A Captain Robert Campbell drops into our lives this morning from a bygone era. The Great War in fact when, if the facts are considered, many might have thought him from a bygone era of medieval chivalry even then. Newspapers carrying the story, which was dug out by historian Richard Van Emden, inform us that Capt Campbell, was captured at Mons, became a prisoner of war but was released on parole to visit his very sick mother in 1916. The only condition being that he returned and indeed he did. Surprising though it is, the logic was if he chose not to then other prisoners would probably be denied the privileged in future.
All of which brings to mind the farewell we collectively said a month ago to another wonderful character, the like of whom there are so very few left. Squadron Leader Peter Tunstall was a serial escaper in the Second World War, who had the notable claim to fame of having spent longer in solitary confinement than any other Allied prisoner, a total of 412 days. The Germans court martialled him five times and like many of his ilk, he eventually found himself in Colditz.
A leading exponent of the art of “goon baiting,” he devoted his energies after capture to both escaping and creating as much time wasting irritation for the Germans as he could muster. A figure straight out of central casting, it’s something of an embarrassment that he was not to be decorated for his conduct as a POW, (it’s a common misconception that most prisoners fulfilled their duty to attempt to escape; Unlike the Squadron Leader and his chums, most did not). His obit in the Telegraph is well worth a read.