At eight-forty-five we began moving. One by one, allowing about ten seconds’ interval between each move, we slipped off to the position underneath the vegetable shed, which I had used as an observation post a few nights back. Here we waited in silence, a silence in which I could feel my heart throbbing. As the minutes dragged slowly by my brain was working overtime, wondering feverishly if our sentry friend would be on guard that night, if he would still be on Number Two post, if he would again go as usual for the few minutes’ chat with his companion. Frank was close beside me, Howard and Mac were near by. All of us had our eye fixed on Number Two post. The night was dark, very dark, not even a star to be seen. The only light came from the electric lights around the fences which threw deep shadows towards the huts. Conditions were as perfect as we could hope to get them – if only our sentry behaved himself in the way he usually did.
Our plans were that I was to be the first one out. Howard would follow, then Mac. Once started it was to be each man for himself. We were to make straight for the fences and get through as quickly as we possibly could. Suddenly it was nine o’clock – the eventful moment had arrived. I grabbed Frank and wished him good-bye. He held me tight for a moment as he returned my farewell. Then he let go and fell back.
We held our bags in our hands and waited, our nerves keyed up to breaking-point. Yes, the guards were coming from the guard house. They came along as they always came, straggling and slowly, carrying their arms just anyhow. They were passing our position, and we strained our eyes to see if our friend was among them. He was – and we held our breaths as we watched to see if he was to take over Number Two post as usual. He stopped, and the rest of the guard moved on to the next post. I don’t know how long we waited after that. Each moment seemed like an hour as we crouched there, gripping our bags, waiting and watching for our sentry to make his usual evening stroll.
At last he moved. The instant he was round the corner, I made a dash for the fence. There was no turning back now. I fell on my chest, scrambled under the first wire, the second, the third. I saw the other two following, and streaked across the space to the fourth and fifth fences. I was through! Howard and Mac followed. We were all through! Shaking all over, we walked quickly until we were a little way away from the camp. Then we sat down to regain our breaths and to see if everything was still quiet behind us.
All was still. Our guards had not seen us. For the moment, at any rate, we were free. Now our fate depended upon ourselves. The immediate world was against us, and our lives were in our own hands. If we were to win through to safety, we should have need of all the courage and grit and determination that we possessed.