The Wooden Horse

post written by Emma Filbrun

The Wooden Horse by Eric WilliamsTitle: The Wooden Horse
Author: Eric Williams
Major Themes: Escapes, Germany, RAF, World War II
Synopsis: British airmen imprisoned in a German prisoner-of-war camp come up with an ingenious plan for escape.

I had never heard of The Wooden Horse until I found it at a recent book fair, and after I thoroughly enjoyed reading it was happy to discover that it is still in print! It was first written soon after the events described in it happened during World War II.

This story begins in a German prisoner-of-war camp, Stalag-Luft III. The Germans designed this camp to be escape-proof, and to hold their most prized prisoners, aircrew who were shot down and captured. The British officers who were imprisoned were very ingenious men, but up to the time in which this story begins no one had succeeded in escaping. Tunnels were very difficult to dig and keep hidden; the subsoil was a very different color from the top soil, making it nearly impossible to find a way to hide the soil they dug out. Distance was also a factor; they had to dig from the huts so the guards wouldn’t see them, but that made the tunnels, necessarily, very long. The few men who did manage to escape were quickly recaptured and brought back.

The men had organized an Escape Committee, and whoever came up with an idea was given help to try to make it work. One day, Peter came up with a new plan, and got John to help him. With the aid of the rest of the men, they built a vaulting horse and put it near the wire at the edge of the camp. Every day, they were carried out in this horse and while men took turns vaulting over the horse, they dug under it. The level of ingenuity it required to hide this tunnel and dispose of the dirt is amazing. Would they ever succeed in getting the tunnel long enough to get under the wires and get out? And then, if they did, how would they get out of Germany?

If you enjoy stories of World War II, you will enjoy this one. If you enjoy stories of escapes or adventures, you will enjoy this true story.

WARNING: I don’t remember seeing any language, but when I read it I didn’t think I would be reviewing it—I figured it was out of print. Also, I read the edition for young readers, published in 1949, so I can’t vouch for the adult edition.

Age Levels:

Read Aloud—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 13
Reading Independently—Ages 10 – 12, 12 – 15


Links to buy The Wooden Horse:

Amazon: Paperback

AbeBooks: View Choices on

Book Depository: Paperback


Escapes, Germany, RAF, World War II

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