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Great Escapes of the First World War (Hardback)

Military > Biographies > Military Biographies WWI

By Rachel Bilton
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 208
ISBN: 9781473887732
Published: 10th January 2019



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Just how far would you go to escape? Would you bury yourself under the floor? Would you board a boat with a rotten bottom? Would you tunnel underground?

Contained within this book are the daring true stories of fifteen soldiers and their escapes from prison camps during the Great War. What makes these tales special is that they are first-hand accounts, written at the time when the experiences were still fresh in the soldiers’ minds. Shocking, moving, exhilarating, humorous, dark. There is not an emotion left unexplored in this selection of accounts, where a group of brave individuals risked all they had to escape and get back to their own country. The adventures span everything from unexpected alliances and remarkable kindness to exceptional ingenuity and considerable danger to foolhardy audacity and, quite frankly, jammy luck.

Included in the text are rarely seen images, maps and plans of the escapes, along with biographical information on each soldier about their time during the war.

This book pays tribute to the men who, although captured and incarcerated during World War One, still somehow found it in themselves to break out of prison and make their way back to fight again. Their story is a remarkable account of determination, tenacity and will to keep going; a perfect illustration of the extraordinary courage that can overcome us when we are desperate to return home to our loved ones.

Courage and resourcefulness are common ingredients in these stories of World War I POWs. This book is recommended highly.

Spring 2020 issue of Over the Front

As featured in

Stand To! Western Front Association, October 2019

A moving tribute to extraordinary courage and tenacity rarely seen today.

Read the full review here

Julian Stockwin Blog

Article: Great War had its own great escapes part of 'Your Local Memories' feature

Kent Messenger (Maidstone & Weald), 9th May 2019 – words by Alan Smith

Instagram review via @Chiznoids


This book will entertain you with stories full of adventurous implications on a topic, the escapes from the prison camps in the First World War, which few know.

Read the full Italian review here

Old Barbed Wire Blog

Competition as featured by

24 seven Lifestyle, April 2019

The author has assembled the first hand accounts of fifteen soldiers to illustrate the situation. As first hand accounts, they provide unique views from those who were involved. Their accounts are illustrated with plans and maps through the body of text and a photo-plate section with very rare images. A enthralling story with all the emotions, the trials, joys and disappointments.

Read the full review here


Following a series of talks on the BBC of great escapes of the first world war the decision was taken to publish these in book form. What a fascinating story they make, especially so as the stories are told ‘first hand’ by the men who made them and which capture the mood, mannerisms and culture of 100 years ago.
Each story is self contained and the inclusion of ‘what happened next’ to each of these men is a story in its own right. From escapes in Europe to long trails across Turkey, from England by Gunther Pluschow and escaping up the camp sewer the reader will find more than a ‘Boy’s Own Story’ but stories that will capture the imagination.
Rachel Bilton has done a fine editing job and the introduction by J.R. Ackerley, himself a POW introduces the book splendidly.

Royal Hampshire Regiment Museum

A collection of short and lively first-hand accounts of escape during the First World War, most of which are told from a British perspective with a few German ones included. Some of their endeavours were successful, others much less so, and employed a wide variety of escape methods; climbing over the wire, tunneling under it, picking locked doors, being smuggled out in laundry baskets, or walking out of the main gate disguised as a guard. They can read like a boys-own adventure and seem to make light of it all, yet it is clear that their position was extremely perilous and often relied heavily on luck, as the undernourished men moved through a hostile country towards a closely guarded neutral border which could be every bit as difficult to cross as breaking out of the camp. Unarmed and unaided with nothing to rely on but their wits, the dangers and challenges were enormous, and so these stories also provide an insight into the mindset of that rare individual who will voluntarily and eagerly embrace them, and risk everything to get home.

Read the full review here

Pegasus Archive
 Rachel Bilton

About Rachel Bilton

Rachel Bilton is currently studying in France and intends to pursue a career in journalism and/or publishing when she graduates. This is her first book and it is part of a trilogy; she has also edited the third part. These two books will be followed by another on Great War escapes. Rachel has always been interested in history, particularly the more deadly parts. She is trying to find the answer to why so many men wanted to kill complete strangers for four years.

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