Allied prisoners of war stage a series of intrepid escapes from German captors in this young readers’ version of a true story from World War I.
Established to hold captured Allied officers with histories of escape attempts, the camp at Holzminden, a “land-locked Alcatraz,” was 150 miles from the Dutch border and bristling with guards. Many of the inmates, though, were stimulated rather than discouraged by these obstacles and, from its foundation, made tries at freedom—most notably on the night of July 23, 1918, when 29 men crawled out through a narrow tunnel dug over the previous months. Only 10 eluded the ensuing manhunt, but the exploit made headlines in Great Britain and was, Bascomb (The Escape Artists, 2018, etc.) claims, “the greatest escape of the Great War.” Along with introducing a cast of colorful characters like RAF Lt. Harold Medlicott, “Britain’s answer to Harry Houdini,” who had already broken out of nine other camps, the author presents a picture of camp life as an oddly civilized affair in which the prisoners were so well-supplied from home that in the war’s immediate aftermath local residents came to them for food. The tales of the digging of the cramped tunnel and of the escape itself make suspenseful reading, enhanced by diagrams and photographs.
A fine escapade related with proper drama and likely to be news even to well-read young historians. (maps, sources, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 12-15)