The first to make a Colditz ‘home run’

His­to­rian DON­ALD STAN­LEY look at the ex­tra­or­di­nary life of Bea­cons­field-born politi­cian Airey Neave

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - NOSTALGIA -

BE­TWEEN his boy­hood days in Bea­cons­field at Bish­ops House, which has been re­tained as the name for flats on what was prob­a­bly its site in Reynolds Road, and his as­sas­si­na­tion by the Ir­ish Na­tional Lib­er­a­tion Army, Airey Neave led a re­mark­able life as a sol­dier, in­tel­li­gence agent, bar­ris­ter, Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment and Shadow Sec­re­tary of State.

As a school­boy he vis­ited Ger­many in the 1930s. What he saw con­vinced him that Hitler’s rise would lead to war and he joined the Ox­ford­shire and Buck­ing­hamshire Light In­fantry, a ter­ri­to­rial unit.

Upon the out­break of the Se­cond World War he was sent to France where he was wounded and cap­tured. He es­caped but was re­cap­tured and sent to Colditz Cas­tle, the max­i­mum se­cu­rity Ger­man pris­oner of war camp for es­cape-prone Al­lied of­fi­cers.

Neave’s first at­tempt to es­cape from Colditz dis­guised as a Ger­man NCO failed.

His se­cond dressed in a bet­ter Ger­man Army uni­form was made through the trap door un­der the stage dur­ing a the­atri­cal pro­duc­tion by his fel­low prison­ers.

It was suc­cess­ful and he be­came the first Bri­tish of­fi­cer to make the ‘home run’ from Colditz back to Eng­land where he was re­cruited by M19 which as­sisted es­capes by Bri­tish prison­ers of war. One of his col­leagues was Michael Ben­tine, who later be­came a founder of the Goons.

Neave ended the war dec­o­rated with the Mil­i­tary Cross and Dis­tin­guished Ser­vice Or­der.

As a bar­ris­ter who spoke flu­ent Ger­man he served with the In­ter­na­tional Mil­i­tary Tri­bunal at the Nurem­berg tri­als of Nazi lead­ers.

In 1953 he was elected Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment for Abing­don.

When Mar­garet Thatcher made her suc­cess­ful at­tempt to be­come leader of the Con­ser­va­tive Party he served as her cam­paign man­ager.

She ap­pointed him Shadow Sec­re­tary of State for North­ern Ire­land.

In 1979 he was as­sas­si­nated by a bomb placed un­der his car which ex­ploded as he left Par­lia­ment.

Al­though the Ir­ish Na­tional Lib­er­a­tion Army, an Ir­ish repub­li­can para­mil­i­tary group, claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity var­i­ous con­spir­acy the­o­ries were put for­ward by pub­lic fig­ures in­clud­ing Enoch Pow­ell.

Th­ese in­cluded as­sas­si­na­tion by MI5 be­cause Neave was seek­ing to pros­e­cute mem­bers of the in­tel­li­gence ser­vices for cor­rup­tion.

Another was that the Amer­i­can CIA was at­tempt­ing to in­flu­ence Bri­tish pol­icy in re­spect of North­ern Ire­land.

In turn, Tony Benn had been told Neave planned to have him killed if he suc­ceeded James Cal­laghan as leader of the Labour Party – a story Benn soundly dis­counted.

Re­mark­able: Above, the Mir­ror re­port­ing the MP’s death in 1971. Left, Airey Neave in 1973. Be­low left, po­lice and fire fight­ers at the scene of the car bomb

Cam­paign: Neave with Mar­garet Thatcher in 1979. Right, Neave in 1973

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.