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Desmond Llewelyn, British Army, 1939-1945

Llewelyn, third from left, in the production of Noel Coward's "Post Mortem"

Colditz Castle, 1945Desmond W Llewelyn
b. 12 Sep 1914  d. 19 Dec 1999
(World War II, Prisoner of War) 

With the outbreak of World War II in 1939, a 25 year old Desmond Llewelyn took a break from his stage career and joined the British Army. He was soon commissioned a second lieutenant, serving in the Royal Welch Fusiliers. Deployed to France with the British Expeditionary Force, he was captured in the massive German attack on France in May-June 1940, and spent the remainder of the war as a Prisoner of War in Germany. He spent some time at Colditz Castle and was held in Camp Oflag IX-A/Z near Hesse in Germany. 

Desmond was fortunate enough to be in a position to participate in acting roles with the other prisoners, putting on entertainment shows, and polishing his acting skills along the way. In 1942, while at Eichstatt, he participated in the world premier staging of Noel Coward's "Post Mortem" with his fellow prisoners. Llewelyn was mentioned in the King's College collection of fellow prisoner Captain Bobby Loder:

For most POWs life in a prisoner of war camp was characterised by boredom, frustration, hunger and dreams of better days once the war was over. The Loder archive shows that theatre provided a brief escape from this life. Strangely, this was done with the support and aid of the German authorities. Perhaps the Germans felt that if the prisoners were busy with concerts and variety shows they would think less about digging tunnels.

Capt Loder's performances began in the summer of 1940, when the Senior British Officer in Laufen suggested that Loder and his choir should entertain the camp. Loder put together a committee that went on to produce theatrical performances. Details of the entertainments were carefully recorded by Loder in journals like the one shown below, given by the Canadian Junior Red Cross and sent home to his mother. 

Initially the group had very little to work with, no makeup, no costumes and no lighting but they still played to full houses. There were some professional actors within the camp, such as Desmond Llewelyn (Q in James Bond) and Michael Goodliffe (a Shakespearean actor who appeared in some episodes of Inspector Morse). As time went by Capt Loder's productions became better resourced. The costumes for Dossing Dulcie (shown above) were credited as 'supplied by Messrs Diringer of Munich'. The group even managed to stage a production ofHamlet, and Eichstätt saw the world premiere of Noel Coward's play Post Mortem. Source

When he was finally liberated in 1945 by the American Army, he returned to Great Britain to resume his theatrical career. He most notably enjoyed a lengthy career as James Bond's gadget-guy and colleague, Q. 


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