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Great Escapes of World War II: Tom Dick and Harry to Stalag to Colditz

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80 pages1 hour

Summary

More than 170,000 British prisoners of war were taken by German and Italian forces during World War II, enough men to populate modern-day St Lucia. Most were captured in a string of defeats in France, North Africa and the Balkans between 1940 and 1942. They were held in a network of POW camps stretching from Nazi-occupied Poland to Italy. On the whole, the Germans and Italians treated their British prisoners properly, but the rules of the Geneva Convention, set up to govern how POWs should be treated under law, was not always followed and some camps were more hospitable than others.By far the most harmful aspects of incarceration were physical debilitation caused by chronic food shortages, and boredom. Food scarcity was a problem across the board but, to some extent, this could be addressed by the Red Cross, who regularly sent food parcels to men in prison camps. Boredom, however, was a killer. Many prisoners had suddenly gone from being busily engaged in high-adrenalin combat situations to a prison camp, where their identity was stripped away and every aspect of their lives taken out of their control. A small proportion were driven mad. Others became hell-bent on escape.

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