1 February 2023 Susannah

New Colditz

Colditz Castle

In the 1970s an excellent serial drama called ‘Colditz’ was televised. It was about the prisoners in that infamous castle and their many escape attempts. I loved it, but had no idea how accurate each episode (there were 28 of them) actually was.

So, I was most interested to read Ben Macintyre’s new book Colditz: Prisoners of the Castle, published last year. I had greatly enjoyed his book Agent Sonya about a female spy for the communists, and the new book did not disappoint. I found that the TV series had been largely accurate (it was based on Major Pat Reid’s memoir The Colditz Story and Reid acted as a consultant to the series) and now I want to watch it all over again.

The escape attempts from the heavily fortified castle were truly amazing – tunnels, scaling steep walls, hiding inside mattresses, dressing as women – everything was tried, and some attempts succeeded. Even in the last days of the war, when the men were thin and hungry and life outside the castle was more dangerous than inside the walls, men still tried to escape.

Ben Macintyre tells a gripping story of the cat and mouse games between guards and captives, the ingenuity of the prisoners, the incredible hierarchy of the British officers (who had their batmen with them in prison, doing the menial tasks), and the mental and physical toll that years of imprisonment took on the men.

I can strongly recommend this book – a fascinating read.

Did you watch the Colditz series on television, or have you already read this book? Tell me by leaving a comment.

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Featured image- Colditz Castle in April 1945, By U.S. military or Department of Defense employee, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1702964; & Colditz by Ben Macintyre, https://amzn.to/3Y0Pgme

Comments (8)

  1. Indie

    I saw the odd epidode as a kid in the 70s and more recently bought the box set on Ebay having decided those blurry YT offerings did it no justice. Each episode captures the slow build up of tension and makes a refreshing change from today’s ‘explosion-a-minute’ format.
    My wife and I visited the castle in Feb 2022 at the end of lockdown.I took great delight when the immigration officer asked where we were staying. “Colditz”, I replied calmly. The former Kommandantur is now a Youth Hostel and we were virtually the only guests. We took a great tour of all the escape routes.
    As for books, apart from Pat Reid’s accounts I can also recommend ‘Colditz. The German Story’ by Reinhold Eggers. former Head of Security and, in later life, a good friend of Pat and the other escapees.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      How fascainting that you stayed there. I would love to watch that old series again as I remember it being so good. I did really enjoy Ben Macintyre’s new book about Colditz.

  2. i watched this series in the 70s even tho i was very young. Dad watched it so i watched it. I can still remember the sadness…

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I also watched it with my Dad, and some of my siblings.
      It must have been hideous for those men, locked up for so many years of the war in such a grim place.

  3. I read this book in the Christmas break and liked it so much that I read my way through my husband’s stock of Ben Macintyre books, including the wonderful Operation Mincemeat. The film, starring Mr Darcy themself, Colin Firth, and Mr Darcy 2, Matthew Macfadgen, is well worth watching too. So I am a fan!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Do try his book ‘Agent Sonya’ -it’s excellent! Glad you are also a fan. I’ve seen the film of Operation Mincemeat, but not yet read the book.

  4. John

    I watched the series at the time too, and I also thought it was fascinating. A few years later, I read a book about Colditz. I am afraid I have forgotten who the author was though: it might have been Pat Reid’s memoir or a version of it. It said essentially the same as was in the series. Perhaps you could contact a television station to suggest a rebroadcast on one of its less popular channels?

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Wouldn’t it be nice to see the series again on TV. I think it is on YouTube, but the quality often isn’t great.
      Glad someone else also enjoyed the TV series.

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