Saturday, March 17, 2012

Colditz Castle glider escape plot realized more than 65 years after the war

1945 plan by British soldiers to escape from the prisoner-of-war camp by air is finally attempted 

Terry Payne

Ninety feet above the cobbled square of the infamous Colditz Castle, the spirit of heroic ingenuity soared freely once again. Earlier this afternoon a full-size glider built in the castle’s loft space was launched off a makeshift wooden runway, so executing an audacious escape plan hatched – but never realized – more than 65 years ago.

Back in 1945 British troops held in the supposedly escape-proof prisoner-of-war camp had spent more than 18 months designing and building the original glider under the noses of German guards. It would have been the Second World War’s most ambitious escape bid, but liberation denied them the chance to see if it would fly.

Today a team from Channel 4 proved that it might have done, though air safety regulations meant that instead of two would- be escapees in the cockpit they had a dummy codenamed Alex and the demands of TV budgets and the absence of any guards saw them build it – to the exact specifications it should be stressed – in only five days.

So in bright sunshine and with much of the small village of Colditz gazing skywards the original launch method was employed;a bath filled with one ton of concrete was dropped down the side of the castle beneath the runway, providing the pulley-driven propulsion that catapulted the 19ft long and 33ft wide glider off the runway and into the air.

It was a glorious, though it has to be said short-lived, flight lasting just 15 seconds before the glider crash-landed and crumpled in the target field, flanked by houses on either side.

“I was running out of space and getting too close to the houses, so I had to bring it down,” said Patrick Willis who was controlling the flight of the glider through a remote-control transmitter linked to three receivers on the glider.

Read more:

Colditz Castle glider escape plot realized more than 65 years after the war

Flight from Colditz: British PoWs' daring glider escape takes to sky, 67 years late

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