8 Incredible WWII POW Stories of Survival and Escape
8 Incredible WWII POW Stories of Survival and Escape

8 Incredible WWII POW Stories of Survival and Escape

Stephanie Schoppert - January 27, 2017

8 Incredible WWII POW Stories of Survival and Escape
Airey Neave. Express

Airey Neave

Airey Neave was a man who was willing to do whatever it took to end his time as a POW. In February 1940, he was assigned to the 1st Searchlight Regiment, Royal Artillery in France. He was wounded at Calais in 1940 and was taken captive by the German Army. He made short work of escaping from his first prison camp but was recaptured a few days later. He was interrogated by the Gestapo after he was recaptured, an experience that he solemnly remembered as “unpleasant.”

Unwilling to risk another escape, the Germans transferred Neave to the “escape-proof” Colditz Castle. From the moment he was imprisoned at the castle, he had a fanatical desire to escape. His first attempt came a mere six weeks after his imprisonment. Neave thought if he could convince the guards he was one of them, he could get past the gates and out of the prison. So, using materials from the theater department, he made himself a German uniform. However, as soon as he made it out of the castle, the scenery paint he had used to make his clothes shone very bright green under the searchlights. After another long interrogation, Neave was returned to the prison at Colditz.

The conditions at Colditz were not ideal as Neave was poorly fed and badly treated during his stay. He never stopped trying to come up with a way to escape and ended up working with a Dutch prisoner named Anthony Luteyn. The pair improved upon Neave’s original escape plan with both of them wearing German uniforms that they had created. Working with the theater gave them the perfect cover for their uniform creation and a way out.

During a Saturday-night prison revue, the two escaped through a trap door on the stage. Once outside the walls of the castle, Neave managed to make it 400 miles to the Swiss border. From there he managed a boat to England and became the first British officer to escape from Colditz and make it all the way back home.

8 Incredible WWII POW Stories of Survival and Escape
Gus Anckorn. Wikipedia

Gus Anckorn

Gus Anckorn was a member of the Royal Artillery stationed in Singapore in 1942. He was there for three days when an anti-personnel bomb was dropped just ten feet from the truck he was driving. Anckorn was severely wounded in the blast and was rushed to the hospital. His luck at surviving the blast was short-lived, as he was transferred to the hospital right before the Alexandria massacre.

Gus was still covered in blood and lying in his hospital bed when 100 Japanese soldiers entered the hospital. Those unable to walk were bayonetted in their beds, those who could walk were marched outside and shot. Unwilling to watch his own demise, he covered his face with a pillow and awaited his own bayonet wound. It never came.

Anckorn was taken as a POW and sent to work on the Burma Railway. Still weak from his prior wounds, he struggled to meet the demands of the Japanese overseers who wanted him to climb a 100-foot aqueduct. When he could not keep up one of the overseers poured hot tar down his back. The burns from the tar nearly killed Anckorn and he was sent to a hospital camp. All of the men who had been working on the aqueduct with him died in a matter of weeks as Anckorn recovered in the hospital. He was then sent back to work. The men were starved and beaten regularly.

Anckorn was well-versed in magic, and he used his skills to distract the guards so he and other prisoners could steal food. Once he took 49 eggs from the kitchen and gave them to the men to eat, telling the guard that he needed them to practice a trick. In August 1945, as the Allies were closing in on Japan, Anckorn and four others were put in front of a firing squad. But instead of being shot the Japanese soldiers started arguing among each other, likely about being charged with war crimes. He was led back to the camp where he was soon liberated by Allied forces.

Some Sources For Further Reading:

War History Online – The Last WWII Soldier Ever To Be Repatriated Was András Toma, A Hungarian Who Spent 53 Years In A Russian Mental Institution

The National Post – William Ash joined Canadian Air Force to fight Hitler but found his true calling as a serial escapologist of Nazi prison camps

The Scotsman – Alistair Urquhart, Soldier Who Survived Death Railway’ And Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Detonation

The Guardian – The Forgotten Highlander by Alistair Urquhart

History UK – Douglas Bader: The Double-Amputee Flying Ace Of The Battle Of Britain

History Collection – 10 Deadliest Fighter Aces of the First World War

History Collection – 10 Of The Greatest Air Aces Of The First World War

Air & Space Magazine – Erich Hartmann, the Most Successful Fighter Pilot of All Time

More From POWs:

How Frank Savicki Broke Free From a German POW Camp

North Vietnam States That American Airmen Will Not Be Treated As POW’s

American Special Forces Attempt to Rescue POWs in North Vietnam

Daring Escapes from Concentrations Camps, Enemies, and Crashed Planes

The Civil War’s Deadliest POW Camp Claimed Thousands of American Lives

A WWII Rampage at a POW Camp…In Utah

Japanese POW Camps During World War II

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