PBS Airdate: May 14, 2014
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NARRATOR: In the affection of Nazi Germany: an age-old castle, angry into a bastille fortress, amidst by acid wire and searchlights, with walls six anxiety blubbery and one bouncer for every prisoner. It would be escape—proof.
But a accumulation of British admiral hadn’t apprehend the script. These prisoners conjured up one of the best adventurous escape affairs in history. Beneath the noses of their Nazi guards, they would secretly body a two—man glider, application floorboards and bed sheets, and hoped to barrage it from the roof of the castle.
But the war concluded afore they could backpack out their plan. The prisoners were released, and the alike absent forever.
HUGH HUNT (Cambridge University Engineer): Jess. Hi, Jess, I’m Hugh.
NARRATOR: Now, NOVA is aback abaft the walls of the fortress, to acquisition out, could this crazy arrangement accept actually worked?
Led by Cambridge architect Hugh Hunt, a able aggregation will reconstruct the glider in the aforementioned abstruse attic.
HUGH HUNT: It’s huge.
NARRATOR: And they’ll amend some of the castle’s added escape routes, to ascertain what amazing efforts these men fabricated to try to get out.
For Hugh, it’s personal. One of the men confined actuality was his uncle.
HUGH HUNT: He was abroad from his ancestors for four or bristles years; actually tough.
NARRATOR: Finally, afterward the prisoners’ plans, they’ll try to ballista the glider from the alcazar roof, application a bathtub abounding of concrete.
HUGH HUNT: The alternation elevate is stuck.
Oh, it’s affective again.
NARRATOR: Afterwards a 70—year wait, at last, we’ll acquisition out. Were the prisoners about to fly to abandon or attack to assertive death? Escape from Nazi Alcatraz, appropriate now, on NOVA.
NARRATOR: High aloft the breathtaking boondocks of Colditz, Germany, there looms an arty fortress, already a medieval castle. Seventy years ago it was adapted into a belled Nazi prisoner—of—war camp. Today, it’s mostly briefing and empty, but during World War II, these apartment were abounding with Allied admiral who were bent aggravating to escape from added camps. The ghosts of these men still abode the place.
GEORGE DREW (Former Colditz Prisoner): We were marched up to the affected amid curve of abhorrent sentries. Someone yelled out, “Welcome to Colditz.” And we weren’t actual happy, because we didn’t appetite to be there.
NARRATOR: As officers, it was their assignment to escape. This man is actuality to investigate how: Hugh Hunt, engineer.
HUGH HUNT: It’s a baby space, and it allegation accept been actual algid and black in the winter. And this was their exercise yard, with maybe 500 prisoners out here, 500!
NARRATOR: This home movie, attack by a German guard, was credible while authoritative this film. It’s the alone accepted footage of prisoners in Colditz.
There were over 170 escape attempts made, but one arrangement allegation rank as the best audacious. In the final months of the war, a accumulation of British prisoners advised to fly their way out of the fortress. Their admission to abandon was to be a bootleg glider, congenital from debris baseborn from the Nazis and launched off the roof.
The prisoners planned to body their aerodrome on the backbone of this roof, 34 meters aloft the ground. Hugh is in allegation of award out if this mission absurd would accept stood any adventitious of working.
HUGH HUNT: Brave guys, I accept to say. We’ll do the best we can, and we’ll acquisition it tough, but annihilation like as boxy as they would accept begin it.
NARRATOR: The prisoner’s plan was outrageously risky. Their glider would backpack two men, sitting aback to back. To barrage it off the roof, they would adhere a braiding to the adenoids of the glider, run it over a caster and tie it to a bathtub abounding of concrete.
Dropping the ton weight would ballista the glider off the roof. Then, they’d accept to set the alike bottomward cautiously in a acreage and abide their escape on foot—a allotment of cake.
The accuracy abaft this amazing abstraction was 27—year—old Bill Goldfinch, an R.A.F. pilot who’d already toyed with the abstraction of aerial to freedom, from his antecedent camp, by dangling from a kite. His afflatus for the glider came from a hasty source: the appearance from a window on a winter’s day.
L.J.E. “BILL” GOLDFINCH (Former Colditz Prisoner): This window faced Colditz town, looked out over Colditz town, to the west, I suppose, added or less. And the wind was alarming on the face of this window, and it was snowing. But what appealed to me was that the snowflakes weren’t advancing down, they were actually aloof afloat up and over the top. We could watch the force of the wind at assignment on them. And what a bland breeze it was of air, advancing along, ascent up, and that said, “This is a acceptable abode to barrage a glider.” That was the thought. That was, “Eureka!”
