Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Only German POW to escape during world wars fled through Tilbury

A FASCINATING new book reveals how the only German POW to escape from England during both world wars, made good his escape in Tilbury

Oberleutnant Gunther Pluschow broke out of a prisoner-of-war camp in Derbyshire in July 1915 by climbing two 9ft barbed wire fences.

He walked 15 miles into Derby and caught a train to London.

There he used coal dust and boot polish to dye his fair hair black and posed as a docker before swimming out to a Dutch ship moored in the Thames estuary near Tilbury, Essex.

But the swim came only after several aborted attempts to get to the boat. Pluschnow spent several nights on the foreshore in Tilbury as the current kept sending him back.

Once in Holland, the stowaway airman talked his way past police before travelling by train to Germany, where he was presented with the Iron Cross.

The story of another German airman, Franz Von Werra, was told in the 1957 film The One That Got Away.

But although Von Werra escaped, he was recaptured in Britain in 1941 and sent to a PoW camp in Canada from where he fled home to Germany.

Terry Charman, of the Imperial War Museum told the Daily Mail that: “The fact that Britain is an island made it extremely difficult for German PoWs here to escape.” Full details of Pluschow’s 1915 exploits have emerged after British author Anton Rippon spent seven years researching German archives.

Mr Rippon, 66, of Derby, said: “Plus chow was an astonishing character but his escape is hardly known in Britain.

“The authorities didn’t exactly make big news of it at the time.

“He had no false identity papers or ration books. He showed determin ation and perseverance but he was also exceptionally lucky.”

Luschow, 28, was stationed in China when war broke out.

He was trying to get home via America when he was arrested in Gibraltar in February 1915.

He was shipped to Plymouth and then on to the PoW camp at Donington Hall.

After the war he became an explorer. He died in 1931, aged 44, when his plane crashed into a glacier in Chile.

Gunther Pluschow by Anton Rippon is available from Pen and Sword.

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