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The Escape Artists: A Band of Daredevil Pilots and the Greatest Prison Break of the Great War

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Neal Bascomb, New York Times best-selling author, delivers the spellbinding story of the downed Allied airmen who masterminded the remarkably courageous--and ingenious--breakout from Germany's most devilish POW camp In the winter trenches and flak-filled skies of World War I, soldiers and pilots alike might avoid death, only to find themselves imprisoned in Germany's archi Neal Bascomb, New York Times best-selling author, delivers the spellbinding story of the downed Allied airmen who masterminded the remarkably courageous--and ingenious--breakout from Germany's most devilish POW camp In the winter trenches and flak-filled skies of World War I, soldiers and pilots alike might avoid death, only to find themselves imprisoned in Germany's archipelago of POW camps, often in abominable conditions. The most infamous was Holzminden, a land-locked Alcatraz of sorts that housed the most troublesome, escape-prone prisoners. Its commandant was a boorish, hate-filled tyrant named Karl Niemeyer who swore that none should ever leave. Desperate to break out of "Hellminden" and return to the fight, a group of Allied prisoners led by ace pilot (and former Army sapper) David Gray hatch an elaborate escape plan. Their plot demands a risky feat of engineering as well as a bevy of disguises, forged documents, fake walls, and steely resolve. Once beyond the watch towers and round-the-clock patrols, Gray and almost a dozen of his half-starved fellow prisoners must then make a heroic 150 mile dash through enemy-occupied territory towards free Holland. Drawing on never-before-seen memoirs and letters, Neal Bascomb brings this narrative to cinematic life, amid the twilight of the British Empire and the darkest, most savage hours of the fight against Germany. At turns tragic, funny, inspirational, and nail-biting suspenseful, this is the little-known story of the biggest POW breakout of the Great War.


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Neal Bascomb, New York Times best-selling author, delivers the spellbinding story of the downed Allied airmen who masterminded the remarkably courageous--and ingenious--breakout from Germany's most devilish POW camp In the winter trenches and flak-filled skies of World War I, soldiers and pilots alike might avoid death, only to find themselves imprisoned in Germany's archi Neal Bascomb, New York Times best-selling author, delivers the spellbinding story of the downed Allied airmen who masterminded the remarkably courageous--and ingenious--breakout from Germany's most devilish POW camp In the winter trenches and flak-filled skies of World War I, soldiers and pilots alike might avoid death, only to find themselves imprisoned in Germany's archipelago of POW camps, often in abominable conditions. The most infamous was Holzminden, a land-locked Alcatraz of sorts that housed the most troublesome, escape-prone prisoners. Its commandant was a boorish, hate-filled tyrant named Karl Niemeyer who swore that none should ever leave. Desperate to break out of "Hellminden" and return to the fight, a group of Allied prisoners led by ace pilot (and former Army sapper) David Gray hatch an elaborate escape plan. Their plot demands a risky feat of engineering as well as a bevy of disguises, forged documents, fake walls, and steely resolve. Once beyond the watch towers and round-the-clock patrols, Gray and almost a dozen of his half-starved fellow prisoners must then make a heroic 150 mile dash through enemy-occupied territory towards free Holland. Drawing on never-before-seen memoirs and letters, Neal Bascomb brings this narrative to cinematic life, amid the twilight of the British Empire and the darkest, most savage hours of the fight against Germany. At turns tragic, funny, inspirational, and nail-biting suspenseful, this is the little-known story of the biggest POW breakout of the Great War.

30 review for The Escape Artists: A Band of Daredevil Pilots and the Greatest Prison Break of the Great War

  1. 5 out of 5

    ||Swaroop||

    Stone Walls do not a Prison make. Nor Iron bars a Cage. You are a beloved hero, adored and respected on one side of the fence/wall, and you are a villain, hated and tortured on the other side... Your face is idolized on one side and you are beheaded on the other... Strange and weird are the ways we, humans, create divide and hate among ourselves! This thoroughly researched and well written collection of World War I breakout memoirs is about the struggles, hardships, adventures, determination, perse Stone Walls do not a Prison make. Nor Iron bars a Cage. You are a beloved hero, adored and respected on one side of the fence/wall, and you are a villain, hated and tortured on the other side... Your face is idolized on one side and you are beheaded on the other... Strange and weird are the ways we, humans, create divide and hate among ourselves! This thoroughly researched and well written collection of World War I breakout memoirs is about the struggles, hardships, adventures, determination, perseverance and escape attempts of the soldiers who happen to be on the wrong side of the fence. I have such joy in my heart's coffer, Little I care what Life may offer; Little it matters if I like In dungeons, who possess the sky. The sparkling morn, the starry night, Are locked away for my delight. But in my heart there hangs a key To open them, called memory.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    A riveting story is about prisoners of WW1 and the efforts/commitments they made upon being captured to try to escape from the German prison camps. One of the fascinating things learned in the book was the reciprocal agreement between the Germans and the allied troops (primarily English) that if an officer was caught trying to escape, he would just be assigned to another prison camp, unlike the enlisted who were summarily executed. Fascinating stories surrounding the “escape artists” and their b A riveting story is about prisoners of WW1 and the efforts/commitments they made upon being captured to try to escape from the German prison camps. One of the fascinating things learned in the book was the reciprocal agreement between the Germans and the allied troops (primarily English) that if an officer was caught trying to escape, he would just be assigned to another prison camp, unlike the enlisted who were summarily executed. Fascinating stories surrounding the “escape artists” and their backgrounds, bravery, hardships and details of outlandish escapes. Punishments, isolations, cruel treatment continued despite the best efforts of the dedicated Red Cross. German prisoners were treated so much better than our allied forces.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sherwood Smith

