The stories of 48 prisoners of war are now told in a new online map created to mark the 75th anniversary of the Lamsdorf Long March.
In January 1945, the German military authorities received the order to evacuate PoW camp Stalag VIIIB (344) and its associated work camps in Lamsdorf, Upper Silesia (now Łambinowice, Poland).
They forcibly marched 21,867 men west into central Germany, sometimes making them walk as much as 20 miles per day.
Many of the men died of starvation, exposure and disease, or were shot by the guards, before they were rescued by Allied forces in April and May 1945.
Now the stories of 48 survivors of the march, drawing on personal documents and photographs and the memories of their families and loved ones, have been added to an online map of the prisoners’ journey.
The map was co-created by Dave Lovell OBE from Romsey in Hampshire, former Head of Public Affairs at Ordnance Survey, and Ian Bowley from Consett in County Durham.
Their fathers, Private Arthur Lovell of the 7th Battalion in the Royal Sussex Regiment and Private Ernest Ronald ‘Ron’ Bowley of the 2nd Battalion in the Lincolnshire Regiment, were both among the prisoners who survived.
Dave said: “This is a story of hope, of how an instinct for survival, ‘dogged’ determination and the support of fellow men helped overcome the most extreme conditions. It is also a story of utter deprivation and unfathomable human resilience.
“My father said very little about these three months of his life but they undoubtedly shaped his life and his beliefs. In making the map I discovered the harsh reality of his daily routine, his courage and conviction that kept him alive where others ‘fell by the wayside’.”
Arthur Lovell (right) with his friend and fellow prisoner Jack Pegg (Credit: Dave Lovell)
Arthur’s son Dave, co-creator of the Lamsdorf Long March map (Credit: Dave Lovell)
Ian said: “One of the biggest challenges has been to identify the current place-names of locations recorded, in some cases in pencil 75 years ago, in occupied territory and therefore with places re-named. I was extremely fortunate to have the help of a small team of volunteers to achieve this whilst Dave coordinated the creation of the story map.”
He also called for a PoW medal to be awarded to all men who spent time in PoW camps during the Second World War.
Ernest Ronald ‘Ron’ Bowley (Credit: Ian Bowley)
Ian Bowley with his grandsons James, Alfie and George (Credit: Ian Bowley)
The prisoners whose stories are featured include those from Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
The personal stories on the map reveal the many hardships the men faced and the extraordinary strength it took to survive.
For example Ian Antill, son of prisoner J F Antill, recalls that his father was nearly killed after he was pushed out the rank of marching men: “A Gestapo officer, thinking he was trying to escape, pulled his pistol to shoot him, but it jammed (many expletives). Whilst the officer was sorting his pistol out my dad got back in the rank and kept a low profile.”
Another prisoner, Frank ‘Spike’ Hughes, left a detailed illustrated account of his experience.
He recalled: “Within the first hour, after having left the Stalag, men were beginning to fall. Some through exhaustion, some through cramp, some through the extreme cold and tragically several simply dropped dead in the snow.”
Frank was forced to march for two months before he and a group of fellow prisoners managed to escape in the increasing chaos.