On This Day: 5th Jan 1942. Airey Neave becomes the first Officer to escape Oflag IV-C, Colditz Castle, Germany

Neave went to Eton and on to study law at Oxford, he also joined the Territorial Army and became an officer in the regular army at the beginning of World War II. He was wounded and captured by the Germans in May 1940 and imprisoned near Spangenberg before being moved to Stalag XXa near Torn in Poland in 1941. In April that year he escaped but was re-captured while trying to enter Soviet-controlled Poland and sent to Colditz Castle. Neave made an early attempt to escape from Colditz but his unlikely German uniform disguise led to him being captured while still within the castle. He tried again in January 1942 with a better uniform and got out of the prison and by train and on foot they made it to Switzerland eventually returning to England through France, Spain and Gibraltar. He was the first British officer to make it back from Colditz and was later recruited as an intelligence agent for MI9 and served with the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. Neave became an MP in 1951 and carried on despite a heart attack in 1959 and in the 1970s became head of Margaret's (QV) private office then shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Sadly he was murdered by a mercury-tilt based fenian car bomb that exploded under his car as he drove out of the Palace of Westminster car park a few weeks before the election as he was poised to attain the equivalent Cabinet position. His wife Diana was subsequently elevated to the House of Lords as Baroness Airey of Abingdon.

Colditz Castle
Colditz Castle

 

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