If there is one thing we can all agree on, it’s that humans are incredible. When put in intense situations, we often do things that defy the imagination. The Colditz Castle glider is no exception. In fact, I’d say it’s a prime example of just what humans are capable of.
During World War II, a group of British officers were taken prisoner and kept at Colditz Castle in Germany. The castle itself had 6 foot thick concrete walls and was built on volcanic rock which made digging escape tunnels nearly impossible. Many of the prisoners did make attempts to escape, with some reports saying as many as 186 attempts to escape were made.
After one attempt, at least 50 prisoners were executed in what can be assumed was a show of force to serve as a deterrent for future escape attempts. Despite the vicious treatment and the unsuccessful attempts, several of the officers created a plan to create an impressive escape attempt.
While most of the Germans were focused on looking for escape tunnels in the ground beneath the castle, several of the prisoners created a secret room in the attic above the chapel in the castle. They created a false wall, set up a system of lookouts with other prisoners and even used electrical wiring from other parts of the castle to create an alarm to alert them of anyone approaching.
Inside the secret room, the men worked hard to create a glider that they planned to use to escape. It’s incredible to think that using little more than bedposts, floorboards, sheets and porridge these men created an aircraft, but that is exactly what they did.
Reports say between 14-16 men directly worked on building the glider while another 40 prisoners keep watch for German guards. The men stole the materials from around the castle to create the glider, even going so far as to save up their rations of porridge to create a paste that would harden on the sheets to create some of the structure for the glider.
To say this took dedication is an understatement for sure. With little else to do while imprisoned, the men found a way to not only pass time, but make a viable plan for escape. Reports indicate the plan would hold 2 men so it isn’t clear who of the 56+ men who worked on the plan or stood guard would have used it to escape, but the castle prison was liberated by the U.S. troops before any attempt to use the glider was made.
In recent years a replica was made and tested to see if the prisoners would have actually been able to escape had they gotten the opportunity. The test glider actually flew! Several of the prisoners were present at the modern-day glider test and saw with their own eyes that their creation, in a secret room in the attic of the castle prison, would have allowed them to escape. Well at least a couple of them.
It’s impressive to think these men were able to create a hidden workshop in the attic of the castle and avoid being found out. But it’s even more unbelievable that they built an entire glider within that secret room! We haven’t built any secret rooms that are big enough to construct an entire two man aircraft, but we wouldn’t turn down the opportunity if it was presented to us!