New Escape & Evasion Books

This new page was started on September 7, 2014.  On it I will list new escape and evasion books that come to my attention, including some that are awaiting publication.  I welcome suggestions for additions to the list because I am sure there are many I am not aware of.   My descriptions of the books may be quotes from publications to which I subscribe (WWII, WWII HistoryCommunications [Air Forces Escape and Evasion Society or AFEES], the newsletter of the WWII Escape Lines Memorial Society or WWII ELMS], and the 8th AF News.

  • Ashdown, Paddy, A Brilliant Little Operation: The Cockleshell Heroes and the Most Courageous Raid of World War Two,  Auburn Press Ltd., 2012 (hardback) and 2013 (paperback).  “Inserted by submarine in the open sea of the Atlantic, the Cockleshell team fought tidal races, very hazardous sea conditions, and exhaustion.  They laid up during the day and paddled (their canoes) at night down the Gironde River to Bordeaux.  Only four of the ten men reached the target area in darkness to lay their limpet mines on shipping, and only two of those reached home.  The damage caused to the shipping was not great, but the damage caused to German morale and sense of impregnability was immense.  Hitler issued his Commando Order that all raiders were to be shot on capture, and fumed ‘How could ten men in small canvass “children’s” boats breach German security and cause such damage?  Following the raid the men’s presence was known and the enemy saturated the immediate area with troops in hot pursuit.  Despite this, brave helpers came forward to assist them as the two exhausted survivors had to find the strength and the means to make their escape onwards and over the Pyrenees.”  WWII ELMS Newsletter No. 36, 2014.  For a review by The Telegraph, click here.
  • Bain, Roland J., Enter the Enemy: A French Family’s Life Under German Occupation, Merriam Press, 2014.  WWII History: This is the story of a French officer’s family and its experiences during the occupation.  The daily lives of the family members are covered in detail.  For more, click here.
  • Bond, Dr. Barbara, Great Escapes: The Story of MI9’s Second World War Escape and Evasion Maps, HarperCollins UK.  Publication is due in November 2015 or in 2016.  The description of the book on Amazon is as follows: The creation of MI9 in December 1939, the rationale for the new military intelligence branch and the context of the history of military mapping on silk is outlined in this history. The map production program is described, together with its progress and the challenges faced. The various groups of maps are identified and described, together with the source maps on which they were based. The ingenious methods of smuggling the maps into the camps, with other escape aids, in apparently innocuous leisure items are described. The maps were then copied and reproduced to support the escapes. Coded correspondence with the camps is discussed, and a successful deciphering of some of that correspondence is provided.”  For further information, click here.
  • Bowman, Martin, Voices in Flight: RAF Escapers and Evaders in WWII, Barnsley, Yorkshire: Pen & Sword Books, 2014.  Chockfull of escape stories, this book is great fun to read, very informative, and well-documented.  For more, click here.
  • Carswell, Andrew, Over the Wire: A Canadian Pilot’s Memoir of War and Survival as a POW, Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum (CWHM).  The story of  Andrew Carswell’s experiences as an RCAF pilot shot down over Nazi Germany.   “His starboard engine was on fire. His aircraft was in an uncontrolable dive. The fuel tanks were threatening to explode. It was only his fourth mission. This night would end his flying war, but it would not end his fight nor would it end his long flying career.” To order a copy, click here.
  • Cook, Philip and Ben H. Shepard, European Resistance in the Second World War, South Yorkshire, England: Praetorian Press, an imprint of Pen & Sword Books Ltd., 2013.  The description on Amazon reads, “Resistance to German-led Axis occupation occurred all the way across the European continent during the Second World War. It took a wide range of forms – non-cooperation and disinformation, sabotage, espionage, armed opposition and full-scale partisan warfare. It is an important element in the experience and the national memory of the peoples who found themselves under Axis government and control. For over thirty years there has been no systematic attempt to give readers a panoramic yet detailed view of the make-up, actions and impact of resistance movements from Scandinavia down to Greece and from France through to Russia. This authoritative and accessible survey, written by a group of the leading experts in the field, provides a reliable, in-depth, up-to-date account of the resistance in each region and country along with an assessment of its effectiveness and of the Axis reaction to it. An extensive introduction by the editors Philip Cooke and Ben H. Shepherd draws the threads of the varied movements and groups together, highlighting the many differences and similarities between them. The book will be a significant contribution to the frequently heated debates about the importance of individual resistance movements. It will be thought-provoking reading for everyone who is interested in or studying occupied Europe during the Second World War.”  To order from Amazon, click here.
