Freedom Trails

Freedom Trails

Terry Treadwell
ARRSE Rating
0.5 Mushroom Heads
Freedom Trails by Terry Treadwell
Great Escapes from World War 1 to the Korean War
This is a very disappointing book – so much so that it made me wonder how it reached the publication stage. The Introduction and the first three chapters are dull, rambling and badly written. There are no timings, scant regard to locations and the text assumes that the reader has a previous intimate knowledge of the subject. Every aspect of these chapters lack any sort of written or visual description, plus there are no dates and no references.

In places the story becomes very fanciful. For example, we are told that a Sgt Rolfe was shot down twice, escaped on both occasions from German PoW camps and made his way to Russia – where he was involved in a number of cavalry charges with the Cossacks before being repatriated to England – and that’s it with a total lack of how it all happened! What really bothers me though about this lack of description is the way that evaders or escapers make their way through France. The author seems happy to use phases such as ‘they made their way to Paris’; ‘he travelled to Marseilles and met so-and-so’; ‘they crossed the Pyrenees from France into Spain then made their way to Gibraltar’. The reader is left wondering how all this happened, how long it took, the method of travel, the presence of safe houses and couriers, the feeding arrangements, the encounters on the way and so on.

This book is completely un-educational. It misses the opportunity to point out, for instance, the difference between Occupied France and Vichy France or the difference between the French Resistance and the Marquis. The difficulties of crossing the Pyrenees is ignored and – to any reader that doesn’t know better – this range of inhospitable mountains could well be just an imaginary line across a rural lane. Because there are no dates mentioned, historical event skip backwards and forwards and, in some cases are contradictory. In one of the early Chapters the author becomes very tangled historically but could have made amends with a short piece on the Treaty of Versailles. Explanations of three escape lines through France could be much stronger, clearer and with better accounts of communication plus transit methods. Geography or terrain are ignored altogether or are incorrect.

If the reader makes it as far as the actual escape stories, Chapter 4 is a copy of US Army Air Service notes on one of their Pilots who ditched his aircraft in France, was captured and imprisoned in Bavaria and subsequently escaped to Switzerland – a reasonable tale. The following Chapters are all about World War 2 in Western Europe with a final Chapter covering an American pilot who evaded capture during the Korean War, all fairly standard stuff. There are some maps tucked away in the middle of the book but, although they are in completely the wrong place, they lack any sort of key to describe the straight lines, or are of such a large scale to make them meaningless.

I can find nothing to recommend this book and it is a shame the author has not made this excellent subject into a worthy publication.

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