Sojourn in Silesia 1940-1945 is the memoir of Arthur Evans CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) and concerns his experiences in May of 1940 when he entered France as a member of the British Expeditionary Force, his subsequent wounding and capture by the Germans, his imprisonment in a German prisoner of war camp and his final liberation in May of 1945. Unlike most memoirs of World War Two, this one is not told from the point of view of a general, statesman or other grand strategist, but rather from that of an enlisted soldier: Arthur Evans was a sergeant. He tells a very engrossing, personal story, relating with considerable humility the story of his survival under sometimes horrendous conditions of exposure to the elements, brutality and near starvation. Acts of cruelty and kindness on the part of his captors are treated with an even hand in his narrative and he gives credit to his captors when it is due. Arthur Evans credits the International Red Cross with saving himself and his fellow prisoners from starvation during the first winter of his captivity and in the subsequent years and his heirs have arranged that the proceeds of any book sales go to that organization. This is an excellent book that never fails to carry the reader forward through Evans’ five year ordeal. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in history and in stories of personal triumph over adversity.
Doug Turnbull, Author – Kentucky, USA. (courtesy of Amazon.com)
Sojourn in Silesia, by Arthur Charles Evans, CBE, is a first-rate first-hand account of one Prisoner-of-War’s experiences during the length of World War Two. From how he came to be taken prisoner, to the life and death remembrances of captivity, to enduring the rise and then fall of the German Army, Arthur faithfully recounts all he can remember of significance from the years 1940 through 1945. Engrossing reading, with references to people, places and activities everyone familiar with this dark period will recall. Highly recommended to anyone wishing to more fully understand personal response to institutional horror.
Terrylm, USA (courtesy Amazon.com)
Arthur Evans was wounded at Boulogne early in the war and endured five years of captivity. Forget all you have seen and read of languid officers plotting their next escape while playing cricket or rehearsing their next play. For the vast majority of POWs, the ordinary soldiers like Arthur, captivity was gruelling and that is why his book is so important. Forced to work down the coalmines of Silesia, he endured the hard, hard life of the the giant Lamsdorf camp with starvation rations and serious illness. ‘Sojourn in Silesia’ is a valuable testimony to the way it was for so many ordinary men and Arthur Evans tells his story with simple dignity.
James Long – Author of ‘Ferney’
I was honoured to be asked to review this book by my RISI and Facebook friend Jo Harrison, Arthur Evans granddaughter, who is the editor of this story. Shameless plug here for Jo’s website. Yes, I use the word story because it is Arthur’s story and it is special not only to those close to him, family and friends, but because it is a humbling reminder of what our forebears went through during the World Wars of the 20th century.
I found Arthur’s story very interesting partly because I had not read any accounts of POW’s. This story is not full of terror, it is told in such a way that it keeps the reader interested. It does not dwell on horrors but gives a rounded view. The German officers were described as ordinary humans just carrying out their jobs and you could sense that many of them did not actually like keeping these men prisoners, they were not the Gestapo. Many of the POW’s friends and comrades were killed and stories reached the inmates of Stalag VIIIB that some of those who had already left the camp had subsequently died. The POW’s weren’t treated too badly, compared to many of the atrocities we read about in the German prison camps and Arthur Evans was fortunate to build up a relationship with the German officers which helped his fellow inmates. A special man, he taught himself to speak German to not only help himself and the other prisoners, but it also made it easier for the Germans. His story shows that the Germans respected him. Of course, the POW’s would not have had parcels of food and clothing if it were not for the work of the Red Cross and later on we hear that Mr Evans own family and friends in his home town contributed financially to ensure that he received clothing and food. He was fortunate to survive after his illnesses and surgeries and ironically, we hear later on that had he remained in London serving in a desk job he would have been killed.
It is hard to imagine what these heroes went through, although my late ‘older’ Mother (born the same year as Arthur) had provided clerical services in the war as a typist she did not seem inclined to enter discussion on the subject, this was something my family wanted to forget. My uncles did not discuss their war years either. The closest to stories I ever got were from my late father-in-law who had kept an album of his photos from the Royal Navy. It is important that our children learn these important historical facts and I would recommend this book to all – it is quite an insight both into the camp at Lamsdorf and into the part that Arthur played in being a major part of the POW community. I don’t think it is fair to rate a book like this, how can you give a star rating to such an autobiography. I want to jump on the promotional bandwagon here and recommend it, read it to your children, grandchildren, pupils etc.
Booketta (UK) courtesy Amazon.co.uk
I am not an avid reader and can’t remember the last time I read a book from cover to cover. I reluctantly began this one, fearing that it would end up the same way as all the rest – one chapter read and never to be opened again.
How delightfully wrong I was. This is an absolutely fascinating account of the reality of being a prisoner of war in German-occupied Poland during World War II.
It is an honest, pragmatic and sometimes painfully emotive story, made all the more evocative by its actuality.
The author does not try to blind you with science, confuse you with literary structures or tug at your emotions. He tells it just like it was and, for my part, this bare honesty is what makes it so poignant and compelling.
Louise Grudgings (UK) courtesy Amazon.co.uk
It is difficult to imagine the terror of being held captive during WW2, we all now know how it all ended, but at the time prisoners of war didn’t. Waking up every morning thinking that it could be you last, must take a massive toll on your health and well-being. To have to sustain this for 5 years is imaginable to me, but Arthur did and still managed to keep his perspective on life.
What I soon grasped when reading his own account of WW2, was that Arthur was a gentleman first and a soldier second. His respect for his fellow inmates and even of some of his enemies shone through. He did what he had to do to survive which must have been soul destroying at times, especially having to work down a dark and dangerous mine.
Other people did play a part in keeping Arthur’s spirit up, mainly the odd letters from home and the amazing work of the Red-Cross, along with people from his home town who aided this support.
His family are entitled to feel honoured to have been part of the life of this Gentleman Hero.
Read this book and count your blessings, I know I did.
SteveB courtesy Amazon.co.uk