Library Reference Number: 039
A Proud P.o.W. Memory
A number of our Branch members were shot down over various operational theatres of conflict, and even if shot down over Italy, they would be taken to prisoner-of-war camps in Germany. Making their way to Germany sometimes meant long marches on foot. Bill Taylor gives us a glimpse of one of those journeys.
It was at the end of January 1944, the 1500 kreigies (POWs) from StalagLuft 7, Bankau, Upper Silesia, had been on the march for 8 days. We were very cold, hungry, tired and a little despondent. The guards who were mostly older men and Volkstrum were also tired and getting increasingly irritable. As we entered the small town, the guards informed the local population who were lining the street, that we were 'RAF terror flyers'. This brought about a torrent of abuse from the local onlookers, and to heighten the tension, a Column of Panzers had stopped close by. The crews sitting on top of their tanks decided to join in the crowd's derision, fired off a few rounds in our direction while giving the thumbs down sign.
Someone at the head of our column of 1500 POWs started to sing a Vera Lynn song "You are my sunshine". The effect was dramatic and stimulating. The singing became louder and louder as it swept down the column. The Kreigies shook off their lethargy, formed themselves into lines of 'threes,' and with heads held high marched through that town singing loudly in defiance of our reception. It was a very proud moment!