    An extremely well-researched account of escape attempts (both successful and unsuccessful) by British soldiers during WW I. As most of these were pilots, readers get a vivid account of what life was like for those early pilots, as warfare made its shift skyward. The attrition rate was as terrible as it became in QQ II, but these guys still were willing to risk it. Some even relished the risk. They brought the same attitude toward trying to escape, though conditions in prisoner of war camps were a An extremely well-researched account of escape attempts (both successful and unsuccessful) by British soldiers during WW I. As most of these were pilots, readers get a vivid account of what life was like for those early pilots, as warfare made its shift skyward. The attrition rate was as terrible as it became in QQ II, but these guys still were willing to risk it. Some even relished the risk. They brought the same attitude toward trying to escape, though conditions in prisoner of war camps were abysmal, especially under a particular pair of German commanders notorious for their cruelty and avarice. Relying on wartime reports as well as personal letters and diaries, Bascomb takes the time to provide backgrounds on his main characters, giving at least sketches of many others. The bulk of the book leads up to, and includes, a mass escape (over seventy men before the tunnel began to collapse), and what happened after. Unlike The Great Escape of WW II, a bunch of these guys made it. Bascomb writes with verve, demonstrating a thorough knowledge of his subject. Absorbing, often grim, read for those interested in WW I history. Copy provided by NetGalley

  4. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    The Escape Artists can easily be envisioned as ready for the big screen. The author builds up the story with painstakingly researched details of the fliers lives before the war, while imprisoned, and afterwards, including the reunions decades later. This book joins Bascomb’s other great pieces of wartime nonfiction, and rivals Hampton Sides’s Ghost Soldiers as one of the best accounts of POW escape. For my full review: https://paulspicks.blog/2018/08/20/th... For all my reviews: https://paulspicks The Escape Artists can easily be envisioned as ready for the big screen. The author builds up the story with painstakingly researched details of the fliers lives before the war, while imprisoned, and afterwards, including the reunions decades later. This book joins Bascomb’s other great pieces of wartime nonfiction, and rivals Hampton Sides’s Ghost Soldiers as one of the best accounts of POW escape. For my full review: https://paulspicks.blog/2018/08/20/th... For all my reviews: https://paulspicks.blog

  5. 4 out of 5

    Bonnye Reed

    GNAB This is a excellent history of the POW situation in Germany in the First World War, and the intrepid pilots and air crews who did their all to escape and get back into the planes that would win the war. I found it very enlightening and even entertaining at times, with never a dull moment. We forget, in this day and age, just how fragile were the planes in the early twentieth century, and how nasty that war got before it was over. The Geneva Convention was just a name as far as Germany was c GNAB This is a excellent history of the POW situation in Germany in the First World War, and the intrepid pilots and air crews who did their all to escape and get back into the planes that would win the war. I found it very enlightening and even entertaining at times, with never a dull moment. We forget, in this day and age, just how fragile were the planes in the early twentieth century, and how nasty that war got before it was over. The Geneva Convention was just a name as far as Germany was concerned and the POW camps were run by party favorites and misfits, adding to the problems faced by British and French POWs. This is history of those men, that war, that I can highly recommend to both historical readers and those of a more military bent. I received a free electronic copy of this history from Netgalley, Neal Bascomb, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in exchange for an honest review. Thank you all, for sharing your hard work with me. pub date Sept 18, 2018

  6. 5 out of 5

    Martin

    Bascomb is one of my favorites. This is an exceptional WWI thriller that tells the story of British POWs and their exploits trying to escape captivity. As is the case with the author's previous works, there is exceptional quality research and prose that read like good fiction. Thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the Advanced Copy

  7. 4 out of 5

    Leigh-Anne

    I enjoyed reading "The Escape Artists" by Neal Boscomb. It was and interesting and engaging story I was unaware of set in WWI. I am so grateful when authors write these types of stories because a time will come when the memories of these events are completely erased and these books are all we will have left of such important events. The story follows several British military men during WWI as they make several attempts to escape POW Camps in Germany. I wish I would've written down the main chara I enjoyed reading "The Escape Artists" by Neal Boscomb. It was and interesting and engaging story I was unaware of set in WWI. I am so grateful when authors write these types of stories because a time will come when the memories of these events are completely erased and these books are all we will have left of such important events. The story follows several British military men during WWI as they make several attempts to escape POW Camps in Germany. I wish I would've written down the main characters when they first appeared at the beginning of the book because I started getting confused about who was who. It is my only complaint about this book. The beginning could've been better organized and it seemed a bit confusing. A great story for any history lovers fascinated by WWI. I generally stick to WWII history, but I'm branching out and this was a fascinating story. A strong 3.5 rating from me.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Hayes

