On 13 November 1915, Captain Thomas Walter White was captured while attempting to cut a telegraph wire near Baghdad. White was a member of the Mesopotamia Half Flight, the first unit of the Australian Flying Corps to be raised in the First World War. Imprisoned in the Afion Kara Hissar prisoner of war camp in Turkey for over two years, he kept a small diary hidden inside the sole of his boot.
After enquiries were made about his health, White was transferred to hospital in Istanbul in July 1918. On 24 August the train he was on crashed in the area of Kum Kapu. Captain White and Royal Air Force Captain Alan Bott used the opportunity to escape. After hiding for a few days in the house of a sympathetic Greek man (who gave White a tin of tobacco) the pair made their way to the harbour and stowed away on a Ukrainian steamer.
The two men hid on the ship for 33 days before it finally left Istanbul for Odessa. A few days before their arrival, the city had been rocked by the explosion of a large ammunition dump, and White souvenired a damaged clip of ammunition. While in Odessa the pair came close to joining anti-Bolshevik forces fighting in the Russian Civil War, but on hearing that Bulgaria had signed a peace deal they chose to make their way back to their armies instead. After travelling by ship to Verna, and then by train to Sofia, they finally travelled by car to Salonika.
After the war White used the diary he had hidden in his boot as the basis of his book, Guests of the Unspeakable. He married Vera Deakin in 1920 and served as a Member of Parliament for 22 years while continuing to serve in the military until 1940.