Dominic Bruce, 84, Attempted to Escape from the Nazis 17 Times
By William H. Honan,, March 4, 2000
Dominic Bruce, a British bomber pilot who made no fewer than 17 attempts in four years to escape from his German captors at the famous Colditz prison, died on Feb. 12 in England. He was 84.
Despite his determination and ingenuity, Mr. Bruce was recaptured every time he broke free from Colditz Castle, near Leipzig.
The farthest he ever made it was to Danzig, 400 miles away. He had jumped aboard trains and had stolen bicycles left outside churches while their owners were at worship. That time he was finally caught while trying to stow away on a Swedish freighter.
He spent the next eight months in solitary confinement, but the experience did little to curb his audacity.
On one of his 17 escape attempts, he left a smirking note on the windowsill over which he departed spelling out in German the message: "The air in Colditz no longer pleases me. Auf wiedersehen!"
"I kept trying because it was fun," he said after the war. "It gave you a feeling like hitting the jackpot. And, most importantly of all, I knew it got up the Germans' noses."
Mr. Bruce was repatriated in 1945 when Colditz was liberated. He was awarded the British Military Cross for his escape attempts.
Mr. Bruce then studied history at Oxford and eventually became principal of Kingston upon Thames College of Further Education in 1969.
Born on June 7, 1915, Mr. Bruce joined the Royal Air Force in 1935 and became a pilot.
In 1941 his Wellington bomber was shot down over Zeebrugge, the North Sea port, by German fighters. He bailed out and was picked up by a German vessel.
Placed in the German P.O.W. camp at Spangenberg, he wrote to his wife asking for an unusual and carefully specified piece of clothing. She followed his instructions minutely, and when the garment arrived it turned out to be a blazer that could be adapted to look like a German uniform. He used it in an unsuccessful attempt to hijack a German aircraft and was sent to Colditz.
That was only the first of his many attempts. On other occasions, he climbed down a 40-foot wall with knotted bedsheets, crawled through a sewer, hid in a tea chest and tried to walk out of a P.O.W. camp dressed as a Swiss doctor.
Mr. Bruce is survived by his wife, six sons and three daughters.
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© 2000 by Neil Mishalov