    This book was absolutely spellbinding. I read it in two days and found myself struggling to pull away. With superb editing and an extensive history of reasearch, Neal Bascomb was able to transport me to another time. The Escape Artists is a nonfiction account of prisoners of war held in Germany during World War One. This was a time when the gentlemanly agreements of the Hague and Geneva conventions were unenforceable, and prisoners were treated in grossly inhumaine fashion. The Escape Artists be This book was absolutely spellbinding. I read it in two days and found myself struggling to pull away. With superb editing and an extensive history of reasearch, Neal Bascomb was able to transport me to another time. The Escape Artists is a nonfiction account of prisoners of war held in Germany during World War One. This was a time when the gentlemanly agreements of the Hague and Geneva conventions were unenforceable, and prisoners were treated in grossly inhumaine fashion. The Escape Artists begins with a general introduction to the majority of the key players in this story, as well as the details of their service and capture. Once we have been introduced, the author takes us on a winding and well researched tale describing their daily lives, routines, trials and coping methods for life in captivity. We are introduced to men who are wontonly cruel for the sake of it, men who are cowards and attempt to curry favor with their captors, and men who with the greatest of spirit refuse to be cowed into submission. They seek only one thing...a return to home and hearth. To rejoin their comrades at the front and maintain the honor of their service they concoct masterful and daring attempts at escape and evasion, chosing to let neither terrible conditions nor repeated capture to cow their indefatigable spirit. These men maintained theire sense of selves, of justice, and their mirth as they rebelled against their captors in every way they could. This book describes some of the greatest of a truly great generation.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Barry

    3.5 stars if I could. This book is a great true story which could potentially be an even better movie.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Schuyler Wallace

    When you ‘re down and out and feeling blue (is that a song?), you need a book such as Neal Bascomb’s “The Escape Artists” to get you rejuvenated. It’s the story of heroes who never give up. The horrors of German prison camps are, once again, presented in miserable detail but there’s something different. There’s optimism, courage, ingenuity, persistence, and humor that overcome the bleakness experienced by most captives. During the war the sky over Germany rained paper, wire, and wood as thousands When you ‘re down and out and feeling blue (is that a song?), you need a book such as Neal Bascomb’s “The Escape Artists” to get you rejuvenated. It’s the story of heroes who never give up. The horrors of German prison camps are, once again, presented in miserable detail but there’s something different. There’s optimism, courage, ingenuity, persistence, and humor that overcome the bleakness experienced by most captives. During the war the sky over Germany rained paper, wire, and wood as thousands of RAF aircraft plummeted down. Some were shot down, some had mechanical failure that prompted their plunge to earth, and inexperienced pilots without enough training crashed some. The survivors were scooped up by German troops, eventually ending up in the countless prison camps. Multitudes of stiff upper lip Britishers found themselves cold, hungry, insect bitten, and miserable as guests. Through intense research, Bascomb brings forth his story of World War I British aviators who successfully escape by tunneling out of Holzminden, the Alcatraz of German prisoner of war camps. The perseverance of the courageous men is astounding and the author has described their efforts using crackling prose and riveting detail. The credo ingrained in British soldiers was that their duty was to attempt to escape at all times. The author states that there were 192,848 POWs held in Germany and that a total of 573 prisoners actually escaped. The heroes of his book tried to get away many times but most of them were failed attempts. But over and over the attempts continued. No amount of punishment, short of being put to death, ever acted as a deterrent. The Holzminden escape saw ten aviators succeed and another nineteen be recaptured. The audacity behind the escape plan, and the success, was unprecedented. The author provides the intricate details. His account is thrilling and inspirational. You need to read the book to bring some zing to your prosaic life.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ms. Yingling

    Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central World War I was a harrowing war, but is not covered as frequently as World War II. This is a shame, since there are so many facets of the war that have not been covered. For instance, I had forgotten that the Hague Conventions laid out very clear and extensive rules about how prisoners of war should be treated. During WWI, the Germans violated these on multiple occasions. The Grand Escape tells how prisoners at Holzminden were so mistreated that the plan Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central World War I was a harrowing war, but is not covered as frequently as World War II. This is a shame, since there are so many facets of the war that have not been covered. For instance, I had forgotten that the Hague Conventions laid out very clear and extensive rules about how prisoners of war should be treated. During WWI, the Germans violated these on multiple occasions. The Grand Escape tells how prisoners at Holzminden were so mistreated that the planned an almost impossible escape. In prose that has all of the compelling interest of a fictionalized tale but with plentiful period photographs to reinforce the reality of the horror, Bascomb follows soldiers as they are fighting and then captured, eventually ending up in the notorious prison camp. Following the individual's backstories, as well as their experiences in the camp, brings a very personal immediacy to the escape. Of course, any true follower of war tales will appreciate the maps and copies of notes as the prisoners plan and eventually execute their plans. Bascomb (who also wrote The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World's Most Notorious Nazi and other adult titles) knows how to tell a tale that keeps the reaer on the edge of the seat. I got so caught up in the details of the story that I frequently forgot this was nonfiction, and then stopped to check the chapter notes to reassure myself that I was not reading a novel! While there are shelves and shelves of riveting historical nonfiction about WWII, such as McCormick's McCormick, Patricia. The Plot to Kill Hitler: Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Spy, Unlikely Hero, Freedman's We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement That Defied Adolf Hitler, Hoose's The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club and O'Reilly' s Hitler's Last Days: The Death of the Nazi Regime and the World's Most Notorious Dictator, there is relatively little about WWI. Freedman's The War to End All Wars: World War I is excellent, but more of an overview than an in-depth dissection of a particular facet. I would love to see more on this military conflict and encourage my readers who like this sort of literature to broaden their scope a tiny bit!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Gilbert