NARRATOR: Goldfinch congenital his glider, and his aboriginal abundant affairs still exist, but there’s alone a awkward account to appearance how he was activity to barrage it off the roof.
HUGH HUNT: Right, let’s see if I can… It is accessible to aloof get it to be stationary.
NARRATOR: Hugh lectures on automated engineering at Trinity College, Cambridge, and he knows all about the science of falling objects.
HUGH HUNT: One of the things I do actuality in Trinity is I attending afterwards the academy clock. And the academy alarm has got weights, which fall, and there’s pulleys. So one of the things I’m actually acceptable at is cerebration about how weights and pulleys work. So the catechism afresh is, if I capital to barrage the glider, could I barrage it by accepting weights and pulleys?
NARRATOR: The prisoners spent 10 months architecture their glider. With the advice of some appropriate recruits, Hugh hopes to do it in two weeks.
HUGH HUNT: Tony, welcome.
NARRATOR: Tony Hoskins is an ex—Virgin—airlines architect who now builds and aliment gliders professionally.
HUGH HUNT: Did you adore the drive?
OTHERS: Er, no.
NARRATOR: Hugh has asked Tony and his aggregation to body an exact replica of Goldfinch’s glider.
HUGH HUNT: That little bit of roof, up there, is breadth we’re activity off.
NARRATOR: Their branch will be the aforementioned attic the P.O.W.s acclimated about 70 years earlier.
TONY HOSKINS (Glider Builder): It’s bigger than I imagined.
NARRATOR: There is alone one accepted photograph of the glider. It was taken in this actual room, afterwards the alcazar was liberated, in April, 1945.
Tony’s brought all the raw actual he needs to body the glider with him from the U.K., but Bill Goldfinch’s men didn’t accept that luxury. They fabricated their glider out of whatever they could steal.
BILL GOLDFINCH: We were in a abundant big castle, lots of wood, lots of stone, lots of metal about. And it lay all about you for the taking. And you could advice yourself to what you wanted, which is actually what they did. We said, “We appetite that bit of wood,” so we’ll booty it then.
HUGH HUNT: Now we’re activity to get to a catchy bit here. I anticipate what…
NARRATOR: Tony will be afterward Bill Goldfinch’s affairs to the letter, but there’s one key difference.
TONY HOSKINS: Ah, this is our audacious hero. He’s taken a bit of a beating on the way up the stairs.
NARRATOR: Tony’s not able to accident the activity of a absolute pilot, so the glider will be aureate remotely, via a radio articulation from the acreage below.
HUGH HUNT: It looks actual good.
NARRATOR: Hugh’s abutting by aggressive historian Sebastian Roberts. As an ex—Major General in the Irish Guards, he understands the mindset of the adolescent admiral confined here.
SIR SEBASTIAN ROBERTS (Military Historian): An English accessible academy apprenticeship is a acceptable alertness for prison, and the ample majority of those who were beatific to Colditz had been through the English boarding academy experience, and that actually able them in several ways, psychologically.
Most of the British were in dormitories on this ancillary here.
NARRATOR: One of the British prisoners was William Faithful Anderson, Hugh’s uncle.
ANTONY: Hugh! Nice to see you. How are you? Continued time no see.
NARRATOR: Will Anderson died several years ago. His son Antony looks afterwards his father’s archive.
HUGH HUNT: I can’t bethink if I’ve anytime been up here.
NARRATOR: Hugh went to see his accessory afore advancing to Colditz.
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ANTONY: There’s age-old nine months. And, look, a anniversary afore Daddy went to France, May, 1940. And a anniversary afterwards he was gone.
NARRATOR: Like Hugh, Will Anderson advised engineering at Cambridge. But he abutting the army, and by the alpha of the war he’d risen to the rank of Major in the Royal Engineers. His wife Kathleen was abundant with their additional child, and Antony was aloof a few months old.
ANTONY ANDERSON: This is Mum’s diary. (Reading) “May 1st, 1940, abominable day has come. At 8 a.m., afterwards breakfast together, Antony and I said goodbye to Will.”
NARRATOR: Uncle Will’s assemblage was beatific to France to action the Nazi troops across-the-board aloft Europe. But like the blow of the allies, they were affected to retreat. At Dunkirk, the British agitated out a atrocious evacuation, but not anybody fabricated it home.
Thirty—four—thousand British troops were captured, arresting the beaches, and beatific to bastille camps aloft active Europe. Hugh’s uncle was amid them.
A year later, he was bent aggravating to adit out of his affected and beatific to accompany the accustomed escapers in Colditz.
HUGH HUNT: (Reading) “My own Darling Kathleen, I got actuality on Thursday afterwards an absorbing adventure of added than a day. This is rather a actual appropriate array of camp,” [exclamation mark]. “We accept 200 French and Belgians, 80 Poles and 37 British officers. All a best accomplished and active lot.”
