Piece of shrapnel, Oflag IVC Colditz Castle : Lieutenant J R Millett, 2/11 Battalion

Place Europe: Germany, Saxony-Anhalt, Saxony, Colditz
Accession Number REL38251
Collection type Technology
Object type Munition component
Physical description Steel
Maker Unknown
Place made United States of America
Date made c 1945
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

Piece of shrapnel from a small American shell.

History / Summary

Piece of shrapnel collected by WX3383 Lieutenant John Robert 'Jack' Millett during the 'Battle for Colditz'. Oflag IVC at Colditz Castle was a prisoner of war camp for officers who had caused the Germans a great deal of trouble, especially in making multiple escape attempts from other camps. American forces reached the Colditz area by the evening of Friday 13 April. At dawn the next day the battle for Colditz began. Members of the SS, soldiers and civilians in Colditz had established and reinforced defences in and around the town and resisted the Americans as they advanced. The Americans sent out reconnaissance planes and began ranging shells on the town in anticipation of a bombardment. The German Commandant of Oflag IVC received an order to move the British prisoners out of Colditz, but the Senior British Officer Lieutenant Colonel William Tod refused and the prisoners remained in the camp.

The shelling of Colditz began in the afternoon of 14 April, primarily focused on the village. Meanwhile the prisoners laid out a huge home-made Union Jack in the courtyard and spelt out 'POW' with sheets in the hope the reconnaissance aircraft would spot them and the castle would not be shelled. Another Union Jack and the French flag were also hung in the camp. On 15 April the American artillery ranged on Colditz Castle and fired some small rounds. However before they began shelling the castle in earnest, one of the Americans spotted the French flag and upon enquiries discovered the castle was a prisoner of war camp.

The prisoners inside the camp had been ordered down to the cellar for their protection, but some chose to remain upstairs watching events unfold. One of these was Jack Millett. He collected this piece of shrapnel which came through a window while he was watching the battle. On 16 April at 8 am the Americans liberated Oflag IVC.

Millet was born on 19 February 1912 at Perth, WA. He enlisted and served with 2/11 Battalion and was captured during the Battle of Crete, on 30 May 1941. After a number of escape attempts from prisoner of war camps in Germany, he was eventually sent to Oflag IVC. In Oflag IVC he worked in the escape committee as the map maker, mass reproducing maps using a gelatin mimeograph. After the liberation of Oflag IVC, Millett, along with the other prisoners, left Colditz on 19 April, each prisoner being able to take only one piece of luggage. After travelling by truck to an airfield he was flown to England, before eventually sailing home to Perth.