South African Military History Society


Past meeting:- Johannesburg

On the 10th July,1980,Mr.Peter Tunstall presented his lecture entitled "Road to Colditz" to approximately 45 members and guests.

Mr. Tunstall happens to be an actor by profession which meant that his presentation was truely a lecture with a difference.

He joined the R.A.F. in 1937 and as part of their preparation for war, the pilots were given a lecture on what to expect if they should become P.0.W.s. The lecturer started off the talk by saying - "Most of you will probably be killed, but some of you will be POWs, and to them this talk is addressed ". This talk enabled him to establish a code with his fiancee which proved very useful later on. While on a bombing mission near Leipzig, Peter's plane was shot down and he became a prisoner of war. From this time until he was freed by the Americans, he was court-martialled 5 times and spent 415 days in solitary confinement.

Peter's "Road to Colditz" passed through many different POW camps,from all of which he escaped only to be recaptured later. He sketched for us a few of these escapes and it really was amazing to hear how the prisoners managed to improvise or to acquire the different items they needed to escape. Besides the items they needed to exit the camp, they required disguises, papers and knowledge about the transport system in their particular part of the country. (In 2 of Peter's escapes he tried to steal an aeroplane from the local Luftwaffe airfield).

Among highlights were his description of the prisoners feeding razor blades hidden in potatoes to the boars ("Gustav and his wives") which lived in the moat surrounding the camp; how he taunted a guard who knew he was smoking in solitary confinement, and then laid a trap for the guard by heating a cigarette tin which the guard found, pounced on and badly burnt himself; how a few prisoners dressed up as German guards attempted to "escort" a work party of prisoners out of the camp using a forged pass, to be discovered as the signature they used was of the commander who had gone on compassionate leave the day before, and this ended up with the work party prisoners being chased back into the camp by the "fake" guards who were being chased by the real guards.

Peter was eventually transferred to the high security prison at Colditz where, as he put it, all the expert escapers of all the Ally nations were gathered and where the guards outnumbered the prisoners in their efforts to stop escapes. In Colditz the attempts to escape were generally more daring and sophisticated due to the high security, culminating in the building of a 2-man glider which was never used as they were released before it was completed.

Peter described the manner in which each nationality prepared for the day of release, and the words of the lone G.T. who opened the doors which were - "Ah, quit maulin me, will yah".

Two special guests at the talk were Mr. Jim Rogers, who had been in Colditz with Peter and who had not seen him since, and the sister of Pat Reid, the author of various books on Colditz. Mr Tunstall also displayed an album with various momentos of his POW days.

Mr. Fred Wright thanked Mr. Tunstall on the Society's behalf.

* * *

Future Meetings - Johannesburg

Thurs 14th Aug 20h00 Maj. D.P.Tidy "The Museum's Aircraft"

This lecture will be held in the library and will cover the individual and type history of the 10 aircraft owned by the Museum, as well as the Lancaster and Halifax bombers. The talk will be illustrated by slides and films.

Thurs 4th Sept 20h00 Cmdt C.M.Bakkes "Die Stryd aan die Grens deur die oë van die Gewone Manskap".


Future meetings - Durban

14th Aug 20h00 Mr T Eloff "Orders,medals, and decorations".

11th Sept 20h00 Maj D Hall "Long Tom".

* * *


Please note that the June issue of the Journal is not yet available due to a change in the printers.

* * *

Durban Branch save Fort Cross

Ken Gillings reports that on a recent Zulu War forts tour undertaken by the Durban Branch, they fortuitously discovered that the Kwa-Zulu Roads Dept. had started a quarry just below the site of the fort, which had already undermined the north eastern rampart. A hasty call to George Chadwick resulted in the halting of the quarrying and the saving of Fort Cross.

Well done Durban Branch! That's all ... Mike Marsh

* NOTE* Fast mirror and backup site      BOOKMARK FOR REFERENCE     Main site * NOTE*

South African Military History Society /