The Long March to Freedom

For the thousands of British, American and Commonwealth soldiers held as prisoners of war (POW) during World War II, liberation was a dream that seemed like it would never come true.

long march

Many would fall by the wayside as the harsh weather, lack of food and cruel treatment by their German guards took its toll. The Long March to Freedom, a new three-part series, details the atrocities these brave men lived through for the first time on UK television.

Through the harrowing first hand accounts of veterans, The Long March to Freedom will reveal the heart-wrenching stories of the men who survived World War II and a long stay in a POW camp.

From their five long years spent living in horrific conditions in German Stalag camps in Poland and the gruelling long march that would eventually lead to freedom; it is hard to believe that anyone could have survived.

After being conscripted into the army and receiving limited training, thousands of young men were sent to fight for King and country in mainland Europe. When they encountered the enemy they quickly found that they were inadequately trained which lead to their swift capture and four to five years living in appalling POW camps.

Once inside the camps, the Allied soldiers suffered at the cruel hands of their German guards. Forced to work in coalmines, refinery factories and construction the men carried on 'doing their bit' for the war by sabotaging the German's plans whenever they could.

Then, out of the blue in the harsh Polish winter of 1945, 300,000 POWs were told to gather their belongings. They were marched out of the camps into the snow and ice; this turned out to be that start of their Long March to Freedom.

Many men were forced to march hundreds, or in some cases thousands, of miles west across Poland as the desperate last days of the war took hold. The reasons for this were unknown even to the German guards, and all the POWs could do was hope that they would survive a little longer and make it to the ever-looming end of the war.

The traumatic first hand accounts of the veterans tell the true reality of life as a POW on the march. The men, many now in their 90s, talk of how on the march they lived in constant fear of being shot for falling behind.

Food was hard to come by and they ate anything they could get their hands on, including pig and dog food. One veteran even sold his Rolex for a carrot through sheer desperation.

Many didn't make it to the end of the march and liberation, but for those that did it would become a time that would haunt them for the rest of their lives.