Books Reviewed in 2018

Escape From the Japanese – By Lt Cdr Ralf Burton Goodwin OBE

Lost Warriors – By Philip Davies

Gentleman Jim – By Lorna Windmill

Escaping the Ordinary – By Lorna Windmill.

Escaping Soldiers and Airmen of World War 1 – By Martin Bowman

Shot Down and on the Run – By Graham Pitchfork MBE

Bletchley Park and the Pigeon Spies – By Bernard O’Connor

The Escape Line – By Megan Koreman

Secret Pigeon Service – By Gordon Corera

Trusty to the End, The History of 148 [Special Duties] Squadron RAF 1918 -1945 – By Oliver Clutton-Brock

The Dutch Resistance Revealed – By Jos Scharrer

With SOE in Greece – By Pat Evans

The Lost Airman – By Seth Meyerowitz with Peter Stevens.

The Barefoot Soldier – By Johnson Beharry [Reviewed by Chris Colussi]

The Hidden Army – MI9’s Secret Force and the untold story of D-Day – By Matt Richards and Mark Langthorne

The Great Escapes – The Story of MI9’s WW2 Escape & Evasion Maps – By Barbara Bond

Escape to Pagan – A family’s struggle against overwhelming odds in SE Asia in WW2. – By Brian Devereux

Standing TallBy Andy Reid [Reviewed by Chris Colussi]

Italy’s Outstanding Courage – The Story of a Secret Civilian Army in World War Two – By Brian Gordon Lett


Escape From the Japanese by Lt Cdr Ralf Burton Goodwin OBE

The stories of successful escapes from Japanese camps in the Far East are few. Those who did escape knew full well that if successful it meant freedom, if recaptured it meant torture and death, and grave recriminations for those left behind; Japanese brutality had no limits. The Geneva Convention went unacknowledged by the Japanese. Jungle camps seldom had perimeter fences; the hostile jungle was sufficient deterrent. Camps in Hong-Kong were comprised of mainly prisons and military barracks, but to escape from these was equally difficult. Hong-Kong Island was surrounded by the China Sea; Kowloon and the New Territories were bordered by sea except at the northern border with China, which was occupied by the Japanese, so there was only a slim chance of making contact with Chinese guerrilla forces in China until well into Chinese territory.

Throughout Hong-Kong Island and the Kowloon peninsula Western prisoners stood little chance of ‘blending in’ with the locals even if they did manage to escape. However Goodwin decided to escape from the Shamsuipo POW Camp in Kowloon with the support of his colleagues, who would probably face retribution if he succeeded, although they did not rate his chances! One side of the camp faced Lai Chi Kok Bay, his proposed escape route. He slipped into the water and swam between the clusters of junks, using them as staging posts. Goodwin swam and walked alone; he could not speak Chinese; he had no maps, but could navigate by nature and the stars. Three months after his escape he reached Calcutta; he had covered 870 miles.

Well worth reading. ISBN 1848329296. Frontline Books. Cost £19-99.


Lost Warriors – By Philip Davies

This is a story of two forgotten heroes, in a forgotten army, in a forgotten war, in a forgotten land; of two men whose paths crossed under appalling jungle conditions, featuring torture, brutality, killer diseases and constant pursuit by the Japanese and the dreaded Kempeitai, during the most savage conflict in human history. The Japanese meted out cruel treatment to all their enemies and conquered countries.

Major Hugh Seagrim GC DSO MBE of the Burma Rifles, volunteered to stay behind the Japanese lines for nearly three years to raise an army of loyal Karens in eastern Burma. He was attached to the covert Force 136 and organised the most successful guerrilla operation of WW2. He was tall [6’ 4’’], and known as Daddy Long Legs by the Karens whom he towered over. Guerrilla leader, military maverick, SOE agent, yet an intensely spiritual Christian man who inspired the Karen people with a ‘tommy gun’ in one hand and a Bible in the other. Seagrim’s story is one of courage, honour and loyalty to his Karen people in the face of appalling brutality; who chose to sacrifice himself to save his Karen friends from systematic torture. He is revered as a saint in eastern Burma, with a school and a hospital named after him, yet he is hardly known at home.

