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History - Alpine Journal

History - Alpine Journal

216 THE ALPINE JOURNAL

216 THE ALPINE JOURNAL 2006 when Lobenhoffer and Harrer jumped from the back of a moving truck. They were immediately detected and recaptured. Deolali was unbearably hot with dusty, poor accommodation, so all went on hunger strike. Internee No. 1775 Rolf Magener, interviewed in 1999, related how an investigating senior British officer walked into a melee of prisoners by now intent on murder and asked 'Gentlemen, whatever is the matter?' His self-assured behaviour saved his life. Consequently, the authorities directed an interned architect to design a purpose-built camp with all facilities at Premnagar, Dehra Dun, Mussoorie, 120 miles from the Tibetan border. The journey from Deolali to Dehra Dun provided another escape opportunity. According to the archives: 'On the evening of 10 October 1941 a train conveying internees...halted for two hours at Delhi. It was discovered that Lobenhoffer, internee No. 1085, was missing. He was re-arrested at Puri, Orissa, 13 October. The arrangements by the Military escort for the safe custody of these internees appear to have left much to be desired.' Later, he claimed to be an army officer, which in fact he was. He had been commissioned on 1 January 1938 as a lieutenant in the 100th Mountain­ Chaser Regiment and had been detailed to accompany the expedition. However, the archives state: 'There is nothing in our papers to show that Lobenhoffer was, as now claimed, detailed by the German High Command to accompany the Expedition.' He persuaded the British to treat him as an 'Officer Prisoner of War' and he was transferred to Canada, where he pretended to be mad and was repatriated under a prisoner exchange scheme. Harrer, still determined to escape, had few resources, so one night he crept to the Italian sector to meet General Marchese who could finance escapes but needed an experienced Himalayan fellow traveller. In 1999, Magener related that Marchese had visions of ultimately making a triumphal return march down the Via Del Corso in Rome. Escaping by night in June 1943, they put a ladder over a sentry-post; as they ran off, the alarm was raised. A sentry grabbed the ladder from the assisting Magener and threw it away - and an incredulous Magener simply walked back unpunished to his hut. After 18 days, Harrer and Marchese were confronted and arrested by an Indian, the multi-lingual Chief Forester of Tehri-Garhwal. Shortly afterwards, they were amazed to be joined by Aufschnaiter and Father Carl Calenberg, a Jesuit priest, who had escaped six days later. Back in Dehra Dun, Camp Commandant Colonel Williams received them with: 'You made a daring escape. I am sorry, I have to give you 28 days.' By now, five others as well as Harrer and Aufschnaiter had also plotted to escape, including fluent English speakers Magener and Heins von Have. Magener had been interned in Bombay; von Have in Dutch Indonesia, from where he, with 1320 other civilians, was sent to India in 1941 after Japan entered the war, in three crowded, unmarked ships; his was sunk by the Japanese with the loss of 500 lives. After landing in Bombay, he escaped with Hans-Peter Hulsen by jumping from a moving train. They were soon

PRISONERS OF THE RAJ 217 recaptured. A second attempt ended with Hiilsen's death, when, under police escort, they leapt from a bus, the door of which swung back, killing Hiilsen. Also from Indonesia were Friedel Sattler, who planned to cross the Himalayas to reach the Japanese in China, and Bruno Treipl who, in 2004, related how badly the Dutch had treated them until they were embarked on the ships - their captors knowing Japanese aircraft were likely to attack. He was grateful to end up in British hands to be treated in exemplary fashion. Another plotter was Hans Kopp, interned in Iraq. He had previously escaped Dehra Dun with Edmund Kramer, a renowned wrestler who could overthrow a bull. They smuggled themselves out in a dung cart and reached Tibet. There, as Magener recalled in 1999, they were huddled together one night for warmth enough to stay alive when Kopp had a nasty realisation. Kramer was a giant of a man who had deserted the French Foreign Legion in Morocco before the war along with a fellow German. They had crossed the High Atlas, but Kraemer arrived in Germany alone and would tell nobody what had happened to his compatriot. Kopp now guessed that Kraemer might have killed his former companion in similar circumstances at high altitude and eaten him in order to survive. Kopp spent the rest of the night a very worried man indeed. Finding the conditions too severe, the pair gave up their attempt to cross Tibet and instead, pretending to be Swiss missionaries, headed for Goa, seeking help in New Delhi from an Indian car dealer friend of Kramer's who betrayed them. Returned to camp they were paraded before Colonel Williams, who let fall a newspaper from in front of his smiling face - their escape was emblazoned in bold headlines across the front page. They received the inevitable 28 days. All seven would-be escapers assembled. Magener had noted that the unguarded, fenced alleyways - the 'Chicken Runs' - between camp sectors led to a gate where passes were never checked. Accordingly, he and von Have disguised themselves as British officers complete with swagger sticks, in charge of the others disguised as a native wire repair gang. On 29 April 1944 at 2.30pm, having broken through the wires into a Chicken Run, they boldly marched through the main gate with the guard presenting arms - a heart-stopping procession none of them would ever forget. They split; five headed for Tibet while Magener and van Have went for Burma and the Japanese. This necessitated using fast trains and bluff. Their play-acting as British officers succeeded and reaching Calcutta they travelled onwards as Swiss businessmen eventually crossing the front lines into Burma where the Japanese captured them as suspected spies. Mistreated until known to be German allies, they were sent to Tokyo where they were regaled as heroes. Half a century later, Magener could still not believe 'why this lunatic undertaking succeeded at all'. Meanwhile, in the Himalayas, Sattler, badly affected by altitude and exhaustion, returned to camp where his 28 days solitary were spent recovering in hospital. Now there were four, who, 19 days from camp,

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