Episode Guide – Colditz

# Title Writer Original airdate Series No.
01 “The Undefeated” Brian Degas 19 October 1972 #1.01
Pat Grant is captured at Dunkirk, and sent along with many other British Officers to Oflag VIIC, Laufen. Together with his colleagues, both a rooftop escape and a tunnelling escape are attempted. The latter works, and Pat escapes dressed as a townswoman. After several days on the run, Pat is caught and sent to Laufen once more. Oberst Reichtleig, The Kommandant of Oflag VIIC, disgusted with Pat, sends him to the Sonderlager, Oflag IVC, Colditz.
02 “Missing, Presumed Dead” Ian Kennedy Martin 26 October 1972 #1.02
Follows the story of Flight Lt Carter. Highlights his recent marriage and the offer from his influential father in law to get him a safer posting. He chooses to fly Wellingtons and is shot down. The episode then follows his ongoing escapes till being sent to Colditz.
03 “Name, Rank, and Number” Arden Winch 2 November 1972 #1.03
Dick Player finds himself in trouble when he tries to escape from Reich Security detention and is recaptured without any prisoner ID. The Gestapo suspect he is a spy, and he must find some way to convince them that his perfect German and intimate knowledge of the countryside is the result of his German schooling before the war.
04 “Welcome to Colditz” N.J. Crisp 9 November 1972 #1.04
Phil Carrington finds himself chased down in the countryside by Reich Security, and Colonel Preston arrives at Colditz to find everything in disarray. The Colonel is initially unpopular as Senior British Officer as he cracks the whip to get everyone in line. He attempts initially to have his way with the Kommandant by lying about the rules of the Geneva Convention and entering into a gentleman’s agreement that no Poles will be allowed in the British quarters.
05 “Maximum Security” John Kruse 16 November 1972 #1.05
The new Security Officer, Hauptmann Ulmann, arrives to replace the drafted Oberleutnant Lehr. The prisoners are wary of their new opponent, who seems much more skilled than his predecessor. Ulmann is aghast at the drunkenness of the second-in-command, the Kommandant’s friend Willi, and this is a source of tension between him and the Kommandant. Suddenly, the SS arrive for a conference, much to the Kommandant’s consternation, and the Standartenführer makes a bid to take over the camp.
06 “The Spirit of Freedom” Marc Brandell 23 November 1972 #1.06
Carrington makes himself unpopular with the other prisoners by revealing his admiration for Nazi politics, which he apparently cultivated during his service as a journalist in Berlin before the war. After much harassment is directed at him, the Kommandant allows him his own separate room in which to write a book on Nazi politics. He intends to publish it in America, with Gestapo permission. Unfortunately, before it is sent off, something makes the Gestapo change their minds. In reality the officer who attracted suspicion based on his pre war journalist experience and political views was British commando Micky Burn.
07 “Lord, Didn’t It Rain” Arden Winch 30 November 1972 #1.07
Dick Player makes an escape but suffers dreadfully because of ongoing bad weather and rain and at one point is given a lift by an SS officer. He becomes sick, runs out of money, and eventually tries to get help from the American consulate who turns him down. This in reality was the circumstances of an escape by Anthony Murray ‘Peter’ Allan.
08 “The Traitor” John Brason 7 December 1972 #1.08
Several escapes that should have worked end badly, with Ulmann waiting for them in hiding spots along the way. Suspecting an informer, Colonel Preston asks the other Senior Officers to interrogate their contingents. His suggestion is met with scorn, but he proceeds to interrogate the British and the others grudgingly follow suit. The perpetrator is caught: a Polish officer whose family was threatened with torture by the Gestapo. The Poles court martial him and condemn him to death, despite the extenuating circumstances. Colonel Preston tries to get him reprieved, with the help of the Catholic Priest, but to no avail. Finally, he goes to the Kommandant (reminding him that the Germans are entirely responsible for the current situation) who sends Ulmann in a race to rescue the Polish traitor.
