overlooked; returning to civilian life and the difficulty of adjusting to a world with which they had little in common. Each chapter is generously laced with veterans accounts, and their rich insights are invaluable because researching prisoner of war camps is a notoriously difficult area, and uncovering any more than the most basic information on specific individuals is next to impossible. The words of ordinary prisoners do much to fill this vacuum, and so for anyone who wishes to understand what typical life behind the wire was like, there really is no need to look any further than this book. Price £15.99. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/behind-the-wire/p/3634/

 

Burma Railway Man by Charles Steel

Pegasus Archive review: Captured when Singapore fell, Battery Sergeant Major Charles Steel spent three and a half unpleasant years as a prisoner of the Japanese, first in Changi and later working as a slave labourer on the Burma Railway, where he was involved in the construction of the famous Bridge over the River Kwai. During this time he wrote no less than 183 letters to his wife, none of which were posted as letters and diaries were prohibited on pain of death, yet despite the risks he felt compelled to write them to keep her at the centre of his thoughts and so endure the dreadful experience. With background and explanatory notes, these letters are all presented in this book and describe all manner of aspects of life in the camps; not simply a catalogue of work carried out, atrocities witnessed, disease and starvation overcome, but a colourful account of the characters he met and even his moments of administrative revenge. Together they not only make a brilliant diary of the period, but also demonstrate how prisoners coped in the face of adversity. Price £6.39. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Burma-Railway-Man/p/4069/

 

Diary of a Nazi POW by Victor Wojtas

Victor Wojtas was a Nazi Prisoner of War for 25 months. Stalag VIIA, IIIB, IIIA. During that time he kept a diary which he kept hidden from his Nazi captors. Read the thoughts and feelings, poems and recipes of Vic and his buddies. Also a "don't miss" report on their escape from Stalag IIIA, Luckenwalde and their Russian "liberators". Victor's biography before and after the war is included as well as historical follow-up on events in the Diary. The author has included letters from Stalag IIIB, photographs of POW life and descriptions of the camps. Maps of the locations of the POW camps in Europe are also provided. Price: US $15.99 plus shipping

To Order: orders@trafford.com

 

Fight Another Day by J M Langley

Pegasus Archive review: This memoir begins with Jimmy Langley joining the Coldstream Guards as a Lieutenant and taking part in the fighting around Dunkirk whilst the British Expeditionary Force was being evacuated. Wounded and taken prisoner, Langley's left arm was amputated, but this did not deter him from escaping, or rather making an "unauthorised departure" as he preferred to term it, as his method of simply climbing out of his hospital window during the night was at odds with the perils of a conventional escape. His subsequent adventures on his way to Gibraltar via Vichy France and Spain were much more remarkable, and if his story was to end when he returned home then this would have been a perfectly sufficient memoir in itself. Yet Langley joined and eventually became the commanding officer of MI9, whose brief was to give every assistance to escaping prisoners of war. He describes the escape routes which were established across Western Europe, and the tremendous work done by the resistance forces who manned them and returned in excess of 3,000 servicemen to the Allied lines. This was a great success, yet Langley's personal satisfaction is clearly tainted by the immense sacrifice of at least 500 resistance lives, as well as the lack of administrative foresight that such operations could ever succeed, an attitude which greatly reduced the prize and substantially enhanced the cost. Price £15.99. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/fight-another-day/p/3892/

 

Goon in the Block by Don Edy

Chronicling the experiences of a young RCAF Pilot Officer, shot down in North Africa. Weeks later aboard the S.S. Ariosto, a crude prisoner ship, they were torpedoed in the night. Injured when the blasts blew him from the sealed hold, he was able to time his leap into the debris-filled water and survive semi-conscious for hours. 138 fellow prisoners died. He is one of the few eyewitnesses to the disaster. The ensuing years in captivity provide a unique view of life in the hands of the Axis powers. He shares his good nature and humour, allowing a glimpse into 'what it was' that got these men through it all. His final years as a prisoner of war were spent in the infamous Stalag Luft III in Sagan, Germany. Don has the rare ability to make a journey through war relatable, shaping eyewitness accounts with insight and context. This book is a unique glimpse-in-time from Egypt, Libya, Italy and Germany, to fighter missions, inhumane mass prisoner transit, Axis POW camps (including the monastery at Padula which is now a world heritage site) and it is one of the few chronicles of the Forced March itself. See www.goonintheblock.com for more information.