    I was lucky and got to read this and two other history books as advance copies, and The Grand Escape was definitely the best of them. Stories of history can be just as engrossing as a novel if the author "gets it" and Neal Bascomb "gets it". The book is really well written and the research is obviously deep, but doesn't come off as dry facts - instead it adds depth to the real-life characters and narrative. There's a lot to learn here, and it was neat to hear how this specific breakout influence I was lucky and got to read this and two other history books as advance copies, and The Grand Escape was definitely the best of them. Stories of history can be just as engrossing as a novel if the author "gets it" and Neal Bascomb "gets it". The book is really well written and the research is obviously deep, but doesn't come off as dry facts - instead it adds depth to the real-life characters and narrative. There's a lot to learn here, and it was neat to hear how this specific breakout influenced and educated the next generation of soldiers in WWII, where the POW breakout rate increased by a lot. The pictures were great too - seeing the faces of the specific soldiers and the debris of the tunnel they dug. There were several pictures left out of the arc, so I'm going to go try and get a finished copy now. If there's one book I'd recommend out the three I read it would be this one!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Casey

    I liked it. 4.5 stars -- wish they'd let us do that. Why not 5? Having a hard time pinning it down and putting it in to words. It is just more of a feeling that it is a great book, certainly well worth the read, interesting and engaging and if you are at all familiar with later escapes say in WWII -- you will see where a lot of those lessons were learned (and later taught). Alas, still can't give it that 5. But please do not let that detract you. This one is worth the time investment if you are at I liked it. 4.5 stars -- wish they'd let us do that. Why not 5? Having a hard time pinning it down and putting it in to words. It is just more of a feeling that it is a great book, certainly well worth the read, interesting and engaging and if you are at all familiar with later escapes say in WWII -- you will see where a lot of those lessons were learned (and later taught). Alas, still can't give it that 5. But please do not let that detract you. This one is worth the time investment if you are at all interested in WWI, the early days of the RAF, or Prison Escapes.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Clay

    Meticulously and tirelessly researched and read by one of my favorite readers, Simon Vance, this finishes strong. It is also a book about escape-hungry men confined in a concentration camp with an obsessive commandant, who are further confined doggedly and relentlessly digging a long, narrow tunnel that eventually takes 29 of them to freedom--so a certain sameness and claustrophobia is built-in to the subject matter. Recommended for fans of do or die all-or-mostly-male historicals such as Steven Meticulously and tirelessly researched and read by one of my favorite readers, Simon Vance, this finishes strong. It is also a book about escape-hungry men confined in a concentration camp with an obsessive commandant, who are further confined doggedly and relentlessly digging a long, narrow tunnel that eventually takes 29 of them to freedom--so a certain sameness and claustrophobia is built-in to the subject matter. Recommended for fans of do or die all-or-mostly-male historicals such as Steven Sheinkin's.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Carlee

    This had me on the edge of my seat, especially the last part as they made their way to the Dutch border. Written with great detail and thoroughly researched. Glad I picked it up to find out about these war heroes and their amazing escape.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Shultz

    This book was about POW prison camps in Germany during World War I. The escape attempts and the drive to keep trying even after re-capture and solitary confinement was amazing. The biggest attempt in which the end of the book focused, was interesting. I was a little bored and sometimes confused earlier in the book. The story would probably be a great movie. I finished reading it because I wanted the history lesson. Ironically, I finished it on November 11, exactly 100 years after the conclusion This book was about POW prison camps in Germany during World War I. The escape attempts and the drive to keep trying even after re-capture and solitary confinement was amazing. The biggest attempt in which the end of the book focused, was interesting. I was a little bored and sometimes confused earlier in the book. The story would probably be a great movie. I finished reading it because I wanted the history lesson. Ironically, I finished it on November 11, exactly 100 years after the conclusion of World War I. It was a fitting way to contemplate that day.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    I have read the book about the famous Great Escape of World War II from a German POW camp. However, I have never heard of the Great Escape of World War I until I read this book. This book was amazing and very interesting. British and other Allied pilots were being held in German POW camps. One of the POW camps was Holzminden, a landlocked Alcatraz that held Allied POW's who made several escape attempts from other prisons. The camp commandant was Karl Niemeyer. A group of Allied POW's led by Davi I have read the book about the famous Great Escape of World War II from a German POW camp. However, I have never heard of the Great Escape of World War I until I read this book. This book was amazing and very interesting. British and other Allied pilots were being held in German POW camps. One of the POW camps was Holzminden, a landlocked Alcatraz that held Allied POW's who made several escape attempts from other prisons. The camp commandant was Karl Niemeyer. A group of Allied POW's led by David Gray, a former army sapper and ace pilot spent months on a escape plan. They dug tunnels 150 miles into Holland under enemy territory and forged documents, made disguises, and fake walls. Highly recommend for those who have a interest in World War I history!!!!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    Wonderfully told and researched! Narrative non-fiction done so well as always with Bascomb and this is a story that was very new to me. The details of the plan and its execution is so well described that I almost felt as if I were digging and half suffocating with the plotters. Gripping and suspenseful, the action keeps the tale going while also providing plenty of historical and cultural background. A fascinating read for young historians!