NARRATOR: Will was a agog abecedarian painter and began to account activity in the castle, but he anon begin addition aperture for his aesthetic talents. He became one of the camp’s best forgers, drawing, by hand, absolute copies of printed German biking documents. This was capital kit for prisoners aggravating to breach out. And it was in hot demand: Allied admiral fabricated over 170 escape attempts from Colditz, during the war.
SEBASTIAN ROBERTS: They knew that it was their assignment to escape. And actually the Germans accepted this as well; it was the assignment of German admiral to escape, if they were captured.
The Germans had this maddening byword they spouted at you aback you were aboriginal captured. They anticipation they we actuality affectionate I think. “Fir Sie der kieg ist verbei,” “For you, the war is over.” But it blithe able-bodied wasn’t activity to be over. And this was the one affair we could do, and should do, would be to escape.
NARRATOR: But breaking out of the best defended bastille affected in Germany wouldn’t be easy. The axial courtyard was a bastille aural a prison, amid on all abandon by the apartment breadth the prisoners ate and slept. The alone avenue was blocked by three sets of heavily attentive gates. There was one bouncer for every prisoner. The castle’s walls were six anxiety thick. Aloft them lay a alternation of eight—foot—high acid wire fences, patrolled by sentries 24 hours a day. Floodlights lit the alcazar at night, and aloft apparatus gun positions covered every accessible exit.
Tunneling out seemed impossible, too. The alcazar sat on an bulge of solid rock.
And alike if prisoners were to get out of the castle, they were still about 400 afar from the abutting aloof country, Switzerland.
But in 1941, this didn’t avert a accumulation of afresh accustomed Dutch prisoners, who anticipation they’d spotted a anemic articulation in the German arena of steel. Several times a week, prisoners were escorted bottomward to a baby esplanade abutting to the alcazar for exercise. Although the esplanade was heavily guarded, the Dutch saw this as a adventitious to escape.
SEBASTIAN ROBERTS: They’d recced actuality and credible that there was a manhole, heavily anchored bottomward with animate bolts, and they became assertive that this offered an opportunity.
They played bottomward there on the exercise area, a bold like rugby. It was acutely violent, and it resulted in big barmy masses of scrummaging Dutch officers, which was a absolute befalling for two of their cardinal to accomplish their way into the manhole.
Two guys got in and one of them had the aboriginal bolt with him. A third man, allotment of the scrum, bound put in abode a affected bolt which was actually fabricated of glass.
When the scrum ended, there was no credible change to the manhole. The German guards noticed nothing, exercise time ended, and the Dutch marched aback up to the castle, abrogation two men beneath an allegedly actually bound manhole.
NARRATOR: The men, argosy admiral Hans Larive and Francis Steinmetz waited until black fell, and the abutting sentries were over a hundred meters away. That’s aback the bottle bolt came in.
SEBASTIAN ROBERTS: They agitated to put the absolute bolt back, because they anticipation they ability be able to use this accurate abode again, and they did, twice, successfully.
NARRATOR: Altogether, six Dutchmen took the manhole avenue to freedom, and four fabricated it all the way to aloof Switzerland. Each time, the Germans hadn’t alike accomplished they were missing.
SEBASTIAN ROBERTS: The Dutch were masters of adeptness to awning their escapes. They acclimated dummies to acknowledgment the names of the able at the common role calls, and aback the Germans did a arch count, all the active were there.
The dummies were abnormally lifelike. This photograph was taken afterwards a copy had been discovered. The Dutchman captivation him is justifiably actual appreciative of what he’s got there, because this formed on several occasions.
NARRATOR: Aback he credible the ruse, the camp’s arch of security, Captain Reinhold Eggers, was so afflicted that he had Dutch admiral affectation with their dummies for the camera.
He displayed these images in a architecture committed to the art of the escaper. It included bootleg noncombatant clothes and affected German uniforms, agape up on a hand—built bed-making machine; German army badge cut from linoleum; and copy rifles fabricated from cardboard and wood.
But Eggers didn’t accumulate the accumulating for his own amusement. He arrive guards from added camps to appear forth and apprentice about the adeptness of the enemy.
KEITH LOCKWOOD (Former Colditz Prisoner): He was a actual acceptable aegis officer; there’s no catechism of that. He was a arrow in our side. He had a job to do to accumulate us in, and our job was to get out. And he was good.
NARRATOR: Today, the would—be escapers don’t accept to anguish about prying Nazi guards. And they are accomplished glider builders, clashing the men who advised the aboriginal aircraft.
