From Calais to Colditz...

 

...a Riflemans' Memoir of Captivity & Escape, from Pen and Sword

 

Title: From Calais to Colditz

Author: Philip Pardoe

Publisher: Pen and Sword

ISBN: 978-1-47387-539-0

This new memoir has only now been published although the author himself passed away in a sad accident back in 1987.  This is a first hand description of his time as a platoon commander in the King's Royal Rifle Corps, who was sent to Calais in a vain attempt to bolster the BEF against the German Blitzkrieg. He describes the preparations before they left the UK, their journey across the Channel and their arrival in France. Their fight against the advance German units lasted 4 days before they were left with no option other than surrender.

After having described the fighting defence, he was captured and then marched over a long distance before they were finally put on a train (in cattle wagons) to be POWs in Germany.

He goes on to describe his time in a couple of camps in Germany, both a castle and a hutted camp. There were both good and bad times which he describes, a regret for not feeling able to escape on that journey to Germany but then two separate escapes from camps. The first involved going over the top of wire fences with a large number of others. He tells us the story of his 12 days of freedom with a fellow escapee as they tried to get to a port in the hope of getting to Sweden. When they were recaptured their treatment was not as bad as it might have been. Later on he took part in another escape, this time by way of a tunnel, and while they did get away from the camp this bid for freedom did not last as long. Both journeys are quite vividly described.

After two escape attempts he was sent to the most famous camp of them all, Oflag IVC Colditz. Here he met up again with Douglas Bader as well as a well known name from the Colditz story, Mike Sinclair, who had actually been one of his fellow officers in the KRRC back in Calais. He describes Mikes fate when he jumped the wire in ;The Park'. As well as describing life and his fellow prisoners in Colditz, he also gives a fine account of the liberation of the camp by US forces, and their final freedom for a flight home.

For anyone with an interest in the stories of life in a German Prison Camp in WW2, including the infamous Colditz Castle, this is great to read, with how it felt to experience the long time in captivity from capture in 1940 until their liberation in 1945. A fine addition to the history of British POWs in WW2 and Colditz in particular.

Thanks to Pen and Sword for this review copy.

Robin