  19. 4 out of 5

    The Irregular Reader

    So have you seen The Great Escape? The 1963 film is a virtual who’s-who of ’60s movie stardom (including Steve McQueen (yay!), James Coburn, Richard Attenborough, and James Garner). The movie is a dramatization of a real-life mass prison break from a Nazi prison camp during World War II. The Escape Artists tells the story of the men who laid the foundations of such escapes. World War I brought warfare into a brutal, modern era. The trenches, the gas, the aerial dogfights were new and terrible rea So have you seen The Great Escape? The 1963 film is a virtual who’s-who of ’60s movie stardom (including Steve McQueen (yay!), James Coburn, Richard Attenborough, and James Garner). The movie is a dramatization of a real-life mass prison break from a Nazi prison camp during World War II. The Escape Artists tells the story of the men who laid the foundations of such escapes. World War I brought warfare into a brutal, modern era. The trenches, the gas, the aerial dogfights were new and terrible realities of battle. In addition, the imprisonment of enemy soldiers occurred at a rate previously unheard of. The systems surrounding these mass incarcerations, and the rules of engagement between prisoner and jailer were new and largely untested. It was drilled into British soldiers and officers that their duty, if captures, was to escape and rejoin the fighting force as soon as possible. Beyond bringing experienced fight men back into the fold, even unsuccessful escape attempts diverted critical enemy resources from the front lines. Bascomb has given us a lively, riveting history of some truly remarkable men. The sheer ingenuity of their escape attempts (which were many) is something to behold. These men displayed bravery under pressure, creativity in the face of hardship, and an unflagging determination to escape from their captors. When WWII began, the most successful of these escape artists would go on to tutor a whole new generation of soldiers in the art of prison break. This is a history book for military buffs, but also for anyone who enjoys a good adventure story. The fact that all this really happened only makes it that much more enthralling. An advance copy of this book was provided by the publisher via Goodreads Giveaways in exchange for an honest review.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jill Meyer

    Neal Bascomb is the author of many books about WW1, WW2, and other 20th century events. He's a superb author; writing about complicated history with an ease it's a pleasure to read. His new book, "The Escape Artists", is about British airmen and soldiers captured by the Germans in WW1 and sent to a hell-hole POW camp, Holzminden. The subtitle of the book is "A Band of Daredevil Pilots and Greatest Prison Break of the Great War", and that's what Bascomb concentrates his text on. When I picked thi Neal Bascomb is the author of many books about WW1, WW2, and other 20th century events. He's a superb author; writing about complicated history with an ease it's a pleasure to read. His new book, "The Escape Artists", is about British airmen and soldiers captured by the Germans in WW1 and sent to a hell-hole POW camp, Holzminden. The subtitle of the book is "A Band of Daredevil Pilots and Greatest Prison Break of the Great War", and that's what Bascomb concentrates his text on. When I picked this book to read for review, I looked at the title and thought it was about the famous POW break from Colditz in WW2. That was the prison breakout filmed as "The Great Escape". Bascomb, though, takes the reader back to WW1 where planes-at-war are still primitive (Orville Wright predicted powered flights "would make further wars practically impossible". He wasn't exactly correct, but rather, they became "a multipronged weapon" in the war,) Bascomb writes about the pilots, their training, their fighting, their captures. He also includes soldiers, who end up at "Hellminden", with the pilots. Neal Bascomb has written a wonderful book that captures a little known part of WW1. It's very detailed, so if you're looking for a light read on the subject, this is not the book. But for armchair historians who want to go behind the story, it's a great read. By the way, there is a Young Adult book called "The Grand Escape" on the same subject by Neal Bascomb. It's being issued on the same day as "The Escape Artists".

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ƹ̴Ӂ̴Ʒ Jenn Ƹ̴Ӂ̴Ʒ

    This is my first time reading Neal Bascomb and he offers so much of what I want in a book. I love historical novels, fiction or non-fiction, that are well researched and are well written. I enjoyed learning about aviation during WWI through the multiple story lines and rich character development. Will look for more books by Bascomb in the future. Thanks!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lghiggins

