Visitors often come in to our Museum Library and are in awe of the sheer number of books we have ~ well over 8500 volumes! Many visitors browse, searching out select topics, especially if they’re wanting to expand their reading experiences; others come to research select topics. All our visitors appreciate the variety of titles within a particular area of interest.
As we near Veterans Week and Remembrance Day, we take time to think about those who fought for us. In this post, I’m recommending a series of books from our Library on the topic of POWs.
This first book is titled The Tunnel King. Written by Barbara Hehner, it’s the true story of Wally Floody and the Great Escape. You might know that “the Great Escape was one of the most daring prisoner-of-war breakouts of the Second World War. Yet few Canadians know the heroic story of Wally Floody. Wally was a Canadian fighter pilot, imprisoned in Stalag Luft III, who was a key figure – the Tunnel King – in the carefully planned escape.
Shot down over France on his very first combat mission, Floody was captured by German soldiers and spent almost four year in POW camps… Wally, who had worked as a miner before the war, knew the best way out was to tunnel underground… ” This book not only has fascinating facts about life in the camp, but also pays tribute to a courageous Canadian.
If you’d like to know more about The Great Escape, check out Gary’s post FROM OUR MAIN GALLERY ~ THE COLWELL DIARY.
Escape From Colditz by P.R. Reid was considered “just about the best of the many escape books of World War II” by Time when Reid’s The Colditz Story was published. This is a reissue of that book, Reid’s personal memoir until his own escape in 1942; in addition, the volume contains The Men of Colditz, the story of the prisoners Reid left behind. “Colditz prisoners were the elite, the ‘bad boys’ who had escaped from other camps and had been recaptured. The Germans considered Colditz Castle escape proof. An imposing medieval fortress built on a cliff, the castle was moated and surrounded by palisades of barbed wire on the edge of vast precipices. And despite blackout restrictions, the castle’s stone walls were flooded with spotlights every night. The guard garrison outnumbered the prisoners at all times.
Bold, imaginative men like Reid, English escape officer until his own ‘homerun’ in 1942, kept a steady stream of internees on the escape route. In four and a half years there were over three hundred escape attempts from Colditz and, while relatively few reached the safety of Allied territory, the miracle was that any succeeded.”
A Governor General’s Award Finalist, Nathan M. Greenfield wrote The Forgotten, Canadian POWs, Escapers, and Evaders in Europe, 1939-45. This book “tells the story of the more than 10,000 Canadian servicemen, merchant mariners and civilians for whom the war ended in surrender, capture, imprisonment or escape, as seen through the eyes of a group of men who struggled to survive in Hitler’s Europe. Among them were Private Stan Darch, who had already survived the cauldron of Dieppe; Sergeant Edward Carter-Edwards, who endured the hell of Buchenwald; RCAF Sergeant Ian MacDonald, who was on the run before being betrayed to the Gestapo and spent six weeks in the notorious Fresnes Prison in Paris; as well as seventeen civilian priests and brothers who were captured at sea… these otherwise ordinary Canadians required extraordinary valour and commitment to the Allied cause – and to each other.”
Over the Wire is a Canadian Pilot’s Memoir of War and Survival as a POW. Written by Andrew Carswell, this is his story, and includes “his account of life in the camp (Stalag VIIIB) and his two daring escapes form the heart of this fascinating story of a boy sent to do a man’s job. He risked death daily yet never gave up and never lost hope. He was finally liberated by Montgomery’s Second Army in 1945 and returned to England. After the war, Andrew Carswell was commissioned and then returned to Canada, where he was discharged in September 1945. He re-enlisted in the RCAF as a pilot in 1949, retiring in 1970…”
Peter Conrad wrote this title, Canadian Wartime Prison Escapes, Courage & Daring Behind Enemy Lines. Conrad introduces the book, “These stories were written with extensive research into their subject. They are based on the facts of their events but are presented with an eye to good storytelling. The dialogue, thoughts and emotions of the characters are the writer’s inventions since it is impossible to know the feelings of people at the time or the words exchanged. I was fascinated by these episodes of the courageous men who served Canada in war and were either captured by the enemy and escaped or made their way back after getting caught behind enemy lines… this book is a tribute to the acts of courage and bravery that contributed to the Allied victories.”
Les Chater wrote Behind the Fence, Life as a POW in Japan 1942-1945. “Les Chater was captured in 1942, when the Japanese invaded Singapore and Java. His wife and small son escaped on an American troop ship and did not hear any news of Les for the next 18 months. He spent the rest of the war in POW camps in Semplak, Java, and in Mitsushima and Kanose in Japan. His secret, daily record in four palm-sized booklets was an ongoing challenge, and a small defiance.
Every death and its cause is noted in these diaries. Every meal, the activities in the camp, the personalities of the guards and officials are described. The Japanese civilians, often little better off than the prisoners near the end, are portrayed as a friendly, cheerful and respectful people. Although this meticulous detail had no purpose other than as a chronicle, the diaries became after the war an accurate and useful account of the treatment of POWs.
Chater also recorded names and vital information of his fellow POWs, reproduced here in lists of American, British and Chinese prisoners held in the camps with him… These diaries were submitted as evidence in the Tokyo War Crimes Trials in 1947.”
Silent Battle, Canadian Prisoners of War in Germany 1914-1919, was written by Desmond Morton. In this book, Desmond Morton “takes a penetrating look at the hidden history of Canadian prisoners during the First World War. He probes their fate and their pain, and follows their own private physical and psychological battles agains hopelessness and desperation… by the time they reached camp, the Canadians knew that their guards could be brutal and easily provoked.”
Lest We Forget…