Roy Pagani had an astonishing story of escape under intensely dangerous conditions. Initially he served with the East Surrey Regiment in India and the Sudan before returning to England in 1939. He went with the BEF to France and there fought a rear-guard action at Bayes Dunes near Dunkirk. After booby-trapping the vehicles the unit was sent to Dunkirk where Pagani found a boat and four days later arrived at the east coast village of Shingle Street.

On re-joining his unit he sailed to Egypt via Canada, and was then diverted to India. With a deteriorating situation in the Far East Pagani was moved on again to Singapore, but his ship was attacked by Japanese bombers before they reached the Island. He landed amidst chaos and his arrival became a fighting withdrawal. Gathering others together, he collected supplies and headed to sea in a sampan; by island-hopping they avoided the Japanese and headed in the direction of Sumatra. Eventually Pagani was captured and returned to mainland Malaya. After placements in various camps he found himself in a cattle truck heading for work on the Burma end of the Death Railway. The appalling treatment provoked him to quit the camp and head alone into deep jungle where, dangerously ill, he was lucky to be taken in by the native tribes, bringing him into contact with Seagrim. For a while Pagani worked and fought alongside Seagrim, but he then decided to move on, aiming to reach India on foot. Capture by the Kampeitai thwarted his plans; more appalling conditions, beatings and torture prompted another escape, and he continued his walk north to freedom. At the end of the war Pagani underwent long-term medical treatment. MI9 interviewed both Pagani and many witnesses finally resulting in his award of the Military Medal.

This book tells of bravery and determination in one of the most hostile terrains on earth and is also a good account of jungle warfare and survival techniques. Well researched.

Atlantic Publishing. Cost £20. ISBN 9781 909242 852.


Gentleman Jim – By Lorna Windmill

‘Gentleman Jim’ is the wartime story of a co-founder of the SAS Regiment. Jim Almonds was a gentleman who could also be very self-disciplined and deadly when the situation demanded. The book follows the formation of the Regiment from its first training base at Kabrit, known as ‘L’ Detachment, where it trained its recruits through the North African Campaign, Almond’s capture at Benghazi, escapes from Italian POW Camps and his return to Allied lines. It also documents parachuting into occupied France for operations behind the lines with Resistance forces and leading advanced recce patrols into Germany for the Allied advance. Later Almonds served in Norway. Prior to Almond’s final escape from Monte Urano [PG70] in Italy he left the camp to recce Porto San Giorgio for 1 Special Force to provide details for a boat pick up; the pick-up was a complete success, no doubt due to the recce. [This action took place in the Tenna Valley area of Italy where ELMS undertakes a Freedom Trail each year.] Having passed on his information Almonds proceeded with his own escape on foot. After 32 days of walking he reached the Allied

Lines. Later, on leave in England and now an SAS Major in uniform, he was driving along a back road where he spotted two Italian POWs toiling in the fields. Almonds asked his friend to stop and then gathered in all their cigarettes, got out of the car and walked across to the workmen. The PoWs were anxious as the tall British Officer approached them. He then surprised them by handing over the cigarettes saying, ‘These are for you, because the Italian people were very kind to me and looked after me when I was an escaping PoW in Italy’. The men were all smiles, responding with salutes and saying, ‘Grazie, grazie, II Capitano’. But that was Gentleman Jim Almonds!

This book covers all aspects of Special Forces warfare in different theatres of WW2. Well worth a read and a must for all military types. ISBN 1 84119 3402. Constable Books. Cost £18-99.


Escaping the Ordinary – By Lorna Windmill.

