Royal Air Force Historical Society Journal 56 [Prisoners of War]. London: RAF Historical Society, 2013. Maps. Notes. Illustrations. Pp. 180 ISSN: 1361 4231
Each year, the Royal Air Force Historical Society generally hosts three seminars or conferences in London with occasional events in other parts of the United Kingdom. This issue of the Society's Journal features papers and discussions on prisoners of war (POW) and related matters such as escape and evasion (E&E) that were presented at a conference in 2013. Included are seven papers, transcripts of two discussions, and book reviews independent of the issue's theme.
As might be expected, the papers focus on the Royal Air Force (RAF) POW experience in World War II. The lone exception is a talk by a Panavia Tornado weapons officer downed during an attack on an Iraqi airfield during Operation Desert Storm in 1991.
Prior to World War II, the RAF had given little thought to training its aircrews in E&E. The first paper discusses the initial attempts to organize evasion networks in western Europe. Not until December 1939, three months after the United Kingdom went to war, did the Directorate of Military Intelligence establish an agency, MI9, to deal with issues concerning prisoners. Its initial director defined the organization's goals: 1) to facilitate escape, 2) to facilitate return, 3) to collect and distribute information, 4) to deny the enemy information, and 5) to maintain the morale of British POWs. Besides the main office in London, other offices were established in Cairo and Calcutta.
The second paper deals with development of E&E aids and aircrew training. An effective E&E program in Europe prompted the Germans to divert resources to track down evaders. Various individuals and businesses created a wide variety of ingenuous equipment to assist those in captivity contemplating escape. This equipment also aided those who evaded by increasing their chances to...