    War is such a horrible thing—vicious, destructive, and despicable. It brings out the worst and the best in man. We see both in Neal Bascomb’s true recounting of the largest escape of WWI by the British at one time—twenty-nine officers of whom ten actually made it out of Germany to Holland without being recaptured. Bascomb’s well-researched tale The Escape Artists is divided into four major sections. In the first, “Capture,” he provides a glimpse into the personalities and lives of some of the maj War is such a horrible thing—vicious, destructive, and despicable. It brings out the worst and the best in man. We see both in Neal Bascomb’s true recounting of the largest escape of WWI by the British at one time—twenty-nine officers of whom ten actually made it out of Germany to Holland without being recaptured. Bascomb’s well-researched tale The Escape Artists is divided into four major sections. In the first, “Capture,” he provides a glimpse into the personalities and lives of some of the major players in the escape, their role in the military, and the circumstances of their capture. The second section, “All Roads Lead to Hellminden,” describes a number of interment camps but focuses especially on notorious twin commandants, Karl and Heinrich Niemeyer. Both prisoners and commandants could be transferred at whim in Germany and being transferred could be positive or negative for a prisoner. This section details life in the camp and shows a better situation for officers than that experienced by enlisted soldiers who were put in labor camps. Officers, instilled with the patriotic drive to do whatever they could to hinder the enemy and return home to fight again, spent a lot of their energy devising and executing escape plans. If their attempts were unsuccessful or they were recaptured, the punishment was generally a long and uncomfortable time in a small isolation cell—dark, very hot or very cold, dirty, overrun with vermin, and little food. This trial on the body, mind, and spirit might last several days, weeks or months. Nevertheless, instead of deterring escape attempts, it prodded the officers into yet more clever tries. “The Tunnel” describes the huge group effort spearheaded by an officer named Gray to construct a very long tunnel and plan how to proceed once outside the walls of Holzminden. All of the background material in the first two sections was essential, but at this point the story really takes off and you will want to keep reading until finished. The last section. “Breakout,” shares the actual escape attempt. To write this book, Bascomb read a lot of books on the escape and the interment camps, interviewed descendants of the officers, and relied greatly on primary documents including memoirs and letters from the time. His narrative style is effective and the subject matter is interesting. Having read several books on labor and death camps, it was interesting to read about the British officers, drawn from all over the globe. Many of them were young pilots from exclusive schools and families. They had little training, but were very patriotic and had a honed sense of duty and honor. One surprising detail for me was that the imprisoned officers were able to write to their families and receive packages and money from them. Not everything went smoothly in that process, but they were better off than those in labor camps. They even had orderlies from the enlisted ranks of prisoners to make their beds, etc. This was not a luxury situation by any means, and the men were quite bored and frustrated whiling away time when they felt they should be fighting. Neal Bascomb is a former journalist who turned to writing nonfiction books full-time in 2000. He is the award winning author of nine books for adults and three for young adults. I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    I won this book through a Goodreads giveaway. Synopsis British pilots of rudimentary airplanes are captured by Germans during WWI. As prisoners of war, they are shuffled to various prisons and subject to brutal conditions. Lack of food, clean water, adequate shelter, and cruelty on the part of the prisons’ commanders’ force many officers to plan elaborate escapes. These plans, if they fail, will yield corporal punishment, solitary confinement, military court martial, and possibly death. Yet the P I won this book through a Goodreads giveaway. Synopsis British pilots of rudimentary airplanes are captured by Germans during WWI. As prisoners of war, they are shuffled to various prisons and subject to brutal conditions. Lack of food, clean water, adequate shelter, and cruelty on the part of the prisons’ commanders’ force many officers to plan elaborate escapes. These plans, if they fail, will yield corporal punishment, solitary confinement, military court martial, and possibly death. Yet the POWs persist. Through a combination of ingenuity, persistence, luck, and bravery, 29 POWs escaped Holzminden, the overcrowded and disease ridden prison under the watch of the cruel, capricious commander Niemayer. Ten of these escaped POWs eventually make it back home to Britain, just in time to see the Germans defeated and the Armistice signed. Review I was intrigued to learn about the story of WWI prison escapes. I read “The Great Escape” by Paul Brickhill, and the recent Winston Churchill story of his escape during the Boer War, “Hero of the Empire” by Candice Millard, both of which are excellent. Neal Bascomb adds to this genre of stories with a first-rate recounting of this adventure. The first thing I learned, even before the pilots were captured, was the conditions of airplanes of that era. Airplanes had only been invented less than a dozen years before WWI, and military strategies and tactics were being made up on the spot. A pilot with two months experience was needed to train even newer recruits. One third of casualties were during take offs and landings. These were all biplanes, with no enclosed cockpit, so the pilots had to wear layers of warm clothes to keep from freezing at 10,000 feet. Adding to the terror of using this new technology was the chance of being shot down by German anti aircraft weapons. Even in spite of surviving the capture, the pilots tried to endure prison life the best they could. Writing poetry, putting on plays, and exercising were all methods to keep the boredom and insanity at bay. Of course, these privileges were revoked at the whims of the captors. Karl Niemeyer, the commandant of Holzminden prison, was a very insecure man who demanded strict adherence to his arbitrary rules. Prisoners never knew what would set him off, sending them to brutal solitary confinement. Niemeyer was also harsh to the German guards, who, out of resentment, aided in the escape. I am very impressed with the ingenuity of the prisoners. They adapted ordinary household items into tools that would help them. One man made photographic copies of maps that were smuggled in. Because of the length of the tunnel, a bellows was fashioned to pump in fresh air. Compasses, maps, forged identification papers, and uniforms were all fabricated surreptitiously. Bascomb really gave me the feeling of fear and claustrophobia of the men in the tunnel. “The Escape Artists” is highly recommended detailing heroism, bravery, courage, and the resiliency of the human spirit.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    This is an excellent history (that I received as an eARC from Netgalley) of a subject that is not that well represented in the history section - probably because it deals with WWI instead of WWII. Luckily ever since 2014 when the first WWI centennials were observed more and more information about WWI has been published and a new generation of readers are introduced to the terrible first world war, a war of such devastation it is sad that this wasn't the last world war. As in all wars, along wit This is an excellent history (that I received as an eARC from Netgalley) of a subject that is not that well represented in the history section - probably because it deals with WWI instead of WWII. Luckily ever since 2014 when the first WWI centennials were observed more and more information about WWI has been published and a new generation of readers are introduced to the terrible first world war, a war of such devastation it is sad that this wasn't the last world war. As in all wars, along with casualties there are prisoners taken and this very readable book details a particular group of POWs -- Allied pilots who were shot down and taken prisoner by the Germans. That there were pilots that survived to go to prison was somewhat remarkable given the extreme flimsiness of WWI aircraft and the large number of pilots who were killed relatively soon after they were sent on missions. This history concentrates on the officers who spent most of their imprisonment planning and trying to escape German hands, usually unsuccessfully. If you have read WWII and after prisoner accounts you will be surprised at several big differences. The class difference between enlisted and officers was huge -- most POW camps were for enlisted or officers (and the enlisted were often sent into mines and other brutal work sites to toil for the Germans). The officers did have some enlisted in their camps - to work as their orderly's -- make their beds, bring them tea, etc! This was a job that was often given to enlisted that had been injured and was considered a great job. The officers were not expected to work and if they tried to escape and were recaptured they would be punished by solitary confinement. If enlisted tried to escape and were recaptured they were often put to death so between hard labor and such mortal punishment most enlisted did not spend all their time plotting escape. One other interesting part of WWI POW confinement was that officers could write regularly to their families AND receive packages from them. Many times their packages were torn apart and things stolen by German guards but still this was a regular part of their lives. By 1917 many repeat escape offenders were sent to a prison camp called Holzminden and the great escape of the title is located at this camp. Compared with some escapes in WWII not that many men actually escaped. However as the author notes, lessons learned by WWI POWs were passed down in training to British soldiers in WWII and directly contributed to successful escapes in that later war. This is a very readable history that will keep you engrossed.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kathy Martin