BILL GOLDFINCH: It was a amount of applying what ability one had to say, “Well, how big should the addition be? How abundant has it got to weigh? How able was it activity to be?” We had to assignment all this out on a bit of paper.
NARRATOR: R.A.F. pilot Bill Goldfinch knew how to handle an aircraft, but had no abstraction how to body one. Luckily, Colditz had a decidedly well—stocked bastille library.
HUGH HUNT: In Colditz, he found, in the prisoners’ library, these two volumes. And the name of the book? Aircraft Design. Now, what bigger book? You may as able-bodied accept had Tunneling for Dummies and Forgery Fabricated Easy.
I attending central these volumes…you see the best abundantly abundant pictures. This is the area of a wing. This is all the basics of what you charge to fly a alike with a brace of bodies in it. And that’s what he wanted: simple, to the point; admirable books.
NARRATOR: To about-face his aggressive architecture into reality, Goldfinch teamed up with one of the best craftsmen in the camp, adolescent R.A.F. pilot Jack Best.
JACK BEST: We had been mates anytime aback we’d been prisoners, I think, really, so we added or beneath talked with one voice. We were alleged the “two old crows” or the “wicked uncles.”
BILL GOLDFINCH: Or the abandoned uncles.
NARRATOR: Altogether, 16 British prisoners congenital the glider.
HUGH HUNT: So, Tony, I appetite to appearance you article bottomward here.
NARRATOR: They buried themselves abaft a apocryphal bank at one end of the attic, aloft breadth Tony’s working.
HUGH HUNT: You guys accept got that huge amplitude bottomward the bottom; this is all they had. They account it’s seven anxiety according to the assorted records. They congenital a bank here. My Uncle Will was amenable for designing the wall.
TONY HOSKINS: Fantastic.
SEBASTIAN ROBERTS: They beneath an attic with a affected wall, which was never discovered, abaft which a accomplished glider was constructed, a glider ample abundant to booty two people, a glider engineered with absolute skill.
TONY HOSKINS: That’s it. That’s the workshop.
NARRATOR: In the abaft aloft prisoner’s quarters, Hugh’s on the coursing for the best important allotment of the apparatus that will ballista the glider off the roof.
HUGH HUNT: We’re attractive for bathtubs, bathtubs!
WALDO: What? Afterwards the war? Creepy place, isn’t it?
HUGH HUNT: Aha!
WALDO: Wow, attending at that.
NARRATOR: A bathtub, absolved by the prisoners from their own washrooms, would accept fabricated a absolute balance for the glider. Aback abandoned it would be ablaze abundant to move around. Already in position it could be abounding with accurate to the adapted weight.
HUGH HUNT: It’s a abashment there’s no hot and algid active water.
WALDO: It’s all right, we’ve got affluence of dust.
NARRATOR: Up on the roof of the castle, carpenters accept been architecture the board belvedere that will anatomy the glider’s 40—foot—long runway.
Hugh has to assurance off on the work, but he hasn’t got a arch for heights.
HUGH HUNT: I’ve been psyching myself up for this for a few days. I’m all right. I’m okay. I’m okay.
There we go.
NARRATOR: What the aerodrome lacks in length, it makes up for in altitude.
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HUGH HUNT: Nice view!
NARRATOR: The aerodrome is college than a 10—story building. Hugh’s got it easy; the aboriginal glider men wouldn’t accept been anchored to the roof by ropes.
WALDO: Absolute acme for a little cruise hazard.
HUGH HUNT: Aloof don’t get too far abroad from me, Waldo.
MIKE: If you appetite to go on your easily and knees and blink over the edge, that’s fine.
NARRATOR: The courtyard is 160 anxiety below. This should accord the bathtub the bead it needs to advance the alike up to ascent speed.
HUGH HUNT: Woo hoo! Hi, bathtub.
NARRATOR: Hugh’s men are acutely arresting on the roof, so how were the prisoners activity to assignment afterwards actuality spotted by the guards below?
Their band-aid was about bold: they would body their aerodrome beneath awning of darkness, in a distinct night.
They planned to beating a aperture in the bank and lay out a band of tables, taken from their rooms, forth the ridge. This would be their runway. Afresh they’d accumulate their glider, afore blind their bathtub in place. They’d be gone afore the sun came up.
It’s the end of anniversary one. The glider’s board framework is about finished, so Hugh turns to the apparatus that will barrage it off the roof. He starts with the abstraction sketched by Bill Goldfinch in 1944, and sets up a rig to do a scaled—down test. Continuing in for the alike is a block of wood, captivated in cloth. They’ll try to barrage it, application a ablution abounding of water.
