ESCAPE FROM COLDITZ
by Keith Burns
Housing the Allies’ most determined prisoners of war, the foreboding Colditz Castle with its thick walls, sophisticated defences, barred windows and hidden microphones was meant to be escape proof. The fortress had a thousand-year history designed to keep people out, but during the Second World War the Germans had repurposed it as Oflag IVC, the prison camp intended to keep people in, for only the most hardened, serial escapers and the highest security risk prisoners were sent there.
However, despite a reputation for detail and precision planning, the Germans had overlooked something; within the castle’s mighty walls they’d assembled the best ‘escaping brains’ in the business. If anyone could escape from the fortress prison, those now held were best placed to try. And they did.
Some used guile and impersonation, others tunnelled, some found their way through obscure cavities or used sheets as makeshift ropes to descend the unforgiving walls. Some hid under manhole covers, feigned illness or simply ‘slipped away’ from the exercise yard. A glider was built in the attic though too late to be used. Most attempts ultimately failed but over 30 men did break out of Colditz and 15 of them are known to have made successful ‘home runs’.
One of the most audacious escapes involved four British officers in the daring break-out chosen by award-wining artist Keith Burns for his atmospheric painting Escape from Colditz. On the night of 14 October 1942 Captain Pat Reid – the officer in charge of escapes – and three companions broke into the prison kitchens, forced their way out of a broken window and onto a roof. Unobserved by a patrolling sentry they traversed a floodlit courtyard to gain entry to a store, only to find the door leading to the garden beyond was locked and impenetrable. They discovered, however, a tiny vertical air vent, a shaft so narrow that the men were forced to strip off their clothes to squeeze through. One by one, pushing and pulling, all four inched their way out to find themselves on a path through the castle’s old dry moat. Reid later described the event as like ‘being squeezed through a hole in the wall like toothpaste out of a tube’. Quickly making their exit from the castle grounds the four men split up into pairs and by using forged papers and disguised as Flemish workers, they travelled south by train. Within a week all four had safely crossed the Swiss border.
Keith’s memorable painting has been faithfully reproduced as a Limited Edition print to immortalise the story of Colditz, the men held within its walls and its status as a unique place in the history of World War Two.
The Limited Edition
Each print is issued personally signed by artist Keith Burns and hand numbered.
The Collector’s Edition
Restricted to just TWENTY FIVE copies worldwide, each print is issued mounted to full conservation standards to include an original piece of the wooden floor from the Guardroom in the solitary confinement block at Colditz.
Approx. matted size: 21 ¾” wide x 18” high
Upgrade to include a Remarque or Double Remarque…
Every copy in the Collector’s Edition can be upgraded to include an original Remarque or Double Remarque by Keith in the lower margin of the print. These can be completed in either pencil or acrylic to create a completely unique piece and if you have a particular request, such as a specific escape scene or aircraft, please ask when placing your order.
- 19 x 15 inches
- Release Date:
Editions that feature original and unique artwork, such as Remarque, Tribute and matted editions, are specifically hand-crafted to order. As a result, our normal delivery policies do not apply to these items but we’ll be sure to update you as soon as your drawing is complete. If you have any particular request for your remarque drawing – such as specific aircraft markings – please ask when placing your order and we will do our best to accommodate.
Framing Service available on this item
Interested in having this item framed? Our expert team are on hand to review your bespoke requirements. Simply tick the framing box at the checkout and we’ll contact you to discuss the best framing choices for your piece plus delivery options. For further information about our framing service click here.