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Escape From Germany [Hardcover]

Neil Hanson
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

9 Jun 2011

July, 1918. Surrounded by steel palisades and barbed-wire fences, Holzminden was the most heavily guarded POW camp in the world. Patrolled by ferocious dogs and armed guards with orders to shoot to kill, it was a brutal punishment camp, housing 700 prisoners of all nationalities. To escape would take boundless ingenuity and nerves of steel.

Many tried. Prisoners used sardine-tin openers to pick locks, forged documents, sent messages using milk as an invisible ink, and created fake uniforms and elaborate disguises - one even impersonated the notorious camp commandant. Every attempt failed, leading only to ever-tighter defences.

But on the night of 23 July 1918, twenty-nine undaunted Allied prisoners achieved the impossible. They had spent nine months using knives and spoons to move tonnes of earth, clay and stone, digging a tunnel over 150 feet long through the foundations of the barracks and under the walls and barbed-wire fences, to the farmland beyond.

This is the fascinating story of how they did it - and of the many who had failed before them. Neil Hanson provides a rare insight into the minds of these prisoners of war, revealing their resourcefulness, courage and persistence - and inexhaustible good humour.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; UNKNOWN edition (9 Jun 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385612044
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385612043
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 497,378 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

The path that led me to become an author was a pretty rambling one. Along the highways, byways and frequent cul de sacs of a very chequered career, I've been a plasterer's mate, an ice-cream salesman, a holiday camp redcoat, an art gallery director, and simultaneously an art critic and a rugby commentator - now there's a combination you don't see every day. I've also been the editor of the drinker's bible, The Good Beer Guide, and the owner of the highest pub in Britain, and I've travelled round the world twice, edited an assortment of obscure magazines, made a couple of television films, been a radio broadcaster in Britain, Australia and New Zealand, and written for newspapers around the world.

However, the world's longest adolescence finally had to come to an end one day and since then I've been pretty much a full-time author with around 50 published books to my name so far. Under my own name I write narrative non-fiction - popular history, though the sales figures suggest it's not quite as popular as I'd like it to be. I'm not a member of what you might call "the David Starkey School" of history, I'm less interested in kings, queens, prime ministers and generals than I am in what happens to ordinary people caught up in great events. I don't like "winner's history" either; I want to know the view from all sides of a conflict or issue and I'm as interested - and sometimes more interested - in the aftermath of great events than I am in the events themselves. Some of the best stuff I've written (in my opinion at least) really catches fire at the point where most other historians leave off, and that's as true, I think, of my book about the Spanish Armada "The Confident Hope of a Miracle", "The Dreadful Judgement" about the Great Fire of London, and The Custom of the Sea, as it is of "The Unknown Soldier", my book about the Unknowns buried in Westminster Abbey and at national shrines in Paris, Washington and all over the world.

My day-job is as a ghostwriter: a writer of other people's books for them. Clients have included a treasure diver, a kidnap negotiator, an explorer, a spy, a long-distance walker, a submariner, an England football coach, a cricketing legend, a controversial historian, an undercover investigator, an IRA informer, several travellers and adventurers, two fast-jet pilots and half a dozen SAS men. At various times I've also written screenplays, thrillers, short stories, a serious novel, a playscript for a musical, travel journalism, and book reviews. The one thing missing from my portfolio is poetry and believe me, there's a very good reason for that...

If you can still cope with yet more of me boasting about myself, my website is:

and my facebook page is

and if you're still not sated, you can find the talk I gave about my book The Unknown Soldier at the Pritzker Military Library, Chicago at

Product Description


"This brilliant and dramatic account is a fitting testament to a heroic episode in a war that has for too long been simplified as nothing more than the mud and blood of the trenches." (The Good Book Guide)

Book Description

The greatest WWI escape story from Germany's most notorious prisoner-of-war camp

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The first great escape 18 July 2011
Having read the authors previous books on the Great War, First Blitz and The Unknown Soldier and being really impressed with them, I thought I must give this new work a go.
Although somewhat shorter than the other two books mentioned, only 300 pages, it doesn't detract from this book. Packed with detail and some good photos this book not only informed me, but also really entertained me, I was amazed at the ingenuity and at times the humor of the prisoners.
I never really knew anything about what prisoners experienced during the Great War and although this book deals mainly with the officers camp at Holzminden it gives a good insight into what it must have been like, and in common with the other two books I have read from this author, at times this book reads like a novel and is difficult to put down.
I thoroughly recommend this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars 1st ww great escape. 2 May 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
well written enjoyable read ,had seen tv doc and decided to give book a try in depth account. recommended . enjoy!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book 7 Jan 2014
By David G Heal - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
An excellent book. Interesting just how little folklore about these escapes has survived. The escapes of WW2 are far better known.
Interesting also to see just how badly prisoners were treated in Germany in WW1. I had no idea until I read this book.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars WW1 must read 2 July 2014
By TommyH - Published on
Just a great story of a hidden part of WW1
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