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British NCO served with RAF in GB, 1935-1939; officer served as pilot with Bomber Command, 1939-1941; POW in Spangenburg Castle and Oflag IV C, Colditz in Germany, 1941-1945
REEL 1 Background in Hebburn on Tyne, 1915-1935: family; father's employment in mining industry; memories of First World War; early education; growing up during depression and mother's nursing activities; childhood activities; family homes; later education; teenage activities; living in mining community. REEL 2 Continues: failure to obtain apprenticeship with Merchant Navy; visits to law courts. Aspects of enlistment and training with RAF in GB, 1935- 1939: reasons for enlisting in RAF; attitude to discipline; number of casualties in RAF; story of aircraft crash, 1937; coping with fear; promotion to sergeant, 1939; reasons for award of Air Force Cross; story of attempt to bail out during electrical storm. REEL 3 Continues: marriage, 1938; involvement in training; reaction to declaration of Second World War, 9/1939. Attitude towards bombing Germany and Germans. Commissioning as officer, 1/1941. Story of being shot down over Belgium coast, 6/1941. Aspects of period as POW in Spangenburg Castle, Germany, 1941: initial reaction to capture. REEL 4 Continues: transfer to camp, 7/1941; escape from castle; plan to steal aircraft; recapture and attitude towards solitary confinement; move to army POW camp near Kassel and second escape attempt. Recollections of period as POW at Oflag IV C, Colditz, 1942-1945: motives for escaping; attitude of non-escapers to escapers; degree of discipline of RAF POWs; question of respect for German guard; opinion of role of Bomber Command role until 1941; question of family background. REEL 5 Continues: story of confronting Gestapo during train journey; character of being under escort by German guards during train journey; dealing with solitary confinement; period in German military prison; greeting from Douglas Bader on leaving solitary confinement; role exploring tunnels and sewers in castle; discovery of tunnelling activities with Dick Lorraine and John 'Bosun' Crisp, 16/6/1944; behaviour of Reinhold Eggers on discovery of tunnel; escape attempt using rope and discovery cutting barbed wire, 19/4/1944. REEL 6 Continues: treatment on capture; accumulation of Red Cross parcels during solitary confinement; recreational activities; reaction to progress of war; attitude of German guards to war; dreams and depressions; death of Mike Sinclair; collaboration in camp; encounter with Walter Purdy in solitary confinement; fate of commandos briefly held in castle; number of escape attempts made; liberation of castle by US forces. REEL 7 Continues: reaction to liberation; arrival in Colditz, 4/1942; initial impressions of camp; character of accommodation and eating arrangements; Red Cross parcels; mail; rations supplied by Germans meals; obsession with food; availability of cigarettes; clothing worn; presence of Prominente in camp; mixing with other nationalities; Anglo-Dutch escape attempts; role of escape committee; channelling contraband through parcel store; production of escape equipment; process of thinking up escape. REEL 8 Continues: Recollections of first escape attempt using Red Cross tea chest from Oflag IV C, Colditz, 9/1942: experimenting with tea chest; use of rope to scale down wall from Kommandantur after using tea chest; escape clothing worn; question of recapture by Gestapo; identities carried on escape; stealing bicycle; reasons for choosing Sweden as opposed to Switzerland as escape destination; length of time taken to get to Danzig; escaping from custody on route to Danzig; attending mass in Danzig; obtaining aid from Polish workers; sight of column of British POWs in Danzig; recapture in hay stack near U-boat base; interrogation by naval officers; attitude to sleeping rough.
Associated people and organisations
- Bader, Douglas Robert Steuart
- German Prisoner of War Camp, Oflag IV C, Colditz
- Crisp, John
- Eggers, Reinhold
- Bruce, Dominic
- Lorraine, Dick
- Purdy, Walter
- German Prisoner of War Camp, Spangenburg Castle