A Tenacious Escapee

Intriguing insights into the lives and escape attempts of World War 2 German prisoners in Canadian camps can be gained from a selection of files, brought together in the 1950s, held here at Kent. They were accumulated by Harry Kendal Burt, better known as Kendal Burt, joint author of ‘The One That Got Away,’ a book detailing the successful escape of Oberleutnant Franz von Werra from a Canadian prison camp. These records were brought together to write a book about another escapee, Egbert Brosig, who failed to return to Germany despite numerous escapes from prison camps. Unfortunately, it seems the book was never published, but the information in these files, including several letters from Brosig himself, makes for fascinating reading.

Excerpt from a 1943 Montreal Gazette article describing Brosig as a leader of a mass escape.

Excerpt from a 1943 Montreal Gazette article describing Brosig as a leader of a mass escape.

Leutnant Egbert Brosig was captured early in the war, and, along with most other people at the time, expected it to be over quickly. In a letter to Burt in October 1956 he observes that initially his escape attempts were made in order to ‘harass the enemy’, which seems to suggest he wanted to feel he was making a contribution to the fight over in Europe, even whilst imprisoned in Canada. However, as the war dragged on and he was still held in Canada, his escapes were often made in an effort to relieve the monotony of day to day life.

The amount of detail that went into planning an attempt is often staggering. Brosig obviously had good English, and in a letter from March 1957 he says he learnt most of it by conversing for hours with Canadian stokers at the camp, and working with the dentist who treated the prisoners. He found this particularly important as he could pick up Canadian slang, which would have assisted him in blending in when out in public. He also attempted to escape as a Russian soldier, and planned escapes as Spanish or Greek. However, as far as language was concerned, he had a plan to fall back on. Should someone question his ‘imperfect English’, he would say he was brought up by a German speaking mother in a neutral country (such as Switzerland), or German speaking area (like Blumenau in Brazil), after his English, Spanish, Greek or Russian father passed away when he was very young. He studied Russian and Spanish whilst in captivity, and even taught himself Japanese, but gave this up in 1944 after developments in the war made him believe it would not be an asset.

His plans for disguising himself, or not as seemed appropriate, go in to a similar amount of detail. In one letter he stresses the importance of not looking like an escapee, or like he had refused to take part in the war, as doing so would definitely draw attention to himself. In his first escape he wore an army uniform. His prison uniform was particularly useful in this, as his trousers were the same shade of blue as the air force wore, and his trousers couldn’t be confiscated, ensuring he always had half of a uniform available. In his second escape attempt he had two halves of a leg cast which he held together with bandages. However, on his third and fourth attempts he relied simply on falsified hospital papers.

A selection of items from this collection

A selection of items from this collection

In a letter from September 1956 he details a plan he made to escape disguised as a girl. He describes how he had the camp tailor make him a dress and matching hat from a purple bath robe he owned, and picked up heels from the shoemaker and a wig from the barber, and planned on using tennis balls to pad out his chest. He even bribed camp guards to get him suitable hosiery and makeup. In the end he never made this attempt, and donated all these items to the camp theatrical group.

Brosig gives anecdotes of events that took place whilst he was on the run. In 1943 he attempted to escape by train, hiding in mailbags, and was accused on recapture of having stolen parcels. He was cleared of this charge in 1944 by the Supreme Court of Ontario, but later received an official notice that the Attorney-General planned to appeal against this decision. In another escape attempt by train, two civilians asked him to take care of a ten year old girl who was journeying to her grandparents. This he did, and even persuaded her to share some of her food with him, ensuring his own rations and limited money would last a little longer.

Some people went to extremes to attempt escape. Brosig describes how he met a man in one camp who had feigned madness for months. He was moved to an asylum, where he planned to escape. In the meantime he kept up the pretence, even enduring solitary confinement and electric shock treatment so he wouldn’t be discovered.

A selection of items from this collection.

A selection of items from this collection.

One interesting insight that can be gained from reading these letters is the relationship between camp guards and their prisoners. As seen above, guards were perfectly willing to be bribed, but they seem to have had positive relationships with the prisoners aside from that. Brosig observes that he never gave details as to how he escaped when he was recaptured in order to avoid incriminating those who helped him, which he believed made him popular among the camp guards. He even recalled a time when a camp leader asked him to attempt an escape again, in order to enforce arguments made to the camp authorities concerning security.

Look out for another post using more from this intriguing collection, coming soon!


A Peek into the Library of David Lloyd George

The bookplate adorning the collection of David Lloyd George

The bookplate adorning the collection of David Lloyd George

David Lloyd George is one of Britain’s most well-known figures of the 20th century. First elected as the Member of Parliament for Carnarvon Boroughs in 1890, he remained active in politics until his death in 1945. During that time he held many important positions, including Secretary of State for War, Chancellor of the Exchequer and, most famously, Prime Minister from 1916, during the latter half of the Great War, until 1922. What is not commonly know is that a section of Lloyd George’s personal library resides here at Kent. It was purchased from his son, Lord Tenby, in 1964, initially as part of the regular stock, and was later moved to Special Collections. His library contains items covering a huge array of subjects, and here we take a peek at some of the most interesting items.

