During World War Two, Colditz Castle was the last stop for soldiers who had been caught escaping from other Prisoner of War camps. Its location, towering over a rocky crag above the River Mulde, was thought to make escape impossible, yet many men did breakout of the seemingly impenetrable fortress, including the author of this book, Major Pat Reid.
My introduction to Colditz Castle was via the 1955 film version starring John Mills as Major Reid, so I was delighted to find that most of the scenarios featured in the film are taken directly from the book. First published in 1952 by Hodder & Stoughton, ‘The Colditz Story’ is the first volume of Reid’s story detailing some of the many escape attempts made from the castle. The lengths inmates went to in order to attain their freedom, are quite fascinating, showing the hard work, inspiration and sheer determination that must have been a part of everyday life there.
As well as being an account of several escapes (including many that failed), the latter part of the book tells of Reid’s own break for freedom in 1942 and his journey to the Swiss border. The book is written in an easy style with lots of humour amid the often very detailed accounts of the preparations made for every escape attempt. My only complaint about the writing, is my usual one of too many exclamation marks (some of them in very strange places). For a book that’s more than sixty years old, it’s a shame no-one at Hodder has bothered to give it a decent edit.