Unsurprisingly not all of the prisoners in Handforth relished the thought of remaining in the camp, particularly as for a long time there was no clear end to the war in sight. Rather than sitting the conflict out, therefore, they seized the opportunity to flee their prison and to head home. The years 1916 and 1917, in particular, witnessed a flurry of escape attempts.
In May 1916, for example, two POWs managed to get out of the camp and travelled as far north as Gorton in southern Manchester, before being recaptured. During the summer another three prisoners escaped from Handforth. As all three were reported to be dressed in German military uniform, blending in proved difficult. A few days after their escape, they were almost caught in Bunbury – a village some 50 miles east of Handforth. A wounded soldier saw a group of men “creeping along by a hedgeway”. He called for help and managed to chase the men down, but after “a hue and cry”, the fugitives made for some nearby woods and escaped.
During the summer of 1917, there was another spate of escapes from Handforth. Two German prisoners secured civilian clothes and somehow got out of the camp. By October, the press claimed that the two escapees had got back home to Germany after evading British attempts to track them down. In November of the same year, five sailors escaped from Handforth. Three of them got as far as Stalybridge, where still wearing their German naval uniforms, they were recaptured. The remaining two were captured soon after and returned to Handforth.