Castle. Imperial War Museum HU63855.
was a Sonderlager (a special camp) in which difficult prisoners
and inveterate escapers were imprisoned. Prisoners included
men from Poland, France, Belgium, Holland, Yugoslavia and
the United States, as well as the United Kingdom, Canada,
Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India. The first
British POWs, Pat Reid, Kenneth Lockwood, Peter Allan, Rupert
Barry, Dick Howe and Harry Elliott arrived there in November
was situated on a rocky outcrop above the Mulde river in Germany,
which the Germans believed to be an ideal site for a high
security prison. The larger outer courtyard, known as the
'Kommandantur,' had only two exits and housed a 200 strong
German garrison. The prisoners lived in an adjacent second
courtyard in a building which towered up 90 feet to a ring
of pitched roofs. Outside, the flat terraces which surrounded
the prisoners' accommodation were constantly watched by armed
sentries and hemmed in by barbed wire barricades.
tight security, for five years, frequent, clever and daring
escape attempts were made. 316 men tried to get away through
tunnels, in disguise or by literally jumping out of windows
and over the wire. Thirty-two of them successfully made 'home
runs', more than from any other prison camp.
The Colditz Glider
of the Colditz glider. Imperial War Museum.
of the most ambitious escape attempts from Colditz, the idea
of building a glider was dreamt up by two pilot officers,
Jack Best and Bill Goldfinch, who had been sent to Colditz
after escaping from another POW camp. They were encouraged
by two army officers, Tony Rolt and David Walker, who had
recently arrived in the camp.
was to construct a two-man glider to be launched from the
castle roof across the river Mulde flowing 200 feet below
the take-off point. The runway was to be constructed from
tables and the glider would be launched using a pulley system
based on a bath full of concrete falling vertically down the
wall of the castle giving an acceleration to 30 mph.
began on 1 January 1944 and was finished by October that year,
but the glider was never put to the test. By then the end
of the war was in sight and there was concern about the increasingly
hostile attitude of the Germans towards escaping prisoners
of war. Subsequent experiments carried out with a replica
glider in 1999 showed that it would have worked.