|View of the Park Perimeter Wall - virtualcolditz.com|
'When the Dutch arrived at Colditz, we realised it would be a difficult job to get out of this one.'
- Francis Steinmetz
Dutchman Lieutenant Gerrit Dames settled down under a tree in the shade next to the wire fencing. He stretched back relaxing and reading a book. At a predetermined signal he started to work ‘blind’ on the wire behind him with a homemade pair of ‘pliers’ in his free hand. Seated between two guards he would soon be seen. But how soon? It was vital that his preparation reached the right level and timing before he was spotted.
As with the Dufour and Smit escape; the Dutch circle of ‘handball’ players continued to throw the ball around and slowly closed in around the manhole, just as another officer began to rattle the wire in another area of the fence. A sentry shouted across to him and became more agitated, which attracted the attention of other guards. As the sentry aimed his rifle and a commotion began, Francis Steinmetz and Hans Larive managed to free the bolt on the manhole cover and slip down into the shaft. The ‘handball’ circle began to widen again and this was the signal for Dames, who turned around and made ready to creep through a small hole he had made in the fence. Obviously he was seen immediately. He put up his hands in surrender and along with the other prisoners shouted out beyond the fence ‘Run, run.’
|Lt Gerrit Dames begins the wire diversion - Oflag IVC YT|
'The Germans would think he was the third man and two had got out.' - Francis Steinmetz
The plan was to wait until full darkness at 10pm before exiting the shaft. They had to get out of the water and ditch the blanket. As a few hours had passed, the two Dutchmen made the decision to haul themselves out of the water and settle on the rungs further up the shaft. By pressing their backs against the wall, they were able to dry off a little and slowly put on some of their clothes. As the hours passed, they developed bad headaches and began struggling for breath. Air in the shaft was running out. Larive struggled to the top, pushed the cover up before jamming in his penknife in the gap. The men moved as close as they could to the gap for breaths of fresh air.
|Colditz at Night 1940 - Tim Giddings|
Colditz The Full Story - Major Pat Reid MBE MC (Highly recommended read)
Colditz The German Viewpoint Reinhold Eggers (Highly recommended read)
The Man Who Came in From Colditz - E H Larive
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