In this episode we’re looking at high ranking British POWs held by the Italians and their attempts at escape. The middle east was considered an Italian theatre, rather than prisoners be shipped to Germany high ranking officers such as Generals Richard O’Connor, Phillip Neame, Adrian Carton de Wiart or Air Marshal Owen Boyd were placed into Italian custody as POWs. Neither rank or age deterred their determination to escape
It’s arguably a story to rival that of the Great Escape or Colditz.
Vincigliata Castle, a menacing medieval fortress set in the beautiful Tuscan hills, has become a very special prisoner of war camp on Benito Mussolini’s personal order. Within are some of the most senior officers of the Allied army, guarded by almost two hundred Italian soldiers and a vicious fasciscist commando who answers directly to “Il Duce” Mussolini himself. Their unbelievable escape, told by Mark Felton in Castle of the Eagles, is a little-known marvel of World War II.
By March 1943, the plan is ready: this extraordinary assemblage of middle-aged POWs has crafted civilian clothes, forged identity papers, gathered rations, and even constructed dummies to place in their beds, all in preparation for the moment they step into the tunnel they have been digging for six months.
How they got to this point and what happens after is a story that reads like fiction, supported by an eccentric cast of characters, but is nonetheless true to its core.
Joining me is Dr Mark Felton.
Mark is the author of numerous military history books one of which is Castle of Eagles: Escape from Mussolini’s Colditz, which was recommended to me by a listener. What a great book it is, its not surprising that currently it’s been optioned for a feature film, with the script been worked upon now.