OUR CHANCES WERE ZERO: The Daring Escape by two German POWs from India in 1942


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Reihe Dritter von rechts: Lutz Chicken. Deutsche Asien-Expeditionen Herbert Utz, Munich, Germany. Republished , Edition Dax, Hamburg, Germany.

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Bruno Treipl Salzburg, Austria. Peter Schuemmer Cologne, Germany. Bruno Treipl was the last living member of a group of seven escapers who fled from British wartime internment in Dehra Dun , Mussoori, India, and one of the four who reached Tibet. Another escaper, Friedel Sattler, finding tramping over the Himalayas to be physically too hard, and becoming quite ill, had already returned to India. The final pair of the escape party, Rolf Magener and Heins von Have , meanwhile had embarked on a different yet equally incredible journey across India for a successful escape to the Japanese army front lines in Burma and finally on to Tokyo where they were regaled as national heroes.

Bruno Treipl in Salzburg However, he found the work uninspiring and he also earned too little to quench his thirst for travel. He got to know many interesting hotel guests, two of whom offered him jobs on tea plantations which he took at different times. In the first plantation he was invited by its administrator to live with his family who were very kind to him. He was later offered work on a second plantation by a Mr.

Pendelman, an Englishman who worked for Francis Peak and Co.

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During his years in Java he was endlessly fascinated by its rich, diverse and unspoiled tropical flora and fauna. Before the Japanese invasion of the Dutch colony, Treipl recalled the following: "At the time there were many Japanese in Java and I had a hairdresser who was actually a Japanese army colonel, but even I had no idea of this fact, although I knew that the Japanese were employed in all kinds of posts everywhere.

They sold very cheap bicycles to the local people and when the Japanese invaded they confiscated them all for the army companies to ride on.


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In this way they were able to move about very quickly; it was quite ingenious. In hindsight it seemed clear to him that they were looking for raw materials - oil, metals, rubber etc. When the Japanese invaded, Treipl had already been taken prisoner.

At first, the Dutch took all Austrians and Germans into captivity even though most of them were civilians. Later on they interned the Italians as well.


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On the 10th of May , Treipl was on his way by car from Lembang to Bandung to visit a friend — an Italian by the name Gottlieb Meister - when he was stopped by the military. He vividly remembered the following weeks. The Dutch were in full knowledge that the Japanese could attack the ships at anytime. Also the transport to the harbour was terrible. We were sent in small buses with barbed wire wrapped all around them.

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We could hardly fit in - there was standing room only and when we got out some people fell over because their feet had gone numb and we were terribly tired; it was like a slave transport. The first, with me on it, was surely expected to be attacked and it included the people the Dutch disliked most. Fortunately it was not attacked, but the second ship was attacked by the Japanese who did not know it was full of Austrians and Germans.

The third was a hospital ship. It was also attacked and sunk; many did not survive. It was a big story in the newspapers. We explained to them how badly we had been treated and they thought it was absolutely disreputable. They sent us on a long train ride to Ranchi Road. We were fed well - I remember we even got hot chocolate.

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Then in Ranchi Road we were put into a big camp, it was very hot - 40 or even 50 degrees Celsius and one could hardly breathe, you could not go on the streets or travel because the asphalt was melting. That was before the monsoon. Once, there was a big thunderstorm with hail and big mangoes were knocked down from their trees, so we had lots of fruit. They are appended to this article and are translated here into English for the first time. In telling his part of the story in interviews in his later years, because by then enough had already been told about the escape from Dehra Dun in the published accounts of the other escapers, Treipl focussed on the time after he left the group which had reached Tibet.

I waited with Aufschnaiter until he was better, then I gave him almost everything I still had in the way of equipment and money and turned back even though it was beautiful up there and the road was good, one could have even motored it. Their plan had been eventually to cross the Gobi desert and possibly get behind the Japanese military front lines in China, but with Kopp gone his motivation had dwindled.

