"The One That Got Away"
Kendal Burt and James Leasor, 1958
ESCAPE IN THE LAKE DISTRICT
Von Werra arrived at Officers' P.O.W. Camp No. 1, Grizedale Hall, in the Lake District, towards the end of September 1940. At that time it was the only camp in the country for captured officers. None of the other camps set up later matched the setting of Camp No. 1, and until Cockfosters became an internment camp for captured generals in 1944, none could compare with it for excellence of accommodation. Nevertheless, judged by the standards set later by Canadian and American prison camps, Grizedale Hall was dreadfully primitive. For example, Bowmanville Camp on Lake Ontario, was described, somewhat plaintively (because German prisoners persisted in escaping from it), by editorials in Canadian newspapers as "the most luxurious prison camp in the world". It contained an indoor swimming bath, a theatre-cum-cinema, a large library building, a gymnasium and a covered tennis court. There was nothing like that at Grizedale Hall.
Grizedale is in Lancashire, three miles south of Hawkshead, a mile north of the hamlet of Satterthwaite, and midway between Windermere and Coniston Water. On the Coniston side of Grizedale the wild moorland country begins, extending almost without a break for twenty miles to the Irish Sea.
The Hall was once one of the stately homes of England, a gaunt, stone mansion containing thirty to forty rooms. The nearest shops are in Hawkshead, three miles away over a desolate moorland road; the nearest town approachable by road (Bowness and Windermere are on the other side of the Lake) is Ambleside, fourteen miles away; except in the tourist season, no buses pass through Grizedale. After standing empty for some years, the house had been turned into a holiday camp, and then in 1940 the War Office took it over for use as a prison camp. Its isolation made it ideal for the purpose. In the early part of the war it came to be known locally as "U-boat Hotel"; then, later, when it was used as a special centre for top-ranking German officers, including Field-Marshal von Rundstedt, it was rechristened "Hush-Hush Hall".
It stands empty again to-day, though the Forestry Commission work the estate for its timber. The army huts and the complicated system of barbed-wire fences have long since been removed, but there are still traces of its war-time role. The imposing, studded main door opens into a gloomy hail lit by stained-glass windows incorporating the armorial bearings of the last private owner. Here in one corner is a built-in clothes cupboard, which is a memorial to German military discipline and orderliness. The cupboard is shelved from top to bottom, and on the edge of each shelf is glued a strip of paper bearing in neat italic lettering the rank of officers to which it was allocated. The shelves were allocated on the basis of convenience. Thus, the shelf at shoulder level for a man of average height is labelled Obersten (Colonels), the one immediately below it Oberstleutnante (Lieutenant-Colonels), then, at the bottom, Majore. It was evidently decided that it was less inconvenient to stoop down to a shelf than to stand on a chair to reach one, and the top three shelves are labelled Leutnante (second Lieutenants) Oberleutnante (Lieutenants) and Hauptleute (Captains) in that order.
The large, panelled library, with its handsome fireplace and wide windows overlooking the valley and the road winding down towards Satterthwaite, was used by the prisoners as a common room. The walls of the best bedrooms, used, no doubt, by Colonels, are covered with material, possibly silk, bearing band-painted floral designs. There are no signs of vandalism, and though the walls of some of the rooms used by German O.R.'s, assigned to the camp as batmen and orderlies, are scribbled on, the oak panelling was respected and is unscratched. Round the walls of one of the servants' rooms there is a striking frieze bearing an elaborate, repetitive floral pattern. On close examination it can be seen to be painted in water colour on toilet paper. It must have taken months to complete.
The British military authorities converted part of the basement into cells for prisoners sentenced to disciplinary punishment. The walls are covered with pencilled drawings of U-boats and sinking ships, and of German bombers and fighters shooting down Hurricanes and Spitfires.
The senior German officer was responsible to the Camp Commandant for the prisoners' discipline. He and the officers next in seniority formed the Ältestenrat (literally, "council of the eldest" of the camp—a sort of governing body). Its overt functions were to maintain discipline in the camp, to look after the welfare of prisoners and to act as their representatives in dealings with the British military authorities. Theoretically, no power whatsoever was vested in the Ältestenrat; punishment for infractions of discipline, for instance, was determined and carried out by the British. But in practice, it wielded immense power. It acted as the Escape Committee for the camp, censored mail, and sat as a secret court to try prisoners suspected of having anti-Nazi views or of having betrayed military secrets to their captors. There were several cases at camps in this country of prisoners being secretly condemned to death and executed, and many more in camps in the U.S.A. It is certain that members of a later, different Ältestenrat at Grizedale Hall were implicated in an incident in 1941-a year after von Werra was there-in which an officer, "convicted" of having betrayed his trust, was compelled to attempt to escape with fatal results.*
[*Leutnant Bernhard Berndt, a U-boat captain, surrendered his ship on its maiden voyage in 1941 to a Hudson aircraft.
