I wonder how well he is known in his own nation. It really doesn't matter, I think. Anyone who has worn the uniform should be able to look to this officer and simply say, "Mensch."
Japan declared war on Germany and (Oberleutnant Gunther) Pluschow flew in a single-seat Rumpler Taube plane to neutral China while under heavy fire from the Royal Navy.
He obtained a false passport in the name of E.F McGarvin and boarded the SS Mongolia which left Shanghai to San Francisco on December 5, 1914.
He travelled across neutral America and obtained another false passport that proclaimed him to be Swiss national Ernst Smith.
In February 1915 he sailed from New York to British controlled Gibraltar on an Italian passenger steamer.
He talked his way past a Royal Naval officer but was caught out by the suspicious interpreter.
Along with other captured Germans, Pluschow was shipped to Plymouth and then on to the PoW camp at Donington Hall, where he arrived in May 1915.
On July 4 he and fellow prisoner Oskar Trefftz broke out by climbing over two 9ft barbed wire fences, before changing clothes and walking 15 miles to Derby where they caught a train to London.
By the next morning the men’s escape was featured in the Daily Sketch newspaper with both names and descriptions of the pair.
They went their separate ways but Trefftz was recaptured at Millwall Docks.
Realising he had to alter his appearance, Pluschow removed his smart tie and handed his coat in at the cloakroom at Blackfriars station.
As he handed the garment over the attendant asked him ‘What name is it?’
Without thinking Pluschow replied in German ‘meinen’ (mine). Luckily, the attendant wasn’t paying attention and wrote ‘Mr Mine’ on the receipt.
The German then used scraped-up coal dust, boot polish and Vaseline to change his fair hair to greasy black and covered himself in soot to make him appear as a dock worker.
He wandered around the docks and on July 7 he overheard a conversation about a Dutch ship due in at Tilbury.
He caught a train to the Essex port ...
He later swum into the Thames in a bid to reach a rowing boat to take him out to the moored ship but the current was too strong and he was washed ashore exhausted.
He then spent four more days and nights making several attempts to row to the vessel before he was able to climb up a thick mooring rope and stow away in a lifeboat.
When the vessel, the Prinses Juliana, docked at Flushing in Holland, he melted into the crowd of passengers before sneaking out through a door marked private.
He was challenged by a Dutch policeman on the train from Flushing to Germany and, fortuitously, was allowed to carry on his journey despite having no identity papers.The only German POW from WWI to escape and make it home. He died in 1931 at age 44 while exploring in Chile.