Prison breaks have an eternal fascination, especially if they involve Allied servicemen escaping from a German camp. Now, to rival Steve McQueen landing in barbed wire as he tries to flee the Nazis in The Great Escape, Neal Bascomb brings us the true story of a more successful breakout, this one from World War I ... The story is slow to unfold: Mr. Bascomb, the author of several other works of popular history, introduces us to Holzminden on page 95 and to the tunnel on page 135—but with the tunnel the pace and interest pick up.
Paul Brickhill’s The Great Escape (1950) is widely considered the best nonfiction book about escapes from wartime prison camps. This gripping new volume gives Brickhill’s classic a run for its money ... Based on extensive research, including documents written by the escapees themselves, the book is intensely detailed and written with a prose style that puts readers right there in the camp with the prisoners: when the prisoners hold their breath, terrified of being discovered in a secret activity, the reader will hold his or her breath, too. In the ever-expanding genre of prison-escape sagas, this one joins the top ranks.
Bascomb 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 ... Bascomb draws on unpublished memoirs, official histories, and family papers to spin this action-packed, briskly paced tale.
Say what you will about the Jerries: They knew how to mount a flying circus—and how to shoot down brave Britons in the skies over France. One of those brought abruptly to ground was a 19-year-old named Colin Blain, one of the heroes of Bascomb’s stirring tale ... Bascomb’s portraits of the principals are affecting, Niemeyer among them—and though he became unhinged following the escape, the commandant was sound enough of mind to slip away at war’s end to avoid being tried as a war criminal, another great escape in itself ... Expertly narrated, with just the right level of detail and drama.