Forced Marches

Discussion in 'Prisoners of War' started by liverpool annie, Sep 16, 2008.

  1. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    Some 5000 Australian soldiers arrived in Germany in 1941 after long journeys through Eastern Europe from Greece. In 1943 another 1000 men crossed the Alps from Italy. They were held mainly in closely guarded camps known as ‘Stalags’. As well, 1400 Australian airmen who had drifted down by parachute into enemy-held territory were held in special POW camps in Germany known as ‘Stalag Luft’ (air camps).

    To most Australians, their understanding of the POW experience in Europe has been dominated by the stories of escape attempts. Soldiers and sailors captured in Greece and North Africa, and airmen who fell into enemy hands over Europe, have been romanticized in films and books as they dug tunnels, joined local partisan groups and made daring escapes through resistance channels.

    However, many of the men, were recaptured, some were executed and others died during these escapes. Just as harrowing, but less well known, were their experiences on the forced marches during the last months of the war as Russian and Allied troops crossed the German border.

    Behind the Wire
  2. Kyt

    Kyt Άρης

    I would highly recomment The Last Escape which covers the forced marches in excellent detail. It includes details of the privations, heroism of some of the leaders (leaders by virtue of the respect they received from other prisoners rather than by their rank) and the appalling stories of "friendly fire" when their columns were mistaken for German soldiers by allied aircraft: The Last Escape: The Untold Story of Allied Prisoners of War in Germany 1944-1945: Tony Rennell, John Nichol: Books
  3. David Layne

    David Layne Active Member

    This week I obtained a copy of "Wingless Journey."

    "Wingless Journey" is written by one of the participants of the Winter March and the Spring March that was endured by prisoners of Stalag Luft 3.

    As of yet I have only been able to give it a cursory glance but look forward to reading and digesting the material in a week or so.
  4. Brian S

    Brian S Guest

    Forced March

    The Prisoners taken in Greece,Crete and North Africa were for the most part held in Camps in Italy until the Capitulation in 1943. The Camps in Libya were only considered to be Transit Camps,even though some were in transit for 6 months and not Registered with the Red Cross. The P.O.W. were men of many Nationalities. French,Jugoslavs,Poles,Greeks,Canadians,New Zealanders,Australians,Indians but as records show the vast majority were members of the U.K. Armed Forces.

    On Italy's Capitulation there were various responses from the Senior Allied Officer at each Camp. Coded messages had been sent to Camps telling them to standfast and await Liberation. Those with enough experience ignored the message and operated an open door policy. Thousands of prisoners were wandering the Italian Countryside,some aimlessly and some with a preconceived plan. Over the next few months more than 4,000 arrived in Switzerland and some thousands rejoined,either through the Lines or were taken by sea in clandestine operations.
    Many operated with bands of Partisans who were fighting the Germans and the Italians who remained Loyal to Fascist doctrine.

    There were also a great many who were re-captured almost at once and held in some cases in PG70 until Trains were available to take them to Germany. Others were killed whilst on the run in Italy,along with 100s of Italians who were helping them. One large party getting caught in an avalanche while crossing the Alps. Then there were many who just disappeared.
    A few managed to escape from the train, but the vast majority were destined for work camps in Germany.
    There was an Escape organisation operating from the Vatican with a British Officer in Command.Major Sam Derry. At one time organising food,clothing and finance for well over 3,000 ex P.O.W. who were in hiding in the hills and valleys around Rome.

    It was usual for a prisoner to be processed and registered as a P.O.W. in various reception camps before being moved on to a work camp. This is where confusion comes in when looking for a P.O.W. as work camps were in some cases many miles from where they were registered.
    The Long Marches were mainly 1945 when the Allies approached various camps the prisoners were marched out in the opposite direction. The route of many was a circular one as they were marched from one front to the other.
    I know of one case where a work party were being marched away from Dresden after the second raid. They were obviously moving towards the Allied front so their guards just left them to their own devices.
    Some were killed by Allied Aircraft strafing what they thought were German troops. Some where caught in crossfire between the German and Russian Lines. Others died of one of many illnesses that were prevelant in such a living enviroment.
  5. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

  6. Brian S

    Brian S Guest

  7. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    Well I had to check first - to make sure it wasn't you Brian !! :)
  8. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    Heres the obituary of "Count Paolo Fattorini" Brian !!

    Major H. F. Fane-Hervey

    Courageous tank commander and audacious escaper who bluffed 300 Italian troops into surrendering

    Major H. F. Fane-Hervey | Times Online Obituary
  9. Brian S

    Brian S Guest

    Italy Post Capitulation

    No Annie,but could have been.