(This episode was drawn from the real-life events involving Lieutenant Ryszard Bednarski, a Polish army officer in Colditz who turned informer apparently after the Gestapo threatened his family. Though the court-martial did in fact take place, in reality the Polish Senior Officer requested the Colditz commandant to remove Bednarski from the camp; Bednarski survived his imprisonment, but committed suicide after the war upon meeting a fellow Colditz prisoner in Poland. The incident also inspired a subplot in The Colditz Story.)
09 “Bribery and Corruption” N.J. Crisp 14 December 1972 #1.09
The British Officers find out that one of the German guards is in need of 1,000 marks for an abortion for his mistress. They use this information and the offer of money to bribe him to look the other way as they escape out of a tunnel. Col Preston finds out about his wife’s death and is awarded the Distinguished Service Order. In reality the tunnel escape in question was attempted on the evening of 29 May 1941. Pat Reid and Rupert Barry were among the officers in the escape attempt, Paul Priem was the German Security Officer rather than Reinhold Eggers.
10 “Tweedledum” John Brason 21 December 1972 #1.10
Wing Commander Marsh (Michael Bryant), an assistant to the British Medical Officer, decides to use his extensive knowledge of mental illness for an escape. He proposes to “go insane” and be repatriated. Colonel Preston agrees to let him, so long as he follows through with it to the bitter end. Marsh does a very thorough job: his bizarre, disruptive behaviour continually annoys the other allied officers, who are mostly unaware of the scheme. However, the Germans are not convinced, and Ulmann asks a Corporal to observe Marsh closely. The Corporal has a brother who is insane, so Ulmann believes he is a better judge of Marsh’s condition than any doctor. The Kommandant initially refuses to allow the Swiss authority to examine Marsh, but relents when Marsh’s evident madness embarrasses him in front of an important visitor. By the time the Germans are willing to consider repatriation, Marsh has done such a convincing job that even the Doctor is uncertain whether or not Marsh is simply pretending to be insane. After Marsh has been successfully repatriated to the UK, Colonel Preston receives a letter from Marsh’s wife, revealing her husband’s feigned psychosis has become genuine, and that he has been committed to a mental hospital for long-term care, with little hope of recovery. Colonel Preston immediately forbids any further escape attempts along the same lines.

The method of escape is based on that used by Ion Ferguson, a Royal Army Medical Corps doctor imprisoned in Colditz, who certified a number of prisoners as insane in Stalag IV-D, who were then repatriated to Britain. Ferguson then feigned his own insanity to gain repatriation in 1945. Ferguson detailed his escape in his account of his wartime experiences, Doctor at War, and the episode, Tweedledum, is a fictionalised account of his means of escape retold as tragedy.

Michael Bryant was nominated for a Bafta for his performance in this episode.[5][6]

In a review of the series, The Guardian describes “Tweedledum” as “the standout episode, for its ingenious plan and astonishing acting”.[7]

11 “Court Martial” Marc Brandell 28 December 1972 #1.11
The unwelcome arrival of Dr. Starb, an upright Wehrmacht Major who is intent on enforcing prisoner discipline at all costs, shakes up the camp. Despite counsel to the contrary from the Kommandant, Dr. Starb insists on enforcing the old German military rule that prisoners must salute German officers. Following disrespect from Carter, he acquires a grudge for the young Flight Lieutenant, who cooks up a scheme to get himself court-martialled so that he can escape in transit. True to form, Starb court martials him and accompanied by Phil Carrington (who is desperate to escape), they head to Leipzig for the trial. While Baumann, an aged German lawyer, prepares Carter’s case, the two plot their escape. This takes place in September 1941, as they mention the Germans have reached Leningrad.
12 “Murder?” Ian Kennedy Martin 4 January 1973 #1.12
A German sentry is found dead in the parcels office one morning. The Germans insist it was suicide, in order that the Gestapo will not investigate, but Carter observed the body before it was touched, and insists it was murder. He and Colonel Preston attempt to find out who in the camp was responsible before the Gestapo discover that the death was not, indeed, suicide.
13 “The Way Out” Bryan Forbes 11 January 1973 #1.13
The story of a Scottish commando named McDonald (Prentis Hancock) who receives a “Dear John” letter from his wife saying she is pregnant by another man. As a consequence he is given a place on a French escape attempt in which he is shot and killed at the wire outside the castle wall.