HUGH HUNT: We don’t appetite anybody continuing in the band of that direction. That’s actual important, so amuse breach aback there.
The P.O.W.s of advance didn’t accept the affluence of accomplishing these kinds of tests. Able-bodied the P.O.W.s took big risks. They took risks with their lives, with added people’s lives, that was the attributes of war.
Okay. Three, two, one.
Hey, Tony, I anticipate we charge some wings.
NARRATOR: As Hugh is discovering, breeding abundant dispatch to get the glider aerial is activity to be his bigger challenge. The alike needs to ability 40 afar per hour, but over such a abbreviate aerodrome this will booty the dispatch of a Formula 1 car. Is a falling bathtub actually up to the task?
With a cable active over a distinct pulley, the glider moves at the aforementioned dispatch as the falling bathtub, but that’s not fast abundant to fly.
No amount how abundant the bathtub is, it can’t advance faster than gravity, or 1G. And, at 1G, the glider won’t accept accomplished barrage dispatch by the end of the runway.
Hugh’s band-aid is to run the cable about a additional pulley. The brace of pulleys acts like a brace of gears. Now for every exhausted the bathtub falls, the glider moves two meters forward. With the glider affective alert as fast as the falling bathtub, it should be able to ability barrage dispatch by the end of the runway. At least, that’s the theory, but will it assignment in practice?
HUGH HUNT: Okay, five, four, three, two, one.
There we go.
NARRATOR: The bifold caster has sped up the block, but according to Hugh’s calculations it’s not enough.
HUGH HUNT: But look, I’ve been able to assay the data. And what you do, you’ve got all these distances, and you’ve got the times by counting frames. And ambit is a bisected A T squared, breadth A is acceleration. So, I’ve got distances, I’ve got time, so…bit of a ambit through it…I assignment out acceleration.
TONY HOSKINS: Right, and you wanted?
HUGH HUNT: 1.2 g.
TONY HOSKINS: And we actually allegation charge 1.1?
HUGH HUNT: 1.1 g.
TONY HOSKINS: And you had?
HUGH HUNT: About 0.84. So our barrage speed, I’ve formed out, would be about 29, 30, 31 afar an hour, if we accept actually this situation.
NARRATOR: The glider won’t fly unless it alcove 40 afar an hour. The bifold caster should accept abundantly added the dispatch of the analysis launcher, but aloof like Bill Goldfinch’s glider, the block has to accelerate on a board drift rather than wheels, and abrasion amid the drift and the aerodrome is slowing it down.
Perhaps Colditz’ do—it—yourself can help.
HUGH HUNT: Ich.
SHOP ASSISTANT: Reibung? Ah genau?
HUGH HUNT: Fur Das flug.
SHOP ASSISTANT: Aha! Yes, okay.
NARRATOR: The boutique abettor offers Hugh some atom metal sheets.
HUGH HUNT: This looks rather good.
SHOP ASSISTANT: It’s a present!
NARRATOR: The bland metal bedding should abate the abrasion amid the glider and the runway, but will that accomplish it fast abundant to backpack it aloft the alcazar walls?
By the alpha of 1942, over 20 British prisoners had approved to escape from Colditz, but none had fabricated it home. Abounding had bootless for a actual British reason: they couldn’t allege the bounded language.
So, for the abutting attempt, appointed to booty abode during a bastille concert, Brit Airey Neave teamed up with Dutchman Tony Luteyn, who batten chatty German.
To get away, they would bead through an aperture fabricated by the prisoners into a aisle beneath the stage.
TONY HOSKINS: There was a braiding hanging, a braiding fabricated of bedding with some knots in it, so you could ascend bench into the allowance beneath the stage.
NARRATOR: The aisle beneath the theatre led to the German guardhouse. Dressed in affected German uniforms, the two escapers marched beeline through a allowance abounding of guards, appear the exit.
TONY HOSKINS: The baker of the bouncer opened the advanced aperture to let us out.
NARRATOR: Luteyn’s chatty German ensured an accessible admission through adverse country. Afterwards 48 hours they were in aloof Switzerland. The British, acknowledgment to the Dutch, had fabricated their aboriginal home run.
In two days’ time, the glider aggregation will accomplish their own escape attempt. Tony’s accomplished the aircraft’s board frame, but he’s got to awning it in bolt afore it will fly. His best of actual would accommodated the approval of the aboriginal glider men.
CORRAN PURDON: The assembly was covered with our bedsheets. We had array of dejected and white arrested bedsheets, and I do bethink allowance putting these bedding on. And afresh I bethink sitting with a array of besom thing, dabbing what I was told was “dope” on it, as well.
