Sneak Peek


Private John Richard 'Dick' Cash
Australian Imperial Force, 1916

Photo supplied by Margaret Schmitt,
private collection




The POWs had already broken into a row of windowless attic rooms at the top of the building and turned them into an escape factory.  Dick was assigned a small room, where he set to work photographing the smuggled military map.  It was too large to be photographed in one piece, so he first cut it into 28 sections, carefully numbering each section. Night after night he worked -- photographing, developing prints, sorting and numbering them into organised piles, over and over again, resulting in over 300 prints being developed for distribution to escapees.

The tunnel mission was so covert, even with over eighty men involved, that each potential escapee was operating on the most basic of information as to who was actually involved to reduce the risk of discovery.  This is never so evident than in Dick's case.  In his 1920 book, The Tunnellers of Holzminden, written by a fellow Holzminden internee, camp adjutant Captain Hugh George Durnford, he references the escape factory operating in the secret attic rooms, making an incredible claim which in part reads: "Here maps were photographed without cameras and developed without solutions ...".

Durnford, and many others, simply had not been aware that overhead in a dark attic room, an unassuming Australian orderly was risking his life for the officers he served by photographing escape maps.  With discovery came a swift execution for low-ranking enlisted men who attempted or aided and abetted escape ...

You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honour - Aristotle