    THE GRAND ESCAPE details the people and events around a major prison break from Holzminden during World War I. It begins by giving the reader some background on the events that led up to World War I including the building of professional armies and diplomatic efforts that were either non-existent or ineffectual. It introduces the Hague Conventions that were supposed to legislate the ethical and humane treatment of Prisoners of War. The British entered the war with enthusiasm and with the confiden THE GRAND ESCAPE details the people and events around a major prison break from Holzminden during World War I. It begins by giving the reader some background on the events that led up to World War I including the building of professional armies and diplomatic efforts that were either non-existent or ineffectual. It introduces the Hague Conventions that were supposed to legislate the ethical and humane treatment of Prisoners of War. The British entered the war with enthusiasm and with the confidence that the war would soon be over with the Allies victorious. The book talks about the origins of the Royal Flying Corps which began as a rich man's club since they could afford the planes. It talks about the dangers of using this new technology in war where flying speeds were about 75 MPH and the ceiling for these open cockpit vehicles was 10,000 feet. After setting the scene, the book focuses on a few men who were mostly RFC pilots and spotters who crashed in German held territory and who were taken to various prisons. After numerous escape attempts, the most incorrigible found themselves at Holzminden which was commanded by Captain Karl Niemeyer who delighted in tormenting his prisoners in both great and small ways. The book details the some of the prisoners' plans to dig a tunnel out of the prison and then make their way to Holland where they would be out of German-controlled territory. It details the difficulty of the endeavor as men dug in claustrophobic conditions with bad air and the constant fear of tunnel collapse or discovery by the Germans. And getting through the tunnel was only the start of the ordeal. The escapees had to travel through hostile territory with very limited supplies and the constant fear of discovery. The book is profusely illustrated with photographs, maps, and other documents. There is an extensive bibliography, detailed chapter notes, and an extensive index (not provided in the Advanced Reader Copy I read.) I especially liked the Epilogue which followed up on a number of the men who managed to escape and make their way back to England and told how the lessons learned escaping from Holzminden helped POWs during World War II survive and escape.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tyler Bunting

    This is everything you will need while you are about to read this amazing book. This book has suspense, and information that will surprise you! I mean this book has it all when you're looking for a good informational book to read. Make sure you get your hands on this book as soon as possible! This is what you should expect when reading this amazing piece of literature. This book follows military soldiers during World War 1 who have to endure terrible conditions at Holzminden right under the nos This is everything you will need while you are about to read this amazing book. This book has suspense, and information that will surprise you! I mean this book has it all when you're looking for a good informational book to read. Make sure you get your hands on this book as soon as possible! This is what you should expect when reading this amazing piece of literature. This book follows military soldiers during World War 1 who have to endure terrible conditions at Holzminden right under the nose of a terrible warden. They have goal and one goal only. They want to escape to go back and fight in the war for their country and most importantly, their rights. These men have to deal with digging underground, the chance of getting caught, gathering contraband, and if they do escape, run away from the guards that are trying to catch them and torture them. The suspense kills you every time they get in a sticky situation! For example a team of three are sleeping and they hear footsteps and commotion. They have to stay deadly quite to make sure they do not get caught. It was a very intense moment that the author described very well. But on the contrary, the only downside is that there is very little dialogue in the novel. In some parts in the novel I felt like dialogue could have helped with understanding the novel better and making it more interesting. For example, when the tunnelers were digging it would have helped to know how they communicate because this will give the reader more understanding how risky it was to do this. Another example would be that when the prisoners were making their escape down the tunnel, knowing how the escapees communicated would help because it would add the suspense of them getting caught and you know the risk they are taking to just be set free. This book is a thriller and I would recommend this novel to anyone who likes books that have a lot of suspense. Go pick it up and read it!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Belle

