Bluff and bluster helped in escape from Germans

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Dateline: October 12, 1918: On this day 100 years ago today, gracing the pages of the YEP was an account of one Yorkshireman’s escape from a German camp after four years in captivity.

The man in question was Arthur Metcalfe, a Bradford policeman, whose parents lived at Cowling. He managed to get away with another Englishman and a Canadian.

The three went about a week without food, eating “only mangelwurzels”, a kind of beet.

Their first challenge came while walking along a country lane. They were passed by a cyclist. The article relates: “Something about the trio must have arroused his suspicion” because he passed and re-passed them several times, before finally saying “Good morning”, to which they replied in German. Afterwards, they hid for an hour and watched as the cyclist return “with a gendarme”.

In a nearby town, they were stopped by “gendarmes and a vicious-looking dog” and questioned but let go. The same day they ran into a sentry box, the soldier coming out, at which point they apparently broke into a rendition of Watch on the Rhine in German, thus fooling the guard.

The article notes: “Just as they were approaching the Dutch frontier, Metcalfe was about to light a cigarette when there was a sound of stamping feet. Looking over the hedge, he spied a German sentry not ten yards away. The sentry discovered them and challenged but they sprinted 500 or 600 yards to make their escape sure.

“Then at a lonely farmhouse, a kindly, a kindly Dutchman gave them a meal, to which they did ample justice and for the first time for a week, they enjoyed the pleasing sensation of warm, if muddy clothing.”