This sounds insane, of course. As the world burned, Britain was devoting serious time and ingenuity to keeping have-a-go-heroes stocked with gizmos and trinkets churned out by a plucky bunch of garden shed types. It all makes a little more sense, though, when you take into account the sheer scale and complexity of the war that was being fought – and the number of soldiers who were being captured every day. Nutty as this statistic initially appears, in their gloriously angry history of European POWs, The Last Escape, John Nichol and Tony Rennell suggest that, by 1944, there could have been as many as nine million prisoners of various nationalities spread across axis territory. Nine million. By the end of the war, Germany was essentially a vast, unevenly distributed prison camp – a nation of wardens and cells and far, far worse.
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