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They Have Their Exits: The Best-Selling Escape Memoir of World War Two

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The Author, who as a senior member of Mrs. Thatcher's Government was tragically assassinated by the IRA, had the most distinguished of war records. Wounded and taken prisoner in the desperate fighting at Calais in 1940, he became a compulsive escaper and the first one of the very few to make a 'home-run' from Colditz Castle. Thereafter he rejoined the fighting serving in Fr The Author, who as a senior member of Mrs. Thatcher's Government was tragically assassinated by the IRA, had the most distinguished of war records. Wounded and taken prisoner in the desperate fighting at Calais in 1940, he became a compulsive escaper and the first one of the very few to make a 'home-run' from Colditz Castle. Thereafter he rejoined the fighting serving in France and Holland before becoming a member of the International Military Tribunal at the Nuremburg War Crimes trials. There he was to meet the most notorious members of the Nazi hierarchy as they faced justice and, in many cases, death. For the quality of its writing and the breadth of its author's experiences, They Have Their Exits is arguably the finest memoir to emerge from the Second World War, and one for which the sobriquet 'classic' seems wholly inadequate.


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The Author, who as a senior member of Mrs. Thatcher's Government was tragically assassinated by the IRA, had the most distinguished of war records. Wounded and taken prisoner in the desperate fighting at Calais in 1940, he became a compulsive escaper and the first one of the very few to make a 'home-run' from Colditz Castle. Thereafter he rejoined the fighting serving in Fr The Author, who as a senior member of Mrs. Thatcher's Government was tragically assassinated by the IRA, had the most distinguished of war records. Wounded and taken prisoner in the desperate fighting at Calais in 1940, he became a compulsive escaper and the first one of the very few to make a 'home-run' from Colditz Castle. Thereafter he rejoined the fighting serving in France and Holland before becoming a member of the International Military Tribunal at the Nuremburg War Crimes trials. There he was to meet the most notorious members of the Nazi hierarchy as they faced justice and, in many cases, death. For the quality of its writing and the breadth of its author's experiences, They Have Their Exits is arguably the finest memoir to emerge from the Second World War, and one for which the sobriquet 'classic' seems wholly inadequate.

30 review for They Have Their Exits: The Best-Selling Escape Memoir of World War Two

  1. 5 out of 5

    Charlie

    A really good memoir of World War Two on how a POW British soldier was able to escape with the help of the French Resistance. Later, Airey Neave got his revenge by serving after the war as a member of the Nuremburg War Crimes Tribunal. A fantastic read.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Louise Armstrong

    A world long gone! It's so interesting to get a glimpse into it. We owe them so much. As a story teller what I noticed was that good times are passed over in a sentence such as we spent three comfortable well-fed weeks in the hotel before moving on, while tense moments, such as hiding in a 'safe' house waiting for resistance fighters to help them along the path to freedom, heighten the senses so that a liftime seems to be lived in a minute and the spots on a woman's dress, the texture of an egg, A world long gone! It's so interesting to get a glimpse into it. We owe them so much. As a story teller what I noticed was that good times are passed over in a sentence such as we spent three comfortable well-fed weeks in the hotel before moving on, while tense moments, such as hiding in a 'safe' house waiting for resistance fighters to help them along the path to freedom, heighten the senses so that a liftime seems to be lived in a minute and the spots on a woman's dress, the texture of an egg, all these tiny details are invested with significance when you may die at any moment.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Martin Dunn

