The Escape Artists

  • Author Neal Bascomb
  • Narrator Peter Noble
  • Publisher John Murray Press
  • Run Time 10 hours and 1 minute
  • Format Audio
  • Genre First World War.

Listen to a sample

What to expect

The tale of the three daredevil World War I pilots held in Germany’s most infamous POW prison, their organisation of the greatest mass prison escape of the conflict, and their extraordinary flight to freedom.

Summer, 1918: twenty-nine officers crawled into a 16 inch high, 55 metre tunnel dug only with spoons. This was the culmination of 9 months gruelling toil in oxygen-starved darkness. Of the twenty-nine escapees, just ten would make their way back to Britain.

When captured Royal Flying Corps pilots Captain David Gray, Captain Caspar Kennard and 2nd Lieutenant Cecil Blain had arrived at Holzminden – or ‘Hellminden’ as its occupants called it – the Germans’ highest-security prison complex had seemed impregnable. ‘The Black Hole’ was ruled by the iron fist of Camp Commandant Carl Niemayer, under whose brutal temper prisoners were known to be shot and beaten to death. Not least the breakout artists.

After five unsuccessful attempts from different camps in one year, the obsessive Captain Gray was personally determined to orchestrate the building of a tunnel directly under the feet of their one hundred armed guards. With an improvised oxygen piping system, stolen disguises and astonishing courage, this handful of the Kaiser’s 2.3 million prisoners would succeed in making their way to neutral Holland and eventually back to Britain – for a private audience at Windsor Palace. The most unlikely escape of the Great War, their derring-do became military legend and the inspiration for the subsequent great escapes of the Second World War.

(P)2018 Hodder & Stoughton Limited

Critics Review

  • Entertaining . . . very little is known about the escape artists of World War I, but Bascomb’s suspenseful and well-researched book could change that

    Daily Mail
  • Fascinating

    Daily Express
  • Terrific . . . [a] stirring story

    Mail on Sunday
  • A remarkable piece of hidden history, told perfectly . . . brims with adventure, suspense, daring, and heroism

    David Grann, author of Killers of the Flower Moon
  • It’s riveting reading, but more than that, it’s inspiring

    Candice Millard, author of Hero of the Empire
  • Absorbing

    Choice Magazine

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