 

Guests of Hitler's Reich by James Coulter

When, at the outbreak of WWII in response to an appeal from his bishop, Devonian churchman Geoffrey Kestell-Cornish volunteered to become an army chaplain, he was not to know that virtually his entire career as such would be spent as a prisoner of war behind the barbed wire of the notorious prison camp Stalag VIIIB at Lamsdorf in Poland. In 1944 he was transferred to a POW working camp at Sosnowitch. In January 1945, with the Red Army making rapid advances into Poland, the inmates of E5-38 at Sosnowitch were forced to evacuate. Liberation this was not but the start of an epic journey of some 400 miles on foot from Poland throughout Czechoslovakia into Southern Germany. Written in pencil in a tattered school exercise book, Padre Geoffrey Kestell-Cornish's day by day account of the long march is a poignant tale of dogged courage and endurance in the face of grinding adversity when the human spirit was often tested to its limits and beyond. Guests of Hitler's Reich is published and distributed by James Coulter in paperback format: 210x148mm with 97 pages, 12 b/w photos, 3 line figures and a map at £8.25 from booksellers or by post within the UK at £9 from the publisher. To order, contact James Coulter at somers3328@aol.com

 

Highland Schottische by Robert Grieve Black

Ian Black was born in 1906 on the Island of Walney in Vickerstown near Barrow-in-Furness in the north-west of England. His parents Donald and Mary were both born in Appin in Scotland from parents who were from the Island of Lismore just a little north of Oban. Donald had moved south to work in the Vicker's yard building submarines. When Ian was six years old his mother died and he and his brother Donnie were sent north to live with an aunt in Port Appin. The story traces his young life up to his meeting with Christina Mackenzie from Benderloch. Together they share a love of music especially Highland music. Their courtship is abrubtly interrupted by the Second World War as Ian goes off to France with the British Expeditionary Force. Poorly prepared and ill-equipped they fight a rearguard action in Picardie as the main part of the British force runs home via Dunkirk. Many die and many more are taken prisoner. Ian spends the next five years in Stalag XXA in Poland exchanging heavily censored correspondence with Christina, and then, as the Third Reich begins to collapse, all the prisoners are forced to march across the snow covered plains of northern Europe defenceless into the raging battle zone. Eventually while Britain celebrates VE-Day Ian with his two stalwart comrades flies back to the UK and to Christina. The book explores not only life in Stalag XXA and its various work camps but also the events leading up to the capture of the main body of inmates. The last chapters deal with the horrendous march from Poland to Germany and to eventual freedom. Price: UK £9.99, USA $14.99, Canada $19.73, Australia $35. To Order: http://www.highlandschottische.com

 

A Kriegies Lament by George V. Neale

Taken from the pages of his original diaries, written under the most extreme conditions and bound to his body for safe-keeping. For 664 days, Halifax Bomber Pilot George V. Neale spent time as a "guest" of the Luftwaffe in three different Prisoner of War camps. The diaries offer an insightful look into the lives of the "Kriegies" who adapted to their unfavourable surroundings and created their own culture. He kept the diaries faithfully daily before, during and after his captivity.They were carried around his waist in a canvass bag, out of sight, so as not to be confiscated. Price: USA $ 22.95. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the books is donated to the author's church building fund. To Order: http://www.akriegieslament.com

 

Laughing - We Ran by Len Dann

The story of Len Dann's escape from a Prisoner of War camp in Italy, and of the following nine months he spent behind the lines, working with partisan forces. A heavily condensed copy of his story can be read here. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or Christine Hickmott-Arnold on 01580 763946.