  • Delfosse, David, Liberte a Tout Prix, Editions Delattre.  In French, it describes the evasion/escapes of the crew of the B-17 Flying Fortress “Sarah Jane”. Five of the crew were assisted by the Dutch-Paris escape line from Paris to the Spanish border. It is a very detailed account of the lives of the crew from induction into the USAF until return to Allied lines.  For further information, click here.
  • Dell, Frank, with Brett Piper, Mosquito Down, The Extraordinary Memoir of a Second World War Bomber Command Pilot on the Run in Germany and Holland, Fighting High Publishing, 2014.  Chris Collusi, reviewing it in WW2 ELMS Newsletter, No. 37, 2015, wrote as follows: “(Frank Dell’s) story is of flying a Mosquito of 692 Squadron on an operation to Berlin when he was brought down by a night fighter over the Duisberg-Munster area.  His navigator was killed and he landed safely by parachute.  He walked at night into Holland where he met up with the Dutch Resistance.  Frank still keeps in touch with the families.  It is a story of hiding and moving on to different safe-houses continuously in Holland and the help given him by the brave Dutch helpers.  We also learn what happened to his helpers.  Eventually Frank returned to England.  After the war Frank flew with BEA and became their chief pilot (technical).  I enjoyed this book and not just because Frank is a good friend.”  For an interview with Dell, click here.  To order a copy, click here.
  • Di Mattia, Gabriella, Campo 78 – The Aussie Camp, Museo Italiano, 2016.  “Gabriella Di Mattia was born in Melbourne in 1961. When she was 10 years old her parents decided to return to Sulmona in the Abruzzo region of Italy, where they were both born. Initially Gabriella felt lost and disillusioned by this decision of her parents, but an extended tour of Italy with them and her younger sister helped her improve her command of the language, appreciate the culture and start enjoying the new lifestyle. At school Gabriella continued to study English in order to maintain her links with her aunts, uncles and cousins back in Melbourne. She attended university in Abruzzo.  Gabriella subsequently initiated research into the Prisoner of War Camp, “Campo 78″ located 5 kilometres from Sulmona. On the wall of one the huts she identified the Australian Commonwealth Emblem, sparking an interest in her that she had not foreseen. Her research led her to estimate that the over 3200 POWs who were captured in the North African campaign and known as the “Desert Rats” included approximately 500 Australians.  Gabriella has written a bilingual English and Italian history of the Australians who were detained at the camp. Her effort is testament of her enduring love and respect for Australia, the country of her birth. The book was officially launched in Sulmona on 21 November 2015, in the presence of a representative from the Australian Embassy. Australian Ambassador to Rome Mike Rann (former Premier of South Australia), whose father had been a POW during WW2, visited Sulmona and Campo 78 10 days later.”  For further information, click here.
  • Froom, Phil, Evasion and Escape Devices Produced by MI9, MIS-X, and SOE in World War II, Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing, expected date of publication December 2015.  Publisher’s description: “This book describes the design, manufacture, covert shipment and use of the many ingenious evasion and escape devices provided to Allied troops during WWII. Following the fall of mainland Europe, hostile Allied actions against land-based Axis forces were generally limited to air attacks. However, as the numbers of those attacks increased, the number of aircraft and crews failing to return grew alarmingly: something needed to be done to provide these air crews with aids to enable them to evade to safe territory or escape captivity, or losses of irreplaceable crews would become critical. Britain’s MI-9 and U.S. MIS-X organizations were formed solely to support evaders and prisoners of war in occupied territories. They developed a wide variety of evasion and escape devices that were given to Allied Forces prior to operations in hostile territory or delivered clandestinely to POWs. It worked: the aids facilitated the return of thousands of men to their units.”  Click here to connect to the publisher’s page.
  • Furst, Alan, A Hero of France, New York: Random House, 2016.  “1941. The City of Light is dark and silent at night. But in Paris and in the farmhouses, barns, and churches of the French countryside, small groups of ordinary men and women are determined to take down the occupying forces of Adolf Hitler. Mathieu, a leader of the French Resistance, leads one such cell, helping downed British airmen escape back to England.”  Alan Furst’s suspenseful, fast-paced thriller captures this dangerous time as no one ever has before. He brings Paris and occupied France to life, along with courageous citizens who outmaneuver collaborators, informers, blackmailers, and spies, risking everything to fulfill perilous clandestine missions.”  Click here to connect to the publisher’s page.