Dedication inscription to Lloyd George from Churchill in Great Contemporaries

Dedication inscription to Lloyd George from Churchill in Great Contemporaries

It is well known that Lloyd George and Winston Churchill were great friends, and Churchill consulted him often throughout his political career. Many of Lloyd George’s books were gifted him by the authors, and one of the most remarkable items in our collection is a copy of Great Contemporaries by Churchill, complete with a dedication inscription from the future Prime Minister. Alongside this we have a full set of Churchill’s World Crisis, some of which are also signed by the author.

A common theme throughout Lloyd George’s library is that of religion. One of my favourite items in the collection is a brown leather bound bible, with handles built into the cover. There is also a copy of Spurgeon’s Sermons, bound in green leather and stamped with Lloyd George’s name in gold on the cover. These items perfectly illustrate how much bindings can add to the significance or beauty of an item.

Lloyd George binding of Spurgeon's Sermons

Lloyd George binding of Spurgeon’s Sermons

Lloyd George's Bible, complete with leather handles

Lloyd George’s Bible, complete with leather handles










Robespierre's signature on a book of French pamphlets

Robespierre’s signature on a book of French pamphlets

So far my absolute favourite item I that have catalogued from this fantastic collection is a selection of French pamphlets by Maximilien Robespierre, a hugely influential man during the French revolution. This is less for the content of the book than the many interesting features the item has collected over the course of its life. Firstly, it appears to have been signed in two places by Robespierre himself, in 1791 and 1792 respectively. Alongside Lloyd George’s bookplate is the bookplate of Alphonse Peyrat, reading ‘Ex Libris Alpse Peyrat Vivre Libre ov movrir,’ and we also know that the book once bore the bookplate of Arconati Visconti, although this was lost when the book was rebound. We also know from the dedication letters that the item was given to Lloyd George by the daughter of Alphonse Peyrat.

The fragment of leather and it's intriguing caption (in French)

The fragment of leather and it’s intriguing caption (in French)

Most intriguing of all is a very small fragment of leather pasted to a blank page at the end of the book. An accompanying note claims this leather was taken by a Monsieur Baudemont from the table of the dying Robespierre, and is stained by his blood. Whether or not this is true, it is a truly fascinating relic.


Finds like these are what make my job so enjoyable, and also extremely surprising! It’s not every day you find a book stained by the blood of a dying revolutionary, but the day I discovered it was certainly one of the most interesting days I’ve had at Kent!

The Lloyd George collection is still in the process of being catalogued, so who knows what enthralling items lie just around the corner…


In memoriam: Donald W. Muggeridge

We are sorry to announce the death of Donald William Muggeridge, who passed away peacefully in San Rafael, California on 14 April 2015 at the age of 97. Donald lived a long and varied life and will be missed by his family, friends and all those who knew him.
Donald generously donated his collection of windmill photographs and associated information to the University of Kent, along with his father’s collection of photographs, which include rural subjects from 1904, of a life largely vanished today.

Vera & Donald Muggeridge on holiday

Vera & Donald Muggeridge on holiday

Inspired since childhood, Donald initially accompanied his father on his trips, but by the 1930s was working with his friend Syd Simmons to track down and photograph mills all over the UK. In 1936, Donald met his future wife, Vera, and the couple spent their holidays cycling around the countryside in search of anything of ‘bygone’ England. Along with wind and watermills, this included direction posts, mile stones, columbariums and the furniture of old churches.

The Muggeridge Collection contains photographs on both glass plate and acetate negatives which span the twentieth century and a number of countries, including Europe and America. While  a part of the Allied advance at the end of World War Two, Donald even managed to find time to photograph a number of mills in Belgium, Holland and Germany. In the 1950s, Donald, Vera and their young son Derek immigrated to Canada, and later moved to San Francisco.

After donating the collection to the University, Donald took a keen interest in its digitisation and was eager for the photographs to be made available to researchers and enthusiasts around the world. Further materials from Donald’s collection were donated to The Mills Archive in Reading.

While we are saddened by the news of his death, we are grateful to Donald and his sons for their generosity in making these materials available to the public and hope that these collections will continue offer an insight into the ‘bygone’ rural life in which Donald and his father were so interested.

A full obituary and biography of Donal is available via the Marin Independent Journal.

For more information on the Muggeridge Collection and to view images, see the Special Collections website.

Some celebrations

It may actually be slightly after Easter, but we’re only now coming to the end of our Spring term and winding down for the spring break. That means that we’ve spent this week enjoying all kinds of events to celebrate the hard work of students and staff since the beginning of 2015.