When the war finished and the Regiments disbanded, it left gaps in many men’s lives which proved very difficult to live with. Jim Almonds, however, found ‘other things to do’. He tried to adapt to civilian life but it lacked excitement and the comradeship that the military had offered. He re-joined the Army, served as a military advisor to Emperor Haile Selassie in Ethiopia and later became the Second in Command of the Eritrean Police Field Force, chasing bandits and terrorists – a very dangerous job, often undertaking covert operations on foot and in civilian clothes, a job for which only military volunteers were considered. After surviving the bandits Almonds volunteered for active service again, with the reformed SAS Regiment, parachuting into the Malayan jungle to seek out and destroy communist terrorists. The story is set during the British Army involvement in the declining years of the British Empire. Almonds later designed and built boats by hand in Singapore and Africa, using no power tools, and sailed one of the boats, a 32 foot ketch, back to England. This is an E-Book. ISBN 9781788030670. Cost £4-99.


Escaping Soldiers and Airmen of World War 1 – By Martin Bowman

This is the story of the Allied escapers of WW1. The focus of the book is prison life: methods of escape, preparation and planning to escape from camps in Germany and Turkey, the types of camps used by both sides, numbers of POWs, routines, camp money and the conditions under which they were held. It also includes information about a number of German servicemen who tried to escape from England, and first-hand accounts of escapers and prisoners, many who were pilots from the Royal Flying Corps, who returned to England.

ISBN1473863228.Pen and Sword Books. Cost £25.


Shot Down and on the Run – By Graham Pitchfork MBE

This book was reviewed several years ago on first publication, but due to demand it has recently been updated and re-published. The book covers British and Commonwealth airmen who were brought down over enemy occupied territory in WW2. It uses first hand interviews, photographs and documents from airmen in all theatres of war: from the Low Countries to the Far East including Burma; from the desert to the jungle; from the Arctic to Greece and Italy. The book also deals with the organisation of MI9, its organisation, training and aircrew escape kits. The escape lines are covered and helpers mentioned. It is worth updating your copy. ISBN 97814728 27227. Osprey Books. Cost £10-99 (Soft back).


Bletchley Park and the Pigeon Spies – By Bernard O’Connor

Members will recall that in a previous Newsletter I wrote an article about the pigeons carried by bomber crews and those used by SOE and other covert organisations. The military also used them. During WW2 over 11000 carrier pigeons were used by Military Intelligence, many were dropped with agents into the field and then released when the agent was safely behind enemy lines to let London know of their safe arrival. Many birds, bearing small containers fitted to their legs to carry the much needed Intelligence information, returned to the pigeon loft at Bletchley Park. Others were taken in their baskets to RAF Tempsford, fitted with parachutes, and released over France, Belgium, Holland and Denmark by the Special Duties Squadrons to reception committees on the ground. All major covert organisations used the pigeons as information carriers.

Once decoded by M14 staff, messages were forwarded on to the relevant organisation, SOE, SIS, MI9, their country sections, the War Office, Tempsford Parachute Section, Army, Navy, and RAF Intelligence branches, PWE, MEW, the BBC, and sometimes to Winston Churchill and Charles de Gaulle. This book deals mainly with the pigeons used by SOE and other similar organisations linked to Bletchely Park. ISBN 978 0 244 66640 9. Bernard O’Connor. Contact fquirk202@aol.com


The Escape Line – By Megan Koreman

How the ordinary heroes of The Dutch-Paris Escape Line resisted the Nazi occupation of Western Europe.