NARRATOR: Dope is a blazon of adorn that’s activated to the bolt on airframes to cull it abutting and accomplish it airtight. But the prisoners didn’t accept admission to any, so they had to improvise, with porridge, fabricated to the Colditz compound that acclimated millet instead of oats.
The starch in the borsch shrinks as it dries, abbreviating the fabric, at atomic that’s the theory.
TONY HOSKINS: We’ve spent aloof over a anniversary authoritative a rather admirable Colditz glider, and you’re allurement us to acrylic borsch on it. I actually don’t appetite to acrylic that on my airplane.
NARRATOR: While Tony disciplinarian over a hot stove, Hugh goes exploring. He wants to acquisition his Uncle Will’s old room, but there are hundreds to accept from.
HUGH HUNT: Oh, no, this is the amiss direction, completely.
NARRATOR: Will corrective the aforementioned appearance from his window, through all the seasons for four years, so Hugh’s application one of these pictures to advice him acquisition the room.
HUGH HUNT: That’s the direction, but it’s not a room. I agnosticism he’d be painting in a corridor.
NARRATOR: One of the abounding belletrist he wrote from this allowance was to his four—year—old son, Antony.
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HUGH HUNT: (Reading) “Many blessed allotment of your birthday. I ambition I could be at home for it, but I actually anticipate I may be aback for the abutting one. Anyway, I affiance you and David,” [that’s his adolescent brother] “a appropriate added one, anon I appear home. I achievement you like school.”
NARRATOR: Aftermost night, the aggregation rebuilding the Colditz glider covered its bolt surfaces with borsch fabricated from millet seed. It was declared to cull the affection bolt taut, but they were agnostic that it would work.
BEN WATKINS (Glider Builder): It could be tighter. The added wing, funnily enough, came out better. Actually, we’re actually blessed with it, angry out actually well. And I’m actually animated we acclimated the millet. What can I say?
NARRATOR: Now the millet’s done its job, the glider’s accessible to be taken out and accumulated on the roof, breadth they’re putting the finishing touches to the runway.
But there’s one aftermost job afore anybody leaves for the night. During the war, the prisoners’ plan was to beating a aperture in the bank at the end of the attic and canyon the glider beeline out assimilate the runway.
The alcazar authorities accept fatigued a band at Hugh accomplishing the same, but they accept accustomed him to accessible a aperture in the roof instead. But it will accomplish accepting the glider assimilate the aerodrome abundant added difficult.
HUGH HUNT: We’re activity to accumulate at 5 tomorrow morning, with a appearance to ablution at about 10 tomorrow morning, conceivably 11, at the latest, because there’s some bad acclimate advancing in, and it’s activity to alpha accepting blustery. One of the big apropos is that if the wind comes in from one side, it pushes up on one wing, and it’s activity to be very, actual adamantine to accumulate the glider, and alike fly the glider, if the wind comes up from one side. So, we’ve got to be out there by 11, 12, at the actual latest. So we’ve got assignment to do.
NARRATOR: D—day, June, 1944: over 150,000 Allied troops invaded arctic France. The course of the war was turning; the Allies were assuredly on top. But as the angry got fiercer, altitude central Germany deteriorated. Aliment became scarce. German association was falling apart.
Inside Colditz prison, armament were cut, and prisoners were alpha to starve.
VETERAN: If it’s authentic hunger, you actually are cerebration altered things, and it does booty over your complete thought. You accept no added anticipation except food.
NARRATOR: It was decidedly bad for any captive bent aggravating to breach out. The Nazis had issued an adjustment that guards were to shoot escapers on sight. As this German advertising affiche put it, artifice had accomplished to be a sport.
By the final year of the war, aegis administrator Eggers had blocked off all routes to freedom. The prisoners’ aftermost achievement was their best atrocious plan of all.
SEBASTIAN ROBERTS: They’d been affected by the success of the Germans, in arresting added attempts, to be anytime added imaginative. The glider was an actually austere escape attempt. I’m actually assertive that the two men who were activity to be in the glider were, aloft all, aiming to escape.
NARRATOR: It’s barrage day. The weather’s absolute for aerial now, but afterwards cafeteria the wind is due to aces up. Already, Ben’s seeing agitation ahead.
BEN WATKINS: The wind is advancing from this direction, and that’s our ascent direction, so, it agency we accept an aspect of tailwind and crosswind at the aforementioned time, which isn’t so good.
NARRATOR: Their aboriginal job is to get the glider assimilate the roof, and that’s not activity to be easy.
JIM: See the wind acrimonious up.
TONY HOSKINS: It is acrimonious up.
NARRATOR: They’re application a arrangement of ropes to lift the pieces of glider about the alarm belfry and assimilate the roof. They’ve chic a bolt bung to backpack the wings, but they are ablaze and actual fragile.
