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PRISONERS OF WAR ARTICLES

The following articles have been kindly submitted by the individual authors as noted. They are in no particular order and represent what life was like as a POW. Keep in mind that these events took place over half a century ago, they are not intended to be detailed historical documents and there may be some errors. Remember that two different people can see the same event from an entirely different perspective. All these articles give life to the Squadron's history, without which this history becomes nothing more than a long dry list of names and pictures.
POW Articles :
THE LONG MARCH
From various sources

As the Soviet army was advancing on Poland, the Nazis made the decision to evacuate the PoW camps to prevent the liberation of the prisoners by the Russians. These evacuations were known as "The Long March".
There were three main Allied POW evacuation routes to the west, which included :-
The NORTHERN ROUTE starting from Stalag Luft VI at Heydekrug in East Prussia, via Stalag Luft IV at Gross Tychow, Pomerania via Stettin to Stalag XI-B and Stalag 357 at Fallingbostel. Some prisoners were marched from here at the end of the war towards Lubeck.
The CENTRAL ROUTE started from Stalag Luft 7 at Bankau, near Kreuzburg in Silesia (now Poland), via Stalag 344 at Lamsdorf, to Stalag VIII-A Görlitz, then ending at Stalag III-A at Luckenwalde, 30 km south of Berlin.
The SOUTHERN ROUTE started at Stalag VIII-B (formerly Stalag VIII-D) at Teschen (not far from Auschwitz) which led through Czechoslovakia, towards Stalag XIII-D at Nuremberg and then onto Stalag VII-A at Moosburg in Bavaria.
The first Allied POW camp evacuation began in July 1944 from Stalag Luft VI at Heydekrug , when thousands of British and American POWs were force marched either to Stalag Luft IV at Gross Tychow (involving a 60hr journey by ship) to Swinemunde), or by force march and cattle train to Stalag XX-A at Thorn in Poland.

Prisoner_of_War_roll_call.
Roll Call Stalag VII A "Moosburg"
Photograph taken in 1945

Source : photograph identified and information provided by Ben van Drogenbroek

The German prisoner of war camp for captured Air Force officers and Air Force N.C.O's "Stalag Luft 3" in Silesia was evacuated in January 1945 because of the rapid advance of the Red Army from the East. The American prisoners of Stalag Luft 3 were evacuated to Stalag VII A "Moosburg" in January 27, 1945.
The camp became completely overcrowded because of all the prisoners transferred from other camps. There was a shortage of everything. Notice the stripped guard tower on the photograph; the wood was used by the prisoners for fuel.

The_March_British_POWs_1945
Prisoners from Oflag IX A/Z being moved eastward

Source : Peter Green

The_March_Prisoners_passing_through_town
A column of POWs passing through a town

Source : http://www.pegasusarchive.org/pow/frames.htm

January and February 1945 were among the coldest winter months of the twentieth century, with blizzards and temperatures as low as -25°C (-13°F), and even until the middle of March, temperatures were well below 0°C (32°F). Most of the PoWs were ill-prepared for the evacuation, having suffered years of poor rations and wearing clothing ill-suited to the appalling winter conditions.
In most camps, the PoWs were broken up in groups of 250 to 300 men and because of the inadequate roads and the flow of battle, not all the prisoners followed the same route.
The groups would march 20 to 40 km each day - resting in factories, churches, barns and even in the open. Soon long columns of PoWs were wandering over the northern part of Germany with little or nothing in the way of food, clothing, shelter or medical care.
Prisoners from different camps had different experiences: sometimes the Germans provided farm wagons for those unable to walk. There seldom were horses available, so teams of PoWs pulled the wagons through the snow. Sometimes the guards and prisoners became dependent on each other, other times the guards became increasingly hostile. Passing through some villages, the residents would throw bricks and stones, and in others, the residents would share their last food. Some groups of prisoners were joined by German civilians who were also fleeing from the Russians. Some who tried to escape or could not go on were shot by guards.
With so little food they were reduced to scavenging to survive. Some were reduced to eating dogs and cats -- and even rats and grass -- anything they could lay their hands on. Already underweight from years of prison rations, some were at half their prewar body weight by the end.
Because of the unsanitary conditions and a near starvation diet, hundreds of PoWs died along the way from exhaustion as well as pneumonia, diphtheria, pellagra, and other diseases. Typhus was spread by body lice. Sleeping outside on frozen ground resulted in frostbite that in many cases required the amputation of extremities.
In addition to these conditions were the dangers from air attack by Allied forces mistaking the POWs for retreating columns of German troops. At a village called Gresse, 60 Allied POWs died in a "friendly-fire" situation when strafed by a flight of RAF Typhoons.
As winter drew to a close, suffering from the cold abated and some of the German guards became less harsh in their treatment of PoWs. As the columns reached the western side of Germany they ran into the advancing British and American armies. For some, this brought liberation. Others were not so lucky. They were marched towards the Baltic Sea, where Nazis were said to be using PoWs as human shields and hostages.
It was later estimated that a large number of PoWs had marched over five hundred miles by the time they were liberated, and some had walked nearly a thousand miles.

Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_March_(1945)

The following details about the Long March are extracted from FS Harry Whatton's "The diary of an Allied Advanced Guard, Not Defeated, Just Waiting"

DATE DAY DEPART ARRIVE FROM TO KM RATION
18 January Thurs - - - - - 2/3 loaf +1/5 tin of meat +1/8 pot of honey
19 January Fri 5am 5pm Bankau Winterfeld 33 Nothing
20 January Sat 5am 11.30am Winterfeld Karlsruhe 12 Nothing
20 January Sat 8pm 9am Karlsruhe Domswald Haus 42 Nothing
21 January Sun - - - - - 1 pack of dog biscuits
22 January Mon 4am 3.30pm Domswald Haus Gross Jenkwitz 25 Half of 1 biscuit
23 January Tues 5am 4pm Gross Jenkwitz Wansen 22 1/4 small loaf + 1 biscuit
24 January Wed - - - - - 5 biscuits
25 January Thurs 4am 2pm Wansen Hiedersdorf 32 1/5 small loaf
26 January Fri - - - - - 2/5 small loaf
27 January Sat 11am 5pm Hiedersdorf Pfaffendorf 22 Nothing
28 January Sun 6am 5.30pm Pfaffandorf Standorf 25 7 biscuits + 1/10 tin of meat
29 January Mon 6am 4pm Standorf Peterwitz 23 12 biscuits
30 January Tues - - - - - 1/5 small loaf
31 January Wed - - - - - Nothing
1 February Thurs 8.30am 1.30pm Peterwitz Plauznitz 14 2/5 small loaf
2 February Fri - - - - - Nothing
3 February Sat - - - - - 1/6 small loaf
4 February Sun - - - - - 1/6 small loaf
5 February Mon 6.45am 8.45am Plauznitz Goldberg 7 1/3 small loaf + 1/3 tin of meat
6 February Tues Train to Luckenwalde, Stalag Luft 3A Nothing
7 February Tues Train to Luckenwalde, Stalag Luft 3A Nothing
8 February Tues Train to Luckenwalde, Stalag Luft 3A Nothing


