Stories from the Stalags
Allied Airmen Behind the Wire in WW2
Imprint: Air World
256 Pages, 6.1 x 9.2 in, 32 mono
- January 2024
For those not killed outright by the Luftwaffe’s onslaught, only baling out over hostile enemy territory could offer any hope of survival. But this generally meant solitary confinement, interrogation, indignities and even extreme hardship for the men who became known as ‘Kriegies’, a word derived from the German Kriegsgefangenen meaning ‘prisoners of war’.
Many months of incarceration, sometimes in appalling conditions, would become commonplace for those held in camps throughout Germany, Poland and the Greater Reich. Here, at first hand, are stories of some of those Allied bomber crewmen faced with sudden leaps into that dangerous unknown. For most, and particularly the injured, capture was immediate – imprisonment inevitable. For some evasion was possible, but rarely for long. For others taken prisoner, staying alive was uppermost in the minds of most and in many cases only the comradeship of fellow prisoners and, for some, thoughts of escape became a constant preoccupation.
Never to be forgotten too are the conditions and suffering endured by many PoWs when, in the face of the relentless Soviet Army advance into Germany, the camps were hastily emptied and the prisoners forced to march westward as the Germans staged their last gasp, futile attempts to prevent the ‘Kriegies’ falling into Russian hands. For these men, many of whom had been behind the wire for years, this was the final injustice.
Martin Bowman’s revealing narrative describes in adrenaline-pumping detail the furious air battles that led to the predicament of many shot-down airmen, as well as the personal campaigns they fought to regain their freedom. Fascinating for its gripping and factual recreation of the bombers’ encounters with enemy fighters and flak, as well as the confrontations in captivity between PoWs and guards, Stories from the Stalags provides a real insight into the war as some of those who ‘fell from formation’ saw it.