14 “Gone Away Part I” John Brason 18 January 1973 #1.14
The first of a two-part season finale which follows the true story of how Pat Reid and Hank Wardle (characterised as Pat Grant & Phil Carrington) escaped from Colditz. The episode opens with a meeting of Player pressing an argument for approval of an escape plan. Player becomes emotive when his plan is rejected and states an escape is needed for morale since, “Two successful British escapes in two years is nothing to crow about”. There then follows an account of the famous ‘tea chest’ escape done in reality by Flt Lt Dominic Bruce (the ironically named “Medium Sized Man”). However, the TV series shows Carter being captured outside the castle when in fact Bruce got as far as the U Boat pens at Danzig (now Gdansk). The information gathered by Carter during the tea chest escape attempt is then used to bridge the gap in Player’s previously rejected plan. Player with Muir and Grant with Carrington are agreed as the escapees to use separate routes after escaping Colditz; Grant and Carrington via Zwickau and Munich, Player and Muir via Chemnitz and Nuremberg. The episode ends on a point of drama with Brent seeming to have bungled his role in assisting the implementation of the escape.[8]
15 “Gone Away Part II – With The Geese” John Brason 25 January 1973 #1.15
Grant, Carrington, Player and Muir escape Colditz before separating into two pairs to travel via separate routes as planned in the previous episode. Player and Muir receive no further coverage of their effort in this episode. Grant and Carrington evade detection traveling by train via Regensburg to Rottweil in Southern Germany. Grant and Carrington cross the Swiss border on foot via what in reality was the Singen route.

# Title Writer Original airdate Series No.
01 “Arrival of a Hero” N.J. Crisp 7 January 1974 #2.01
Ulmann is still seething over the “home-run” by Pat Grant and Phil Carrington, and interrogates Dick Player ceaselessly, without success. Meanwhile, the Kommandant is advised that he will have a new second-in-command, Major Horst Mohn, who arrives amidst the prisoners’ jubilation over the success of their two colleagues. Mohn informs the Kommandant that he has been sent from the Führer’s personal staff after having received both decorations for his aviation exploits and a severe wound in the stomach from a Russian bayonet. He also indicates that Hitler was informed of the successful escape attempt and insists that security be tightened up. Mohn then proceeds to antagonise the prisoners one by one, particularly Carter, whose intimate letters to Cathy he reads with great interest. Because of the friction created, the Kommandant becomes determined that Mohn should be removed from Colditz.
02 “Ghosts” John Brason 14 January 1974 #2.02
Player is interrogated by the new escape officer, Carter, who discovers that the main impediment to escapes is that the Germans are alerted to the escapes too quickly. Carter attempts to devise a strategy of covering escapes by ensuring appel counts remain the same. He does this by faking escapes, and hiding the officers concerned in a hole somewhere in the camp, to be used on appels after real escapes. The spot he chooses is the hole under the pulpit in the chapel. Unfortunately for the escape team, and for the dismayed British Padre, the Kommandant decides to close the chapel due to its use in escape attempts. This traps Player and Brent in the pulpit without provisions, and the British Medical Officer gives Carter only two days to get them out.
03 “Odd Man In” Arden Winch 21 January 1974 #2.03
The British contingent is upset at the arrival of a black sheep in their midst: Pilot Officer Lawrence Page, an antisocial Royal Air Force prisoner who does not seem to be able to get along with anyone, and behaves oddly at his first appel. He is questioned by another RAF officer, Jimmy Walker at the request of Simon Carter, and discovers inaccuracies in Page’s story, making it obvious he is not really an RAF officer. Suspected of being a German stool pigeon, he is interviewed privately by Colonel Preston and Carter, whereupon Page reveals his true identity i.e. that he is an SOE agent. Carter then has the task of confirming this with the help of his wife back in London, using coded messages in his letters to her. Carter and Preston are sworn to secrecy whilst this process is going on. Walker, who still believes that Page is a German spy becomes impatient and starts a fight with Page. Unfortunately for Walker, Page has been trained to kill and maim without hesitation, and Walker ends up with badly gouged eyes. Subsequently, Carter is able to confirm Page’s identity as an SOE agent. However, the many dangerous missions Page has experienced have left him a deeply embittered and damaged person who simply wishes to be left alone. Page’s dilemma is that he is in a no-win situation i.e. if he is unmasked by the Germans in Colditz then he will definitely be shot as a spy, whereas if he escapes he will be obliged to resume his SOE activities – with a high risk of being captured, tortured by the Gestapo and then executed. As a result, Page wishes to spend the rest of the war in Colditz disguised as a POW. This is because (ironically) being a prisoner is the only way he can escape.