    MANCHESTER GUARDIAN 15th November 1945
    To the Editor Manchester Guardian

    Sir,-It was with considerable satisfaction that we read,last month,the message from Field Marshall Alexander to Italian Civilians who had helped Allied Prisoners Of War. Many of us who escaped from prison camps in Northern Italy have long awaited such a gesture,and we would like to know what really is being done to help these people.
    It is difficult for those who were not on the spot to understand all that those men and women did for us, and to realise the deep gratitude we owe for their kindness,humanity,and bravery. In one small valley alone,for example,during six months from September 1944 to February 1945,the inhabitants gave food and shelter to no fewer than 150 escaped British,American and Polish prisoners,protected them from enemy persuit,and guided them on their way through the Lines.
    In doing so they continually exposed themselves to the risk of severe reprisals ,both collectively and individually. One entire Village was burnt to the ground because several British ex Prisoners were known to be sheltering in it,and in an area of approximately eight square miles,with a sparse and scattered population.More than 350 houses were destroyed as a reprisal. In this same area a Priest of 84yrs of age was dragged from his house and shot outside the door of his Church by Germans,because he had given shelter for two nights to an escaped British Officer. A Landowner with a large Estate,had all his moveable property looted or destroyed and his house burnt. Many similar instances might be quoted in other areas all over Northern Italy,but these will serve to illustrate the dangers which the civilian population had to face.
    Compensation will be paid-and in some cases has already been paid-to those who suffered financial loss,but money alone will not enable them to rebuild their burnt houses,and in many instances it is not money that is required. A far more urgent necessity is transport with which to obtain the necessary materials. This at the moment is an insuperable difficulty,especially in the more Mountainous Districts. It may be argued that Lorries are is such short supply that none can be spared for the purpose,but if only a few could be made available for a limited period it would be of immense value. In view of all the sacrifices these people have made,and the risks which they have deliberately run in helping our Officers and Men they have a strong claim to some priority.
    Certain areas rendered exceptional service,and those of us who worked in them feel that something more than material compensation is called for. If they could receive some special recognition in the form of a Written address, or possibly the erection of a small monument or other permanent token, it would be deeply appreciated. It would strengthen the feeling of friendship that so many in these areas have for Great Britain,and it would show that we do not measure their services in terms of finance and the payment of so many Lire.
    We believe that action on these lines would not be difficult to adopt,and would certainly help in the restoration of the happy relations that formerly existed between our two Countries. The present moment could not be more opportune - Yours, and etc.

    Major Gordon Lett , Captain T.G. Phillipsz
    Litchfield Court, Richmond, Surrey. November 11th.

    I think the years should read September 1943 to February 1944.
  10. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    So did they do anything do you know ?
  11. Brian S

    Brian S Guest

    Italy Post Capitulation

    yes they did.Unfortunately the Files were sent to Washington on the request of the American Government.
    There are some files that list helpers all over Europe,and what financial reward had been given,but for the most part they are in the USA.
    The best thing to come out of the situation was the formation of groups like The Monte San Martino Trust,who still donate several educational Bersary to younger members of Italian Families that helped Escapers on the run.
    Of course there is E.L.MS. who do annual walks along some of the Escape Routes taken.
    So even after 63 years their help is not forgotten.
  12. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    I found this Brian ... and was surprised that the formation of the Monte San Martino Trust wasn't until 1989 ! I wonder if the files are at archives ... we have a branch here and I have a readers card if you'd like me to take a look !

    Footsteps of freedom

    And heres the book !!

    Beyond the Wire, Roy Marlow MM HB POW escapesTrue Life - eBay (item 360077624757 end time Oct-06-08 12:27:58 PDT)
  13. Brian S

    Brian S Guest

    Roy Marlow

    There are many Escape stories that remain untold.
    I am fortunate to have glanced through,and recorded about 9 or 10,000 of the reports made by those who Escaped or Evaded.
    It would have been quite easy to have just sat reading the Reports instead of doing what I set out to do.
    There were some very determined individuals during this time. There were those who were not happy with just being safely interned, they escaped again and returned home. In many cases they continued to serve until 1945.
    The example I always quote is the one regarding the Pte from the S.W.B. who had been captured in Libya. During the second night onboard the ship taking him to further captivity in Italy, he went to the Heads that were situated on Deck. In the distance he saw lights from Tunisia,and also that the Italian Guards were asleep. Going back into the Hold he gave his situation some thought and went back on Deck. The Guards were still asleep so he dropped over the side and swam to Tunisia. Must have been 7 or 8mls. It wasn't long before he was spotted and arrested by the French. He was interned and met up with a British Naval internee who was also held by the French.
    It didn't take them too long to escape again and return to Allied Lines.

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