The 21 Escapes – David Guss

Another quick read.

It’s a “Phone Box Library” book recycled for free, something which has been a delight during lockdown.

Here’s the incredible story of a modest Scotsman who trained as a lawyer, but ended up “in enemy hands” after a campaign in North Africa.

The book has been compiled from notes made by the central character, and with the assistance of his now deceased wife.

Through the book you can read about Cram’s independent spirit, and also his willingness to help the war effort by putting himself at risk whilst trying to help others escape.

Early on we find out he’s a fit outdoors type, keen on mountaineering and good at languages. Both of these factors helped him, but didn’t do much to soften the physical abuse at the hands of his Italian and German captors.

There’s no doubt this is a worthy effort, but for me it may have been even better with a sprinkling of emotion (even if it would have been pure guesswork).

When Cram eventually escapes for the last time it feels like a “non event”. I was reminded of the time when I finished the Cornish coast path, hopped in a cab and forgot to savour the moment.

Insights into Cram’s latter life in the War Crimes follow up, and then in Africa are noteworthy. How Britain’s presence on the world stage has crumbled in the years since!

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