At the afternoon parade of 12th April 1941 the French Senior Officer advised the Germans in Colditz that one of his own officers was missing. Following the usual searches, there was no alternative but to check the faces of every POW against the camp identity cards. Lageroffizier Hauptmann Paul Priem brought in dogs to search the castle, as he was convinced that the missing man was still hiding out somewhere within Colditz.
|Hauptmann Paul Priem|
|Lieutenant Alain le Ray - IWM|
Le Ray was part of the French team digging a tunnel inside the clock tower at Colditz, although he was not present when Lieutenants Bernard Cazamayou and Paillie were discovered. (see previous post) His mood at the time concerning escape was clear:
"Night after night I did my shift with the tunnel team. And I was happy to do it, to keep solidarity with my mates; but it was very hard work, and frustrating because progress was so slow. Who knows if it could survive without being discovered? I knew that tunnelling did not suit me, I was getting too impatient. What I wanted was something quick that I could execute alone."
|French officers at Colditz - Wikipedia|
The Germans in Colditz, respecting the Geneva Convention, let us out in the castle grounds from time to time to walk around in a wooded park surrounded on three sides by a fence of barbed wire and on one side by a wall. But it was such a nuisance to get ready for the park walk – assembling in the courtyard, being counted and recounted - that many of the prisoners could not be bothered to go.
Apart from the wired off section reserved for prisoners, the park was not particularly well guarded. On the other hand, the castle guards could survey the whole area including the path down to it. For the walk, our guards counted us twice in the inner courtyard before we left. Then again after arrival in the park and the same on the way back. This was done although the walk down took us only four minutes. In spite of these precautions, I felt that this was a weak spot in the castle’s defences, and made my plans accordingly.’
Engineering the escape was only a fraction of the operation. Le Ray would at the very least need clothes which would pass as a civilian, money and an escape route once he was clear of the castle.
Next week - How Le Ray Escaped
Sources and Additional Reading
Colditz The Full Story – Major P R Reid MBE MCColditz The German Viewpoint - Reinhold Eggers
Première à Colditz Alain le Ray
Escape From Colditz Sixteen First Hand Accounts - Reinhold Eggers
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