Claiming anything, let alone a book on the Colditz
story, as "the definitive history", is certainly a bold move. But since Henry Chancellor was the man behind the acclaimed British television series, Escape from Colditz
, it might just be true. Certainly it is an enthralling read, although given its subject matter it could hardly be anything else. Colditz, more prosaically known to the German military as "Oflag 4C", was the supposedly escape-proof medieval German fortress from which over 300 men during the Second World War attempted to escape, and from which 32 made a "home-run". A small but hugely morale-boosting figure. With tragic heroism, some of these successful escapees, having risked life and limb getting back to the home country, then returned eagerly to the war only to be killed in battle. Chancellor's book represents 76 interviews carried out over a course of 14 years, and so promises to be exhaustive. It also corrects some of the errors in the classic but not always flawless memoirs of former prisoners such as Major Pat Reid. He is also good on adding colourful if tangential details, such as the fact that the great expansion of castle took place under the reign of Augustus the Strong of Saxony in the 17th century, a man who fathered no fewer than 354 offspring. The heart of the book, however, is the accounts of escape by the men themselves who lived to tell the tale. This is a history book that will make your hands clammy with fear and excitement. One can also relish the humour with which these old soldiers recall their days and nights of danger. One of them attempted to escape disguised as a woman. "But I had made the great mistake of filling it [his bra] with biscuits, in an attempt not to waste space. Unfortunately by the time I had crawled through the tunnel the biscuits had turned to crumbs and everything was sagging." So, not only a thrilling and inspiring history, but a useful guide to cross-dressing too: don't keep biscuits in your bra.--Christopher Hart
'Crammed full of compelling nuggets' -- Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.