Birds in a Cage

Warburg, Germany, 1941. Four P.O.W. birdwatchers. The unlikely beginnings of British wildlife conservation.

by Derek Niemann

  • Published: 10 Nov 2012
  • Price: £20.00
  • Format: Hardback
  • Extent: 302p
  • ISBN: 978-1-78072-093-7
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  • Buy it now from Waterstones

“In the summer of 1940, lying in the sun, I saw a family of redstarts, unconcerned in the affairs of our skeletal multitude, going about their ways in cherry and chestnut trees…”

Soon after his arrival at Warburg PoW camp, British army officer John Buxton found an unexpected means of escape from the horrors of internment. Passing his days covertly watching birds, he was unaware that he, too, was being watched. Peter Conder, also a passionate ornithologist, had noticed Buxton gazing skywards. He approached him and, with two other prisoners, they founded a secret birdwatching society.
This is the untold story of an obsessive quest behind barbed wire. Through their shared love of birds, the four PoWs overcame hunger, hardship, fear and stultifying boredom. Their quest would draw in not only their fellow prisoners, but also some of the German guards, at great risk to them all.
Derek Niemann draws on original diaries, letters and drawings, to show how Conder, Barrett, Waterston and Buxton were forged by their wartime experience into the giants of postwar wildlife conservation. Their legacy lives on.


“A wonderfully crafted hymn to the life-giving qualities of birds”
Simon Barnes
“Immensely moving... a beautiful and gripping story”
Tim Dee, <em>BBC Wildlife Magazine</em>

About Derek Niemann

Derek Niemann is the editor of the RSPB’s children’s magazine and has written several books on nature and conservation for young readers. He lives in Bedfordshire with his family.