Timeline of POW movements

DATE ACTION
April 1944 Fifty POWs were executed after escaping from Stalag Luft III at Sagan.
13 July 1944 Evacuation of Stalag Luft VI at Heydekrug in Lithuania begins, to Stalag Luft IV at Gross Tychow involving a force march and 60hr journey by ship to Swinemunde, or by force march and cattle train to Stalag XX-A at Thorn in Poland.
17 December 1944 The SS shot seventy-one captured American POWs in the Malmedy massacre.
24 December 1944 POW work camps near Konigsberg (now Kaliningrad) are evacuated.
27 December 1944 to April 1945 POWs at Stalag VIII-B (formerly Stalag VIII-D) at Teschen began their forced march through Czechoslovakia, towards Dresden, then towards Stalag XIII-D at Nuremberg and finally on to Stalag VII-A at Moosburg in Bavaria.
12 January 1945 Red Army launched offensive in Poland and East Prussia.
19 January 1945 Evacuation from Stalag Luft 7 at Bankau, near Kreuzberg, Poland, begins in blizzard conditions - 1,500 prisoners were force marched then loaded onto cattle trucks and taken to Stalag III-A at Luckenwalde, south of Berlin.
22 January 1945 Stalag 344 at Lamsdorf, Silesia was evacuated.
23 January 1945 Evacuation began at Stalag XX-B at Marienburg, Danzig.
27 January 1945 Red Army liberates Auschwitz.
27 January 1945 to February 1945 Evacuation began at Stalag Luft III, Sagan, to either Stalag III-A at Luckenwalde, 30 km south of Berlin, or to Marlag und Milag Nord, near Bremen, or to Stalag XIII-D, near Nuremberg, then onto Stalag VII-A near Moosburg, Bavaria.
6 February 1945 to March 1945 Evacuation from Stalag Luft IV at Gross Tychow, Pomerania began an eighty-six day forced march to Stalag XI-B and Stalag 357 at Fallingbostel. Many prisoners were then marched from here at the end of the war towards Lubeck.
10 February 1945 Stalag VIII-A at Gorlitz was evacuated.
14 February 1945 British and American bombers attacked Dresden.
19 March 1945 Hitler issued the Nero Decree.
3 April 1945 Stalag XIII-D at Nuremberg was evacuated.
6 April 1945 Stalag XI-B and Stalag 357 at Fallingbostel were evacuated.
16 April 1945 POWs left behind at Fallingbostel were liberated by the British Second Army.
16 April 1945 Oflag IV-C, (Colditz Castle), was liberated.
17 April 1945 Bergen-Belsen concentration camp was liberated.
19 April 1945 POW column was attacked by allied aircraft at Gresse resulting in 60 fatalities.
22 April 1945 Stalag III-A at Luckenwalde was liberated by Soviet forces.
27 April 1945 US and Soviet forces linked up at the River Elbe.
29 April 1945 Stalag VII-A at Moosburg was liberated by Patton's Third United States Army.
30 April 1945 Berlin falls to the Red Army and Hitler commits suicide.
4 May 1945 German forces surrendered on Luneburg Heath.
8 May 1945 The last POWs evacuated from Stalag XI-B at Fallingbostel are liberated on VE day.
12 May 1945 The Red Army releases British and American POWs at Stalag III-A, Luckenwalde.

Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_March_(1945)


WAR DIARY
By Flt/Lt Marshall Johnson

Most POW's kept a diary of their time while imprisioned. These little books, most handed out by the red cross, would become for many POW's all they had to show for the best years of their youth. Every book is unique and is now a priceless artifact of history. Not just about life in a POW camp, Each has it's own story of comradeship, adventure and deep personal insight which allows us "in the smallest way" to share each authors experience. Not one can be read without learning something, and not one can be read without being deeply moved.
Excerpt from the diary of Flight Lieutenant Marshall Johnson
Written by a friend in Marsh's diary, I selected this short letter because it gives the reader a tiny glimpse into the character of the man to whom this site is dedicated. KC.

3rd April, 1945
Well, Bud, I'm rather at a loss what to put in your log book, so being neither an artist nor a poet I shall attempt, to the best of my ability, to write a portrait of yourself as I have found you.
It is almost three years now since I made your aquaintenance; that was at Sagan. Since then we have been in close contact with each other and I'm sure, with time, we have developed a better friendship and understanding. We have many things in common, so perhaps this is why we got on so well together.
In prison life many are inclined to become indolent and tight-fisted, resulting in uncleanliness. However, I can truthfully say you have always combated these vices, under trying conditions, and have led a clean, generous and hard-working "kriege" life.
I'll "wrap-up", as they say in kriegiedom to say that if there were more like you in this world it would be a pleasanter place to live in.
All the best "Bud", to a happy future.
("Foo") Allan C Fotheringham.

To Sgt - Airgunner Johnson M.A Can Prisoner of War No# 39260 M Stammlager Luft 3 Deutschland, Germany
St Thomas, Ontario,
V-E Day
May 8th, 1945
Dear Sir, On behalf of the people of Elgin County, we wish to extend to you personally our congratulations on your glorious victory over the enemy in Europe and also to express our appreciation of the supreme effort and many sacrifices made by you which made this vistory possible. Our thoughts are always with you. Our best wishes and may Elgin County have the honour of welcoming you home soon. Yours sincerely

M Hepburn
Leader, Ontario Liberal Party,
Candidate Provincial Election
Gordon Newell
Candidate Federal Election

Source : Flt/Lt Marshall Johnson


STALAGS AND DULAGS
From FDR Library

Stalag_Luft_1
Stalag Luft 1 (not verified)

Dulag_Luft_Free_at_last
Dulag Luft - Free at last!

