THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY
The United Kingdom government finds itself in a quandary over dissident Australian journalist, Julian Assange. Having despaired of finding a case against the writer Sweden abandoned the embarrassing pursuit of the fugitive from injustice.
In 2012 the government of Ecuador granted the London-based whistle-blower sanctuary in their London embassy. The cost of surrounding the embassy with armed police is said to run into millions. This is the responsibility of the UK taxpayer. What cannot be priced is the humiliation of the UK regime whichever way the mop flops.
The government of Ecuador gave the UK regime another opportunity to swallow their pride. British inflexibility prevailed. Since the embarrassing débâcle the UK government has been found guilty by the United Nations for illegally holding Assange. Another opportunity missed.
As a consequence, the journalist who, unlike the British and US governments, has never been found guilty of telling a lie, is still the world’s most famous refugee. The last chance saloon offer of diplomatic immunity appears to have been rejected by the Westminster elite. What now?
There have been similar occasions of diplomatic impasse. One of the most famous was the audacious escape of the Luftwaffe flying ace, Baron Franz von Werra (1914 – 1941).
When downed and captured during a raid on an RAF airfield in September 1940 the flier was already popular in Germany. The daring fighter ace often flew with his pet lion, Simba. As slippery as an eel the Luftwaffe ace escaped from several of Britain’s 1,050 prisoner of war camps.
Exasperated, the British in December 1940 shipped the flying baron and other hard-core escapees to one of their 40 POW camps scattered across Canada where 34,000 German prisoners of war toiled as labourers in the Canadian forests. The Canadian government profited immensely from German slave labour.
During the prisoner train’s passage through the Canadian wilderness the daring pilot was one of several captives who slithered through a window aperture and tumbled to the frozen earth. He alone escaped across the frozen St Lawrence River. From there he made his way to the German consulate in New York where he was holed up.
The supposedly neutral United States was already breaking the neutrality pact. Washington was in a tizzy as to what to do about the holed up Reich’s air ace. The world held its breath as the frustrated Winston Churchill implored Washington DC to grab and return Baron Franz von Werra.
During his stay in New York the handsome dare devil ace was lionised by pro-German Americans; media showed an avid interest in the devil may care airman.
The US neutral status involved a tedious legal process and in April 1941 the decision was made to return von Werra to Canada. By this time, with a little help no doubt from the consulate, the Luftwaffe bird had flown. On April 18 1941 Franz von Werra arrived in Berlin after travelling home via Mexico, Rio de Janeiro, Barcelona and Rome.
On his return the Luftwaffe ace was celebrated. Franz von Werra was the only Luftwaffe pilot to be personally awarded the Iron Cross by Adolf Hitler.
The baron aviator soon afterwards married his long-time girlfriend. After the short honeymoon he re-joined his comrades and was placed on active duty on the Eastern Front. There he added further humiliation to the Allies by downing many American made and supplied Red Army aircraft.
Although the story of Franz von Werra’s escape ends on an inspiring note his story concludes poignantly. During a flight over the Baltic Sea the pilot’s engine failed. The engaging and undoubtedly brave airman was lost at sea. Will Assange be the second to escape from an embassy sanctuary?
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