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on 24 October 2013
Quite an extraordinary read. Imagine the tedium of confinement over long periods of time that these guys had to deal with. This is captured very well in the book. The distraction/joy/focus of birds in the camp saved their sanity. The other phenomenon that is apparent is the common ground that birdwatchers share irrespective of nationality or politics - that played its part too in the midst of the conflict and turmoil of war. It was a privilege as a young man two meet two of the individuals whose experiences are described in the book. I now understand so much more about what they went through and how it affected them. Altogether a thoughtful account, very well written.
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on 7 January 2014
Captivating if at times confusing in the detail matched to changing locations and stories of each of the characters in their various locations. A story also of the victory of the human spirit over lengthy captivity, both in respect of the main characters, and those who were incarcerated with them - amongst them was my own uncle, 'Digger Dowling' who was one of the vaulting team John Barratt managed on the 'wooden horse', although neither knew and both are now dead, unable to take advantage of this remarkable book. Indeed, in my role as National Park Officer to the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park my most rewarding moment was to organise the National Park Award he was given in 1989 (mentioned in the book), 23 years after turning down his offer to take up the post as the resident geography tutor at Dale Fort FSC. I still see him, and the informal suppers in the Fort with his wife in the 1960's, every time I go there. Lastly, the impacts of the incarceration, the long march for those at Sagan in early 1945, and the trials and tribulations of adapting on return after the war are a haunting reminder of the impact, echoed when I think back to my own Uncle. Out of evil, lost years of youth, trials and tribulations has come a remarkable inheritance all over Britain in the world of ornithology, which is documented step by step in this book perhaps for the first time. All in all, a wonderful, encouraging story woven together in the pages of the book.
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on 2 July 2013
i would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in birdwatching but it did drag a little at times - but to be fair if you a describing several years' incarceration in a POW camp that is perhaps inevitable.
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on 23 April 2013
This is a harrowing but uplifting tale centred around four prisoners of war, all of whom spent the majority of the Second World War in German POW camps. All four also had an interest in birds, which helped them pass the time and come through of the experience. What better way to release their minds beyond the barbed-wire fences than by watching the birds, who could go about their lives both inside and outside the barbed wire. Working without binoculars or other aids, they carried out scientific studies of birds and their behavior - redstart, goldfinches and many more. The book is very well-researched with the help of the four families, although it's a little short and very focused on the birding side of the story. Personally, I'd have rather the book been a little longer and gone into a little more detail on the POW experience - more on the food, living conditions, other activities that went on around them - but essentially, I enjoyed this book and I'm saying I wanted it to go on longer. So recommended reading!
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on 27 December 2012
Really enjoyed this , a different slant on POW's in WW2 . A must for any birders out there .
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on 17 December 2012
my husband, former Lancaster bomber pilot, retains interest iin WW2 records and loves birds - winning combination as a Christmas present
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on 5 February 2014
Nice easy to read book that is a treat to read . I kept putting it down and just thinking we never had a book that looked at skill knowledge , the way these men spent there time behind fences . It's true we may be captured by walls or rooms yet out brain is the doorway to escape . . Learning collecting nature the changing seasons of natural world is free yet it also gives you hope simple pleasures like the finding a nest , recording , bird song , are ways to escape the reality that can suffocate us if only people would enjoy the beauty of the birds flora fauna around us . It would make such a difference to our lives
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on 15 March 2015
Not quite what I expected. Too many references to letters home. But all the same an interesting read.
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on 22 July 2013
I love this book - sensitive, inspiring and written in such a way as to give the feeling you were being told a story by someone who genuinely cares. It is well researched and factual with humour interspersed. If you love birds, history or just a thoroughly good story then this is a must-read for you. It completely surprised me. The artwork is beautiful too.
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on 17 September 2013
An informative and fascinating book about four founding members of conservation and their struggles as PoW's during WWII. Well researched and written that you feel a warmth to the four men involved and their other comrades. Possibly a little longer than it should have been but still a good read.
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