The never-before-told story of World War II escape artist extraordinaire, Johnny Peck.
In August 1941, an eighteen-year-old Australian soldier made his first prison break – an audacious night-time escape from a German prisoner-of-war camp in Crete. Astoundingly, this was only the first of many escapes.
An infantryman in the 2/7 Battalion, Johnny Peck was first thrown into battle against Italian forces in the Western Desert. Campaigns against Hitler's Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe in Greece and Crete followed. When Crete fell to the Germans at the end of May 1941, Peck was trapped on the island with hundreds of other men. On the run, they depended on their wits, the kindness of strangers, and sheer good luck.
When Peck's luck ran out, he was taken captive by the Germans, then the Italians. Later, after his release from a Piedmontese jail following the Italian Armistice of 1943, and at immense risk to his own life, Peck devoted himself to helping POWs cross the Alps to safety. Captured once more, Peck was sentenced to death and detained in Milan's notorious, Gestapo-run San Vittore prison – until escaping again, this time into Switzerland.
Historian Peter Monteath reveals the action-packed tale of one young Australian soldier and his remarkable war.
Published: 3 July 2018
Publisher: Pen & Sword
Publisher: NewSouth Publishing
Troy Lennon, Daily Telegraph wrote:
His story remained largely untold until after his death in 2002, but thanks to the efforts of Peter Monteath this remarkable story about a young man of great determination and courage, lives on to become one of the many that go to make up the remarkable history, of not just Australian fighting forces overseas, but also reminds us of the caring and courage displayed by ordinary people when faced with extraordinary events in their lives.
Bill Rudd, Sabretache wrote:
You may not know the name of Johnny Peck, but that needs to change right away. If you love a good World War II history book, then this is the story for you. If you just enjoy real life adventure yarns, this one will have you hooked from the beginning.
Kristen Alexander, History Australia wrote:
Peter Monteath helps to explain the political atmosphere within which Johnny Peck was forced to work. His story of Peck the Escape Artist is a very considerable aid to those who are interested in the events in North Italy in the latter years of World War II as well as the Australian European POW story in general. John Peck’s story is indeed that of a great AIF escaper.
Andrew McDonald, Wartime wrote:
Escape Artist presents the full extent of Peck’s career, and pays tribute to it. It highlights that altruism among friends and allies is more important than self-interest or individual liberty. Peter Monteath’s very readable account reveals that Peck’s war was more than ‘incredible’. It was one of great courage, gallantry and singular achievement.
This is certainly a book addressed at the popular market, but it is the work of a professional historian. The many individual stories are deftly set against the wider movements of the war and told with a keen sympathy for those on whose lands the war was being fought.