Stalag IV-B

It’s amazing to see the site where a WW2 Prisoner of War camp once stood. In this case, hidden in a wood that has been allowed to grow up in and around the original site where my Step Grandfather was held not much remains. However there are many signs displaying the history of the place. The site is not forgotten and it is well worth a visit, to cast your mind to a time when the camp did stand there, one can only imagine what it was like. I made a video when I visited :StalagIVb

The original entrance is long gone, and is marked simply with cobbles on the road now, but it used to be far more imposing:

Now there is little left. After the Soviet Red Army took over the camp at the end of the war they ran it for a while before the whole place was raised to the ground. Today there are parts that remain such as the latrines under ground or the foundations to some of the former prisoner barracks:

However, many people died in this place, due to mistreatment – the nazis did kit follow the Geneva Convention and many prisoners died unnecessarily because of it. However the largest number of fatalities seem to be from the soviets and there is now a memorial to them where there names are written on both sides of a path leading up to a cross.

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Zeithain + Jacobsthal

Once Bob had made it through Austria he was taken to Jacobsthal and nearby is the Zeithain memorial. I discovered that at the memorial was a small museum and a cemetery for the Soviet prisoners who had died in that location. I made a video to show what’s there: Zeithain Video

Once I’d seen this area and learnt what I could from the museum I went over to Jacobsthal station. The actual stop where Bob disembarked and had to march to his new camp just up from there.

Today it is all mostly overgrown fields but I made a second video in this area which you can see by clicking here: Jacobsthal

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Further up the track…

So from my last post at Monturano, my Step Grandfather – Bob, was packed with others very tightly into cattle trucks, locked in and transported northwards. He stopped at Ancona station where there was an air raid bombs fell, Jerries ran for cover, and one bomb exploded on a fuel truck spraying burning petrol everywhere over Bobs truck, all were terrified inside the locked truck. It got very hot very quick.

The train eventually carried on with the fire having burnt itself out and they moved northward. At some northern Italian station a friendly Italian girl came over and chatted to the POWs as they waited for the train to move off again. A Nazi didn’t like that at shot her dead.

I stopped at a random northern station and took this photo, with a flower as respect to that poor girl.

The train went north through Brenner Pass, and on northwards into Germany…

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Visit to PG70 POW Prisoner of War camp, Monturano, Italy

When my Step Grandfather died and I found out he’d been a POW in WW2 it had a larger impact on me than I ever realised. Now I’m retracing his footsteps from south Italy to North Germany and I am seeing for myself the places he was at.

He came into Italy through the Port of Brindisi, and was taken on a train with no room, to Bari, PG75 camp. He stayed in a dried up canal in November until being admitted into camp. After a few months he was moved from this transit camp to a larger place PG70 Monturano

This place had been very difficult to gain access to, but randomly on the day I turned up, the gate was wide open!! I couldn’t believe my luck and was able to take loads of photos and look all around the site- totally awesome experience knowing o was standing in the very spot that Bob had all those years ago. Feeling very different too without a doubt – I was full of amazement I was able to look around and get inside, whereas he was very hungry, mistreated and not looked after according to his account at all. I was able to video the site click here to see the video:
Monturano filmed live

To be able to look upon things that he would instantly recognise is quite an amazing experience, and am writing book to cover all the contrasts between them and now. For the moment I am extremely grateful for having been allowed to look around the site, it has made my trip, it was very important for me to see inside and to have done so means the world to me – a truly incredible experience that really moved me!

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Working my way through Europe

So I’ve set off on my travels, and the main inspiration for the trip was to follow my Step Grandfathers footsteps as POW during WW2 but I’ve yet to get to the start of that leg of my tour!

I started at Dover Castle as it features underground tunnels that were used in the war as the base to organise Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of allied troops from Dunkirk, behind these doors:

The following day I drove down to Bois Jacques and saw the Foxholes that were dug out but the 101st Airbourne div when laying seige to the town of Foy, for the Battle of the Bulge, Bastogne.

On from there I drove further on and spent the night in Strasbourg where lots of people dined outside, a band played and everyone enjoyed the warm summer air and atmosphere, it was a city in bloom, very colourful!

The next day, I made in further south into Switzerland and found Engelberg, where there was a cable car that took me to the top of Titlis mountain, 10,000 feet high and offering really stunning views!

Once down from there I walked around Luzern, where I’m staying, where there was a music festival so I was able to chill, looking out across the lake, the mountains in the background, loving the view. Also walked across the oldest wooden bridge in Europe, oldest trussed bridge in the world!

Next up is the Sussen pass …

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Very soon, I’ll be starting my trip, leaving monday feeling both excited and intrigued to step in the path of history, which really helps bring it alive for me. It will take a few days to get down to my starting point at the south of Italy, but I’m including other points of interest along the way, such as visiting the foxholes that were dug out in the Battle of the Bulge, which you may have seen if you watched ‘Band of Brothers’ As I go along I’ll be writing my book which will compare Bob’s account (my Step Grandfather) with how I see things today, and am running a crowdfunding page to gain support for the book, please do take a look here: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/never-lose-hope-a-pow-journey-then-and-now

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The Beach anyone?

So its been very hot lately and I’m not going to complain, as the winter was long  this year very cold, and I’m saving a fortune on heating bills!!

I went to the beach the other day, in Brighton and the water was so cold I almost froze over.  There were people swimming including a mate I went there with, but alas I’ve been spoiled and know of the sea in the Maldives, St. Lucia and Turkey all of which is lovely warm water.  In fact there is a beach I went to in Turkey that was with no exaggeration ‘like a hot bath’ it was incredible!

However, I am writing this ahead of a trip round Europe and thinking of a different beach:

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Maybe you’re thinking how beautiful and peaceful this looks, and I agree it most definitely is.  The water in the picture is the English channel though so still really cold, but on a hot day even I can persuaded to go in!

The reason I’ve shown this picture is because it would have looked so very different about 80 years ago, because this is Utah Beach, one of the five main landing place for the Normandy invasion, D-Day.  It is difficult to imagine how a place so beautiful could have been the place of utter horror to so many.  And yet, as the water turned red, it signaled the coming of the end of the war, which came about only a year later, the allies had a stronghold in Northern France after D-Day and the war was won.

In the next few blogs, I will be visiting parts of Europe, retracing the footsteps of my Step Grandfather who was a Prisoner of War.  he was captured in Torbruk, North Africa and taken to Benghazi where after a few months of bad treatment and lack of food and water he was transported with many others over to the south of Italy.

I will visit the south of Italy and follow his path, up through Austria and into North Germany, and add my thoughts to blogs here as I go with a few pictures along the way…

Please follow me to stay tuned…

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