First Stop: Laufen!

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  • Famous Carlow people

Practice for Colditz

Pat was first captured by the Germans in late May 1940. Ten days later, on 5 June, he was one of 200 men taken to Laufen, which could accomadate 1,500 men.

Pat shared this account of his welcome to Laufen:

"For the first time we were searched idividually and thoroughly. Our heads were shaven under riotous protest and we were each given a small aluminium disc with a number on it. Capt. Reid was Number 257. Our photos were taken and we were let loose in a small compound as fully recognised prisoners-of-war."

Within a week of his, arrival, Pat was planning an escape. At the time, he revealed his motivation to a friend called Rupert Barry : "I have a date for Christmas which I don't want to miss."

So the two men decided on digging a tunnel from the prison basement. With the help of six other prisoners, seven weeks and 24 feet later they reached the other side: a small shed adjoined to a private house!

Destination Yugoslavia!

The six escapees, all disguised as women, made their getaway at 6:30 a.m. on 5 September. Their destination was Yugoslavia, 150 miles away across the mountains of the Austrian Tyrol.

However, this time luck deserted the runaways and Pat's group was captured in the small Austrian village of Radstadt, five days after breaking free.

Back at Laufen, Pat spent a month in solitary confinement. He was given only bread and water and had to sleep on a bed of boards.

If this punishment was designed as a deterrent, it didn't work! Rather, it seemed to strenghten the resove of Pat to break free to get home sooner rather than later.