Weston to host POW assembly

PUBLISHED: 19:03 15 October 2015

RELATIVES of people with some of the most courageous and harrowing stories from World War Two will be converging on Weston-super-Mare this week.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Allied prisoners of war from German camps.

Many of them had been imprisoned for up to five years, often in appalling conditions, but the process of gaining their freedom was, for most, even worse than what had gone before.

In an episode often largely ignored in wartime accounts, in the worst weather of January 1945, hundreds of thousands of Allied prisoners were force-marched by their German captors for four months, in an effort to escape the Russian Red Army as it rapidly approached from the east.

Many of the prisoners did not survive, dying of cold, hunger, brutality or accidental allied air attacks by pilots who thought the columns of men were German troops.

Relatives of these former POWs will be gathering in Weston from all over the UK on Saturday and Sunday to commemorate their loved ones, in an event which will also allow them to learn more about their experiences, and what life was like as a wartime prisoner.

Helping them will be historian Dr Anna Wickiewicz from the Polish Central Prisoner of War Museum, situated on the site of Stalag VIIIB, one of the biggest POW camps for British and Commonwealth prisoners.

Also on hand will be the event’s organiser, world-renowned historical researcher Philip Baker, who has been researching prisoners of war for 15 years, and has taken many groups to visit former POW camps abroad.

The event has already proven so popular that it is fully booked and no more places are available.

However, there will be a chance for Weston people to view some of the information later in the week, when it will all be brought together into a public exhibition.

An evening reception and exhibition viewing for local dignitaries will be held on Wednesday night, with guests set to include members of the RAF Association and and other town organisations.

Then, the Prisoner of War Weekend exhibition will take place at the Royal Air Forces Association in Alexandra Parade.

It will include an exhibition entitled Stalag, which will be open to the public from 10am-4pm on October 24.

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