Flight from Colditz, Tony Hoskins

Flight from Colditz, Tony Hoskins

The Colditz glider is often mentioned in books on POW escapes and in books of Colditz, but perhaps because it was never actually used is rarely covered in much detail. The account in the first part of this book covers the story in much more detail than I’ve ever seen before, and it’s a remarkable story. The scale of the project is hugely impressive – the prisoners were able to build a false wall in one of the attics to create their workshop, managed to find all of the materials required to build the glider, and by 1945 had actually completed the aircraft! However the glider was never launched, as with the end of the war clearly approaching and the Germans starting to murder escaped POWs it was clearly not worth the risk.

We then move on to the attempt to built and fly an reproduction of the glider. The author was the leader of the team hired by the TV production company behind the project to build and fly the glider, and he takes us through the entire project, from the original approach by the TV company to the flight itself. This is a fascinating story, with an array of challenges to overcome, from German flight rules to the design of the glider, the desire of the TV production company for the build on screen to be the first attempt (ignored by the team!), to the actual launch itself, which involved constructing a ramp along the top of one of the highest roofs of the castle (chosen because it was out of sight from the German areas during the war) then finding a way to give the glider enough speed to fly, all without alerting the Germans! If I’m honest this part of the plan looks to be where the original escape attempt would have run into trouble – the plan was to knock down a nearby attic wall, then build thhe ramp while dangling over vast drops, then move the parts of the glider into place, assemble it, and launch, all without making enough noise to make the Germans look up!

The author really brings to life the tension of the recreation, and especially the flight itself (even though we already know it was a success, as the colour photo plates come before the final flight), and both stories – the original POW construction and the modern recreation are fascinating and well worth the read. 

Part I
Offizierslager IV-C - Colditz Castle
The Colditz Cock

Part II
The Challenge
The Build Begins
Colditz Here We Come
Ready to Roll
To the Skies

Appendix: The Other Replicas

Author: Tony Hoskins
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 256
Publisher: Frontline
Year: 2016

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