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The National Association of educational broadcasters in cooperation with the British Information Services presents a window on the world. I tape recorded series of talks by eminent British citizens. This week our speaker is Mr. Patrick Reed author of the bestselling story of Colditz and men of Colditz. His subject prisoners of Colditz Here now is Mr. Patrick Reed. This is Pat really talking Jiro. Little did I think 10 years ago that I'd be sitting here at this desk listening to the Chimes of Big Ben because then it was a different affair now. I remember the words you're going to a place called Colditz. Remember the name codes. They were the last words whispered Hardy to me by the
senior British officer as we left the pier W. camp near South Bergen Austria under heavy German guard for a secret destination that occurred in November 1040 in September six of us British officers had flouted the orders and convictions of the OBO commando Delphi marked the German High Command. We had escaped. They thought we couldn't. They saw to it that we wouldn't. With the usual accompaniment of barbed wire searchlights and machine guns we got halfway to Yugoslavia before the capture and a ticket to cold its unconscious irony. The senior British officers words contained remember the name codes. Why it was to become so indelibly imprinted on my mind that after my escape to Switzerland in October forty two I dreamt of the fireplace every night for months on end. I should never forget looking up the fortress on our arrival. The little railway station a huge gaunt out as I tugged on a cliff problem tree high above the village Colditz indeed my
blood ran cold. I thought of dungeons and chains and rats ogres and whatnot. It wasn't as bad as that in fact we were to be subjected to a slightly more refined type of incarceration through the main port cullis we marched over the moat through heavy oaken doors under a tower across a courtyard through a long time ago. Now solid oak and on gate up a causeway on the ramparts to another archway and we've got them in a cupboard yard no larger than a tennis court. This was to be our prison for the duration. Buildings eighty feet high tide around us. The sun appeared for some three hours a day. Every window was bought outside the buildings with the SEC's lights the catwalks and the pagodas of the sentries beyond them was the while beyond the raw precipices and beyond that 400 miles to freedom. This was the sun the log I. Sometimes call the stuff a lot of Johnny. Plan soon began to gather. We were the first British some 60
Polish officers actually were there before us all Dutch finally dangerous in the eyes of the Germans for years past there were 200 of us Polish Dutch French Belgian Yugoslav Australians New Zealanders Canadians South Africans Indians the whole gamut of the British Commonwealth English menarche and Scotsman Welshman. We even had a Bedouin out turned up one day later when we were in the war of course there were Americans there were more guards and prisoners according to the Germans. Nobody had escaped from this prison throughout the first world war. What a challenge. The glove was thrown down. And was it taken up life was devoted to activities. Yeah roughly would say escaping first then go on baiting. That's to say teasing or frustrating the Germans learning languages. Still bill emerges from the role in football played in the cobbled courtyard. There would be a lot of beer brewing distilling far water and sleeping.
Eating was a short appointment. Black bread slushy potatoes and ACORN coffee don't encourage the pleasantries of a long drawn out meal. That Winston Churchill once when he was describing the agony of London during the Blitz spoke of the grim and the gay. I thought How aptly also that described this slow torture of Colditz Grim was here in prison the men to whom above all else freedom was the spur to life itself. They proved it by breaking the chains elsewhere recaptured some within yards of the front yard. It would drag back to this prison within a prison to compete with hundreds of others like themselves in finding a loophole in the impregnable fortress. Needless to say the escape lanes were choked with failures and the waiting list stretched out it seemed to eternity. There were attempts every week if not almost every day.
We had the unfortunate ones to be mentally deranged. They had gone round the bend as we termed it. They were always with us a danger to the sanity of their fellows. Some a danger to themselves. Suicidal. They had to be guarded by us. They screamed in the night preached eternal damnation to the sentries they sat on cupboards their heads and kit bags. The pig played we had music all day long and I stand laughed inanely in the search for razor blades too sometimes. There was a gay side too. In fact it was the spirit the unquenchable sense of humor. Most of the prisoners which kept them say sane in the daylight hours and carried them through the dangerous Docklands the cold nights the loneliness of strong pouty asses. I should never forget a workman once coming into the yard to repair a window high up in the wall. He carried a 25 foot ladder and was accompanied as usual by a sentry. He measured
the broken pane and retired somewhat to cut a new one leaving the sentry to guard the ladder. And within five minutes the ladder had been spirited away. It was very useful contraband equally good for escape purposes. All for firewood. Sentry distraction was of course a stock in trade of men who spent their lives studying the art of escaping. However the ladder was too long to run the bends of the narrow spiral stone staircase of the castle. In a jiffy assault was produced re tempered gramaphone Springs make the best ones. After some delay an argument as to how much be cut off. Eventually five feet removed 20 feet continued up the stairs to disappear forever. The five foot length that well it was quietly returned to place against the courtyard wall. I distractions studios worked overtime when the German workman returned he in the sentry surveyed the shrunken ladder. The courtyard reverberated with laughter from a hundred windows. The German sentry his jaw dropped said poltergeist
