Colditz: Prisoners of the Castle by Ben Macintyre

Colditz: Prisoners of the Castle by Ben Macintyre



In a forbidding Gothic castle on a hilltop in the heart of Nazi Germany, an unlikely band of British officers spent the Second World War plotting daring escapes from their German captors. Or so the story of Colditz has gone, unchallenged for 70 years. But that tale contains only part of the truth.

The astonishing inside story, revealed for the first time in this new book by bestselling historian Ben Macintyre, is a tale of the indomitable human spirit, but also one of snobbery, class conflict, homosexuality, bullying, espionage, boredom, insanity and farce. With access to an astonishing range of material, Macintyre reveals a remarkable cast of characters of multiple nationalities hitherto hidden from history, with captors and prisoners living for years cheek-by-jowl in a thrilling game of cat and mouse.

From the elitist members of the Colditz Bullingdon Club to America’s oldest paratrooper and least successful secret agent, the soldier-prisoners of Colditz were courageous and resilient as well as vulnerable and fearful — and astonishingly imaginative in their desperate escape attempts. Deeply researched and full of incredible human stories, this is the definitive book on Colditz.

My Review:

Just mentioning the name Colditz Castle and many will undoubtedly recall the 1955 film starring John Mills and Eric Portman, but what really is the true story of the famous castle that housed WWII Prisoners of War. Colditz: Prisoners of the Castle (Viking Books) by Ben Macintyre is out now and really gets behind the story and some of POW’s who were held at the castle.

Colditz Castle or Schloss Colditz is situated near Leipzig, Dresden, which is part of the State of Saxony in Germany. It was at the start of WWII that the famous castle was transformed into a Prisoners of War camp and in November 1940 the first British soldiers would arrive. What Ben Macintyre does is an incredible job in research and getting behind the story of the prisoners and their captors of the castle and many would become well known for their stories of escaping from the castle fortress or the many attempts and the tunnels that would be dug right under the noses of the German guards. Many of the stories contained within the book I have never known before, and it tells the real story of life within the walls of the castle and some of the stories are quite sad not just the stories we all read about in years gone by.

We all know of the many escape stories and how the planned meticulously each escape plan, but for many of those held at the castle it has become clear the psychological effect it would have on those. For some desperation to escape would be too much. Many would escape but would be captured only to be march across the bridge and through the gates and back into Colditz, but the stories of those who escaped and made it back home are the stuff of legend.

Some of the prisoners would be classified as real high value POW’s and would be held away from the main prisoners these would be related to high-ranking officials, and they would so the story goes could become bargaining tools as the war came to an end with the Americans advancing on the town of Colditz and the bridge that led to the castle. Some of the incredible stories of how M19 came up with many ways of smuggling items into the camp to help those being held. It was 16 April 1945 after two days of fighting that the castle was liberated by US troops. What took place in the castle in the lead up to this makes for fascinating reading.

When you any book by Ben Macintyre, you know you are reading not just an historical book that is so well researched but books that really read like a gripping novel.

384 Pages.

Colditz: Prisoners of the Castle by Ben MacIntyre Published by Viking Books UK on and is now available in hardback through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through that supports your local independent bookshop. UK

The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell

The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell


The Marriage Portrait is a dazzling evocation of the Italian Renaissance in all its beauty and brutality.

Winter, 1561. Lucrezia, Duchess of Ferrara, is taken on an unexpected visit to a country villa by her husband, Alfonso. As they sit down to dinner it occurs to Lucrezia that Alfonso has a sinister purpose in bringing her here. He intends to kill her.

Lucrezia is sixteen years old, and has led a sheltered life locked away inside Florence’s grandest palazzo. Here, in this remote villa, she is entirely at the mercy of her increasingly erratic husband.

What is Lucrezia to do with this sudden knowledge? What chance does she have against Alfonso, ruler of a province, and a trained soldier? How can she ensure her survival.

The Marriage Portrait is an unforgettable reimagining of the life of a young woman whose proximity to power places her in mortal danger.

My Review:

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell was my book of the year for 2020 and now recently out in hardback is the new book from a writer I admire greatly. The Marriage Portrait (Tinder Press) is just as unforgettable and will undoubtedly be in the running for my book of the year.

The Marriage Portrait is set during the Italian Renaissance. The year is 1561 and it is the reimagining of the story of a young woman, 16-year-old Lucrezia, Duchess of Ferrara. Lucrezia is now forced into a marriage to a man she has not met. It was to be her older sister Maria who was to have wed Alfonso d’Este the soon to be Duke of Ferrara but after her sister died Lucrezia was to take her place. Lucrezia though a bit more outgoing than her sister and had little interests in dressing up and much preferred being in nature and so marriage was a shock to her. It was her father Cosimo, the Grand Duke of Tuscany who only wanted the very best marriages for his daughters and so it was that Lucrezia was to become the wife of Alfonso.

Very soon after the wedding Lucrezia is whisked away to a country villa or so it seems and something unusual in the fact there is none of the usual entourage that would accompany Alfonso let alone anyone to attend to Lucrezia. Something sinister is happening within the walls of villa. Alfonso is not the loving husband they believed he would be but more controlling and it soon apparent to the young Lucrezia that court life is constrained and not the life she once knew. But worse much worse is to follow. She is now at the mercy of Alfonso. She is there for one reason to make sure there is an heir to Alfonso’s dynasty. This has not happened and now lives in fear of her ever-increasing erratic husband.

I am not going to give anything away as that will spoil the book for anyone who is yet to read The Marriage Portrait but all I will say is that this is just another outstanding book by Maggie O’Farrell. A book you can easily loose a weekend to and never have any regrets. It is evocative and compelling and so beautifully written. For an historical piece of writing Maggie O’Farrell has yet again raised the bar so high you must wonder how she can follow this.

448 Pages.

The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell Published by Tinder Press on 30 August 2022 and is now in hardback and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through that supports your local independent bookshop. UK