04 “The Guests” Troy Kennedy-Martin 28 January 1974 #2.04
A Hauptsturmführer of the SD arrives at the Colditz town jail with three British commandos. He intends to keep this fact a secret, but it leaks both to Colonel Preston and the Kommandant. Preston, aware of Hitler’s order that all commandos are to be shot, pressures the Kommandant to take the commandos under his jurisdiction. He tries, but the SD overrules him. In an unusual bout of helpfulness, Mohn suggests to the Kommandant that he could use his high connections to have the commandos transferred to the castle. This is done, but Mohn has ulterior motives. He predicts correctly that the British contingent would attempt to help the commandos escape, and use their best escape plan, the one used by Pat Grant and Phil Carrington to make their home run. Ulmann, anxious to rectify his embarrassment, goes along with Mohn’s plan to trap the prisoners while the Kommandant is away.
05 “Frogs in the Well” Thom Keyes 4 February 1974 #2.05
The British discover a hopeful escape route through the boarded up camp theatre. Despite protest from Mohn, the Kommandant relents to Colonel Preston’s request to have the theatre, which was used for an escape the previous year, reopened. Ulmann is enthusiastic about the idea, hoping to catch the prisoners in the act of plotting to escape. While the prisoners manage to get around Ulmann’s heightened security measures, they encounter an unforeseen problem when the French have the same idea of using the safe route out of the theatre.
06 “Ace in the Hole” David Ambrose 11 February 1974 #2.06
Carter’s hopes are raised by the arrival of Squadron Leader Tony Shaw, a decorated RAF hero. Ulmann is convinced that the celebrity prisoner will be trouble. However, Shaw appears far more interested in pursuing his pre-war role as a professor of literature, quickly rejuvenating the British officer’s education classes – much to the joy of the pacificist-leaning librarian. Disappointed, Carter tries to shame Shaw into taking more of a part in the escape plans, but to no avail. But when Shaw discovers a closed off room in the attic adjacent to the library and conceives of the audacious plan to build and fly a glider out of the roof of the castle, Shaw snaps into action with the full backing of the SBO. The librarian is dismayed to find his classes used as mere cover for the escapers’ activities – relegated again.
07 “French Leave” Ken Hughes 18 February 1974 #2.07
Irritated at having to receive their news from the French, who have not only one, but two wireless units, Carter is asked to request one of them for the British. The request is refused by the stereotypically romantic and womanising Captain André Vaillant. He expresses frustration about being kept as a prisoner of war despite the fact that France is no longer at war with Germany. He is ironically forced to eat his words when Mohn triumphantly announces to the French contingent that, since they are no longer prisoners of war, they are being moved to a labour camp in Poland. Meanwhile, the pastor of Colditz town makes a request to the Kommandant for the prisoners’ choir to sing at the town church during the Bishop of Leipzig’s visit. The Kommandant reluctantly agrees. As the rest of the French contingent resign themselves to their fate, Vaillant takes this unique opportunity to concoct an escape with the help of a sympathetic and beautiful young German girl, whom he seduces.
08 “The Gambler” N.J. Crisp 25 February 1974 #2.08
This episode sees the arrival of Flt Lt Jack Collins. He is a con man and gambler that cheats. He uses his card skills to pull Captain George Brent into betting everything including his house and losing it. He also plays cards with a German guard and manages to take him for enough that the guard is forced to help Collins get a metal ID tag for civilian workers in the castle.
Collins wants no help from the rest of the British Officers and seeks his own escape methods. He feels that if he can get out he will make it based on his pre-war knowledge of Germany, fluent German and the fact that some his former clients in Germany were Jews that were hiding that fact.
