Capt Kenneth Lockwood

Wartime Colditz prisoner involved in several daring escape attempts
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The Independent Online

Kenneth Lockwood, stockbroker and wartime soldier: born London 17 December 1911; MBE 2000; died 8 October 2007.

Kenneth Lockwood personified the spirit of those incarcerated as prisoners of the Germans during the Second World War in Colditz Castle. He never gave in, he retained his humour and at every opportunity he tried either to escape or to help others to do so. In the castle, he was known as "The Ear", for that is what he was to the charismatic Pat Reid, chairman of the escape committee.

Lockwood, an officer with the Queen's Royal Regiment, was captured in May 1940, after fighting a rearguard action on the retreat to Dunkirk, and was sent first to Laufen Castle, near the Austrian border, where he soon teamed up with Reid and four others. Equipped with only a couple of nails and sharp flints, the six took it in turns to dig a tunnel. After three weeks, Reid emerged, disguised as a woman, accompanied by two other ill-dressed men.

Lockwood, delighted with their success, followed the next night, also dressed as a woman. "We realised that, if we managed to escape, it would be unwise for six young men to be wandering around the countryside, so two of us escaped from the camp cellar wearing prison blankets as skirts," he said. Much to his chagrin, the biscuits he had employed to bolster his bosom crumbled as he crawled along the narrow tunnel.

It was an imaginative but ill-planned strategy, for none of the escapees had any papers or more than a few words of German. Reid's trio was quickly spotted but Lockwood's men stole bicycles and later boarded a train which, alas, was going in the wrong direction. On their return, they were caught near Innsbruck.

Initially threatened with execution for stealing the bicycles and for cutting up a blanket belonging to the Third Reich to make their escape suits, they were lucky only to get a week in solitary confinement. All six, known from then on as the "Laufen Six", were transferred to the bleak medieval Colditz Castle in Saxony. Here, amid the gloom, the six were greeted by three Canadians and over 100 Poles who had been held there since September 1939.

Lockwood's earlier training had been as a stockbroker and he became the book-keeper for the canteen. He managed to ingratiate himself in the eyes of the guards by supplying them with Red Cross cigarettes in return for vital Reichsmarks which were to be carried later by all escapees.

A daring escape plan was hatched. It had been discovered that a man could crawl through one of the canteen drain covers to what seemed to be the outer wall. The prisoners carefully removed the bricks, only to find that it was an inner wall overlooking a lawn. Undeterred, they then dug a vertical shaft. Lockwood at last sensed freedom and, this time better dressed and with skilfully produced papers and money, made his way along the tunnel with a number of others.

But when they reached the exit spot, they found German guards waiting. They had been betrayed by a guard whom they had bribed to look the other way. "As we all charged back into the canteen, more guards were waiting there," Lockwood recalled. "All we could do was laugh, which really annoyed the Germans, so we laughed even more."

As the escape route had begun in the canteen, Lockwood was immediately interrogated as to how anyone could have got into the locked area. In a calm and dignified way, he explained to the baffled officer that he and his colleagues had, like Alice in Alice in Wonderland, eaten something to make them smaller.

After a spell in solitary confinement, the ever-imaginative Lockwood helped organise a number of escape plans, including that of Reid and three others who on 14 October 1942 slipped through the kitchen into the yard below, then audaciously into the Kommandant's cellar and then down a dry moat to the park. It took them four days to reach Switzerland. Earlier that year, the camp had celebrated the escape of Airey Neave, the future Cabinet minister, through a hole in the camp theatre, dressed as a German officer.

After Colditz was liberated by the Americans in 1945, Lockwood returned to his work as a stockbroker in London. When the Colditz Association was formed by former prisoners, he was asked to be its secretary. Until his death, Lockwood maintained contact with many of the inmates and over the years returned to Colditz on numerous occasions – "When we were prisoners we never really got the chance to look at the place from the outside," he said. He also advised television productions, many of whom had a misguided view of what had really happened in Colditz.

Max Arthur

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