MI9, Escape and Evasion, 1939-1945

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Review by Martin Koenigsberg

Just Finished my 60th(!!) Book Review of the Year!!

I have to say I am so thankful to my Brother in Law Chris who pointed out this book in a Bristol Charity shop a few years ago- and I am so embarrassed I took so long to read it. MRD Foot CBE and JM Langley MBE MC are both decorated veterans of this Imperial Military Intelligence department , using the best records then available to them in 1979 to write an unofficial history of the Allied program to get their people back from enemy held territory, cause general disruption to the enemy, and get useful information out of enemy POW compounds. It was frankly amazing how successful they were at it, as more than 35000 escapers and evaders managed to regain Allied lines, sometimes completely on their own, but as the war went on, increasingly through the efforts of and with the help of MI9 and MIS-X, its American counterpart.. The authors tell the story, alternating between top-down moves made in London, and the amazing exploits of the escapers and evaders themselves and their resistance helpers. This is all told in the fabulous breezy style of the dashing young chaps of the time, with a lot of self deprecating and danger reducing humour , and wit. I think any general reader will be drawn in to the intrigue of codes and POW escapes, the amazing evasions from right under the enemy’s nose, and the stories of amazing bravery to get soldiers, sailors and especially airmen back to the fight. Even In the Pacific and Asian War, where escape was nigh impossible without horrible repercussions-evasion was a very good alternative with a little knowledge of Jungle and Rain Forest flora, fauna , and indigenous peoples. Military history buffs will enjoy learning about a very different type of war- where running away is winning big time. Escapes are when you’ve been taken by the enemy- and manage to get away. Evasion is when they never do hold you- but you have to pass through their territory all the same. WWI had removed any last shame in getting captured in Western Society- but had brought in the obligation to escape from enemy hands. So the British Empire-feeling the War could get big- began to think about teaching principals of escape/evasion and providing materials to help those who might be need them in a pinch. Thus began a massive flow of silk maps, button compasses and a myriad of other helpful items- taken to a whole new level after Dunkirk of course. But in the months after Dunkirk and the other Naval evacuations from France- the first evaders began to trickle in over the Spanish border- thence to Lisbon and home- or over the Swiss border to internment. This proof that both were possible seems to have filled the sails of the department- and the fight was on. The Air Campaign over Nazi Europe then led to further successes- and then communication- at snail mail pace- but communication nonetheless with the POW Camps themselves. And that is just the beginning as this book just amazes with every few pages. A gripping story told in a gripping way. There are a lot of adult themes and some graphic torture and casualty description so this is a book best read by the Junior Reader over about 13/14. For the Gamer/Modeler/Military enthusiast- its a real festival of ideas. Although there are some cool cooperation with the SAS/Popski’s Private Army/Commando “Pinch” teams at the end of the war that might work for cool FOW/BA/CoC scenarios, I think the RPG folks can really make an interesting Character Game with Escapers/Evaders and Resistance/Partisan (royalist/Communist/Nationalist/Anti-Nazi groups could be at odds in any given territory in The Ukraine/Poland/Greece/Albania/Yugoslavia/France or Northern Italy after the Armistice in 1943), collaborating forces (Milice in Vichy France, Ustashi In Croatia for example), and the Germans, Heer, Polizei, and Waffen SS/Gestapo- making a rich melange for a game. Modelers get a interesting part of the war to understand for dioramas of POW situations, and of Catalina and Lysander pickups of Airmen behind the lines. But in this case it is the Military Enthusiast who gets the most – a fascinating look behind the scenes in London, at the front of the Allied Air war, and behind the lines evaders at large making their way- and POWs in camps plotting escapes and sometimes succeeding. I loved the content and I enjoyed the style so I have to say this is a strong recommendation for Military History Buff and general reader alike. #WhatAreYouReading #20thCenturyHistory #WWIIHistory #SWWHistory #MilitaryHistory #WargameResearch #MI9 #MISX #EscapeAndEvasion1939To1945 #RatLines #EscapeLines #Occupation #POWs #Nazis #ItalianCamps #StalagLuftIII #Resistance #Partisans #SilkMaps #HiddenCompass #HiddenCash #HiddenRadios #Codes #Spain #Switzerland #ReturnedWarriors #SuccessfulProgram #RPGSubject #WorldWarIIWargaming

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