and Gill into Gephard's office, he then re-locked the door and went back to bed. Reid and Gill very carefully removed enough floorboards to expose the storeroom ceiling. They then began to scrape away the mortar that covered it.
They worked until almost dawn, then the floorboards had to be replaced. The same nails and nail holes had to be used, so that everything would look undisturbed. Even the gaps between the boards were filled from a bag of dust they carried.
Reid and Gill managed to slip back into their own rooms just before morning roll call. It took them several nights to get the storeroom ceiling ready to invade. When the escape was ready to begin, everything had to pass through this hole in the storeroom ceiling. Then it was covered up again, in the hope that it could be used again.
Colditz Castle looked like it belongs in a fairy book, one would expect to see Frankenstein or Count Dracula emerge at any moment. It was constructed way back in 1014 AD, which was 478 years before Columbus discovered America. The castle had high granite walls, steep tile roofs, ancient towers, and barred windows. The buildings alone were ninety feet tall and the towers were of different heights. It had at least 700 rooms. The large outer courtyard was known as the Kommandantur. Here was housed a garrison of 200 German soldiers. The castle contained only two exits, one led out across a moat into the little town of Colditz and the other into the woods on the east. On the north side stood the chapel, and on the south side stood the clock tower. The north, east and west sides of the castle stood on the edge of a steep cliff. An eight foot chain link fence with barbed wire surrounded all three sides, while the south side sported a large deep and wide water filled moat. There was a ten foot high granite wall on both sides of the moat. German prison guards with machine guns and guard dogs were posted on all four sides, both day and night. Certainly no one was expected to just walk out through the main gate to freedom.
When the security guards had roll call that morning, they were flabbergasted, for ten POW officers were missing!
Four other officers had been taken out before the ceiling hole was repaired. They were hidden in one of the high attics so they could escape later.
Bill Lawton teamed up with Ted Beets, but they did not stay free very long. They were recaptured the very same evening, not too far from the castle. Herman Donkers and Hank Wardle were the second team, and they did not have much better luck, as the very next day they were recaptured while waiting for a train.
The third team, Damiaan Van Doorninck and Bill Fowler went all the way. They traveled over 400 miles across Germany in just six days. They were dressed as civilians, Van Doorninck was posing as a German architecture student, and Fowler as a Belgian forced laborer. Fowler could not speak any German but Van Doorninck was very fluent in that language. And guess what? Most of their journey was accomplished riding on German trains. Their fake passports and identification papers were scrutinized repeatedly by German Gestapo agents but they were flawless.
So finally Damiaan Van Doorninck and Bill Fowler slipped across the German border into Switzerland and sweet, sweet Freedom!