 

Letters From Stalag VIIIB by Arthur Evans CBE and Kathy Gower

In March 2011 my father Arthur Charles Evans CBE, author of Sojourn in Silesia, reached the end of his long and successful life just short of his 95th birthday. Here in France I was left with copies of his letters written from Stalag VIIIb during his 5 years as a POW. I wanted to do something constructive with his letters and in July that year, as part of my bereavement journey, I began compiling a blog as if written by Arthur. The blog took about 2 years to complete and was a really helpful bereavement tool for me. Now it is complete, I've decided to publish the blog, along with some photos of Arthur and some additional writing about my thoughts and feelings during blogging. I hope it will become a companion book to Sojourn in Silesia, the book he wrote about his experience back in the 80's, although it is also a stand alone account of his time behind barbed wire. Copies may be purchased from Amazon.

 

My Mother Kept A Scrapbook: the True Story of a WWII POW by Gerhard Johnson as told to Kathleen Marie Marsh

Captured during the ill-fated Allied offensive in Italy in January 1944, Army Private Gerhard Johnson did not expect to ever see his family again. As a prisoner of the Nazis, he endured 15 months of hell, deprived of the most basic human needs: food, water, shelter, sanitation, and medical care. Determined to come home to the only woman he had ever loved, Gerhard lost over a third his body weight while somehow managing to survive. This is his story. Meanwhile, back home in Central Wisconsin, his mother wrote letters, sent Red Cross parcels, and filled a scrapbook in an amazing effort to keep her absent son alive as long as she possibly could. This is her story too. Read and recommended by Ex-POW's worldwide! Price: $10.50 plus shipping. To Order: www.otterrunbooks.com.

 

Our Father Who is in Heaven, had His Own plans for me by Manuel Darmanin

The true life experiences of Father Salvino Darmanin, a prisoner of the Germans at Stalags IVA and VIIA. Extracts can be read here. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or manueldarmanin@yahoo.com. Price: 5 Euros.

 

Proof Through The Night by K. P. Burke

A B-29 Pilot Captive in Japan. The Ernest Pickett Story by K.P. Burke. A gripping WWII memoir tells the story of a B-29 pilot who was shot down over the Japanese homeland. Highly descriptive, this account includes plenty of white-knuckle flying and the little-known story of the early deployment of the B-29 in India and China prior to the establishment of bases in the Pacific. The account of Mr. Pickett's thirteen months of captivity, six of them in solitary confinement, will stay in the reader's mind long after the book has been closed. Foreword by Lt. Gen. James V. Edmundson, USAF, retired. Price: US $23.95 plus shipping. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or http://opalcreekpress.com/content/proof.html

 

Reported Killed in Action by Lisa Beichl

The Battle of Normandy resulted in an important Allied victory, but US losses were so high that replacement troops were urgently needed. This is how a 26-year-old from Philadelphia, George Beichl, a student of advanced chemistry was selected in 1944. The subsequent surprise German counteroffensive - the Battle of the Bulge - cost even more casualties and George found himself in the thick of the fight. After a bloody battle in Prüm, George was reported Killed in Action. Miraculously he survived, but was taken prisoner by the Germans. He kept a diary, given to him by a sympathetic guard who saved his life. In the margins he wrote about interrogations, Catholic Mass, chocolate cake, and his dramatic liberation. When he returned to Philadelphia in 1945, he was still enlisted. His military clearance was initially challenged because of his German background, but he completed his army tenure as a chemist on the Manhattan Project. After his death in 2015, another diary surfaced detailing his pre-war experience as a visiting student in 1939 Munich. It reveals history from a point of view seldom seen - an American in Germany as WWII started. In this engaging narrative, George's daughter paints a picture of a man proud of both his American heritage as well as his German roots. Though he never sought recognition, his service to his country earned him a Purple Heart and the Bronze Star, and the Commanders Cross from Germany. Through his diaries and subsequent life, we meet an unassuming yet confident man whose intellect, faith, and even temper, created the background for a remarkable life. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or www.DeedsPublishing.com

