The Escape Artists
By Neal Bascomb
Summer, 1918: twenty-nine officers crawled into a 16 inch high, 55 metre tunnel dug only with spoons. This was the culmination of 9 months gruelling toil in oxygen-starved darkness. Of the twenty-nine escapees, just ten would make their way back to Britain.When captured Royal Flying Corps pilots Captain David Gray, Captain Caspar Kennard and 2nd Lieutenant Cecil Blain had arrived at Holzminden - or 'Hellminden' as its occupants called it - the Germans' highest-security prison complex had seemed impregnable. 'The Black Hole' was ruled by the iron fist of Camp Commandant Carl Niemayer, under whose brutal temper prisoners were known to be shot and beaten to death. Not least the breakout artists.After five unsuccessful attempts from different camps in one year, the obsessive Captain Gray was personally determined to orchestrate the building of a tunnel directly under the feet of their one hundred armed guards. With an improvised oxygen piping system, stolen disguises and astonishing courage, this handful of the Kaiser's 2.3 million prisoners would succeed in making their way to neutral Holland and eventually back to Britain - for a private audience at Windsor Palace. The most unlikely escape of the Great War, their derring-do became military legend and the inspiration for the subsequent great escapes of the Second World War.
The English Marriage
By Maureen Waller
The story of the English marriage is unique and eccentric. Long after the rest of Europe and neighbouring Scotland had reformed their marriage laws, England clung to the chaotic and contradictory laws of the medieval Church, making it all too easy to enter into a marriage but virtually impossible to end an unhappy one.If England was a 'paradise for wives' it could only have been through the feistiness of the women. Married women were placed in the same legal category as lunatics. While Englishmen prided themselves on their devotion to liberty, their wives were no freer than slaves. It was a husband's jealously guarded right to beat his wife, as long as the stick was no bigger than his thumb. Only after 1882 could a married woman even retain her own property. But then marriage was all about property in a society which was both mercenary and violent, where a girl was virtually sold into marriage and a price was put on a wife's chastity. With a cast of hundreds, from loyal and devoted wives in troubled times to those who featured in notorious trials for adultery, from abusive husbands whose excesses were only gradually curbed by the law to the modern phenomenon of the toxic wife, acclaimed historian Maureen Waller draws on intimate letters, diaries, court documents and advice books to trace the evolution of the English marriage. It is social history at its most revealing, astonishing and entertaining.
England, Our England
By Alan Titchmarsh
An anthology and miscellany of everything an Englishman should know: - From Austen to Wordsworth - Jerusalem to the Scout's Honour - Kings and Queens of England to Land of Hope and Glory- Savile Row tailors to Jermyn St Shirt Makers - Tying a Windsor knot to making a pot of tea - Victoria sponge to fish pie - The rules of cricket to Gilbert and Sullivan operas
Empires of the Indus
By Alice Albinia
10th anniversary edition with new PrefaceOne of the largest rivers in the world, the Indus rises in the Tibetan mountains, flows west across northern India and south through Pakistan. For millennia it has been worshipped as a god; for centuries used as a tool of imperial expansion; today it is the cement of Pakistans fractious union. Five thousand years ago, a string of sophisticated cities grew and traded on its banks. In the ruins of these elaborate metropolises, Sanskrit-speaking nomads explored the river, extolling its virtues in Indias most ancient text, the Rig-Veda. During the past two thousand years a series of invaders - Alexander the Great, Afghan Sultans, the British Raj - made conquering the Indus valley their quixotic mission. For the people of the river, meanwhile, the Indus valley became a nodal point on the Silk Road, a centre of Sufi pilgrimage and the birthplace of Sikhism. Empires of the Indus follows the river upstream and back in time, taking the reader on a voyage through two thousand miles of geography and more than five millennia of history redolent with contemporary importance.
England In Particular
By Sue Clifford And Angela King, Angela King
'Should be at every curious Englishman's bedside' ALAN TITCHMARSH'As vital as it is joyous, and as timely as it is inspired . . . It should join Shakespeare and the Bible as a "must have" on any English man or woman's desert island' HUGH FEARNLEY-WHITTINGSTALL Apples, bandstands, causeways dialect, fens, gargoyles, heaths,ice houses, jet, lagoons, maypoles, nightingales, primrose banks, quicksand, rhubarb, sheep, terraced houses, weather, zawns... England is a land of extraordinary variety, rich in buildings, landscapes, peoples and wildlife. But this diversity is under siege. Mass production, fashion, increased mobility and the forceful promotion of corporate identity have brought with them standardised shop fronts, farm buildings, factories, forests and front doors, while intensive farming has created a bland, empty countryside. ENGLAND IN PARTICULAR is a counterblast against loss and uniformity, and a celebration of just some of the distinctive details that cumulatively make England. It is the culmination of more than twenty years' work by Sue Clifford and Angela King, who founded Common Ground with Roger Deakin. ENGLAND IN PARTICULAR is a ground-breaking work, destined to become a classic.Two pocket-sized hardback editions of extracted essays from ENGLAND IN PARTICULAR are also available: JOURNEYS THROUGH ENGLAND IN PARTICULAR: COASTING and JOURNEYS THROUGH ENGLAND IN PARTICULAR: ON FOOT.
Extremes along the Silk Road
By Nick Middleton
The Silk Road is the fabled route that cuts through one of the most extraordinary tracts of land on this planet. A vast region separating China from the Mediterranean, it rates as one of the least hospitable on Earth – a succession of hostile deserts and towering mountain ranges, a harsh terrain of howling winds, searing heat and blistering cold.No stranger to unforgiving territory, Nick Middleton follows in the footsteps of Alexander the Great and Marco Polo overland from China to Istanbul, surviving as they did the life-sapping Gobi desert, the icy passes of high altitude Tibet, and the great Steppes of Turkmenistan, and encounters those who eke out existences there today.Nick's great gift as an adventure writer is to weave together the personal experience of ridiculous endurance - from sleeping on steaming rocks in the middle of a sub-zero desert to eating the most dubiously-cooked local delicacies - with the bigger picture of our planet and its peoples.
End of the Beginning
By Phil Craig, Tim Clayton
1942 - British troops are stranded in the desert, struggling to hold back Rommel's Afrika Corps. Hitler's armies have reached Moscow, and there are murmurs of discontent at home as new doubts emerge about Churchill's leadership. Elsewhere in Europe there is chilling evidence of the mounting persecution of the Jews, stretching from Poland to the Channel Islands. For many, it seems there is little hope. As in their acclaimed bestseller FINEST HOUR, the authors use the personal testimony of ordinary people to tell the story of the war at a moment of great crisis. In END OF THE BEGINNING we meet again some of the people first encountered in FINEST HOUR, and get to know many more. Troops fighting for Montgomery in the desert, RAF pilots bombing German towns, a young Jewish woman deported to Auschwitz from Guernsey, the reality of the Home Front - these stories and many more paint a vivid picture of human endeavour in time of war. And, sixty years on from the Battle of Alamein, END OF THE BEGINNING tells the controversial truth about one of the most famous battles in history - the importance of its lesser-known predecessor and the months of bitter in-fighting between the Allied generals. With precision and compassion, Phil Craig and Tim Clayton again debunk the myths and explore the realities of a crucial year in the history of Britain.
Engage the Enemy More Closely
By Corelli Barnett