  • Gildea, Robert, Fighters in the Shadows, A New History of the French Resistance, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2015.  “The French Resistance has an iconic status in the struggle to liberate Nazi-occupied Europe, but its story is entangled in myths. Gaining a true understanding of the Resistance means recognizing how its image has been carefully curated through a combination of French politics and pride, ever since jubilant crowds celebrated Paris’s liberation in August 1944. Robert Gildea’s penetrating history of resistance in France during World War II sweeps aside “the French Resistance” of a thousand clichés, showing that much more was at stake than freeing a single nation from Nazi tyranny.  As Fighters in the Shadows makes clear, French resistance was part of a Europe-wide struggle against fascism, carried out by an extraordinarily diverse group: not only French men and women but Spanish Republicans, Italian anti-fascists, French and foreign Jews, British and American agents, and even German opponents of Hitler. In France, resistance skirted the edge of civil war between right and left, pitting non-communists who wanted to drive out the Germans and eliminate the Vichy regime while avoiding social revolution at all costs against communist advocates of national insurrection. In French colonial Africa and the Near East, battle was joined between de Gaulle’s Free French and forces loyal to Vichy before they combined to liberate France.  Based on a riveting reading of diaries, memoirs, letters, and interviews of contemporaries, Fighters in the Shadows gives authentic voice to the resisters themselves, revealing the diversity of their struggles for freedom in the darkest hours of occupation and collaboration.  Click here to order a copy.
  • I sentieri per la liberta (multiple authors).  In Italian.  Covers a number of escape line, Resistance, and Partisan routes throughout Italy. For further information, click here or here.
  • Kent, Henry and Karen Kent, A Slice of Life: A Journey of Escape and Finding Meaning, 2014.  The Amazon description of the book reads, “Experience a whole lifetime in Henry Kent’s inspiring memoir, A Slice of Life. Beginning with the German bombing of Rotterdam in 1940, this harrowing saga tells the true story of one man’s journey from Jewish refugee to American family man.  Hans Kats is twenty-six years old when the Germans attack his hometown. After fleeing to the United States, he attempts to forge a life for himself in a tool factory in Springfield, Vermont.  But Kats remains determined to help his home country and eventually joins the US Army’s Counter Intelligence Corps, changing his name to “Henry Kent” to disguise his Jewish ancestry. After ferreting out German spies, befriending concentration camp survivors, and gathering information for troop movements, Kent finally witnesses the end of World War II and returns home.  Back in the United States, Kent makes a major life change by becoming a Christian pastor. This move, however, ultimately kindles a desire to reconnect with his Jewish roots, sending him on a spiritual journey that lasts a lifetime.”  To connect with Amazon, click here.  For the official Facebook page, click here.
  • Le Febvre, Marie, Risking and Resisting: Discovering the Untold Story of My Family’s Flight for Freedom in World War II.  The Amazon description of the book says, “It all began with a letter from a stranger. A single message from across the Atlantic launched a journey of discovery to an unknown chapter of Marie Le Febvre’s family’s past-a chapter filled with extraordinary courage and unexpected connections.  Marie’s journey uncovered a heritage of risking and resisting during World War II, and forged in her a new understanding of freedom.” For further information about the book on Amazon, click here.  For a collection of original documents relating to the book, go to http://www.riskingandresisting.com/.
  • Lett, Brian, An Extraordinary Italian Imprisonment: The Brutal Truth of Campo 21, 1942-1943, Pen & Sword, Jan. 2015.  “This is the story of PG21, at Chieti in Italy, between August 1942 and September 1943.  It was run by an Italian pro-Fascist regime who used violence and bullying, together with a lack of amenities, to try to break the prisoners down — little water, bad sanitation, few medical facilities and no heating in winter — it had little effect, morale remained high.  Attention to the plight of the prisoners and the poor conditions that existed in the camp, was raised in the House of Commons and the International Red Cross requested to intervene.  As a POW camp, and not a concentration camp, PG21 should have been administered under the rules of war.  It is recorded that one recaptured escaper was severely beaten by the first Commandant and a recaptured RAF pilot was murdered by his Italian guards.  Despite the oppressive regime, tunnels were dug, other escapes were planned, and a number of prisoners tried to get out through the sewerage channels.  To add to their woes, in 1943 in the short time when the camp was unguarded, between the Italian Armistice and the arrival of German guards the Senior British Officer (SBO) refused to let the now ex-prisoners leave the camp before the Germans arrived.  Bad feelings ran high — some men left the camp regardless, preferring to take their chances.  Once the Germans arrived they promptly put the prisoners on trains bound for Germany.  A number of POWs escaped in the confusion, some hid within the camp, but most were recaptured locally.  After the war, a number of the Italian camp staff were arrested for war crimes and some SBOs were charged for preventing the POWs from gaining freedom when they had the chance — according to military law, it was their duty to escape.”  (WWII ELMS Newsletter, No. 36, 2014.  Pen & Sword, 2014.  For more on the subject, click here.