In early summer 1942, John Weidner was assisting a Jewish family to get safe passage to Switzerland. Not knowing the couple, and with no intelligence or escape line training or knowledge, he and his wife Elisabeth risked their lives to move their charges from a French Prison where they were held, across the border to Switzerland. The Dutch-Paris Line was born. Weidner knew the Swiss mountain area well and in his younger days had spent much of his spare time walking the mountain routes avoiding the border checks. Initially the route ended in Switzerland, but this changed once aircrew evaders started to become interned in Switzerland and headed to Toulouse, St Girons and the high Pyrenees. The longest escape route in Europe, extending from the North Netherlands, through Belgium, France and Spain to Gibraltar. At the end of the war it was estimated that Dutch-Paris had escorted 1500 fugitives from the Netherlands to Switzerland or Spain. It also supported up to 3000 fugitives hiding in Belgium and France. Only the names of Allied airmen and Engelandvaarders were recorded and there is an accurate list. 168 Dutch men and 48 Dutch women followed the route to England. Others, many Jewish, were supported in safe-houses and eventually taken into Spain. The Line grew, from just the Weidner family, to 330 operatives. It surmounted difficulties with different Ianguages, currency, travel tickets, passes, permits and documentation that were all required due to the several borders they had to cross. There were ‘creative’ cover stories required to explain why a man of military age was not in uniform or working for the Third Reich. Finance was needed for train fares, food and safe-houses – much of which was supplied by the Dutch Government in exile. The black market was also a source for food supplies. Dutch-Paris was also an intelligence network and a messenger system for the Dutch Government in London. As with most organisations in the Netherlands collaborators and double agents were a constant worry as there is nothing more dangerous than working for the enemy in your own local area. The Abwehr had penetrated SOE and was in control of radio traffic between the Netherlands and SOE in London. Helpers were constantly hunted by the Gestapo. Many were captured and suffered badly in the hands of the Gestapo and in the concentration camps of the Third Reich. Many others were executed or died in the camps. Despite the problems the Line continued until the end of the war.

Although the longest escape line in Europe with many roles, involving Jewish fugitives, aircrew evaders, Engelandvaarders, an intelligence courier system and an Intelligence gathering capability, the Dutch Paris Line never received full recognition for the diversity of its activities. This is partly due to its successful security methods, the cut-out systems for its operatives and, in many cases, its radio silence with London. Operatives did not know each other and very little was recorded until the evaders reached Gibraltar and London where they were debriefed – so there was scant information available to compromise. In London in 1942, Queen Wilhelmina formed the Oranjehaven Club, a place where, on their arrival, she could meet and personally thank the Engelandvaarders for their loyalty to her over tea and biscuits and discuss the situation at home. Today, facing Hyde Park near Marble Arch, there is a plaque outside the building at 23 Hyde Park Place, depicting its wartime role. This is a well-researched book and one of the very few that deals with the Dutch-Paris Line and the Dutch Resistance. ISBN 978019066227. Oxford University Press. Cost £22-50.


Secret Pigeon Service – By Gordon Corera

Operation Columba was the name of the operation that used homing pigeons to gather intelligence from enemy occupied Europe. More than 16,000 pigeons operated between the UK and Denmark in the north, down to Bordeaux in Southern France. Many birds did not survive due to the hungry French shooting them down for food, others were attacked by hawks, and additionally German soldiers were employed to shoot them down. Known as the Special Continental Pigeon Service [SCPS] under MI 14 [d], the birds flew from lofts throughout the UK. The Royal Signals organised the pigeon operations and took responsibility for collecting messages from the lofts then forwarding them using other pigeons or motor cycle despatch riders.

The first drop of pigeons in parachute baskets was over Belgium in April ’41, to the Resistance, and yielded excellent results revealing ammunition dumps, German morale and talk of an English invasion. A further drop over NW Belgium in July ‘41 returned with 5000 words in the ankle tube revealing submarine bases, ammunition dumps, factories to bomb, and fuel dumps; it also contained an assessment of RAF bombing raids. The authors of the message were a cell of Belgian Resistors led by Jozef Raskin, a Catholic Priest. More pigeons were dropped to them, but many went astray. The pigeon flights were of a low priority regarding RAF delivery flights and, although the cell produced detailed maps of Belgian coastal defences, in-fighting within the various intelligence agencies, resulted in MI6 not sharing the asset with other agencies. Columba operated throughout the war years and one of its major achievements was the intelligence on the enemy V2 rocket systems. Many of the brave Belgians in the cell were later betrayed by a local collaborator and executed by guillotine.

The RAF carried pigeons on bombers to be released if the crew became compromised. These messages stated a ‘location of contact’ report to support searches for crew or wreckage. SOE and Special Forces also used pigeons for communication to enable them to remain on radio silence. Although pigeons did not win the war the intelligence that they delivered certainly helped. ISBN 9780008220334. William Collins Books, Cost £20.


