IN his new book, The War Behind the Wire: The Life, Death and Glory of British Prisoners of War, 1914-18, local author John Lewis-Stempel reveals the last untold story of the First World War: the fortunes and fates of British prisoners of war.

For the captured soldiers the war was far from ‘over’ as they exchanged one barbed-wire battleground for another. The Tommy prisoners’ private war against the German military was fought with everything from taunting humour to outright sabotage, with a literal spanner put in the works of the factories and salt mines the prisoners were forced to slave in. In the camps the war was eternal and the true spirit of the Tommy was exemplified as prisoners fought against the conditions in which they were mired. They battled starvation, disease, Prussian cruelties, boredom and their own inner demons. And, of course, they escaped. Then escaped again. No less than 29 officers at Holzminden camp in 1918 burrowed their way out via a tunnel (dug with a chisel and trowel) in the Great Escape of the Great War.

Amongst the darkness there are also stories of bravery, honourable actions from both sides and friendship, but it a was war with heart-breaking consequences; more than 12,000 prisoners of war died, many of them murdered, buried in unmarked graves, the victims of war crimes.

Using contemporary sources, from PoW’s diaries to German army records and from letters home to poetry, Lewis-Stempel uncovers the fortunes and fates of the British soldiers captured by the enemy.

Lewis-Stempel’s previous war history Six Weeks is an Amazon number one bestseller - "Wonderful...hugely moving" John Simpson, World Affairs Editor, BBC News