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

John Lewis-Stempel

5 Reviews

Rated 0

Prose: non-fiction, Military history, First World War

The last untold story of the First World War: the fortunes and fates of 170,000 British soldiers captured by the enemy.

On capture, British officers and men were routinely told by the Germans 'For you the war is over'. Nothing could be further from the truth. British Prisoners of War merely exchanged one barbed-wire battleground for another.

In the camps the war was eternal. There was the war against the German military, fought with everything from taunting humour to outright sabotage, with a literal spanner put in the works of the factories and salt mines prisoners were forced to slave in. British PoWs also fought a valiant war against the conditions in which they were mired. They battled starvation, disease, Prussian cruelties, boredom, and their own inner demons. And, of course, they escaped. Then escaped again. No less than 29 officers at Holzminden camp in 1918 burrowed their way out via a tunnel (dug with a chisel and trowel) in the Great Escape of the Great War.

It was war with heart-breaking consequences: more than 12,000 PoWs died, many of them murdered, to be buried in shallow unmarked graves.

Using contemporary records - from prisoners' diaries to letters home to poetry - John Lewis-Stempel reveals the death, life and, above all, the glory of Britain's warriors behind the wire. For it was in the PoW camps, far from the blasted trenches, that the true spirit of the Tommy was exemplified.

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

  • Superb

  • Wonderful ... hugely moving

  • Lewis-Stempel describes our prisoners as the lost men of the Great War ... In writing this moving, harrowing account he has done them a noble service

  • - THE TIMES

  • A vivid study of the lost heroes of the First World War: the British PoWs who made valiant bids for freedom - SUNDAY TIMES

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John Lewis-Stempel

John Lewis-Stempel is an award-winning writer predominantly known for his books on nature and history. His many books include the best-selling Six Weeks, about British frontline officers in the First World War, described by the Literary Review as 'the most moving book I have ever read on the First World War' and by actor Dan Stevens (Matthew Crawley in Downton Abbey) as 'the best research resource ever', The Autobiography of the British Soldier and The War Behind the Wire, about the life, death and glory of British PoWs in the First World War. His books have been published in languages as diverse as Brazilian Portuguese and Japanese and have sold more than a million copies. He has two degrees in history, writes books under the pen name Jon E. Lewis, is married with two children, and also farms in Herefordshire.

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