Trusty to the End, The History of 148 [Special Duties] Squadron RAF 1918 -1945 – By Oliver Clutton-Brock

It is always sad when effective ‘wartime mobilised’ fighting units that have fought through numerous campaigns, are disbanded at the end of the conflicts – their jobs done. Veterans’ Associations fade away and many of the WW2 war-raised unit associations have now gone. When speaking to one WW2 army veteran about his old Regiment he said, ‘There’s only me left, and I have been asked to stay here to turn the lights off’. So, it’s good to see that the history of 148 squadron has been brought out into daylight again.

The Squadron was formed in 1918, disbanded and re-formed several times, then re-formed again in December 1940, in Malta. It had a very distinguished WW2 record, serving initially in Malta with Wellingtons before moving to Egypt. In 1941 it supported the Desert Air Force to defeat the Axis forces in North Africa then was, yet again, disbanded in December 1942. However, Winston Churchill had other ideas. During 1942, Churchill, who was keen to develop Resistance in the Balkans, ordered a flight of Liberators in North Africa to fly long range missions to drop supplies to Partisans; the Liberators were later joined by Halifax Bombers and in March 1943 the flight officially became 148 Squadron. The Squadron later moved to Brindisi in Italy; there it flew hundreds of tons of supplies and ammunition and dropped agents to support Resistance movements in Greece and Eastern Europe. The Squadron took many casualties in the Balkans but its worst operations were yet to come. Operations to Poland in July and August 1944, and the Warsaw uprising, nearly destroyed the Squadron.

This book is extremely detailed in its operational information. It covers all the Squadron operations in the Mediterranean theatre, the Balkans and throughout Eastern Europe together with the aircrew, and losses and evasions. It also covers SOE missions in Eastern Europe, agent liaison and the political consequences of involvement with partisan groups. It is certainly well worth a read to understand the problems and dangers of aircrew operating throughout Eastern Europe. The book also brings to life a Squadron that had gone to ground in 1945; without this book, their history may have been lost to all but a dedicated few. Bomber Command, the Special Duties flights and SOE tended to be focused on NW Europe. With this book the veil of the unknown has been lifted. Well recommended. ISBN 9781911255185. Mention The War Publications. Cost £20


The Dutch Resistance Revealed – By Jos Scharrer

There were many escape line and Resistance groupings within the Netherlands during WW2 but most worked independently for security reasons. The Dutch-Paris Line was possibly the most successful and largest escape line traversing routes from the Netherlands to the Pyrenees, although other smaller local lines operated in the country including The Escape, Allied Aircrew Helpers, The Engelandvaarders and several others. The Netherlands was a particularly difficult country to operate in. It was heavily fortified along the coastal region, with large ack-ack units to stop allied bombers using routes over Holland to Germany, and no mountains or large forest regions for Resistance groups to operate from.

Generally, occupied countries lived under the control of the German Army, but the Dutch had the misfortune to have the attentions of the SS and the Gestapo, delivering a tyrannical and bullying regime. To make matters worse the occupation was bedevilled by collaboration, treachery, double agents, betrayal and funding. When the Dutch Government and the Royal Family headed for London in May 1940 they took with them most of their national treasury and gold bullion. In addition, incompetence by SOE in London added to the nation’s problems.

Abwehr Major Hermann Giskes organised a brilliant German counter intelligence operation known as Englanderspiel, causing many Dutch agents to be parachuted into the hands of the Gestapo due to a lack of radio security procedures at the London end. Operators in the Netherlands were captured and forced to transmit to London. On most occasions the operators omitted their security checks or sent wrong checks as a covert alert to London, only to be reprimanded by London and requested to employ security checks next time, yet still responding to the coerced messages. This confirmed to the Germans that security procedures were not being followed and that London would respond without a security check, so they proceeded to transmit bogus messages to London resulting in the capture of over 56 highly trained Dutch agents on the DZs. 36 agents were later executed. In addition, aircraft and aircrews that dropped the agents were also intercepted and brought down, as the enemy knew when to expect them. A Commission held after the war highlighted the shocking fact that London had responded to operators without a security code disobeying a basic rule of operating procedure.

