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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.

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 These are new resources recently added: The Lamsdorf Series Book 2: The Long March In Their Own Words Available as hardback, paperback and e-book Click…

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…

Leslie Vickers: memories from the end of the war

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Leslie Vickers POW, the story of the end of the War from his memories My Dad, Corporal Leslie Vickers was one of 1400 POW's marched back into Germany from Lamsdorf POW Camp 344 formerly Stalg VIIIB, he was in Dresden on VE day and he tells…

Ed Gamble – WWII Experience

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Ed Gamble’s WWII Experience After the East African campaign we thought and felt that we were invincible – the best trained – the best armed – the best led – and part of the best army the world had ever known – we were GUNG HO…

Dr W T G Atkins – Long March from Cosel Hospital

Information provided by Thomas Atkins (son) with assistance from Philip Baker and Michael Tattersall. I have now found my father’s diary detailing the exact route when he marched from Cosel, probably from the Abyssinian Lager (Russian)…

Ronald Percy Wright – Long March Diary and Transcript

The Long March diary was compiled by Ronald Percy Wright. With thanks to Susan Wright and Louise Wright for supplying the diary and the transcript. Ronald Percy Wright Long March Diary Transcript

John Stephen Morum – The War Years

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JOHN STEPHEN MORUM - HIS-STORY AS NARRATED TO HIS DAUGHTER HELEN. [added comments – by Roy, his son] We both signed on [John and his brother Ross] when the war broke out, with the First Witwatersrand Rifles. That regiment was later broken…