  • Mellor, Gordon, ETA – A Bomber Command Navigator Shot Down and on the Run, Fighting High Ltd., 2016.  Gordon Mellor served as a navigator with RAF Bomber Command during the Second World War, and ETA is the first-hand account of a conflict that tests not only his initiative and resilience, but also the ability to survive amidst the extreme dangers of a Nazi occupied Europe.  For more on the subject, click here.
  • Meyerowitz, Seth, The Lost Airman, A True Story of Escape from Nazi Occupied France, Berkley Caliber, January 2016.  “The Lost Airman tells the suspenseful story of a truly remarkable American, shot down over enemy occupied territory in World War II, who amazingly managed to stay a step ahead of the Nazis for over six months and get back home. A terrific, thrilling tale you won’t want to miss.”—Alex Kershaw, New York Times bestselling author of Avenue of Spies and The Liberator  The Lost Airman is a deeply researched, finely wrought gem. The story of Staff Sergeant Arthur Meyerowitz’s harrowing struggle to escape from Nazi-infested France across the snow-bound Pyrenees to Spain will haunt you long after you’ve put this riveting book down. The courage, quick wits, and sheer guts displayed by Meyerowitz and the men and women of the French Resistance who gambled their lives to help him are simply extraordinary.”—Jack Cheevers, author of Act of War, Winner of the Samuel Eliot Morison Award for Naval Literature.  For further information, click here.
  • Moorhead, Caroline, Village of Secrets, Defying the Nazis in Vichy France, Harper/Collins, 2014.  “High in the mountains of the southern Massif Central in France lie remote villages, often difficult to reach, but all united by a long and, at times, difficult history.  During the German occupation these villages hid and saved many people from the concentration camps.  Security amongst the village people was good, there were no informers, no denunciations, and no one broke ranks.  Resisters, Freemasons, Communists, and Jews were all given shelter, particularly the children.  During raids the fugitives would be led from the villages to the fields and woods, carrying their belongings and provisions.  Their cue to return was often the farmers’ rendering of a pre-arranged song.  After the war, one of these remarkable villages, Le Chambon-dur-Lignon, was honoured by Yad Vashem as “Righteous Among Nations.”  The region has many stories to tell; this is one of them.”  WWII ELMS Newsletter, No. 36, 2014.  For a review by the New York Times, click here.
  • Snyder, Steve, Shot Down, The True Story of Pilot Howard Snyder and the Crew of the B-17 “Susan Ruth,” 2014.  “On February 8, 1944, his plane, the B-17  Susan Ruth, was shot down over the French/Belgium border after a mission to bomb Frankfurt, Germany.  The book tells the true story of events leading up to and after that harrowing day.  Of the ten man crew, some died, some ended up in prison camps, and some evaded capture.   What makes this book unique is the varied, detailed, and amazing story of what happened to each crew member, in particular Howard Snyder who evaded capture and was missing in action for seven months.  It was created from the vast number of letters and journals of Howard Snyder; diaries of men and women on the ground who rescued, sheltered, and hid the crew; and interviews conducted by historians.  Centered around the 306th Bomb Group in Thurleigh, England, it is informative, insightful, and captivating.”  Author’s website and 8th AF News.
  • Takle, Patrick, The British Army in France After Dunkirk, Pen & Sword, 2009.  “While over 333,000 British and French troops escaped, on Operation Dynamo, from Northern France via Dunkirk between 26 May & 4 June 1940, thousands were left behind.  Many had volunteered to stay with the wounded, others fought the gallant rear-guard actions allowing many others to escape.  Churchill wanted a second BEF to be sent, together with air cover, which would have meant fewer numbers remaining to defend Great Britain, so the plan was delayed by senior Generals and Airmen.  Despite the problems, many of those left behind got away from the Normandy and Brittany Ports, and from other areas further south including Bordeaux–some even from as far south as St. Jean de Luz.  Altogether about 192,000 troops got away from other ports. leaving about 40,000 rear-guard troops to organise their own evasions in small groups.  Many became the first evaders to reach England.”  (WW2 ELMS Newsletter, No. 37, 2015.)  To order, click here (US) or here (UK).