Despite the problems the gallant Dutch people assisted allied evaders to return to freedom. Both the successful and unsuccessful operations are discussed in great detail. The book focuses on Henri Scharrer and much previously untold information. ISBN 1526728133. Pen and Sword. Cost £19-99.


With SOE in Greece – By Pat Evans

This is one of the few books written about SOE in Greece. After Oxford University, Evans travelled around Europe and at one stage he was Gerald Durrell’s tutor on Corfu [‘My family and other Animals’ and TV series ‘The Durrells’]. At the outbreak of war Evans enlisted in the Royal Tank Regiment, but was head hunted by SOE for his language skills and his knowledge of Greece. The events portrayed are from many sources and focus on the activities of Evans who was inserted into Northern Greece by parachute in September 1943. His mission was to support the Greek Resistance Forces to carry out commando style raids, sabotage and to gather military intelligence. But it was not just Resistance work, the country was imploding with feuding political groupings who were also fighting each other for government after the war. He fought a difficult battle between the Germans, the Communist ELAS, the Macedonian irredentists, the Allied High Command in Cairo and SOE. After the German withdrawal in late 1944 he was sent to northern Greece to try to establish ceasefires between the waring factors amidst the chaos of civil war. He faced many challenges and on return to civilian life found the adjustment difficult. ISBN 1526725134. Pen and Sword. Cost £19.99.


The Lost Airman – By Seth Meyerowitz with Peter Stevens.

This is a good Resistance and evasion story. Meyerowitz was brought down over France in his B 24 Liberator. Luck was on his side when he approached an isolated farmhouse for help after hastily leaving the site of his landing. The family, who were linked to the Morhange Resistance Group and its legendary leader and founder, Marcel Taillandier, took him in. The group also had connections to escape networks. While working with Morhange, Meyerowitz was caught by the Gestapo and treated very badly. An escape was arranged by Morhange and after medical treatment Meyerowitz was held in safe-houses in the Toulouse area where he met up with other evaders including Sqn Ldr Richard Cleaver DSO RAF. His harrowing and desperate challenge to evade the Gestapo continues, before eventually taking on the high Pyrenees. His portrayal of his crossing of the snow-bound Pyrenees to Spain and his chase by Austrian mountain troops with sniper rifles, directed by Henschel 126 spotter planes, adds a new dimension to the crossing. The snow conditions were severe and arguments amongst the international group and the two Belgians in the party resulted in the Belgians refusing to continue. The group split leaving the Belgians to go back; the Brit, American and the French continued into Spain. The route continued, passing through Spain in a van to Seville, then Algeciras, followed by a fishing boat to Gibraltar. It is a good read; notable accounts are of the crossing of the Pyrenees and the Morhange Resistance group. ISBN 9781782398936. Atlantic Books £17-99.


The Barefoot Soldier – By Johnson Beharry [Reviewed by Chris Colussi]

I have just re-read this book. It is a fascinating insight into the life of a young, modern-day soldier – an ordinary man, who did extraordinary deeds. It chronicles Beharry’s early life in Grenada and his subsequent move to the UK, where regrettably he descended into some ‘bad habits’. His saviour was his enlistment into the British Army, in which he served as a member of 1st Battalion PWRR. Beharry was deployed in Kosovo and Northern Ireland, before being sent to Iraq in 2004. He gives a vivid description of the life and conditions experienced by the military in Iraq. It was in Iraq that he won his VC for his actions on May 1st and June 11th, saving the lives of 30 men during ambushes. Following the catastrophic injuries sustained in those actions Beharry was treated at the Queen Elizabeth Neuroscience Centre and Headley Court.

