Peter Stanley

Commando to Colditz


Colditz is in a small East German town that is situated in Saxony – a state that has the Colditz Castle in it. It has been in this location since the Middle Ages. It has served as a mental institution as well as a workhouse. Well, it could just be like any other mental institution until during the Second World War when it became popular for its usage as the Prisoner of War Camp that houses the high profiled Allied officials that have either been discovered to be hardened ones or those that have frequently escaped from other camps.

As a result of the rigidity it is built for, it now appears in books, films and works of fiction. What keeps people wondering is the question of what the secret of this notorious Nazi Camp is and the second wonder is what made it so popular. 

This book is no doubt, a unique War story that is centred around a novelist, poet and soldier – Micky. This man’s experience twist –  from being a fascist to becoming the Commander of the Six Troops to turning a Commando before turning a Prisoner where he was as well, a communist lecturer in Colditz prison famous for its notoriety – is what this powerful narrative’s focal point is edged from.

During the Second World War in 1942, a commando troop composed of 28 men was led by Micky on an ultimately daring raid. This assault was on St Nazaire – a French Port. The result of this was the death of 14 of Micky’s men and the capture of 7; including Micky Burn himself. The heart of the story dwelled on the bond Micky had established with his soldiers. 

Before they went on the raid, Micky had asked his parents to scribe to the families of his men; should the worst happen to them. The effect of this was a rich and mobile letter archive between the anxious and grieving families. The letters portrayed the intense bond that could exist between closely knit British soldiers (alive and dead) and those whose love for them was limitless. The raid United the grieving families more than ever. 

The letters told more than just experiences of being captured in a notoriously cold prison camp. Peter Stanley’s book concentrates on the years of war when respect and mutual love made Micky urge his parents to maintain contact with the men on his raid team that were either captured or killed. This chain of networks worked through letters and it eventually paid off.

Rather than using the experience of just one man to expatriate on life in and outside of Colditz, Peter Stanley rather employed the use of Micky’s poetry skills in describing how life is inside of Colditz while describing the Prisoner of War Camp in the process. In the same vein, he used the chain of letters that is shared between the parents of the grieving or anxious parents to be the tenets of describing how life has become for their families outside of the walls of the Fortress.