Known to the British as the 'Bad Boy's Camp', Colditz Castle was considered by the German's to be escape-proof. What they didn't count on, was the ingenuity of the men that were incarcerated there.
Previously housing a mental institution or 'Krankenhausen' and later used as a political prison for homosexuals, jews, communists and other 'undesirables' by the Nazis, Colditz was converted during the second world war into a high security prisoner of war camp. A prison to house officers who had become security or escape risks or were regarded as being particularly dangerous. Since the castle sits on solid granite, the Nazis believed it to be a perfect site for such a prison.
This film follows Major Hugh Bruce (a former POW) as he revisits Colditz after more than 50 years . The castle then was in a sad state of repair, although parts of it were still used as an asylum. The rest was pretty much as it was left when the Americans arrived in 1945. Hugh recalled that they woke up one morning, it was deathly quiet, there wasn't a guard to be seen; and suddenly the gates opened and these GIs just strolled in.
Hugh explains where each escape was plotted and carried out and he recalls each and every detail as thought it were yesterday. We are taken to his old dormitory, where he had spent those three years. He went across this room that had broken windows and had been open to the elements for more than 50 years, reached up into a corner of the coving and retrieved a small tin box. This box, which had lay there for all that time covered in dust and bird droppings, concealed a stack of old forged papers which they had created for Hugh in case he was one of the ones to have escaped. He actually put it back.
The story of Colditz is a fascinating piece of history, and truly one that epitamises the old adage. ' that through adversity comes strength'. For here were 270 men or more, incarcerated in a stone prison; and yet between them as a group, they came up with the most ingenious escape plans. They dug a 180 yeard tunnel through solid granite, they made lathes made out of wind up gramophones, they had made keys for just about every lock in the building, air pumps, radio sets, travel documents, German uniforms; and they even built their own glider in the attic. All of which was under the unsuspecting eye of more than 300 guards.
Each escape plan had a committee; and everyone in the camp was involved in one way or another, even if it was to get just one man out. The reasoning behind this was that for every escape attempt, thousands of German soldiers would be tied up in the hunt for the missing prisoner, thus taking them out of the fight. Some did make a 'home run' as it was called, which meant they got back to the UK or home. One of these included Airey Neave, who was to later become a prominent politician and many of you will recall he lost his life in an IRA car bomb attack on his car outside the Houses of Parliament.
Another famous inmate of Colditz was Fighter Ace, Wing Commander Douglas Bader. Ironically, the Germans allowed an allied plane to fly over Colditz Castle and drop a pair of prosthetic legs, as Douglas had lost his in a previous escape attempt. Every one of the men I interviewed for this project, seemed to carry the same dry sense of humour and wit. They had shared some pretty horrific moments, but there was always a funny punch line to round of the moment. This is the story of those 'bad boys' that were incarcerated in the most infamous of all German Castles.
Narrated by Ternece Alexander