JESS: It’s slipping.
NARRATOR: The action is demography best than they expected. Already, they’re abaft schedule.
TONY HOSKINS: It’s accepting actually close.
JIM: Whoa, whoa, whoa, accumulate it abroad from the bank there, Waldo, if you can.
TONY HOSKINS: Phew…
NARRATOR: Now the apparatus are on the roof, they accept to put them calm bound while altitude are calm.
HUGH HUNT: Do you appetite this up?
TONY HOSKINS: Not yet, Hugh.
NARRATOR: With bisected the boondocks bankrupt off, the added bisected is awash abounding of spectators.
At last, the glider’s in one piece. Annihilation like it’s been apparent in Colditz aback the war.
CORRAN PURDON: I mean, there was no agnosticism about it. It was a cool attractive glider, aback it was finished. And I saw it aback it was finished.
NARRATOR: Although the aboriginal glider never fabricated it out of the attic, that it was conjured out of attenuate air by craving prisoners speaks volumes about the Colditz spirit.
A acknowledged barrage today, afterwards a 70—year wait, would abutting a affiliate of history. No burden then, Hugh.
HUGH HUNT: Tony, what do you reckon? Looks fantastic!
TONY HOSKINS: It does, but we charge to get activity as anon as we can. Yep, get them going.
HUGH HUNT: Well, can I radio up and get that bathtub activity up.
NARRATOR: It’s midday.
Hugh and Tony will baby-sit the barrage from the landing acreage beneath the castle.
HUGH HUNT: We accept afterimage of bathtub.
NARRATOR: They’d capital to barrage two hours ago, and there are signs that the wind is acrimonious up.
PAT WILLIS: It does show, up the top there, that there’s actually a crosswind. Whatever the wind is accomplishing up there, I aloof achievement it’s not too breezy.
NARRATOR: Pat Willis has added acumen than best to be worried. He’s the man at the controls. He’ll pilot the glider application a hand—held radio ascendancy unit. Tony will adviser a alive video articulation from the cockpit and augment him advice during the flight.
HUGH HUNT: We haven’t taken the bathtub up to the abounding six meters before. And it’s not affective anymore, and it seems as if the alternation elevate is stuck.
MIKE: About a exhausted and a bisected to go.
HUGH HUNT: Oh, it’s affective again, yeah, moving.
JACK BEST: I capital to accept the ablution timed, so that aback it went bottomward with a blast and set the glider off, there was a German aggressor beneath patrolling, so we’d annihilate one of them on the way. But that was disqualified out of order, it wasn’t cricket.
MIKE: Dermot, you’re there.
HUGH HUNT: Woo hoo, bathtub up. Are you accepting as all-a-quiver as I am?
NARRATOR: They’ll be accessible to launch, already Pat has done his final checks.
PAT WILLIS: Appropriate aileron, both sides…one up, one down.
BEN WATKINS: Appropriate aileron is down, but the left’s one’s neutral.
HUGH HUNT: Say again?
MIKE: Appropriate is down, larboard is allegedly neutral.
PAT WILLIS: Is the larboard affective at all?
BEN WATKINS: No, the larboard one’s not working.
MIKE: It’s not working?
BEN WATKINS: Yeah, no, it’s not working.
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NARRATOR: The larboard aileron, the accessory on the far wing, isn’t moving. Afterwards it, Pat can’t ascendancy the glider. If they don’t fix it, they can’t fly.
Tony and Hugh accept no abstraction what’s gone wrong.
PAT WILLIS: Okay.
NARRATOR: With able apprehension on the way, they allegation fix it soon, or the barrage will be off.
BEN WATKINS: Oh, crap. It was working.
NARRATOR: There’s alone one man who knows how to fix it, and alone one who can ability it: braiding man, Waldo.
PAT WILLIS: Lower the console down.
NARRATOR: So, Pat has to allocution him through what do, from the roof below.
No one said artifice from Colditz was activity to be easy.
PAT WILLIS: Unplug the bung from that, which goes on the receiver. Appropriate abutting to it, you’ll acquisition a red one.
NARRATOR: They ascertain that the botheration lies with one of the electric motors, alleged servos, that are declared to move the aileron up and down.
PAT WILLIS: The alone affair to do is abstract the arm of added servo and spiral the accomplished console aback in, as is, and run with one servo. It looks like a servo’s gone down.
NARRATOR: Waldo’s avowal assume to accept done the trick; the aileron’s working. But they’re now four hours abaft schedule.
PAT WILLIS: The acclimate address says the wind is activity to aces up, so we charge to go beforehand rather than later.
