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H.E. Woolley

Bumstown (Ont.), General Store Publishing, 1990. 186pp, paper, $14.95, ISBN 0-919431-33-X
Distributed by General Store Publishing, 1 Main St., Burnstown, Ontario K0J1G0. CIP

Grades 10 and up/Ages 15 and up
Reviewed by John Harkness.

Volume 19 Number 2
1991 March

This is an odd little book. "Odd" for different reasons: Woolley has waited forty-five years to publish his reminis­cences of life as a prisoner of war for over three years in Nazi German prison camps during World War II.

The fifteen chapters are fifteen separate stories of Woolley's experi­ences from the night in October 1941 when, as a twenty-year-old Canadian co-pilot in a R.A.F. Wellington bomber, he and his crew survived being shot down over Holland, to his liberation after several forced marches from camp to camp in 1945.

What comes through in these narratives is how essential for survival was a sense of humour and how ingenious one can be in adversity - his best story describes how he and his mates constructed, over a six-month period, a hockey rink. They flooded it for one "exhibition" game. Then the weather turned mild and they could never use it again!

Woolley fulfils his purpose "to contrast the many popular escape-adventure P.O.W. stories with the 'other side' of P.O.W. life, the boring existence in frustration as dramatic events of a world-in-conflict passed them by."

These stories do make entertaining light reading and could be a useful addition to the World War II shelves of any library. There are some personal photographs and drawings included. However, another reason for my description of "odd" for this volume is that, of its 188 pages, no less that 12 are blank - to allow each chapter to begin on an uneven numbered page. Surely some other relevant photographs or maps could have been found by the publisher to fill these spots and provide full value.

John Harkness, Emery C.I., North York, Ont.
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