German officers at Grizedale Hall, especially other U-boat commanders, made his life unbearable. He was finally told there was "no longer any room" for him at the camp. He must escape that night. or take the consequences.
He managed to get out of camp, but guards noticed his absence immediately. The next morning members of the Home Guard found Berndt under a tarpaulin in a shed two miles from the camp. He was glad to be captured, thinking he would be taken to another camp. When his captors made it clear they were returning him to Grizedale Hall, Berndt broke away and dashed across a field. The Home Guards fired warning shots over his head. He continued running. The Home Guards fired again. Berndt stumbled and fell. He died a few minutes later.]
At the time Franz von Werra arrived at Grizedale Hall, the Ältestenrat comprised two Luftwaffe General Staff Officers, Major Willibald Fanelsa and Hauptmann Helmut Pohle, and a U-boat commander, Kapitänleutnant Werner Lott. Fanelsa had arrived at the camp only a few days before von Werra. He had been shot down while trying out a new German aid to target location in a small raid on Coventry.
Pohle was one of the R.A.F.'s first victims of the war. A personal friend of Goering, he had demanded on capture that Berlin be telephoned and asked to send a Red Cross plane to pick him up. Instead, he was sent to the Tower of London, which at that time was an interrogation centre.
Lott had made the first attempt to escape from Grizedale Hall. Somehow or another he acquired several pounds of English money (prisoners were paid in token money valid only in the camp canteen), an identity card (faked) and civilian clothing, but he did not succeed in getting beyond the inner ring of barbed-wire entanglements surrounding the camp.
The arrival of a new batch of prisoners was always a great event at prison camps. In accordance with custom, von Werra and the other newcomers in his group were invited by the Ältestenrat to relate their experiences to a meeting of prisoners held in the panelled common room. Von Werra described how he was shot down and captured, and some of his experiences at the interrogation centres. When he mentioned Leutnant Kleinert, the Austrian engineer who had been shot down on his first operational flight, he noticed that many of the men in his audience smiled and nudged one another.
"When I was taken into the room," von Werra continued, 'Kleinert was—"
"—standing at the wash-basin, washing his socks!" chanted his listeners in unison.
Von Werra had to shout to make himself heard above the general laughter:
"You may laugh, but I'm convinced that Kleinert was never in the Luftwaffe, but is a—"
"—British spy!" the prisoners cried in chorus.
When the laughter subsided, Major Fanelsa explained to von Werra that most of the prisoners had come into contact with this "Leutnant Kleinert", in one guise or another. But whether he was posing as a fighter pilot or a member of a bomber or U-boat crew, he was always found in the act of washing his socks, as though he were a prisoner of long standing. Prisoners who failed to mention an encounter with "Leutnant Kleinert" in one of his guises, were suspected of having been taken in by the stool-pigeon and would subsequently be more closely questioned by members of the Ältestenrat.
In the evenings prisoners gathered in the common room where a log fire was burning. There was a piano and sometimes there were concerts and sing-songs. Some played chess, draughts or a card game called Skat, others stood in groups, talking. On his first evening von Werra was standing in an animated group of fighter pilots, when he chanced to hear a German naval officer in a neighbouring group say:
"Just you chaps wait till the Eighty-fives arrive..."
Von Werra grabbed the naval officer's arm.
"Did I hear you say 'the Eighty-fives'?" he cried.
"Yes," laughed the sailor, "Why?"
"Quick—for heaven's sake tell me what they are! The interrogators drove us nearly mad asking about them."
The naval officer explained that they were the men of the 85th Marine Infantry Regiment, and that it was a current joke in the German Navy, when things went awry, to say "Wait till the Eighty-fives get here!"
Apparently R.A.F. Intelligence had heard the phrase—perhaps it bad been picked up by a concealed microphone—and had concluded that the Eighty-fives were some new German secret weapon.
Within ten days of arriving at Grizedale Hall Camp, von Werra had devised a plan for a solo escape.
He worked out the details and completed the preparations as far as he could, and then asked the senior German officer, Major Fanelsa, for permission to submit the scheme to the Ältestenrat for "official" approval.
He was told to report to the senior officer's room that evening. On his way there he noted that two prisoners were on sentry duty in the corridor outside the room. The three members of the Ältestenrat, Major Fanelsa, Hauptmann Pohle and Kapitänleutnant Lott, were already present.
"Take a seat, Werra," said Major Fanelsa. "First of all we should tell you that in out opinion there is little possibility of a successful escape at the present time. I don't know how much you have heard of Kapitänleutnant Lott's attempt to escape. It was made at a time when conditions were very much more favourable and had been prepared down to the last detail. Since then the guard has been doubled and all kinds of new security measures have been introduced-for instance, the barbed-wire fences are now floodlit at night. There are other, even more serious drawbacks to attempting to escape at the present time. When Kapitänleutnant Lott made his attempt it was reasonable to assume that the attitude of the British authorities, and of the British public, towards an escaper would be fair and sportsmanlike. Since then, Britain has been bombed on a large scale. The chances are that a prisoner who escaped at this time cou1d be shot, deliberately or 'accidentally,' or at least severely beaten up, if he were recaptured.
"Kapitänleutnant Lott, together with Hauptmann Pohle and other officers, have tried constantly to devise some new means of escape. Dozens of plans have been submitted to them and they have all had to be rejected outright as hare- brained and impracticable, or shelved until a more favourable moment arrives to put them into practice. Now you, Werra, who have been here barely a week, report that you have worked out a feasible scheme for a solo attempt!
"The last thing we want to do is to discourage men with the will to escape. If you have a sound scheme we will do everything in our power to help you—otherwise, we can give you neither help nor permission to proceed."
"If you will permit me, sir," said von Werra, "I should like to explain my plan."
"Right, go ahead."
"As you know, gentlemen, three or four times a week—usually every other day—a party of twenty-four prisoners, escorted by four armed guards at the front, four at the rear, a sergeant on horseback and one officer on foot in charge, is taken out of the camp at 10.30 a.m. for exercise along the road. The road runs practically north and south, and the party never knows beforehand whether it will be marched to the north, uphill and over a bleak moor, or to the south, downhill and through a little village. The decision regarding the direction to be taken seems to depend on the whim of the mounted sergeant at the moment the party arrives at the gateway of the camp. Sometimes the party is taken in the same direction on two consecutive outings.
"Whether the northern or the southern route is taken, the procedure followed is the same. The prisoners are marched at a smart pace for about three kilometres to a selected bend in the road, where they are halted and rested for ten minutes, before being marched back to the camp. In either case the halt is made at a bend in the road because that makes it easier to keep an eye on the party during the rest period.
"I have been on all the marches, both to the north and the south, since I have been here. Discipline and surveillance during the march is strict. The prisoners march in eight ranks of three abreast. The mounted sergeant rides continually up and down-and round the column. However, it is possible for a prisoner to move from one rank to the next without being spotted—the outside man on the left of one rank moves up to the next, and the man on the outside right in that rank moves back to take the first man's place. In that way I have moved from near the back of the column to its head and back again without being noticed.
"There is a wire fence on the bend of the road where the halt is made on the northern route, and there is no cover of any kind. But I believe the point where the halt is made on the southern route offers a great opportunity for one man to escape during the rest period. Hauptmann Pohle and Kapitänleutnant Lott both know the place.
"Soon after passing through the little village one comes to a wood that rises steeply off the right-hand side of the road. On the left is flat meadowland. After passing along the edge of the wood for a couple of hundred metres, there is a sharp right-hand turn in the road. In the angle of the turn there is a five-barred gate. A wall of the kind you see everywhere in this district begins at the gateway and stretches southwards into the distance along the road. The wall is breast high on the road side, and is made of flat stones laid one on top of the other. It is finished off with a row of stones placed on end, so that the top is jagged. The level of the meadow is somewhat lower than the level of the road.
"As soon as the party reaches this bend in the road, the mounted sergeant shouts 'Halt!' The prisoners then move over to the wall to rest. Some lean against it and those who have coats lay them on the jagged stones and sit on top.
"Immediately the party is halted, the four guards at either end of the column move across to the opposite side of the road, from where it is easier for them to keep the whole group of prisoners under observation. There is a huge boulder in the angle of the road on the wooded side opposite the spot where the party rests. The mounted sergeant takes up a position in front of this boulder, or near it, so that he, too, can keep an eye on the prisoners.
"Thus, all the guards are on one side of the road, and the prisoners on the other. The rear of the party—the meadow side of the wall—is not covered by the guards!
"Although a long stretch of the road can be seen to the south from the bend, only one of the two sets of four guards can see it. Moreover, it has a blind spot. About fifty metres south from the bend, the road dips an4 twists at the same point. You will see what I am getting at, gentlemen. If a man could drop unseen from the wall into the meadow, he could run along behind the wall to the blind spot in the road, climb over into the road again, and cross into the woods opposite without coming once into the guards' field of view!
"Can this be done? Gentlemen, I'm sure it can—and I have already tried it out to the point of lying out flat on top of the wall without being spotted!
"This is my plan: as soon as the party is halted, two men drape their coats side by side on the top of the wall so that they partly overlap. I am already at this spot and am immediately surrounded by eight of the tallest and heaviest prisoners who completely screen me from the guards, who are in the process of taking up their positions on the opposite side of the road. Keeping as low as possible, I climb on to t1~e wall and lie out flat on the coats. They are necessary as they prevent the loose Stones from being dislodged. One of the eight men will give me a dig with his elbow as soon as the guards' attention has been momentarily distracted- by four other prisoners. This will be the signal for me to drop into the meadow. I shall wait at the base of the wall for a moment in case any of the guards have spotted me. If everything appears to be normal, I shall be given a verbal signal to proceed. I shall then run crouching along the wall to the dip in the road, climb back over the wall and cross the road into the wood on the other side. I shall penetrate as far into the wood as possible as quickly as I can without making a noise.
"As soon as I have dropped into the meadow the eight prisoners who have been screening me must spread out a little, but not obviously, so that the guards can see gaps between them and part of the coats. If this is done adroitly, there is no reason why they should suspect anything.
"The operation must be carried out as quickly as possible after the arrival of the party at the bend, preferably immediately, while the guards are taking up their positions.
"As far as the actual operation of getting over the wall into the meadow is concerned, there is only one source of danger, and that is the mounted sergeant, who will probably be directly opposite me on the other side of the road. Being on horseback, he might be able to detect some movement over the shoulders of the men screening me at the moment when I am getting on to the wall. Several of the prisoners are in the habit of admiring and patting the sergeant's horse before the party leaves the camp, and again after we get back. One in particular, is known to the sergeant as a keen horseman. To-day, to test the sergeant's reactions, I got this prisoner to cross the road to pat the horse immediately the halt was called. This had never happened before, but the sergeant let the prisoner make a fuss of the animal for about a minute before telling him to go across to the other side of the road. Meanwhile, the rider's attention was distracted from the prisoners. There is no reason why this should not happen again.
"There is one other danger: the telephone box on the roadside as you enter the village from the camp end. No roster of prisoners taking part in walks is prepared and there is no roll-call during the rest period. Only numerical checks are made. The prisoners are counted before leaving the camp and again on their return. The sergeant makes two further checks while they are marching, once on the outward trip and once coming back. The check on the inward march usually takes place as the party is moving off after the rest period, or at the latest, before it passes back through the village. The danger is that the sergeant will discover that one prisoner is missing, ride ahead to the telephone box and warn the camp. This would result in the mobile search party being sent out and the anti-escape machinery set in motion long before the party of prisoners gets back to the camp. It is therefore essential for the prisoners to try to confuse the counting for as long as possible after the return journey has been started. This can be done by the continual movement of men from one rank of three to the next, in the manner I mentioned earlier. If the discovery that a prisoner is missing can be delayed until the party has passed beyond the telephone box, it should give me a better chance of getting out of the wood and away before the mobile search party arrives on the scene.
"Under the circumstances, it is not possible for me to carry any kind of rucksack. What little I can take with me I shall have to carry in my pockets. I propose to take with me only shaving kit, so as not to present a scruffy and suspicious appearance if I succeed in reaching a West Coast port. My object is to stow away on a neutral ship, or to get to Ireland. I shall also carry soap, towel, and a pair of socks. Food is the principal difficulty. I have saved my chocolate to carry as iron rations. For the rest I shall have to rely on my wits and the little English money I have managed to acquire. Though rainfall is heavy there at this time of year, as I must travel quickly, I believe any kind of greatcoat or raincoat would be more of a hindrance than a help. I have acquired a small, home-made compass and one of the prisoners, Oberleutnant Perchermeier, who was a draughtsman in civilian life, has drawn me a map of the area and part of Northern Ireland. I don't suppose it is accurate, but it is the best I can do and it embodies everything that men in the camp remember of the area. Perchermeier has made a copy of it for possible future use.
"I realise that the country round here is very rough, but I have trained as unobtrusively as possible since my arrival, particularly by joining the men who run round the little exercise ground in the evenings.
"One other thing, gentlemen. I should like to take with me some notes, written in miniature, of the information which I have picked up since I was taken prisoner."
There was a moment's silence as von Werra finished speaking. The three members of the Ältestenrat looked at one another. Then Major Fanelsa said:
"I see you have given the matter very careful thought, Werra. I give you full marks for that. And equally important, you have no illusions about the difficulties. The way you presented it, the plan sounds feasible enough, but I do not know the place. Lott, you know it-what are your views?"
"I have no hesitation in saying that Werra's plan is by far the best that has so far been laid before us, but I'm not sure that he realises what he's up against once he gets away. I am wholeheartedly in favour of giving him permission to make the attempt the next time the exercise party is marched south. As the Herr Major knows, my most secret and valuable possession is a large-scale British map of the area. I suggest this be made available to Werra to study and have copied."
Major Fanelsa turned to the other member of the Ältestenrat.
"I agree with Lott," Hauptmann Pohl said. "I'm in favour of letting von Werra try, and I think we should give him all the help we can.
"The first thing you must understand, Werra," said Pohle, "is that if you do manage to reach the coast, you will not find any seaworthy small craft that you can 'hire' or steal. Owing to the threat of invasion, owners of small craft have been ordered to immobilise them. Your only hope is to get to a port and stow away on a neutral vessel."
"The country between here and the coast is extremely hard going," said Lott. "It's a switchback of hills and dales the whole way. The hills are high and bleak, and your only cover will be the stone walls, which you will find everywhere. You will have to climb over hundreds of them! The sides of some of the valleys are strewn with rocks and boulders. You will also have to walk through stretches of swampy land and to wade or swim across rivers. In addition, the chances are that at least half the time it will be raining—the cold, driving penetrating rain that no greatcoat or raincoat can keep out—I think you are wise not to bother with one. The wear and tear on your clothing is going to be very heavy.
"By the time you reach the coast your appearance might easily give you away. It is therefore essential that you wear the toughest possible clothing. There is a U-boat officer in the camp who has a pair of long leather trousers hidden away. I think we could arrange to let you have them—they would be ideal for your purpose—and perhaps also a leather jerkin and a pair of sea boots."
"I should be mast grateful for the trousers and jerkin," von Werra said, "but my own jackboots are almost new- nicely worn in. I don't think I could do better than wear them on the trip."
"I think it's time to tell you about some of the other things you will be up against," said Major Fanelsa. "It seems that the British think we shall drop paratroops in this area in the event of an invasion. We understand that there is one battalion of troops in Windermere and another at Ulverston some twenty kilometres south of here. So you will see that apart from guards from the camp, the police and the Home Guard, there are large numbers of troops at hand to join in the hunt for you! It is likely that the British authorities will use your escape as a means of testing and exercising their anti-paratroop defences in the area."
Lott got up and went to the panelled wall of the room. He took a table knife from his pocket and carefully removed with it, first the beading round the panel, and then the panel itself. The parts came away quite easily, as though they had often been removed before. From the cache behind the panel, Lott took a folded map.
Von Werra was delighted by the cleverly concealed cache but the map was a disappointment. It was a tattered negative photostatic copy, and was very faint.
"You don't know the worst yet, Werra," said Lott, as he spread the map over the table. "In the event of an escape a mobile search party of at least fifty men can be sent out at once. They will throw a cordon round the whole area. The fact that we are in between two long parallel lakes, Coniston Water and Windermere, running north to south, makes the task of encirclement much easier. A river runs south from both lakes, and these rivers converge on the coast, so that, to all intents and purposes, we are on a peninsula.
"The mobile guards from the camp patrol the roads on the neck of the peninsular, that is, between the northern ends of the two lakes, and cover the bridges over the rivers to the south. Within half an hour, all strategic points will have been occupied. In order to discourage escape attempts, the Camp Commandant has let it be known that, as soon as an escape is reported, police in launches will clear the two lakes of all other boats, which will be guarded or immobiised as long as the emergency lasts, so that the prisoner cannot break through the cordon by rowing from one bank to the other. The police will patrol the lakes in case he should attempt to swim across.
"Your best plan, Werra," Major Fanelsa said, "is to break through the ring at an isolated spot by crossing the river running south from Coniston Water during your first night of freedom. From then on you must, as it were, disappear off the face of the earth. Keep to the hills and avoid villages and farm houses like the plague. Rest during the day and travel at night."
Two days later, on Monday, 7 October 1940, Franz von Werra and twenty-three other German officers, led by Hauptmann Pohle, set out on a route march from Grizedale Hall, at 2 p.m. In the meantime Major Fanelsa had asked the Camp Commandant to change the time of the walks from 10.30 a.m. to 2 p.m. as the morning walks interfered with the educational classes at the camp. The real reason was that by escaping in the afternoon instead of the morning, von Werra would only have three, instead of seven hours to wait for nightfall, when he could move with greater security. There would also be less time for the hunt to get under way before darkness fell.
The prisoners were escorted by one British officer, two N.C.O.s—one of them mounted—and seven men. They carried side arms or rifles. Later, the camp authorities were unable to find out who had given the order for the party to turn southwards at the camp gates. The mounted sergeant, who was usually in charge of the party, said he did not give the order, as on this occasion an officer was taking part in the walk. The officer said he hadn't. In point of fact, the order was given, according to a prearranged plan, by Hauptmann Pohle. The leading guards never suspected that a German had given the order, and obediently wheeled to the left.
The party passed through the village of Satterthwaite, and ten minutes later approached High Bowkerstead Corner, where the halt was always made. As soon as von Werra turned the bend and looked southwards down the road, his heart fell. The unforeseen had happened. On all the previous outings he had made from the camp, he had seen only a few people and hardly ever a car or lorry. But now, about a quarter of a mile away, coming towards them, was a man with a horse and cart.
The party halted. The guards took up their positions, the prisoners moved across to the wall, the sergeant halted his horse in front of the big boulder on the opposite side of the road, and the officer stood nearby. He instantly ordered back the prisoner detailed to distract the sergeant's attention by moving across the road to pat the horse.
Von Werra dared not move because the man with the horse and cart would have seen him on the meadow side of the wall. However, he got into position and waited, sick with suspense and frustration. The minutes of the rest period ticked by. The horse and cart approached the bend with maddening slowness.
As the cart drew nearer, von Werra saw that it was loaded with fruit and vegetables. The driver was the local greengrocer. Instead of ruining von Werra's plan, he proved to be its saviour, for when he reached the party he provided the perfect distraction. As the cart drew level von Werra hoisted himself on to the wall, keeping as low as possible, and stretching himself out on his back on the coats covering the loose, jagged stones. Etc was completely hidden behind his carefully grouped companions. After a moment an elbow nudged him urgently. Simultaneously, he rolled over and dropped into the meadow, landing neatly on his hands and toes. It worked perfectly. No sound was heard above the loud chattering of the prisoners. Not a stone was dislodged.
With the officer's permission, the mounted sergeant stopped the cart and bought some eating apples, one of which he gave to his horse. Some of the other guards also bought fruit. By the time the transactions were completed and the greengrocer had moved off, there were only about two of the ten minutes rest period left.
The sergeant ordered the column to re-form. The guards took up their positions at the head and rear. As the order to march was about to be given, there were sounds of cries coming from a long way down the road to the south. Nearly hale a mile away two women were running along the road, shouting and waving their handkerchiefs. Looking back, the guards and prisoners could see only the heads and waving handkerchiefs of the women above the wall. With great presence of mind, Hauptmann Pohle started waving in reply, and other prisoners followed suit.
The officer and the sergeant immediately ordered them to stop it. Muttering darkly about women who waved to German prisoners, the sergeant ordered the column to march, and it disappeared round the corner on the way back to the camp.
The two women were not waving to the prisoners, but to the guards. They were trying to draw their attention to the escaped prisoner who was running bent double along the meadow side of the wall.