  • Torres, Fernando A., A Habit of Resistance, Five Towers Publishing, 2015.  The description of this novel on Amazon reads “A Habit of Resistance, is the exciting story of a quirky group of nuns who progress from having a small gun club to joining the French Resistance during WWII. Sister Marie’s latest novitiate is a young woman named Noele whose fiancé, René, fled to Paris only to find it overrun by the Nazis. Now back in sleepy Brassac, both René and Noele realize that decisions of love and liberation can never, truly, be avoided. Sister Marie is not unsympathetic to the emotions with which Noele battles; having gone through a similar struggle when she was young. The offbeat nuns must wrestle with how far to expand the margins of their vows, in hopes of saving their town and themselves. A Habit of Resistance is a humorous, but thought-provoking story of personal denial and redemption.”  Part of the book deals with the experiences of a downed pilot of a Spitfire.
  • Trimble, Lee with Jeremy Dronfield, Beyond the Call, The True Story of One World War II Pilot’s Covert Mission to Rescue POWs on the Eastern Front, New York: Berkley Caliber, 2015.  The description of the book on Amazon is “Near the end of World War II, thousands of Allied ex-POWs were abandoned to wander the war-torn Eastern Front, modern day Ukraine. With no food, shelter, or supplies, they were an army of dying men.  The Red Army had pushed the Nazis out of Russia. As they advanced across Poland, the prison camps of the Third Reich were discovered and liberated. In defiance of humanity, the freed Allied prisoners were discarded without aid. The Soviets viewed POWs as cowards, and regarded all refugees as potential spies or partisans.  The United States repeatedly offered to help recover their POWs, but were refused. With relations between the allies strained, a plan was conceived for an undercover rescue mission. In total secrecy, the OSS chose an obscure American air force detachment stationed at a Ukrainian airfield; it would provide the base and the cover for the operation. The man they picked to undertake it was veteran 8th Air Force bomber pilot Captain Robert Trimble.  With little covert training, already scarred by the trials of combat, Trimble took the mission. He would survive by wit, courage, and a determination to do some good in a terrible war. Alone he faced up to the terrifying Soviet secret police, saving hundreds of lives. At the same time he battled to come to terms with the trauma of war and find his own way home to his wife and child.  One ordinary man. One extraordinary mission. A thousand lives at stake.  This is the compelling, inspiring true story of an American hero who laid his life on the line to bring his fellow men home to safety and freedom.”  To order, click here.
  • Tunstall, Peter, The Last Escaper: The Untold First-Hand Story of the Legendary Bomber Pilot, ‘Cooler King’ and Arch Escape Artist, New York: Overlook Press, 2015.  “This autobiographical tale tells of the author’s time as a POW.  He became a celebrated escape artist.”  World War II History, June 2015.  To read an excerpt, click on http://ducknet.co.uk/blog/extract-peter-tunstalls-last-escaper.
  • Williams, Louise, A True Story of the Great Escape: A Young Australian POW in the Most Audacious Breakout of WWII, Shot down in 1942, Australian pilot John Williams became a POW in the notorious Stalag Luft III camp in Germany. John and his best mate Rusty Keirath were among the 76 POWs who tunneled their way out of the camp in what became famous as the Great Escape. John’s family was never told what happened to him. His niece Louise Williams has pieced together his life, from his upbringing in a tight-knit family hit hard by the Depression, his exploits in the air, the inventive collaboration of the POWs, to the tragic outcome of their escape.  Allen & Unwin, 2015.  For more information, click here.

For more book reviews, see the WW2 Escape Lines Memorial Society’s page of reviews at http://www.ww2escapelines.co.uk/?page_id=913.  See also

2 responses to “New Escape & Evasion Books

  1. Have you read Night Sky by Clare Francis?
    My Father was an Australian in RAF Coastal Command and fortunately was not shot down.

    I haven’t read it but it appears interesting. It is a novel published originally around 1984. Reviews on Amazon are favorable.

  2. I just ought Eugene Halmos’ book The Wrong Side of the Fence, about his escape and then arrest after a Liberator went downover the Netherlands. Great story. On amazon.com

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