09 “Senior American Officer” Ivan Moffat 4 March 1974 #2.09
The lone American Officer in the camp gets a thrill when three other Americans arrive in the camp. One of them turns out to be Phil Carrington, now promoted to Major and sporting a bushy beard. The senior is Colonel Dodd. The third is a Captain. These three are taken to solitary confinement and, at Mohn’s urging, given preferential treatment to arouse the suspicions of the British. It is gradually revealed that the Gestapo have an interest in these three, who failed to reveal their connections to the Hungarian resistance movement under interrogation. To allay suspicions, Colonel Preston has Colonel Dodd explain more or less what the three Americans were doing in Hungary, and it turns out that they were, indeed, involved with trying to make contact with the Hungarian free government. Preston and Carrington realise, as the story is being told, that they are under surveillance, and devise a plan to flush out the eavesdropper.
10 “Very Important Person” Ivan Moffat 11 March 1974 #2.10
The Prominente, or famous prisoners, of the camp are to be at last used in their capacity as hostages for Hitler and his entourage who are trapped in the encirclement of Berlin. To accommodate this requirement, and to ensure there is no more trouble with escaping prisoners, Obergruppenführer Gottlob Berger of the Waffen-SS is put in charge of all prisoners of war. He pays an unannounced visit to the Kommandant to explain the new situation and demand that the Prominente be moved out of Colditz the next morning. The Kommandant, fearing for his life and the lives of the other prisoners, requests that Colonel Preston and Major Carrington do their best to quell the upset this will cause. The situation is further complicated when they discover that their colleague is the son of an American ambassador and thus classified as Prominente. The bedridden Colonel Dodd agrees to the plan of two British officers to help the ambassador’s son escape.
11 “Chameleon” Robert Muller 18 March 1974 #2.11
Major Mohn is left in charge of the camp as the Kommandant is called away to yet another meeting. He is unsympathetic to Colonel Preston’s requests for more rations or the ability to keep animals for sustenance. On a visit to a pub in the town, he meets with a woman named Ana, apparently an old friend. She shows him her brother, recently arrived from the front through Dresden. The brother warns Mohn that he could meet a sticky end because of his involvement with the party (which is apparently deep, since he served on Hitler’s staff and reveals he knows about the Final Solution). While initially defiant, Mohn sees the writing on the wall and panics, returning to the camp and making cringeworthy attempts to endear himself to the prisoners. He simultaneously burns every bridge by blackmailing both Ulmann and the Kommandant, and the latter relieves him of all duty. When his last lifeline, Ana, rejects his plea for help since she is being watched, he makes his last bid for freedom prisoner-style.
12 “Death Sentence” N.J. Crisp 25 March 1974 #2.12
Mohn’s legacy lives on in Colditz in the form of the death sentence hanging over Carrington’s head for having threatened Mohn’s life in “Very Important Person.” Colonel Dodd and Colonel Preston refuse to cooperate with the Kommandant until he is reprieved. Meanwhile, the Kommandant gives an open invitation to his officers to bring their wives and families into the safety of the castle as the American tanks approach. His wife joins him, but Ulmann’s is unable. Obergruppenführer Berger takes military control of Colditz’s region, making escapes a very dangerous proposition with the countryside full of SS troops. Nevertheless, Squadron Leader Tony Shaw, the maker of the Colditz glider is determined to see it fly, and opts to fly Carrington out before he is executed. Terrible news causes the Kommandant to gain a new perspective on his situation, and new courage.
13 “Liberation” Ivan Moffat 1 April 1974 #2.13
The most dangerous time for the prisoners begins, as they await the order from the Nazi government that they are to be shot. Fortunately, the Kommandant comes to Colonel Preston with a plea for a guarantee that he and his men will be delivered to the American liberation forces, and saved from the Russians. Colonel Preston and Colonel Dodd agree on condition that command of the camp is immediately relinquished to them. The Kommandant reluctantly complies, and Colonel Preston takes command of the camp. With roles reversed, the SBO coordinates the smooth delivery of Colditz and its German guard into Allied hands.