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Brand: John Lewis-Stempel

War Behind The Wire

by John Lewis-Stempel

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The War Behind The Wire : The Life, Death and Glory of British Prisoners of War 1914-18

The last untold story of the First World War: the fortunes and fates of 180,000 British soldiers captured by the enemy.

On capture, British officers and men were routinely told by the Germans 'for you the war is over', but this couldn't be further from the truth. The British soldiers taken prisoner in 1914-18 - about 12% of the entire army - merely exchanged one barbed-wire battlefield for another. And it was in the Kaiser's camps, far from the blasted trenches of the 'official' war, that the fighting spirit of the British Tommy was exemplified.

In the camps the war was eternal. There was the small war against the German military, fought with taunting humour or outright sabotage, with a literal spanner in the works at the factories and mines that POWs were forced to labour in. And, of course, POWs escaped. At Holzminden camp in 1917 no less than 29 soldiers exited via a tunnel (dug with a chisel and trowel) in the Great Escape of the Great War.

British POWs also fought a valiant war against the conditions in which they were mired. They battled starvation, boredom and their own inner demons. the War Behind The Wire tells the story of the camps and brings in the British POWs of 1914-18 from the cold of history. Using contemporary records - from POWs' personal diaries to German army records, from letters home to poetry - John Lewis-Stempel explores how and why British POWs survived the camps, and did so with their honour intact.

'Do not strike the British prisoners. They are mad, and hit back' - Sign written by the German commandant at Clausthal POW camp for the benefit of his guards.

THE WAR BEHIND THE WIRE is the new book by the acclaimed author of SIX WEEKS, which depicted the extraordinary story of British junior officers in the First World War in such harrowing detail.

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