Just under 300,000 Allied servicemen from Britain, the Commonwealth and the United States were captured in Europe and North Africa between 1939 and 1945. Using a wealth of new sources, POW describes their experiences. Prisoners' day-to-day lives are vividly rendered: the workings of the prison-camp system; the ways in which prisoners maintained contact with the outside world through letters, parcels and the benign agency of the Red Cross; artistic and intellectual endeavours; as well as unacknowledged aspects of camp life such as the development of sexual relations - both heterosexual and homosexual. Everyday life is offset by high drama, as POW tells of the secret organisations who smuggled escape aids to the prisoners. In return they furnished their home nations with intelligence from occupied Europe. Although few men were actively engaged in escape attempts, many provided tacit support or were engaged in sabotage and other resistance activities. Adrian Gilbert foregrounds the forgotten voices of the prisoners themselves by threading eleven individual stories through the narrative. POW is a compelling window onto a crucial aspect of the Second World War.
Adrian Gilbert has written extensively on military history. Among his books are World War One in Photographs; Britain Invaded, an imaginary account of a cross-channel German invasion in 1940; The Imperial War Museum Book of the Desert War, featuring firsthand accounts from British and Commonwealth forces in North Africa, 1940-42; and Sniper: One-on-One, a history of sharpshooting and sniping.