Fort XIII (Wild, David. Prisoners of hope. 1992. London)

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Anniversary of 21 January, when Long March began

It was strong winter 1945. Some Germans told that it was - 20 cel. but situation was very hot. Soviets were very close to Torun, so close that prisoners heard bang outside the camp. Hitler decided to make stronghold from Torun, soldiers were given orders to defent city till last brick. Of course everybody knew about situation on front...

Headqater in Torun had ready evacuation plan for civilians, POW and even for soldiers. It was action called Roland and it was divided for three sections:

  • Roland Erwartung: Propaganda and preparing citizens for evacuation.
  • Roland I: For woman, children and olders, this step began in first days of January. Civilans were moved to Wiecbork and Bydgoszcz, then went far away on West where trains could move. The same days Germans started to evacuated (20 - 21 January) POWs,
  • Roland II: began at 30 January and it was an escape plan for German soldiers from Torun crew. 
Below we published  how first day of this action looked like in diares of POW Corporal Jack Stansfield, and Signalman John Fenwick

Jan 20th

Told at 3 am to be ready to move moved out about 9am. Received Red Cross Parcel about 7am 6 loaves.Thorn bombed by Russian Air Force. Anti Aircraft heavy all night. Passed a big Column of Russian Jewesses who looked very tired and hungry. Saw a burial on roadside of Jewess who has died. The column made to march quickly and continued to march till dark, having covered 22 kilometres, where we were put into an open field and told to sleep there for the night. Within 1o minutes the boys were drinking tea, about 6 inches of snow and -15 degrees C frost. - Jack Stansfield

When the Russians were advancing in January 1945 the POW s were forced to march by the German guards. This was the Long March and Dad was on this. We know it was very cold ,sub zero temperatures, they were marched every day, a lot of the men died on route. Dad talked about foraging for food, frozen turnips from the fields if they could find them. It was survival of the fittest, and a determination to get back to their family that kept them all going.... - Evelyn, daughter of John Fenwick

Orginal handwrite of Jack Stansfield

These people survived and luckly came back to England. After civiliand and POW's were moved Soviets started to attacked Toruns area. Near end of January the ring around the city was closed. Officers decided to  the escape from the city. It was during the night 31.Jan/ 01 Feb. 1945 Garnison was divided on three sections, signal to escape was bang of explosion of Toruns bridges.

we put up at an house about 2 kilometres from the town despite guards order who were in a panic, more boys joined us. About 10pm got down to sleep but there were quite a lot of bridges being blown. - Jack Stansfield

We left our barracks and started to move under strong enemy fire. Many of us died but we realised the plan. We reach Unislaw and stared to cross frozen Vistula river but Russian expected us on second bank... - Erich Abramowski, German soldier. 

City was liberatet but nobody knows that comunism regime gave semmingly  freedom . Here you  heard a chronic about Red Army Regiment in Torun 1945

The last battle for German soldiers was near Grudziądz and Unislaw. Many died but some of them came back to Torun as a POW's to the same barracs and forts but in different role. But this is story for another time

German POWs marching to Torun, 1945
Sadly today such stories we could only read or see. It was great pleasure for us to meet personally people or their relatives who were posted in this article. For people interested in Long Marche we recommend  BBC Series The Long March To Freedom:

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