    Airey Neave provides a fascinating account of his adventures in the Second World War: his service in the army, being captured in the Dunkirk campaign, his escape from a prisoner of war camp and recapture, and his eventual successful escape from the notorious Colditz castle; combined with his role in the post-War war crimes trials, which brought him into direct contact with Nazi leaders being tried at Nuremburg. This provides a good supplement to anyone's study of the Second World War, adding the Airey Neave provides a fascinating account of his adventures in the Second World War: his service in the army, being captured in the Dunkirk campaign, his escape from a prisoner of war camp and recapture, and his eventual successful escape from the notorious Colditz castle; combined with his role in the post-War war crimes trials, which brought him into direct contact with Nazi leaders being tried at Nuremburg. This provides a good supplement to anyone's study of the Second World War, adding the colour of the individual's experience. We follow Neave through the adventure of escape, and the risk of recapture; and we are confronted with the uniquely personal portraits of the Nazi leaders. Knowing something of Neave's role in the later half of the War, their is a surprising gap in the memoirs. Neave was a key figure in a less-known British secret organisation known as MI9 which worked with the Resistance in Europe to facilitate the exfiltration of downed airmen and escaped prisoners of war. Presumably at the time They Have Their Exits was written, much of this story was still secret. Only much later did Neave write Saturday at M.I.9 .

  4. 5 out of 5

    Dennis Rutzou

    This book really hit the spot with me. Author Airey Neave was an English soldier taken prisoner by the Germans at Calais early in the war and committed to a POW camp in Poland. He vividly describes his journey across the country and the derogatory remarks made to him by spectators and guards about England. He was a committed escaper and after an unsuccessful attempt was placed in the 'bad boys' prison of Colditz Caste and became one of the few to successfully escape and get back to England. Afte This book really hit the spot with me. Author Airey Neave was an English soldier taken prisoner by the Germans at Calais early in the war and committed to a POW camp in Poland. He vividly describes his journey across the country and the derogatory remarks made to him by spectators and guards about England. He was a committed escaper and after an unsuccessful attempt was placed in the 'bad boys' prison of Colditz Caste and became one of the few to successfully escape and get back to England. After the end of hostilities, he went back to his pre-war occupation of the law and was appointed to the War Crimes Commission where the victorious powers tried and convicted the Nazi leadership who had been responsible of such horrendous crimes against humanity. He revisited his journey from Calais to Poland and his description of the countryside and the people is fascinating as well as his recollection of the Nazis he interviewed in their cells prior to facing trial. A very interesting book and a great piece of history.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    I'd started this book thinking that it would be primarily about Neave's account of escaping from Colditz. While the escape did comprise the main part of the book, getting out of Colditz turned out to just be the start of the journey. The account is told simply from Neave's viewpoint and makes for an exciting yarn in the "Boy's own" tradition but he's also not much given to introspection or getting into the minds of those around him. It's great fun to read, but I can't see myself wanting to go ba I'd started this book thinking that it would be primarily about Neave's account of escaping from Colditz. While the escape did comprise the main part of the book, getting out of Colditz turned out to just be the start of the journey. The account is told simply from Neave's viewpoint and makes for an exciting yarn in the "Boy's own" tradition but he's also not much given to introspection or getting into the minds of those around him. It's great fun to read, but I can't see myself wanting to go back to it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Margaret Attwood

    Exits. The book says it all about the determination of Airey Neave and his comrades to escape as POW during the Second World War under the Nazi regime and his eventual escape. On reading my thoughts kept on returning to how the scourge Naziasm was ever forgiven or forgotten. But of course that is another story and a lesson in history I suppose. A good read

  7. 4 out of 5

    phyllis leidy

    Personal drive and perseverance throughout war Interesting personal account of the mindset of prisoner of war escapees.... Indominatable optimism despite repeated failures. Satisfying, but sad, opportunity for closure.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Brendan Mcdonagh

    An enlightening, disturbing vital book. I believe this book should be compulsory reading in all Western world educational systems. "lest we forget" and as is evident today "forget we do" An enlightening, disturbing vital book. I believe this book should be compulsory reading in all Western world educational systems. "lest we forget" and as is evident today "forget we do"

  9. 4 out of 5

    Clive phillips

    A great read by a true hero At the end I was reminded what a loss his death at the hands of low life was. He fought and eventually died serving his country. I thoroughly recommend this book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Antony Colton

    Great read The author grips you from the outset in his intense journey to freedom and justice. Would highly recommend this book to all.

