"Duty to Escape"

Discussion in 'Prisoners of War' started by Chris C, Aug 11, 2020.

  1. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian layabout

    Hi all,

    I was listening to an episode of a British WW2 escapers podcast (For You The War is Over) and the historian of the two podcasters remarked that he couldn't find anything of a "duty to escape" within the King's Regulations. Was a "duty to escape" actually official?
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  2. AB64

    AB64 Senior Member

    From AM Publication 1548 2nd edition June 1941 "Instructions and guide for all Officers and Airmen of the Royal Air Force regarding precautions to be taken in the event of falling into the hands of an Enemy" ... "Don't be downhearted if captured. Opportunities for escape will present themselves. It is the duty of prisoners to make such attempts, which in themselves have a very appreciable nuisance value" - my highlight, this is an official document, I have similar Army paperwork but can't lay my hands on it at the moment - I'm not sure if the duty was a proper written one or just a more general duty of a member of the Forces to resist any Enemy (by arms or by escape, sabotage etc) whatever their circumstances
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  3. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    Its enshrined in the Hague and Geneva Conventions which recognise it and forbids punishing escape attempts
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2020
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  4. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    From the AWM -the highlighting is mine
    At the beginning of the Second World War, the British created the Military Intelligence Section 9 (MI9). Among many other duties, MI9 designed escape and evasion equipment, such as silk maps, compasses and survival kits. It also trained military personnel in such techniques as how to evade capture and what to do if captured – including how to avoid accidentally divulging information to the enemy. The key point stressed in the lectures was that it was everybody's duty to evade capture or, failing that, to try to escape to rejoin their unit.

    So the duty to escape was impressed as part of training
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  5. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    I'm sure a facsimile of something similar was in the 'Escape from Colditz' (impossible) boardgame. (Along with the infamous 'To all prisoners of war - The escape from prison camps is no longer a sport' leaflet/poster.)
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  6. Chris C

    Chris C Canadian layabout

    Interesting! Thanks for the responses!
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  7. Robert-w

    Robert-w Banned

    From February 1940 a lecture was given to all officers and NCOs in the Army and RAF ( but what happened with the RN is not recorded) .
    "The lecture emphasised that the job was to fight and avoid capture. If captured, it was their first and principal duty to escape at the earliest opportunity. Later on in the war, with the increasing numbers of prisoners of war and the increasing organisation of Escape Committees in the camps, the lectures were updated to include mention of the Escape Committees, which were the responsibility of the Senior British Officer (SBO) in each of the camps."
    Barbra A Bond, MI9's escape and evasion mapping programme 1939-1945. PhD Thesis 2014 Plymouth University Pages 48-49
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  8. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    From Liberated POW Questionnaire: one example citing lectures, others cite pamphlets. (Unsurprisingly many men left much of the forms blank or responded with "No" throughout. However, quite a few had details to share.)
    2721208 Robert CARSON, 1 Irish Guards
    2721208 Robert CARSON, 1 Irish Guards.png
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2020
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  9. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    "Duty to escape" mentioned twice here in this link to Hansard's debate in 1997 about compensation for WW2 PoWs, but couldn't find any KR reference. Perhaps it was, particularly for officers, convention/expectation rather than Regulation.

    British Prisoners of War (Hansard, 15 January 1997)
    The problem of escaping prisoners of war has not been fully brought out and involves an even greater injustice than those so far mentioned. It is the duty of all officers who are captured to try to escape. Many did so very bravely and some, sadly, lost their lives in the attempt. However, some officers who were recaptured, or who never got away but who had made attempts to escape, were fined for so doing. They never received the pay that was deducted in Britain in return for the pay that they were supposed to have received in their POW camps because they were fined equivalent amounts for trying to escape.

    and again

    As the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Rendel) rightly said, we must also bear in mind the fact that officers have a duty to escape or to attempt to escape and to aid their fellow officers in their attempts to escape. Military personnel who were prisoners of war were very much operational and active throughout that time and their lives were in danger—there can be no doubt about that.

    In replying to the debate, I want my hon. Friend the Minister to recognise, as does every hon. Member who has spoken in this debate, that an injustice has been done. As the hon. Member for Newbury said, we owe those people a debt of honour, and my hon. Friend should, first, acknowledge that injustice has been done and, secondly, that compensation is due.
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  10. BFBSM

    BFBSM Very Senior Member Patron

    A quote from a paper by Karl James, ‘I hope you are not to ashamed of me’ in “Beyond Surrender: Australian prisoners of war in the twentieth century“ Joan Beaumont (editor), Lachlan Grant (editor), Aaron Pegram (editor) [MUP Academic, ISBN: 9780522866209] p. 110:

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  11. Lindele

    Lindele formerly HA96

    I like to add the following from the book: The 21 escapes of Lt. Alastair Cram

    "Yes, there was talk of honor and an officer’s duty to escape, and the military costs exacted in diverting troops to recapture fugitive prisoners, but the truth for most escapees was very individual."

    Tex Ash, a pilot who escaped several times, claimed: “Escaping is quite addictive and, like all addictive drugs, extremely dangerous.”
    NB. An excellent book actually.
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  12. horsapassenger

    horsapassenger Senior Member

    From Army Training Memorandum No 34 ‘War’, published July 1940

    Attached Files:

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  13. JimHerriot

    JimHerriot Ready for Anything

    For Chris C, and to add a little more with thanks to horsapassenger post immediately above (which was memory jogger for me) and the other prior posts here.

    A couple of pertinent pages from "MI9 Escape and Evasion 1939 - 1945" by M R D Foot and J M Langley, followed by an example of a brief individual précis of an escape (and evasion) and the aftermath in 1944 Germany (names of parties involved withheld as per families requests).

    Note that the "Gestapo HQ usual interrogation" over the two days was, in the recipients own words, "a right royal working over" (for the chap it wasn't his first, or final, escape) and which is where the "Via hospital at Obermassfeld" came in, so he could recover from the "working over" and be "fit" enough to serve his 21 days bread and water in the cooler (Nazi efficiency/inefficiency in operation).

    And something, which I think can't be over emphasised enough is that none of these three escapers were officers.

    Always remember, never forget,


    MI 9 E & E 39 45.jpg

    MI 9 E & E 1944 example.jpg
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