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In January 1945, as the Soviet armies resumed their offensive and advanced into Germany, many of the prisoners were marched westward in groups of 200 to 300 in the so-called Long March. Many of them died from the bitter cold and exhaustion. The lucky ones got far enough to the west to be liberated by the American or British armies. The unlucky ones were ‘liberated’ by the Soviets, who instead of turning them over quickly to the western allies, held them as virtual hostages for several more months, until the British agreed to release to the Soviet Union POWs of Soviet origin who had been fighting on the German side, which left the British Government with little choice on the matter, even though they were understandable reluctant to hand these men over to the Soviet Union for their inevitable execution. These soldiers from states such as Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia for example, had fought with the Germans in an effort, as they saw it, to release their own homelands from Soviet occupation and oppression.

Many of the allied POWs held by the Soviets were finally repatriated towards the end of 1945 though the port of Odessa on the Black Sea.

Some people have referred to this Long March as a ‘death march’. This term is deliberately avoided on this website (as it also was by the authors of ‘The Last Escape’ and the producer of the documentary ‘The Long March to Freedom’). It was a horrific experience and it is true that many died on this march, but the vast majority did not. We do not use the term ‘death march’ out of respect for those ‘marches’ that truly were ‘death’ marches:On January 18, 1945, just days before the Red Army arrived at Auschwitz, 66,000 prisoners were marched to Wodzislaw, where they were put on freight trains to the Gross-Rosen, Buchenwald , Dachau , and Mauthausen concentration camps. Almost one in four died en route. On January 20, 7,000 Jews, 6,000 of them women, were marched from Stutthof ‘s satellite camps in the Danzig region. In the course of a 10-day march, 700 were murdered. Those who remained alive when the marchers reached the shores of the Baltic Sea were driven into the sea and shot. There were only 13 known survivors.

The Sandakan Death Marches were a series of forced marches in Borneo from Sandakan to Ranau which resulted in the deaths of 2,345 Allied prisoners of war held captive by Japan. By the end of the war, of all the prisoners who had been incarcerated at Sandakan and Ranau, only six survived, all of whom had escaped.​

There are other examples of similar death marches.

Each of the tragedies referred to above were caused by the deliberate cruelty of the captors. On the Long March (ie the evacuation of the POW camps) there were some instances of cruelty, but most of the deaths were cause by illness, the cold, malnutrition or the action of allied aircraft. The whole situation was caused, not by the deliberate cruelty of the captors but by a totally mismanaged evacuation that should never have happened. Terrible though it was, it was not in the same category as the ‘death marches’ described above.

S J Woodman’s long march diary transcript

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Stanley John Woodman, was a Sapper (from the French word sappe - spadework, or trench) in the Royal Engineers, Army No. 2069751 He was confirmed as POW, No. 220907, on 24/10/1942. Written at the top of page 1 of Stanley’s account…

Henry Albert Silk’s Long March

Henry Albert Silk was born in 1922 but gave his data of birth as 1920 in order to join 6th Battalion, Royal Tank Regiment, the British Army. Along with many others, he completed the long march west from Stalag VIIIB commencing on 22nd January…

Brian Magill’s Death March diary

Open B Magill's Diary 21st June To 2 May 1942 To 1945 to see a scan of all pages

Ivan Douglas McPherson’s #34461 Long March notebook transcript

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Ivan McPherson # 34461 kept brief notes of his long march in a notebook January 22nd: Cosel Hafen left 4.30pm. 23rd: Reached Gros Naukirch now Polska Cerekiew, Poland at 5am, Left at 8pm. 24th: Reached Gros Nimsdorf, now Naczeslawice,…

Jack Emeny’s wartime story (1938 to 1946)

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Jack Emeny's story by his son Kenneth My Dad was born at 45, Manderville Street, Darnall, Sheffield, England on the 26th April 1921, to Louise William Samuel Emeny and his wife Kate Eliza (nee Bagshaw), who were married on the 9th of March…

Thomas Horrocks Houston’s war diary

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Thomas kept a near daily account of his early and last days as a Prisoner of War. Thomas Houston's Diary Part 1 – The War Years 1940 To1941 Thomas Houston's Diary Part 2 1944 To 1945  

Long March Research Resources

Discovering More About ​The Long March Books, Accounts by POWs, Videos/DVDs, Websites ​Taking the Long Way Home: The Long March of 1945 ​​An interactive map, produced by Dave Lovell and Ian Bowley, of the routes taken by many…

Songs about the Long March by Lesley Loughlin

​The Long March to Freedom: A song by Lesley Loughlin (from the account of Bernard Loughlin my father-in-law written for my husband Hugh with love) It is my privilege and it is my pain to share this story here today It started not so…

Long March to Freedom DVD

In the final winter of the Second World War, the borders of the Third Reich are disintegrating as the Allied Armies close in. Orders come from Berlin High Command. The decision has been taken to clear the Prisoner of War camps in the East…

Peter Henry Blaskey – Capture, POW life, Long March, 2005 visit to Stalag VIIIB

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 From: Bishop Jonathan Blake Sent: Thursday, April 23, 2015 4:31 PM My father, Peter Henry Blake, known then as Sergeant Peter Henry Blaskey, rarely spoke about his wartime experiences, an approach common among his peers. On the night 10/11th…