Biography of Jailbreaker Winston Churchill Part 1

About the English jailbreaker Winston Churchill, biography and history of the man who escaped from numerous prisons.

BUSTING LOOSE--INCREDIBLE ESCAPES

Winston Churchill

In 1806 the British expanded their colonial empire by acquiring the Cape Province territory of South Africa. To escape from British rule, many Boer farmers migrated northeast during the Great Trek of 1835-1838, founding the republics of the Orange Free State, Natal, and the Transvaal. British settlers continued to pour in, taking over not only commerce but the gold mines as well. The Boer government retaliated by refusing citizenship to the unwanted Uitlanders and taxing them so heavily that Britain sent troops to protect the rights of its nationals. When Great Britain refused to withdraw the soldiers, both Transvaal and the Orange Free State declared war on Britain on Oct. 12, 1899.

Churchill, then a 24-year-old journalist for the London Morning Post, was assigned as war correspondent and immediately dispatched to South Africa. Landing at Durban, the young reporter joined infantry companies based at the tiny mining community of Estcourt, 70 mi. away. They were engaged in making reconnaissance forays toward Boer-occupied territory aboard an armored train nicknamed Wilson's Death Trap. Shortly after Churchill's arrival, the train was ambushed and he was taken prisoner.

Prior to his capture Churchill had actively taken part in the futile efforts by the British troops to break free of the barricades the Boers had placed on the rails. Consequently, the Boers flatly ignored his vigorous protests that he was just a civilian noncombatant. Sent to a holding compound for prisoners of war at the State Model Schools in Pretoria, Churchill continued to claim he was being unjustly held, but to no avail. Three weeks later, on Dec. 11, the still indignant Churchill drafted a unique letter addressed to the Transvaal government. In it he tersely promised them he would be leaving "hastily and unceremoniously," and at the same time he expressed his deepest appreciation for the kindness his captors had shown him during his brief imprisonment. On the following night, true to his promise, he escaped.

During his captivity Churchill had carefully studied the Boer security precautions for the enclosure. On two sides of the school grounds a 10-ft.-high corrugated iron fence had been erected, and the other two sides were protected by a solid wall topped with ornamental ironwork. Inside this perimeter, Boer sentries were posted 50 yd. apart. Powerful floodlights illuminated every building and the entire area inside the perimeter--except at one point, spotted by the sharp-eyed Churchill. Near one wall, a short section lay in partial shadow cast by a circular lavatory. Choosing the precise moment when both sentries simultaneously turned their backs on him, Churchill scaled the wall, scrambling down into the garden of the villa next door. With a confident nonchalance, he walked out through the garden gate, passing within 15 ft. of the nearest camp sentry, and entered the suburbs of Pretoria. Shortly after his escape a 25 pound reward was posted for his recapture--dead or alive.

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