Source : FDR LIBRARY


A DEPRESSIVE MORNING
By Flt/Lt Marshall Johnson and Denis Adams

It's a grey, bitter cold February morning when Denis climbs out from under the thread bare, dirty sheets of his wooden bunk, the same as he has done countless mornings before. He was cold when he went to bed, cold while he slept, and cold since he got up. There is virtually nothing to distinguish the colourless cold grey outside his window from the colourless cold grey inside his room, they are the same. In fact, day after monotonous day, there is nothing to distinguish one day from the next. It is February 1945 in Stalag 357 but what does that matter, the years are all the same.

Depressive_morning
Brave Thought on a Depressive Morning

Its cold,, hell it's cold. I roll over and look towards the window. Through it's frosted dimness I see it once more - my nemisis.......... the wire close at hand, just through there, so close that it seems you could almost touch it, almost. You could jump out from here, through this window, and be over it and away....... almost...... if .... Eight o'clock. Sleep still clings, dozing brain cells, years of this have lulled a man, slowed him up; just an empty shell now. Eight o'clock. Must get up. Why? God only knows. Why do anything in this place. Nothing matters, years within an oppresive barbed wire square, life in an isolated kingdom, alienated from all one holds dear, all one loves.......... cut off with the sharp finality of a knife shearing through paper. Nothing matters. Feet on the floor, shamble uncertainly forward, scratching head,, muzzy with sleep, dulled,, another day. Cold, wet, winter is always worse. The fire is going, only just. Everything is dirty. Why, oh why must day start this way. This life hits hardest now in the morning when everything is cold and dirty and the wire leers and mocks at you, just through there, through that window. You could almost be out and over it before that guard box tommy gun opened up and squirted you full of lead, almost. If you got caught hanging there, spread-eagled over that wire, they'd tear you wide open, bullets hurt. But, oh God, this hatefull morning, cold, wet, everythings dirty........ The room smells frowsy, sweaty bodies, dirty clothes, stale smoke, mustiness. The cold lends a sharpness of outline to familiar objects. A dirty pan, rot congealed in it....... grimy king sitting squat in a kingdom of smaller pots, also dirty. Clothes to dry, dirty pots, a greasy deck of cards, rumpled blankets. Fifty men sleep, eat, play, hate, yes live within these four walls in a space which would normally provide good winter quarters for twelve cows. I hate this place especially now, cold and empty without even the warming touch of human movement. Just through that window is the wire. Eight feet high posts and criss-crossed wire, then a tangled mass of rusted virulent barbs, then another eight foot wire fence. Yes you could just about do it. Five running steps......nine seconds to climb over ......nine seconds to cover......then freedom from all this. You could almost do it. Slowly I walk towards the window. One easy movement of my arm ......it opens. Cold wind bites my face, cutting stinging......eighteen seconds to freedom. But, vacillation, vague indecision. Bullets hurt. Who'd want to die unsung here, hanging mutilated on a barb wire fence, entrails hanging down over that rusted tangle. You could almost make it though......almost......

Denis G. Adams

February 1945

Stalag 357

Source and Copyright : Flt/Lt Marshall Johnson and Denis Adams, POWs 1942/1945


THE DIARY OF AN ALLIED ADVANCED GUARD. NOT DEFEATED, JUST WAITING
By Harry Whatton

The Diary of an Allied Advanced Guard. Not Defeated, Just Waiting

Click on the following link to read The Diary of an Allied Advanced Guard. Not Defeated, Just Waiting. This diary records FS Harry Whatton's time as a Prisoner of War from June 1944 until his liberation in May 1945. It also includes his time during the 'The Long March' of January to February 1945. Harry clearly had a fixation for liberation and dwells much on the shortage of food. Perhaps an honest reflection of the monotony of PoW camp life.

Source : Harry Whatton


FROM CRASH TO CAMP
by Philip 'Tim' Fussey

The following is Philip ‘Tim’ Fussey’s recollection of some of his experiences following the plane crash on 13/14th Sept 1942 and his time in the POW camp.

Please click on the link to read From crash to camp

Source : Philip 'Tim' Fussey



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