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Gunther Plüschow
Gunther Plüschow Profile

Full Name Gunther Plüschow
Titles Commander-in-Chief of the Colonial Air Force of the AOG
Born 8 February 1886
Allegiance Flag-AOG Allgemeine Ostasiatische Gesellschaft

Gunther Plüschow (born 8 February 1886) is a German aviator and the current Commander-in-Chief of the Luftstreitkräfte stationed in the Allgemeine Ostasiatische Gesellschaft. Plüschow holds unique distinction as the only German prisoner of war during the Weltkrieg to escape from captivity in the British Isles and return to Germany.

The Weltkrieg in East Asia

When the Weltkrieg first began in August 1914, Plüschow was assigned to the East Asian Naval Station at Tsingtau, the primary German colony in China. Two Taube aircraft had been shipped in crates from Germany and after supervising the assembly of the planes, Plüschow began serving as pilot and aerial observer. The second plane soon crashed, leaving Plüschow to fly alone.

The Empire of Japan issued an ultimatum on 15 August 1914 that demanded the German evacuation from Tsingtau and the rest of Kiautschou Bay. The message was ignored and Japan officially declared war against Germany eight days later. Japanese and British forces then jointly besieged the German colony. Plüschow quickly gained renown for his aerial reconnaissance work and even downed a Japanese aircraft with his pistol alone.

By November 1914, the military situation at Kiautschou Bay had become untenable. On 6 November 1914, Plüschow was ordered to depart Tsingtau carrying the last dispatches and documents from the colonial governor. After making it about 250 kilometres (160 miles), Plüschow crashed into a rice paddy. He set fire to his aircraft, to prevent its seizure by enemy forces, and set about continuing his journey.

From Tsingtau to Berlin by Foot

Plüschow walked to Daschou, where the locals threw a party for him. He managed to obtain a pass to cross China, as well as a junk in which he sailed down a river, finally arriving safely at Nanking. Plüschow sensed that he was being watched, even by officials openly friendly to Germany.

As he was about to be arrested, he leapt in a rickshaw and went to the railway station, where he bribed a guard and slipped on a train to Shanghai. In Shanghai, Plüschow met the daughter of a diplomat he knew from Berlin. She provided him with documents as a Swiss national, as well as money and a ticket on a ship sailing to Nagasaki, then Honolulu, and, finally, to San Francisco.

By January 1915, Plüschow had reached the United States and was crossing the country towards New York City. He was reluctant to approach the German consulate there, as he had entered the country under a false identity. His luck saved him again. He met a friend from Berlin who managed to get him travel documents for a ship that sailed on 30 January 1915, for Italy. Bad weather forced Plüschow's ship to dock at Gibraltar, where the British arrested him as an enemy alien. They soon discovered he was the famous aviator of Tsingtau.

Escape to Freedom

On 1 May 1915, Plüschow interned at a prisoner of war camp in Leicestershire, England. On 4 July 1915, he escaped during a storm and headed for London. Scotland Yard issued an alert, asking the public to be on the lookout for a man with a "dragon tattoo" on his arm.

Disguised as a worker, Plüschow felt safe enough to take souvenir photographs of himself at the London docks. He occupied his time by reading books, and at night he hid inside the British Museum. For security reasons, no notices were published announcing the departure of ships, but a lucky encounter with another of his lady friends allowed him to obtain the information to board a ferry sailing for the neutral Netherlands.

Plüschow arrived safely and finally reached Germany, where he was at first arrested as a spy since no one believed he could have accomplished such a feat. To this date, Plüschow is the only German combatant from the Weltkrieg to have been confirmed to have escaped from a prisoner of war camp in Britain.

Service with the AOG

Plüschow eventually found himself back in East Asia, now appointed as Commander-in-Chief of the Colonial Air Force of the Allgemeine Ostasiatische Gesellschaft.

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