 

Rossano: A Valley in Flames by Major Gordon Lett

Pegasus Archive: When Major Gordon Lett escaped into the mountains from a prisoner of war camp after the Italian surrender in September 1943, he did not, as did many others, attempt to reach the Allied lines, but instead remained in the area of the Rossano Valley, recruiting what would soon become an extremely successful partisan group comprising men from numerous nationalities. Commencing with his escape, the book provides a thorough description of the creation of the International Battalion and the exploits of this unique unit over the next 18 months, during which time they had so brilliantly harassed the enemy forces in the area that they were incorporated into the Allied advance plan, supplied with equipment by the air and even reinforced with a detachment of SAS troops. This is a quite remarkable account of an episode of the Second World War which has received scant attention outside of Italy and certainly deserves to be brought to a wider audience. Price: £15.99. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Rossano-A-Valley-in-Flames/p/3113/

 

Spectator In Hell by Colin Rushton

Auschwitz was not just a camp for those that the Third Reich deemed "undesirables", hundreds of British Tommies were also incarcerated there and witnessed the atrocities meted out by Hitler's brutal SS. This is the true story of one of these spectators, Arthur Dodd. Copies may be purchased from Amazon.

 

The Devil's Doctors by Mark Felton

Pegasus Archive review: It is well known that the Nazis carried out a series of sadistic experiments on living human subjects, but the strides made by the Japanese in this most depraved of fields have received less attention. The Devil's Doctors offers an insight into their various programmes, beginning with the terrible tortures which were inflicted on Chinese civilians in the interests of medical research and the effects of conventional and biological weapons. The book, however, is mainly concerned with the activities of the infamous Unit 731 and its links to the Mukden POW camp where Allied prisoners of war were held. The records are sparse; so much so that it cannot be conclusively stated that anything took place at Mukden which did not happen at any other Japanese POW camp, yet Mark Felton presents a range of evidence which clearly implies that the prisoners were being used as laboratory rats, routinely infected with all manner of diseases so that their impact on the Western immune system could be observed. The narrative does not seek sensation or attempt to draw irrefutable conclusions where it is clearly impossible to do so, instead it simply provides a balanced assessment of what is known and what seems probable. Price £15.99. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/The-Devils-Doctors/p/3408/

 

The Bridge at Allerona by Janet Kinrade Dethick

In this book the survivors of one of the worst cases of friendly fire in World War 2 tell their story. On 28 January 1944 twenty-seven B-26 bombers from 441, 442, 443 and 444 squadrons, 320 Bomb Group, United States Army Air Force, bombed a bridge over the river Paglia at Allerona to the north of Orvieto, Italy. At the time a Prisoner of War train carrying Allied servicemen from PG Camp 54 Fara in Sabina to Germany was crossing the bridge. The exact composition of the train, and the number of persons aboard, is still open to conjecture: the majority of the card-indices and transfer documents were destroyed with the train. The British authorities learned about what happened through the interception of German communications, and on 14 February British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, in passing on the information to President Roosevelt via a special ULTRA message, was insistent that the bombing should remain top secret as a leak would point directly to British control of the German code. See http://bombedpowtrain.weebly.com/ for more information Price £9.99. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or http://www.lulu.com/shop/janet-kinrade-dethick/the-bridge-at-allerona/paperback/product-21768716.html

 

The Emperor's Guest by John Fletcher-Cooke

Pegasus Archive review: A brilliant account of John Fletcher-Cooke's experiences as a prisoner of the Japanese, based upon the letters and diaries which he kept throughout his captivity. It is this which makes it a remarkable narrative as the keeping of diaries was strictly prohibited and so there are few in the position of being able to present so clear a record. The monstrous behaviour of the Japanese towards their prisoners has been well documented, and this account shows them at their worst, yet the author remains remarkably composed and understanding despite the suffering to which he was subjected. In this we get a glimpse of the inner mental strength which was required to survive the ordeal; a strength which did not turn to bitterness and retribution when he was freed, but enabled him to return to Japan in 1969 to meet a few of his former guards, and, despite the language barrier and the odd awkward moment, one could almost say that it had the appearance of an old comrades reunion. Price £20.00. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/The-Emperors-Guest/p/4071/

