From Calais to Colditz, a Rifleman’s Memoir of Captivity & Escape

A story that lay dormant for thirty years and adds to established military history. The British once again forced into a war they had not prepared for adequately. – Very Highly Recommended

NAME: From Calais to Colditz, a Rifleman's Memoir of Captivity & Escape
FILE: R2868
AUTHOR: Philip Pardoe
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: hard back 
PAGES: 174
PRICE: £19.99
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: Battle of France, Calais, POW, POW camps, King's Royal Rifle Corps, 
Battle of Calais, Dunkirk, Operation Dynamo, rear guard,  Colditz Castle, POW 
escapes, camp life, escape technology

ISBN: 1-47387-539-0

IMAGE: B2868.jpg
DESCRIPTION: A story that lay dormant for thirty years and adds to established 
military history. The British once again forced into a war they had not prepared 
for adequately. –   Very Highly Recommended

Once again, a book from a publisher who excels in publishing well-researched and 
written books about parts of important military history that has been seriously 
neglected by others. In this case, the author wrote his memoirs and they lay there 
unpublished as many do. The reason is often that the authors are modest and wrote 
primarily to set events in their own minds and to help their families to understand 
what it was all about. Happily, 30 years after the author's death these memoirs are 
now in print and a delight to read.

The British have long been nervous about maintaining standing armies. A concern 
that dates back to Magna Carta. In 1939, Hitler pushed Britain and France too far 
with his invasion of Poland. The appeasers could delay no longer, but both countries 
were ill-prepared for a major war after years of spending the 'peace dividend'. Once 
more, Britain took for granted that its military would rise to the challenges, far beyond 
any expectations. Within the constraints upon them, the military did achieve the 

The author was part of a rear guard that has received very little recognition even though 
it played a critical part in the safe evacuation of more than 300,000 of their French and 
British comrades. The Battle of Calais should be recognized as a key element of 
Operation Dynamo and the Dunkirk Evacuation. It was necessary because the French 
had failed to hold up their end of the bargain in building the complete Maginot Line 
and providing the mobile reserves that were part of that line.

When the Maginot Line was constructed it was intended as a deterrent to future 
German aggression. It was a symbol and a statement of intent that any future German 
invasion attempt would be blocked and catastrophically destroyed. Unfortunately it 
became a hollow statement. Unlike a long trench line from the Channel coast to 
Switzerland, with rear trenches and artillery positions, as the Western Front had 
become by 1918, the Maginot line was a series of forts and gun batteries with 
interlinking tunnels, underground railways and barracks, kitchens and hospitals. It 
required a strong force to be held in reserve, ready to rush to any centre of enemy 
attack. That reserve never really existed and the line was very sparse from the 
Belgian border to the coast to avoid frightening the Belgians into thinking they 
would be sacrificed in any future war.

When the BEF was sent to France, it was inadequate in resources and numbers. It 
was assigned to the part of the front where traditionally the Germans would focus 
their main assault. As was demonstrated by British tanks at Arras, the British 
armour was more than a match for German armour when it was concentrated and 
supported by mechanised infantry and close support aircraft. Unfortunately, the 
infantry were still largely dependent on their own feet and the ground attack aircraft 
were obsolescent and grossly inadequate, even though the inadequately supported 
British Army gave the Germans a fright and came close to a major victory.

As the German blitz krieg unfolded, the 21st Panzers rushed forward and curved round 
to Calais, ready to strike up the coast and encircle the British and French troops 
before squeezing them. Naturally the French would rather forget the detail of the 
Battle of France and the British would wish to remember the heroic evacuation of 
British and French troops off the open beaches of Dunkirk, the crucial actions were 
those at Calais, Arras and the Anglo-French rearguard that held the Germans back 
long enough for the evacuation. As with the author's unit, they were told to fight to 
the last man and the last round which they determined to do. There are many tales of 
great heroism still to be told about that rearguard. Sadly, many of these will now 
never be told unless someone rediscovers long completed memoirs.

The author tells the story very well in a very readable dialogue. He also tells of his 
surrender, his life in POW camps, his attempts to escape, and the German recognition 
of his determination by moving him to the 'escape-proof' Colditz Castle. This is a 
gripping account and we are indebted to Harry Pardoe for his part in bringing his 
father's memoirs to a publisher with the skill and interest to publish them, together 
with some very interesting illustration. Lets hope more descendants follow Harry's 
example, there are so many worthy tales still to be told by those who were there.