Students from the 'Women on Stage' groupTo start with, on Tuesday this year’s student curated exhibition on Victorian and Edwardian Theatre was launched. This module has been running for 5 years, with each year bringing new and exciting developments, and an excellent exhibition as the final piece of work (and this year was no exception)! Throughout the term, second year students have been working with the Theatre Collections here at Kent, and digital collections available elsewhere, whilst learning about theatre between 1860-1910. For the final assessment, the students work in groups, picking a topic of their choice to explore and then present their findings as an exhibition, with an associated website.

Choices of topic have always been diverse, and this year was no exception! Starting with the experience of theatregoing in the Victorian period, the exhibition moves through a comparison of East and West End theatre, the role of women on and off the stage and, finally, the ways in which the Jewish community were portrayed and potrayed themselves in the theatre.

The exhibition curators, with tutors Helen Brooks and Jane Gallagher.

The exhibition curators, with tutors Helen Brooks and Jane Gallagher.

This year, we have teamed up with the Gulbenkian who are hosting the exhibition in their Crossover Gallery, where it will run until 3 May. Do pop in to have a look – it’s free and open during the Gulbenkian’s opening hours.

View of the exhibition launchTuesday turned out to be rather a busy day, since we were also hosting student book launches all day in the reading room. This was part of the third year Book Project module, in which students create their own, original piece of writing an publish it as a physical item. The launch event is a chance for the students to read sections from their work (in front of a supportive audience) and to sell copies to guests. We’re currently in the process of ensuring that we have copies of all of these works in Special Collections, to complement the twentieth century small print press materials in the Modern First Editions Collection.

20150407_171146A huge congratulations to all of the students involved in both of these exciting pieces of work: we hope you enjoyed being a part of it!

And finally, talking of celebration, on Wednesday we got the chance to thank our hard working team of core volunteers with a trip to Canterbury 20150408_151203Cathedral Library, hosted by Cathedral Librarian Karen Brayshaw. Those who came along got to see rare and valuable books from the earliest years of the printing press through to the 19 century, including the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493) and a Bible translated into a Native American language. Alongside this, of course, we got to enjoy the ambiance of the historical library and its beautiful books – and several people enjoyed the smell of rare books!

So that’s it for another term – although we will, of course, be on hand throughout the spring vacation for all of your research needs. As ever, the arrival of the sunshine provokes a mass exodus to studying out in the sunshine, and the end of term leads to a pervading atmosphere of calm and wellbeing through the Library. I hope that you enjoy the break, if you get one: we’ll certainly be making the most of the hiaitus, prior to the start of our Big Underground Move of all of our collections now scheduled to take place from 15 June.

KEM Lives On at the British Cartoon Archive


Adolf and His Donkey Benito – original artwork

The British Cartoon Archive holds many unique collections from celebrated cartoonists, and one fascinating example is the KEM archive. Many of you will be familiar with the image of Adolf and his Donkey Benito, but just who was KEM?

KEM was born Kimon Evan Marengo in Egypt, the son of a Greek merchant, and grew up in the Greek community of Alexandria, coming to England to pursue studies at Oxford. His studies were interrupted in 1939 by the onset of the Second World War. By this point he had already been published in many international newspapers, including the New York Times and the Daily Telegraph, and he joined the Ministry of Defence where he worked on propaganda for the Middle East. He also spent sometime working as a war correspondent.


Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill

As a product of a Middle Eastern community, his work is often quite different to that of other cartoonists of the time. He did plenty of traditional war propaganda, cartoons involving Hitler, Mussolini and Churchill, but some of the treasures in the KEM collection come in the form of his Middle Eastern propaganda. These brightly coloured pamphlets are a unique look at propaganda during the Second World War.


…and Hitler in some discomfort



One of my earliest discoveries working with the KEM archive was that of a double sided pin cushion, complete with needles and pins still inserted, of Mussolini and Hitler. Such a small item says a huge amount about attitudes towards the enemy, and whilst it certainly has a comical element, the purpose is a serious one: keeping up morale by making two dangerous men into figures of comedy and ridicule.


Beautiful artwork with a Middle Eastern flavour

Also contained in the archive is a near complete collection of all of KEM’s Christmas cards, and many of the printers blocks used to create them. These Christmas cards would hardly be considered to display traditional seasonal imagery as they are heavily politicised, and those that date from the Second World War also work as propaganda, ridiculing the enemy.


Original artwork for Southern Railways


Snobby the Dachshund’s Adventure at Sea

A large section of the collection is taken up by original artworks, for his Christmas cards, his political cartoons, and even for a couple of posters advertising the Southern Railway. All the cartoon artwork was given an accession number by KEM and carefully recorded in the ‘Rochester Books’ – giving exact dates for when he produced the artwork, rather than the dates that they first appeared in print.

One of my favourite selections of KEM’s work however is his cartoon strips of Snobby the dachshund, who can be seen here rescuing his owner at sea by turning himself into a mast for their raft.

Explore the KEM archive, and many more, on the British Cartoon Archive website.