Published – Shere; Price – £6.99; ISBN- 978-0-7515-3879-3


The Hidden Army – MI9’s Secret Force and the untold story of D-Day – By Matt Richards and Mark Langthorne

Over 74 years ago, Airey Neave and MI9, organised an audacious plan involving concealment, deception, and the collection and the feeding of evading allied aircrew within yards of the enemy, near the base of a German ammunition store and a short distance from a main trunk road. Known as Operation Sherwood, it was based on the Freteval Forest between Chateaudun and Vendome near Cloyes-sur-le-Loir. Many of the evaders were collected in by local Resistance forces, others were sent by Comète and the Shelburn Line. It was a gamble by Neave, Belgian agents, the French Resistance and local people that enabled 152 aircrew evaders to reside undetected in the Foret de Freteval for over three months. The evaders learned to trap, prepare and cook animals and forage for survival food. The Operation remained a total secret, even to many of the local villages in the area. After the arrival of seventy evaders tensions began to grow between the Belgian Agent Lucien Boussa, the Americans and the British. A second camp was selected by Omer Jubault, the Resistance Leader for the area, and the American evaders moved into it. Most of the outer perimeter of the camps was under observation by local farmers who kept wet wood near their fires to use if the Germans came near or entered the forest. The wet-wood fires produced white smoke, a silent, visible warning to the airmen of the presence of the enemy. The authors also deal with the liberation of the camp, initially by the recce patrol under Capt Peter Baker, then the main two transport columns under Airey Neave and the US Army. ISBN 9781 78606 9025 John Blake. Cost £18-99 Top of the Document


The Great Escapes – The Story of MI9’s WW2 Escape & Evasion Maps – By Barbara Bond

This is an excellent book dealing with both MI9 and the Escape Line routes. It starts with the creation of MI9, its infrastructure, staffing and general organisation, then continues on to the escape lines and POW camps. It tells of the background to the mapping programmes, the production processes and the methods of delivering the maps to the people who needed them. In the POW camps they were concealed, together with other aids, in board-games and other leisure items. Coded correspondence and methods of decoding are also covered. There are some escaper stories and escape routes, including routes through the Baltic Ports. Without question, MI9 maps proved to be the key to many WW2 escapes; without them thousands of men who travelled alone would not have made it back to England. ISBN 978 000 814 13010. Times Books. Cost £25 Top of the Document


Escape to Pagan – A family’s struggle against overwhelming odds in SE Asia in WW2 – By Brian Devereux

This is an incredible story in two parts, of one family’s struggle, set against the Japanese in Hong-Kong and in the most inhospitable jungle of Burma. It is the story of Jack Devereux a Sgt in 2 Royal Scots, who was shot in the head leading a bayonet charge against the Japanese on Golden Hill in the New Territories of Hong-Kong. Parts of his skull and jaw were shattered and, gravely injured, he spent days lying on the ground with his head covered in maggots, surrounded by dead bodies, fading in and out of consciousness.

Jack opened his eyes a little as he felt a Japanese officer attempting to drag him over bodies, apparently in order to place him more conveniently to decapitate him with his sword. Jack still had a pistol near his left arm, which he was considering using on himself, then as the officer raised his sword Jack used the weapon to discharge two shots into the would-be executioner.

Falling into long periods of unconsciousness, Jack was taken into Sham Shui Po POW camp in Kowloon by fellow Royal Scots prisoners. The Japanese treated Jack with fascination; he made a great impression on them with his appalling head, jaw and neck injuries and his fortitude and indomitable spirit. Eventually, with other prisoners, he was put on to the ill-fated troop ship Lisbon Maru bound for labour camps in Japan. The ship was attacked by an American submarine, unaware that there were POWs aboard, and began to sink. The prisoners struggled to free themselves from the locked hold, only to be attacked in the water by Japanese machine gunners who fired on the survivors.

Of the 1816 POWs on board, only 725 survived. Jack was one of the lucky ones although still badly wounded. The graphic details of his survival, and that of others, are described. Eventually after clinging to a raft for days and dodging sharks Jack was rescued by fishermen who took him to their village. After a rest and food, they planned their escape to the mainland only to be surprised later by a large group of Japanese marines and captured again.

Meanwhile, Jack’s family had been left in Mandalay when the Regiment was moved from Burma to Hong-Kong to defend the colony. Now, in Mandalay, Jack’s wife, Kate, received a telegram from the army stating that Jack was missing presumed killed during the battle for Hong-Kong.