    Okay wow, I have to admit, this book was super inspiring! I wasn't sure that I would enjoy it, because I just finished a narrative nonfiction book right before this one, and while it was good, it was a really hard read and very difficult to keep track of all the different historical characters, but Bascomb did a good job of introducing each figure, and then reminding us of who was who. I felt like I could relate to each escapee, and understood them and their drive. His narration of the German gu Okay wow, I have to admit, this book was super inspiring! I wasn't sure that I would enjoy it, because I just finished a narrative nonfiction book right before this one, and while it was good, it was a really hard read and very difficult to keep track of all the different historical characters, but Bascomb did a good job of introducing each figure, and then reminding us of who was who. I felt like I could relate to each escapee, and understood them and their drive. His narration of the German guards was also on point- they were flawed but they were human, and not all of them were monsters. There were also lots of pictures, illustrations and maps. I find it much easier to understand and follow along when I read as I'm sure anyone who reads and follows my blog is well aware of. Because I was reading an ARC, some of the pictures were still missing but once finished, the array of these visual aids will be amazing. As for age group, I think that it is spot on. The language is something that anyone over the age of 12 should be able to follow, and the narrative is captivating; I enjoyed reading it! While I am rating this book a 4 star, this is simply because of my own preferences in subject matter. This book was a well crafted narrative of what truly was the greatest escape of the 20th century, and throughout my reading I found myself cheering on these inspiring men. My choice in rating it a 4 star comes from the fact that while I learned a lot about the escape and the POW camps in Germany, I felt that the subject matter was very narrow. This book would be a great read as a side project for young adults in history classes, or anyone who simply wants a more personalized approach to learning about the people involved in World War 1. If this sounds like you, make sure to preorder the book which will be published September 25th!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Read Ng

    The Great Escape of the Great War. An historic event that I was not aware of. This story reads closely along the lines of the WWII movie version, The Great Escape. But these events occurred in a different era and sense of honor than in WWII. Prisoners allowed parole walks outside of the fenced prison? Care packages from home that actually make it to the prisoners? It was a different world, vastly different than today's world. I really like the glimpses of The Great War's era and peoples. How many The Great Escape of the Great War. An historic event that I was not aware of. This story reads closely along the lines of the WWII movie version, The Great Escape. But these events occurred in a different era and sense of honor than in WWII. Prisoners allowed parole walks outside of the fenced prison? Care packages from home that actually make it to the prisoners? It was a different world, vastly different than today's world. I really like the glimpses of The Great War's era and peoples. How many escape attempts stay the same over the years. I was amazed at the ingenuity of the POW to concoct a plan and gather resources. And how Officers were treated so differently from the Enlisted. I was intrigued by the concept that POWs relocated into a neutral country could return to their homes, but would not be eligible to return to the battlefield. I was especially terrified by the vision of digging an escape tunnel under such dangerous conditions. And regardless of the era, being a POW is never a pleasant experience. This was a GoodReads

  29. 5 out of 5

    Alexa Hamilton

    This book should not be called the grand escape, because it's the story of so many escapes and so many escape artists in German POW camps during WWI. I really had little idea what these camps were like, or most POW camps. The reality is stark and unpleasant, and not appropriate for how they were supposed to be treated. It's no wonder these intelligent and brave men cooked up scheme after scheme to get themselves out of the camps. In this book, you'll get to know a lot of these really incredible, This book should not be called the grand escape, because it's the story of so many escapes and so many escape artists in German POW camps during WWI. I really had little idea what these camps were like, or most POW camps. The reality is stark and unpleasant, and not appropriate for how they were supposed to be treated. It's no wonder these intelligent and brave men cooked up scheme after scheme to get themselves out of the camps. In this book, you'll get to know a lot of these really incredible, tireless individuals, many of whom wanted to escape not to go home but to go rejoin the fight. There is some suspense here--how will the grand escape go? Will they make it? The subtitle of the book suggests they will but what is success in this situation? Bascomb's writing lives up to the level he set in The Nazi Hunters, though there is a bit less suspense. However, there is a lot of feel good stories and comradery. I learned a lot and I liked it.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Meag McKeron

    The claustrophobia was real with this one (as it should be for a book about a group of men burrowing underground in order to escape a German POW camp). The resourcefulness and perseverance of the men who managed to escape Holzminden was beyond impressive -- whether they made it across the Dutch border or not. The author clearly did his research too - there were tons of primary sources and photographs to flesh out his story, and the included diagrams made it easier to understand the layout of the The claustrophobia was real with this one (as it should be for a book about a group of men burrowing underground in order to escape a German POW camp). The resourcefulness and perseverance of the men who managed to escape Holzminden was beyond impressive -- whether they made it across the Dutch border or not. The author clearly did his research too - there were tons of primary sources and photographs to flesh out his story, and the included diagrams made it easier to understand the layout of the prison and the logistics of tunneling out of it. I read the young adult edition of this (the adult one is called Escape Artists, I believe), but it didn't seem watered down at all - it was full of fascinating information and conveyed just how horrible prison conditions were without being too graphic.

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