|Lieutenant Pierre Mairesse Lebrun - strijdbewijs.nl|
French Lieutenant Pierre Mairesse Lebrun made his first escape from Colditz on 9 June 1941 by climbing into the rafters of an open sided pavilion in the middle of the park used for exercise. Fellow POW’s had created a series of innocent looking diversions to enable Lebrun to make the move without being seen by the guards. He was able to hide himself away until after the exercise party had left the park and was not detected by the dogs sent in for a final check of the area.
This was less than two weeks after Lieutenant Rene Collin had successfully escaped via the same method of concealment. He was not recaptured, so it is likely that Lebrun was sticking to the same plan. For his absence to remain unnoticed, it was necessary for the head count at the park (taken before the prisoners were marched back to the castle) to tally with:The agreed total before they initially left the castle
The total when they first arrived at the parkThe total when they reached the castle after being marched back from the park.
(See previous post for security measures taken by the Germans in relation to the daily park exercise).The count was manipulated by concealing a very small Belgian officer Sous Lieutenant Verkest at the outgoing count parade from the castle. He had clamped his legs around a fellow POW’s thighs whilst two others supported him by the elbows. The man in the middle wrapped his coat and some blankets around the Belgian and then unfolded a German newspaper to conceal the deception. It was then easy for Verkest to cover Lebrun at the returning counts.
A bugle blown from one of the castle windows was the POWs signal that the absence had not been noticed. Lieutenant Verkest had covered successfully and Lebrun was clear to make his exit from Colditz. He climbed down from the rafters and successfully negotiated the park fence and wall. He was wearing a smart grey suit which had been made from pyjamas sent to him during the winter.Lebrun did not go to Colditz station, but walked the six miles to Grossbothen to catch a train to
|A early picture of Grossbothen Station - Wikipedia|
He was taken to the stationmaster’s office and detained there.Hauptmann Roland Eggers of Colditz described how they received a phone call one evening from Grossbothen station:
‘They asked if anyone was missing. No. Why should there be? We have a man under here under guard. Might be one of your PW’s. He asked for a ticket just now and offered us out of date money for it – an old blue 100 mark note. He can’t be German.…
We fetched the man in; it was Lieut Mairesse-Lebrun. He was dressed in the smartest civilian clothes, complete with monocle.'Eggers recorded that they had no idea how Lebrun got out and naturally he had refused to tell them. It was worrying because there was clearly an exit from the camp via the park and the prisoners were using it ‘sparingly and successfully.’ (The Germans did not know how either Alain LeRay or Rene Collin had made their escapes)
Lebrun received 21 days in the cells for his attempt. It must have been frustrating being thwarted by something as simple as an out of date banknote. Before arriving at Colditz he had already escaped twice from camps and had reachedHere was no ordinary soldier. Within weeks of the German attack on
on the first occasion
without realising; drifting back to the German side and being arrested by a
As soon as he began his spell on solitary Stubenarrest in the Colditz cells Lebrun planned his next escape. It was arguably one of the most simple, daring and almost suicidal attempts to get away from the castle.
Colditz The Full Story – Major P R Reid MBE MC
The Colditz Story - Major P R Reid MBE MC
Colditz the German Viewpoint - Reinhold Eggers
(All are recommended reads)
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