As the Japanese army was advancing through Burma, Kate feared that her identity, married to a British soldier, would be discovered, so with her son (the author) and her mother, they desperately made plans to flee their home ahead of the Japanese advance. Adopting the guise of the Mons Burmese tribe, they were sheltered in native villages. They foraged for jungle food and water along the way and slept out in the open. Not only were the Japanese their enemy but also other predators, armed bandits, snakes, leeches, mosquitos, wild animals and disease. Chances of survival were slim, thousands had died on the same escape route to India due to starvation and disease. In addition to the natural hostility from jungle predators there was also bombing and strafing from Japanese aircraft fire.

Undoubtedly, the family owed their survival to their redoubtable grandmother who could speak Japanese and could pass herself off as Burmese. She had made the decision to head for and find the deserted mystical medieval city of Pagan, where she thought the Japanese would not dare enter. She was right.

This book is not only a ‘family at war story’ but also one of survival against the odds in the most inhospitable and hostile jungle area in SE Asia. It is also proof that the ‘mental will to survive’ is often the key player in survival situations. A really good read but not for the faint hearted. IBSN 9781 61200373 3. Casemate Publishers. Cost £19-99. Top of the Document


Standing Tall – By Andy Reid [Reviewed by Chris Colussi]

This is a truly inspirational book. Andy served 13 years with the 3rd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment. In 2009 he was near to completing his tour of duty in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, when he stepped on an IED. He lost both legs and his right arm. The book follows Andy’s progress through his time at Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham, and later at Headley Court. He was supported through his ordeals by Claire, who he married, and they now have a young son. Not one to lie back, Andy began to fundraise for the ABF, making a parachute jump and a motor-bike ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats. He now gives Inspirational Talks to various groups. Published by John Blake. ISBN 978-1-78219-746-1. £16.99. Kindle €4.00 Top of the Document


Italy’s Outstanding Courage – The Story of a Secret Civilian Army in World War Two – By Brian Gordon Lett

Western Europe was the Allies’ main objective at the time of the Italian Armistice, and Italy was of secondary importance. But for most Italians, particularly the mountain people (the contadini), there was little interest in the war in Europe. Most led a frugal life, they had no external communication and hardly ever left their villages. Messages were carried by word-of-mouth and the villages seldom received any outside visitors.

It was into this peaceful world that thousands of escapers arrived after the Sept ‘43 Armistice. Winter was approaching, snow was falling, temperatures freezing and the woods and mountains became less appealing to the escapers. They needed help. There were no escape lines; escapers knew to avoid large, prosperous-looking farms (usually Fascist), and approached the small farms and villages that were in a state of disrepair. Posters were everywhere, warning of the harsh consequences of sheltering the enemy – farms burnt down, livestock slaughtered, brutal interrogations, torture, executions, whole families shot, and deportation to the concentration camps. Despite these warnings and having insufficient food for their own needs, the contadini welcomed the strangers, sheltered them, tended to their needs and shared their meagre provisions then helped them on their way to the next village – all in the name of humanity.

At the end of the war over 400 people were recommended to receive awards from the British for their indomitable courage and bravery. All supported by the testimonials of the escapers on-the- run and senior officers. Even Winston Churchill referred, in a speech, to the actions of the contadini, saying ‘It was a great spontaneous gesture of humanity by the Italian people to the escapers’. But it was not to be! At the end of hostilities a decision was taken that no awards would be given to Italian Nationals by the British Government.

Much has been written to discredit the Italian people in WW2. This book goes a long way to put forward the truth of the Italian people’s outstanding courage and heroism in assisting Allied escapers in Italy in WW2, without which few escapers would have reached the Allied Lines. Hundreds of people from the mountains and villages died, others suffered badly from injuries received offering their help. Others died in the concentration camps of the Third Reich.

This book tells of the heroism of the thousands of ordinary people from the mountains and villages who assisted the POW escapers and evaders during the German and Fascist occupation of Italy in WW2 and those who died. They did not ask for reward – they did not get one! Recommended reading for all members.

ISBN-10 1987612272 & ISBN -13 9781987612271. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. Cost £14 Top of the Document