  11. 5 out of 5

    patricia smith

    Great escape story good read well writtentd Excellent war escape tale that was true. Very detailed and suspenseful true account of a horrible time in history I

  12. 4 out of 5

    Trevor

    9

  13. 4 out of 5

    Susanna Hl

    I didn't think this was brilliantly written, but it's a good story! As someone interested in Colditz, it was particularly interesting to hear about how they got back to the UK having reached Switzerland, which was not entirely straightforward. I didn't think this was brilliantly written, but it's a good story! As someone interested in Colditz, it was particularly interesting to hear about how they got back to the UK having reached Switzerland, which was not entirely straightforward.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Nicki

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Airey Neave is probably best remembered as the Conservative MP killed by an IRA bomb as he drove out of the car park at the Houses of Parliament. But before he moved into politics, Neave had an eventful war. Wounded and captured during the Battle of France in 1940, Neave was interned in a prisoner of war camp in Poland. Almost immediately, he began plotting to escape, successfully breaking out with a partner three months after arriving in the camp. His taste of freedom was sweet but brief, thoug Airey Neave is probably best remembered as the Conservative MP killed by an IRA bomb as he drove out of the car park at the Houses of Parliament. But before he moved into politics, Neave had an eventful war. Wounded and captured during the Battle of France in 1940, Neave was interned in a prisoner of war camp in Poland. Almost immediately, he began plotting to escape, successfully breaking out with a partner three months after arriving in the camp. His taste of freedom was sweet but brief, though, as the Germans recaptured the pair as they attempted to enter the Soviet zone of Poland. As a POW with one escape under his belt, Neave was sent to Colditz or, as he calls it, the Bad Boys' Camp. On his second attempt, Neave escaped from the castle with a new escape partner. In doing so, he became the first British officer to make it back to England from Colditz. Neave is an engaging character, who doesn't stand on ceremony with his writing. His style is straightforward but of its time, which gives his memoirs a certain charm. He never portrays himself as anything other than an ordinary soldier trying to stick it to the Germans by escaping. On a number of occasions, he credits the success of various ruses to his escape partner, rather than himself. And along the way, he meets up with some colourful characters, both inside and outside the camps. Most of the book is taken up with his internment and various escape attempts, but he also had a front row seat to the Nuremberg trials, reading indictments to the surviving German leaders. Neave was also heavily involved in MI9, the wartime department that tried to help Allied servicemen escape from occupied Europe, but he leaves most of that out of this novel, covering it instead in Saturday at M.I.9: The Classic Account of the Ww2 Allied Escape Organisation. If tales of escape are your thing, this is one to read as you get the story straight from the horse's mouth. It might have been more flamboyant or exciting as a novel, but you never forget that the man writing this is telling his own story. And what a story it is.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Rosie

    An interesting detail of a POW experience during WWII. It almost seemed like a real life version of Hogan's Heroes. While the escape narrative was quite engaging, the post escape narrative was almost anticlimactic in comparison to the beginning of the book. An interesting detail of a POW experience during WWII. It almost seemed like a real life version of Hogan's Heroes. While the escape narrative was quite engaging, the post escape narrative was almost anticlimactic in comparison to the beginning of the book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Trish

    The account of Airey Neave's stay in and escape from Colditz - the first British officer to get home. Fascinating to read. The account of Airey Neave's stay in and escape from Colditz - the first British officer to get home. Fascinating to read.

  17. 4 out of 5

    R.Hughes

  18. 4 out of 5

    dennishardie

  19. 4 out of 5

    Tina

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ron

  21. 5 out of 5

    Karl Gletherow

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kenneth Porteus

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mr Donald J Shaw

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ty Beard

  25. 4 out of 5

    Louise

  26. 4 out of 5

    MR THOMAS

  27. 4 out of 5

    Timothy Costigan

  28. 5 out of 5

    Barry Fowler

  29. 4 out of 5

    Goodwin

  30. 4 out of 5

    Charlie

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