Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Dodger: The Extraordinary Story of Churchill's Cousin and the Great Escape by Tim Caroll

The Dodger:  The Extraordinary Story of Churchill's Cousin and the Great Escape by Tim Caroll - 336 pages

The Dodger recounts the life of John "Johnny" Bigelow Dodge, a distant cousin of Sir Winston Churchill.  American-born but British-bred, Dodge became a British citizen when his mother married an English aristocrat.  During World War I, he served in naval infantry unit until he was wounded at Gallipoli.  After his recovery, he transferred to the army and led a machine gun group.  During the interwar years, Dodge traveled extensively as a business men (though he may have used that as a cover for spying) and was twice arrested in the Soviet Union.  When World War II began he reactivated his commission and served on active duty until his capture at Dunkirk.  Once in German hands, Dodge spent the next five years being moved from camp to camp and attempting multiple escapes, most notably the one from Stalag III featured in the movie The Great Escape.  During this time, the biography also tells the story of the men he lived and traveled camp to camp with.  The most significant of these seems to have been Wing Commander Harry "Wings" Melville Arbuthnot Day (I am inspired to look for his biography at a later point; he masterminded the great escape).

The book was highly variable in its appeal.  The first half covering pre-World War II was bare bones information and dry reading.  Once the point of Dodge's life in World War II was reached, it become more interesting but the focus was equally split between Dodge and his four main companions.  Worth reading?  Yes.  Is there something better?  Probably.

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