Monday, October 19, 2015

by Mark Felton

It was supposed to occur in early September as both the conditions of the moon and the weather would have been favorable. But thanks to the new camp commandant, Oberst Brinkord, Oflag VI-B was going to be closed down. All of the prisoners would be divided up and sent off to different camps. For the next month, it seemed as if the Germans played games with when the actual leaving time would be.
August 30, 1942 ("ZERO NIGHT") forty-four Allied officers from Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom participated in the most daring escape of World War II. For five months scrupulous planning and covert training of Operation Olympia took place beforehand. Originally, they had attempted to dig their way out via tunnels, but the Germans always discovered them. So a new method was devised and wooden ladders were constructed and then concealed as bookshelves in the huts.
Four teams carried the scaling apparatus (each one eleven-feet-tall) and stormed the fences. Fifty other prisoners created a diversion. The officers had only three minutes to get up and over. Thirty-two men catapulted into freedom within the German countryside. 
There's very few accounts written of this escape, which makes it that much more thrilling to read.
Author Mark Felton is a British historian who specializes in writing about prisoner-of-war experiences and he doesn't let you down. The details that he includes on all the different characters, how the ladders were built and where the wood was procured from, and the discussions of the preparations keep you riveted.
If you enjoy reading about World War II escapes, Zero Night should do it for you.