Wednesday, December 26, 2012
SUMMARY: Soon after his arrival at Warburg PoW camp, British army officer John Buxton (1912-1989) found an unexpected means of escape from the horrors of internment. Passing his days covertly watching birds, he was unaware that he, too, was being watched. Peter Conder (1919-1993), also a passionate ornithologist, had noticed Buxton gazing skywards. He approached him and, with two other prisoners, they founded a secret birdwatching society.
This is the untold story of an obsessive quest behind barbed wire. Through their shared love of birds, the four PoWs overcame hunger, hardship, fear and stultifying boredom. Their quest would draw in not only their fellow prisoners, but also some of the German guards, at great risk to them all.
Derek Niemann draws on original diaries, letters and drawings, to show how Conder, John Barrett, George Waterston and Buxton were forged by their wartime experience into the giants of postwar wildlife conservation. Their legacy lives on.
RECOMMENDATION: This book reminds me of a scene from the 1963 movie: The Great Escape in which the Allied PoWs are learning to identify birds, especially the Masked Shrike. I wonder if the men in this book inspired that scene? Buxton's 1950 New Naturalist monograph The Redstart has become a collector's item. Conder had his The Wheatear monograph published in 1989. Niemann's book is a good read for those with an interest in British ornithological and/or World War 2 history.