Kopp was later to be recaptured in Kathmandu, Nepal, by British deception. I had had just enough money to buy it and now I slept in the middle of valley of the Sutlej river all by myself. They invited me to join them in the evening. They asked me who I was and how I had got there and I explained.

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One was an army general, I forget his name, and the other was a colonel. I joined them for their evening meal and we drank whisky and discussed politics, but all very nice and pleasantly. The next day they moved on and I also, alone, without any escort. They did not arrest me, because they knew I could do nothing harmful and I was not a spy. I went to the teacher and told him I was an escaped prisoner-of-war. He received me in a very friendly manner and gave me new clothes - the old ones had lice in them and he burnt them. Then I went and sat in the school with the children. They spoke English, Urdu and Hindustani - three languages — even though they were only eight or maybe six years old!

The Maharaja to whom the surrounding area called Saran belonged took me in, gave me something to eat and was very kind. There were many goldsmiths in the village and if I had had the money I could have bought some very nice old jewellery. The Maharaja said he would postpone reporting me to the authorities for as long as possible so that I could stay. The Maharaja there could not postpone reporting me, even though he did not want to do it. The local police chief said soldiers from Simla would come and pick me up and they came with handcuffs and shackles, but in fact they did not use them on me.

They were dreadfully nice and treated me very well - no comparison with the Dutch. They then wanted to put me in a prison in Simla, because they did not know exactly what my real motives and plans were. I said I would not go into a prison to sit next to murderers and criminals. The prison was quite full, but they said they would put me in by force, so I told them that they could try that. So fifty Indians sat around me, but none moved and they did not attack me.

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They informed me that it was only for one night and that next day I could go back to Dehra Dun. But I refused to eat. He questioned me. I got 28 days solitary confinement in the prison camp, in accordance with the Geneva Convention, where I was put in a cell. Later I heard that Hans Kopp had been recaptured in Nepal and was in the camp hospital so I visited him and we spoke through the barbed wire. Towards the end of the war, Treipl was among the twenty-two prisoners, who at one time or another had managed to escape from Dehra Dun and who were taken to Deoli, a secure camp south west of Agra, Rajasthan.

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Most of them were very experienced mountaineers or sportsmen and this had given them the self-assurance to attempt escapes to Tibet through the almost impassable Himalayas. This also allowed them all to be on relatively good terms with each other. This Deoli group included both Kopp and Sattler with whom Treipl had escaped. He had escaped from Dehra Dun together with Ludwig Schmaderer.

OUR CHANCES WERE ZERO: The Daring Escape by two German POWs from India in 1942 OUR CHANCES WERE ZERO: The Daring Escape by two German POWs from India in 1942
OUR CHANCES WERE ZERO: The Daring Escape by two German POWs from India in 1942 OUR CHANCES WERE ZERO: The Daring Escape by two German POWs from India in 1942
OUR CHANCES WERE ZERO: The Daring Escape by two German POWs from India in 1942 OUR CHANCES WERE ZERO: The Daring Escape by two German POWs from India in 1942
OUR CHANCES WERE ZERO: The Daring Escape by two German POWs from India in 1942 OUR CHANCES WERE ZERO: The Daring Escape by two German POWs from India in 1942
OUR CHANCES WERE ZERO: The Daring Escape by two German POWs from India in 1942 OUR CHANCES WERE ZERO: The Daring Escape by two German POWs from India in 1942
OUR CHANCES WERE ZERO: The Daring Escape by two German POWs from India in 1942 OUR CHANCES WERE ZERO: The Daring Escape by two German POWs from India in 1942
OUR CHANCES WERE ZERO: The Daring Escape by two German POWs from India in 1942 OUR CHANCES WERE ZERO: The Daring Escape by two German POWs from India in 1942
OUR CHANCES WERE ZERO: The Daring Escape by two German POWs from India in 1942 OUR CHANCES WERE ZERO: The Daring Escape by two German POWs from India in 1942
OUR CHANCES WERE ZERO: The Daring Escape by two German POWs from India in 1942

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