Stalag VIIIB Evacuated, January 1945
As the Russian Army approached the Allied POW camps during January 1945, Hitler made an order that all the camps should be evacuated and the POWs forced-marched Westwards away from the approaching Russian troops, towards Germany. The majority of Stalag VIIIB inmates were marched for more than 450 miles on a route through Czechoslovakia skirting to the North of Prague, ending their journey 3 months later in April 1945. It had been the coldest winter for many years and there was deep snow. The conditions on the Long March were notorious and have been well-recorded elsewhere.
Map showing approximate main routes taken by Allied POWs on the Long March, including a route from Lamsdorf, Stalag 344 (previously VIIIB)
Lance Bombardier West
We have no definite information about my fathers’ route, other than he set out from the E72 work camp on 23rd January 1945 and his route included Czechoslovakia. He told us that the behaviour of his guards improved as they approached the German frontier. He told us that he was liberated by the advancing American army in late April 1945. His military record states 4th May 1945 as date of liberation and his return to the UK on 2nd June 1945.
Eric West- Liberation Questionnaire
My fathers’ Liberation Questionnaire dated 30th April 1945. This was probably completed in a reception area either in Germany or Belgium.
Eric West- post War
On 5th July 1945, after V.E. Day but before the final defeat of the Japanese, Eric West was posted to 203 Field Regiment, Royal Artillery. On 7th September 1945, at the age of 26 years, he transferred to the R.A.O.C. (Royal Army Ordnance Corps) and based at POW Camp 167, Shady Lane, Stoughton, near Leicester, which held German POW’s where his skill as an interpreter was used.
POW Camp 167, Shady Lane, Stoughton, Leicestershire.
He was demobilised on 18th June 1946, having been promoted to Staff Sergeant. He remained in the Reserves until his 40th birthday in 1959.
Gunner Eric Johnson’s journey was also though Czechoslovakia, he was also liberated by American forces and flown to Rheims before his repatriation to England at approximately the same time.
Very sadly it appears that one 140th Regiment soldier died while still in captivity at the end of his Long March, having arrived in Southern Germany, towards the end of World War Two and after enduring three months of forced marching. Gunner George Lucas, a 45-year-old married man from Shifnal, Shropshire died on the 22nd March 1945 and is buried at the the Durnbach Commonwealth War Cemetery, Bavaria, Germany