|Colditz yard and solitary cells on the left - Pegasus archive|
On Wednesday afternoon 2 July 1941 Pierre Lebrun made a second attempt to escape from Colditz. Twenty one days solitary confinement (stubenarrest) for his previous effort on 9 June (see previous post) would only have increased his resolve to get away as the time passed with just basic German rations and no food from Red Cross parcels. The manner of his last capture and the two previous breakouts before he was transferred to Colditz must have played on his mind in the lonely hours. Some men would have become demoralised or taken time to gather themselves and think things through before trying to get away again. Lebrun decided the only way forward was to escape whilst he was still in solitary. He calculated there was one chance to do this and it had to be in full view of the guards during the daily exercise.
|Colditz Staff Oberstleutnant Schmidt (centre, front)|
- Pegasus archive
The exercise period for POW’s in solitary confinement, ran daily from 12.30 to 14.30. The prisoners were marched from their cells under guard and down to the park where they were confined inside an inner barbed wire enclosure (known as the sheep pen by the French.) This was a smaller area within the main exercise ground. The main ground was surrounded by a high barbed wire fence with a single warning wire about a foot in height, positioned a yard inside the fence. Anyone stepping inside this wire ran the risk of being fired on.
|The Park and Boundary Wall - virtualcolditz|
Lebrun had other ideas. He had managed to share his plan with French Lieutenant Pierre Odry who had also been confined to the cells following an earlier escape from the park, where Odry managed to get out and reach the bridge at Gross Sermuth before being caught by one of the camp trucks. Odry agreed to help Lebrun on the day despite the virtually impossible odds. But the break would have to come whilst both men were still exercising together with the other POWs under punishment.
|Lieutenant Pierre Odry|
|Lieutenant Pierre Lebrun|
During the period of solitary, thirty Reich marks was smuggled into Lebrun’s cell along with small quantities of energy giving food. He had been working on his fitness during the daily exercise period, but this had to be done sparingly on account of the limited rations. Wearing running shorts, a short sleeved shirt which could pass off as a Nazi shirt, a leather sleeveless jacket, socks and plimsolls with rubber soles, he would exercise for the first hour, trying to jog at least half a mile around the inner enclosure during that time. The second hour was used to rest, discreetly observing the sentries and surroundings.
‘For five exercise periods he was ready to go, but each time the circumstances were not quite right. These false starts put an enormous strain on his nerves – he was too tense before each of them to even eat.’
|Leapfrog - The Colditz Story 1954|
|Leapfrog 2 - The Colditz Story 1954|
|Zwickau - burgermeister-online.com|
Colditz-Oflag IVC - Michael McInally
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