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Forced March to Freedom

At the height of World War Two, the life expectancy of a bomber crew was desperately short; every pilot knew that their next mission was likely to be either his last day alive or his first day as a prisoner of the Reich. One man who’s fear of becoming a prisoner became a reality was Canadian Robert Buckham. On April 8 1943 Buckham was shot down while on a bombing raid over Germany. With other captured airmen he was imprisoned in Stalag Luft III, the Luftwaffe’s supposedly-perfect prison camp and the location for the legendary Great Escape. Because it was run by the Luftwaffe, and not one of Hitler’s notorious SS death camp units, Stalag Luft III was often referred to as the Country Club of prison camps; people assumed it was like a boy scout camp. But despite the relatively comfortable conditions, Stalag III was still a prison. In January 1945 the Red Army was advancing on their prisoner of war camp and the men of Stalag III were anticipating liberation. The Nazis dashed these hopes. They forced the prisoners to march out of the camp in the dead of winter – one of the coldest of the twentieth century - toward the centre of a collapsing Third Reich in order to keep the P.O.W.’s as hostages. What followed was one of the most notorious forced marches in human history. Forced March to Freedom tells the story of this amazing test of endurance through the eyes of Robert Buckham of West Vancouver, a bomber pilot and artist who produced countless sketches and water-colours of prison camp life, as well as one of the only chronicles of the forced march itself. For some, it was a march to freedom, for others, a fatal walk into an icy death. The forced march of 10,000 allied airmen at the end of World War Two is one of the most dramatic untold stories of the war. And now, near the end of their own lives, it’s a story that the lucky men who survived the march are finally ready to tell.

 Read more Read less Duration: 52 min