Great Escapees Found in Tollerton

Last updated on 20 September 2019

A newspaper article, dated 28 September 1917, which was published in the ‘Mansfield Reporter’ reported that two German escapees had been found lying asleep in a wood at Tollerton by two special constables – Arthur Wild of Tollerton and A.E. Chamberlain of Plumtree. The two men captured in Tollerton were exhausted after their long tramp through the countryside from a Prisoner of War Camp at Sutton Bonington [1]. Both were lieutenants in the German Flying Corps and one of them had previously escaped from four different camps and was known as ‘Slippery Dick’.

It appears that the two apprehended at Tollerton were part of a larger group of German officers – 22 in total – who had made their escape from this camp during the early hours of the morning. The camp was surrounded by a formidable barrier of barbed wire and a live electric wire. It was strongly guarded with elevated sentry boxes. Despite these deterrents the escapees had cut cables connected to the camp’s alarm system and had dug out a 40 yard long tunnel underneath the barbed wire fence, terminating in an adjoining turnip field.

The first suggestions that there had been an escape from Sutton Bonington came when a police constable at Plumtree saw a man in a foreign service uniform skulking away with a large bundle. When interrogated he spoke with an accent that aroused the constable’s suspicions. Having captured this man, the police alerted Sutton Bonington who then found they had 22 men missing! This led to a wide scale search by all special constables and the regular police in the region over a large geographical area. Guards were set up on all routes to Nottingham. Further men were swiftly recaptured in Plumtree, at Trent Bridge and Gotham and within several days over half of this group had been detained. It took a little longer to apprehend the other ten German officers though.



[1] The PoW Camp at Suttton Bonington was based at the Midland Agricultural and Dairy College, now the School of Biosciences at the University of Nottingham, which was taken over by the War Office in 1915. This PoW camp was used to house German officers, the vast majority of whom were failed escapees from other POW camps. With up to 500 high-risk prisoners being incarcerated in the camp at any given time attempted escapes were perhaps inevitable.