 

They Have Their Exits by Airey Neave

Pegasus Archive review: Airey Neave will be forever remembered as the first British prisoner of war to make a "home run" from the supposedly escape-proof Colditz Castle. This much acclaimed memoir, first published in 1953, is chiefly concerned with his exploits there and gives a quite brilliant account of his escape to Spain via Switzerland, having simply walked out of Colditz one winter's night disguised as a German officer. Following his return home in 1942, the narrative briefly touches on his service with MI9 and his efforts to assist escapers and evaders in their return to the Allied lines, including the audacious and completely successful evacuation of 138 evaders across the Rhine in the aftermath of the Battle of Arnhem. In the final pages, Neave recalls his post-war appointment to the British War Crimes Executive at Nuremburg, where he met and conversed with many of the leading Nazis, giving detailed impressions of each. A remarkable memoir of a remarkable man. Price £10.39. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/they-have-their-exits/p/4205/

 

Under the Wire by Bill Ash and Brendan Foley

A fantastic new book - the WWII memoir of a rare American Spitfire pilot, legendary escape artist and real-life 'cooler king'. Bill Ash is one of a rare breed - an American prepared to sacrifice his citizenship and risk his life to fight the Nazis at a time when the USA was not yet in the war. He left the 'Hungry 30s' to join the Royal Canadian Air Force and before long found himself in England, flying Spitfires in combat. Then, in March 1942, Bill was shot down over the Pas de Calais. He survived the crash-landing and, thanks to the bravery of local civilians, evaded capture for months. It was in Paris that he was betrayed to the Gestapo. Tortured and sentenced to death as a spy, he was saved from the firing squad by the intervention of the Luftwaffe who sent him to the 'Great Escape' POW camp, Stalag Luft III. From there, Bill - already branded a trouble-maker by his captors - began his extraordinary 'tour' of Occupied Europe, breaking out of one camp, being dispatched to the next - in Poland, Germany and Lithuania. Bill became one of only a handful of serial escape artists to attempt more than a dozen break-outs - over the wire, under it in tunnels, through it with cutters or simply strolling out of the camp gates in disguise. These were years of extraordinary hardship, frustration and brutality - each time he was recaptured his punishment was a long spell in solitary. He was a real-life 'Cooler king'- but through it all he maintained not just remarkable courage, but also an anarchic sense of humour, great humanity and an unstoppable desire for freedom. From its honest, funny and exciting reflections on life in wartime Britain to the vivid, compelling, sometimes poignant recollections of his time as a POW, UNDER THE WIRE is more than just another memoir. It stands as a tribute to the bravery and resolve, not only of Bill Ash, but of an entire generation. In the words of top writer Alan Plater "Bill Ash makes Steve McQueen look like Jim Carrey". At the time of writing, this book is available in the UK at 30% off through the links on this page, but this offer may end at any time. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or www.underthewire.co.uk

 

Whispers from an Empty Coffin by Kathleen Belfiore Schuman Donald W. Schuman – a rather ordinary sounding name, but this is no ordinary man. Descendant from German immigrants and growing up in rural South Dakota, Donald is an all-American teen when he joins the fight against the tyranny of Nazi Germany in WWII. First-hand experiences of the horrors of war, in the end, pale in comparison to the many trials and tribulations, and then the ultimate triumphs Donald would experience across an ominous and all-too-short lifetime ahead of him. How many times must he overcome his own death – once, twice, more? Whispers from an Empty Coffin is an emotionally captivating and historically thrilling true-life tale of one man’s life journey and the many family, friends, and foes that would inevitably steer the path of his life. An inspiring adventure that serves as an inspiration for generations to come and truly exemplifies the adage, “It’s always darkest before the dawn”. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or http://www.onemanscourage.com.