he liked passing prisoners said no you caught Alice in Wonderland. Escaping was a result of battle the men of Colditz within seven months the impossible been accomplished the first gone away. That is an escapee of the castle and also the first home run to neutral territory by that pier. It was made by that pier of French cavalry officers Captain Maris the brown brown athlete he was catapulted over nine feet of wire and disappeared in a hail of bullets recaptured in Spain you fell into a motor scaping from a Spanish fortress and broke his back. He's still very much alive and plays polo beautifully looking a fine figure he always was. It's only rather sad when he dismounts for then you see he's very badly crippled. The Dutch followed with some brilliant successes and four home runs. The polls show the unqualified heroism of the race of several Do or Die gone away is in some very groaning from Terry captures the British were as usual slow on the uptake. But I'm happy
to say that by the end of forty two we had registered twenty two gone a ways and 11 home of which 11 were home runs that the Nationals is often combined together in the escape project you know all the record of Colditz has never really been approached by any other camp in Germany. And remember this was the escape route gospel and that the whole of the world was much grim and the first hell for the prisoners escape OHS game sealed one of the other men became desperate and escapes fantastic. Still they succeeded. But men were killed getting out and be on the run the unknown vastness of Germany the mudders escaping was brought to a high pitch of technique we had since of course the tailoring and departments were professional dummies with the surprise of the Germans and the delight of our sculptors. We had our own power station converted from the chapel organ motor for which papers documents maps plans and money was stock in trade all produce from a shoestring or imported by ways I Contrave we had a
typewriter. It arrived in two walnuts. You think that one out. One of our officers who escaped successfully It was nicknamed never a dull moment. Paton This is the theme I've tried to pass on to you in the two books The coded story the men of code its human particular which was the mainstay of the ship so to speak I've emphasized kept us alive and young of suspense and excitement. There was no lack. I want to have to pluck here and there from a very rich harvest of state of thrills. Colditz Castle was relieved in April 45 by one of General Hodges task forces spearhead driving hundreds of miles into Germany in front of the main attacking armies in command was Lieutenant Colonel Shaughnessy from Carolina. He had the Third Battalion of the 200 670 3rd Infantry Regiment 69 tive and attachments of tanks and mobile artillery taken from the Ninth Army Division 5th Corps the
ninth to be nicknamed by the Germans a phantom division was everywhere. The first guy to set foot in the car slot the battle of the town was Private First Class Alan H Murphy Bronze Star medal from New York State. The climax was exciting too because it was known that the German entourage of Hitler were to use the prisoners as hostages for their own lives in the camp was a group of prisoners known as prominent. There were several members of our stock which include in Queen's cousin it was Winston Churchill's nephew John's wrongly the sons of some generals and young John whynot son of the US ambassador to Britain. He'd been shot down on a bombing raid over Germany. There were several French generals and finally General Borkum Roski hero of Warsaw the end coincided also with the completion of ten months work for the most I would say the most fantastic escape attempt that the world should probably have a hood on. A glider had been constructed in a
secret workshop. It could see two passengers immobile detachable runway had been made. And a catapult designed and ready for a catapult take off from the roof of the castle. The arrival of the Americans made its use unnecessary. But let me read to you from my book about the moment of liberation. Here it is an officer standing at the gate advanced with outstretched hand and shook the hand extended by the American who grinned at him and said cheerfully. Energy eyes hear the spell was broken. Suddenly a mob was rushing towards him shouting and cheering and struggling madly to reach him to make sure that he was alive to touch him. And from the touch to know again the miracle of living to be men in their own right. Freed from bondage outcast no more liberated by other allies and their friends their faith in God's mercy justified their patience rewarded the ability of mankind
vindicated justice at last accomplished and tyranny once more overcome men wept unable to restrain themselves. It wasn't enough that the body was free once more to roam the earth. Feelings pent up and dammed behind the mounting walls of five successive torturing introverted years had to run. And in that moment you know even the Glide was forgotten and it's probably still there because the Consul is in the Russian's Ono's of Germany and nobody's ever been back to find out. You've been listening to Mr Patrick Reed author of the bestselling story of Colditz and men of Colditz speaking on the subject prisoners of Colditz. Listen next week when window on the world will present Dr. Roger Manville director of the British Film Academy. His subject the future of the film.
This has been a tape recorded presentation of the National Association of educational broadcasters in cooperation with the British Information Services. This is the end AB Radio Network.
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Window on the world
Patrick Reid
Producing Organization
British Information Services
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
Patrick Reid, author of "Story of Colditz" and "Men of Colditz" talks about the prisoners of Colditz.
Series Description
A series of short talks by well-known British personalities on the subjects usually associated with them.
Broadcast Date
Military Forces and Armaments
Prisoner-of-war camps
Media type
Producing Organization: British Information Services
Speaker: Reid, P. R. (Patrick Robert), 1910-1990
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 54-30-42 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:13:50
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Chicago: “Window on the world; Patrick Reid,” 1956-04-22, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed November 28, 2023,
MLA: “Window on the world; Patrick Reid.” 1956-04-22. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. November 28, 2023. <>.
APA: Window on the world; Patrick Reid. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from