“Bascomb has unearthed a remarkable piece of hidden history, and told it perfectly. The story brims with adventure, suspense, daring, and heroism.”
—David Grann, New York Times bestselling author of Killers of the Flower Moon
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 might avoid death, only to find themselves imprisoned in Germany’s archipelago of prison camps, often in abominable conditions. The most infamous was Holzminden, a land-locked Alcatraz that housed the most troublesome, escape-prone officers. 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 watchtowers 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 toward 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.