By W.A.P. Manser
Tommies Guides, 2009
Flying a Hurricane over Crete during the Second World War, the author crash landed and was transported to Germany as a POW. Sent to Stalag Luft III, his thoughts immediately turned to escape and he was part of an audacious daylight escape attempt.
After this exciting opening the tale backtracks to Manser’s pre-war life, where he spent a great deal of time in Germany thanks to a travel scholarship. This gave him some insight into the German people and the country at a time when Hilter was in power. Manser left the country in 1938 with the threat of war looming, and in 1939 travelled to France. his language skills were to come in useful during his time in captivity. He returned to England on 2nd September. With the outbreak of war, he went to university before joining the Air Force in June 1941. After time spent training in America and the UK, he headed to Africa and took part in convoy escort duties. It was from Africa that he embarked on the raid on Crete in which he crash landed.
Whilst in Stalag III Manser was witness to a number of escape attempts, including the infamous ‘Wooden Horse’ and the ‘Great Escape’. He paints an interesting picture of prison life and the sometimes strained relationships between the prisoners. In January 1945, in the face of the advancing Russians, the camp was evacuated. The prisoners were marched across the country suffering from the cold and privations of minimal rations as the Red Cross parcels dried up. From Moosburg in Bavaria Manser escaped whilst on a working party. The next turn of events could have done with some more detail, but when the Americans entered the area, the escapees were told to return to their camp. Dissatisfied with this state of affairs, they ‘escaped’ from the Americans and rejoined the RAF near Frankfurt.
The author is quite candid about how he enjoyed the adventure of the war and the rest of his life could not quite match it in terms of excitement. He does not come across as a particularly likeable person, and the book is ended with some anecdotes that seem rather out of place. Nevertheless for an account of life as a POW the book does offer some interesting insights.
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Diary of a War