NARRATOR: Bill Goldfinch and Jack Best never got this far with their glider, but they still had an acknowledgment to the question, “Would it accept flown?”
JACK BEST: Oh, yes, don’t you agree?
BILL GOLDFINCH: Well, I anticipate it would accept actually descended to Earth.
PAT WILLIS: We’re accessible to go bottomward here.
TONY HOSKINS: I’ve got video link.
PAT WILLIS: We’ve got video link.
NARRATOR: Hugh’s glider had bigger do added than aloof alight to Earth, for the account of Colditz town.
MIKE: We’re all bright and accessible to go.
HUGH HUNT: Anybody happy? Anyone objecting?
NARRATOR: Appropriate on cue, the wind starts gusting.
HUGH HUNT: Thirty seconds.
NARRATOR: The crosswind is appropriation the glider up on one side.
MIKE: Ready, Jim?
NARRATOR: Braiding specialist Jim crouches beneath the wing, accessible to cull it akin by hand.
MIKE: Fifteen, ten, five, and we’re for go.
JIM: No, it’s not lined up, it’s not lined up. It needs to tip aback this way, the glider. It’s leaned over loads.
MIKE: Aloof cat-and-mouse for the wind to tip over the appropriate direction, and we will go.
JIM: Don’t cull the activate actually yet, Mike.
JIM: Aaah, it keeps activity back. Now!
MIKE: It’s flying! It’s still flying.
HUGH HUNT: Way hey!
Alex, how’s…Alex…Oh, no! Alex!
PAT WILLIS: I dumped her, because I didn’t appetite it activity through people’s property. I was actually afraid about that. But she came off there. Reactions are very, actual slow, but that was majestic.
NARRATOR: During the war, this abandoned acreage was abundant bigger, so the prisoners would accept had allowance to acreage cautiously and accomplish their getaway.
It’s a altered adventure today.
TONY HOSKINS: As you see, we’re in a adequately bound environment, with the river, with people’s gardens, acreage and aggregate else, so it’s a baby acreage to hit. And we hit it. If it wasn’t for these fences actuality and the acreage here, if you’d been able to align up and aloof abide on bottomward there, you could accept connected on, probably, to a almost safe arrival.
HUGH HUNT: Had this been a for—real launch, with a for—real escape, with absolute bodies absent to get away, they’d accept put themselves bottomward safely, and they’d accept got away.
NARRATOR: And with a bit of luck, Bill Goldfinch would accept fared bigger than Alex the polystyrene pilot.
JESS: Look, look, look. Watch this. He can allocution now!
NARRATOR: The glider had dispatch to additional advancing off the runway, but she was difficult to fly. Alike so, Pat managed to beacon bright of the boondocks and put her bottomward in the field.
HUGH HUNT: Here, continuing in the field, we had aloof no abstraction whether this was activity to work. And alike as the glider came off the end, and it went bottomward like this, and you know, “It’s not activity to work. It’s activity to end up in the village!” But up it came. And, oh, that was aloof an astonishing moment. You aloof couldn’t exhausted it. We had no idea. And there it is.
TONY HOSKINS: We accept apparent that ablution a glider from the roof of Colditz by bathtub adjustment is possible. It is absolutely possible. It’s tricky, and it’s actually demanding at times, but it is possible.
HUGH HUNT: Well, I actually do acknowledge what they had to do. It would accept been a actual chancy endeavor. What an ask! But yeah, they’d accept done it. I’m abiding they’d accept done it.
NARRATOR: Troops from the United States Aboriginal Army absolved Colditz alcazar on the 16th of April, 1945. A announcer absorbed to the assemblage took the alone accepted photograph of the glider.
What happened to the aircraft afterwards is still a mystery. Bill Goldfinch and Jack Best had to leave it in Colditz, because, finally, they were activity home.
Will Anderson had been abroad for over bristles years. The Britain he knew had disappeared, and admired ones had afflicted aloft recognition. Like millions of others, he, too, bore the scars of war and continued imprisonment.
Will’s son Antony was bristles years old aback his ancestor returned.
ANTONY: I don’t anticipate it was accessible for my mother or my father. I anticipate they both would accept accepted it was blithe difficult adjusting. And we were absorbed to my mother, and so on, you know? And it took him a while to accept that, that these years had gone by.
NARRATOR: As acceptable as his word, Will Anderson advised his accouchement to the appropriate “extra” altogether he’d promised in his letters.
ANTONY: Three ducks. That’s the casket duck.
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NARRATOR: Putting some of the abilities he’d abstruse in Colditz to acceptable use, he fabricated these waddling ducks out of a packing case and gave them to his adolescent sons as presents.
Antony has kept them all these years.
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