The Long March – Account 1 by R M Marks
January – April 1945
The map shows the approximate route taken to give an idea of the distance involved. It is simply the shortest route between a number of waypoints, and does not reflect the frequent use of minor roads and diversions that the marchers had to follow.
This journey began on the 20th January 1945 when the whole village of Faulen, (near Susz), Poland, along with the POW workforce of 22 POWs was evacuated in front of the Russian winter offensive into Germany. With our two guards, our initial line of march was SW to Freistadt and Grudziadz where we crossed the frozen River Vistula over the ice, because all bridges over the river were either mined or blown. We then headed NW to – Tuchola-Czluchow -Biolagard – Anklam -Peenemunde, crossing the River Oder by ferry.
After Peenemunde we headed SW to – Greifswald – Demmin – Parchim- Domitz – (crossing the River Elbe) and on towards Bromberg, but another change of direction took us towards Hanover, but we finally stopped at Lehrte about 28km short of that city on the 29th March. We had covered about 1200km (700 miles) in 12 weeks, marching on average between 12-48km (7-30 miles) daily depending on the weather and terrain, and starting initially in mid-winter when the ‘going’ was difficult and it was very very cold.
We were still in Lehrte when the Americans liberated the town which was not fought over because of the hospitals there, and the local airfield was used as a forward supply base for their Dakotas. Initially the Americans flew their own personnel back to the States from Cherbourg, but because their POWS were fewer in number this job was soon over and consequently they agreed to fly the remaining British POWs to Brussels for the final leg of the journey home. Finally on the 27th of April, 22 of us were flown home in the bomb bay of a Wellington bomber returning from a mission over SE Germany, to an airfield near Reading thus ending five unforgettable years as a German POW.!
WW2 People’s War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar’