My father escaped not once but four times from River boats, trains and the prison camp Stalag VIIIB, during the Second Word War. ‘The Lucky Shilling’ features terrifying descriptions of the conditions the prisoners faced and the gruelling and barbaric punishments inflicted on those attempting escape.
Chapter 17: Escape
Excerpt-William Marsh’s own words from ‘The Lucky Shilling’ (e-book):
Prague: “The Polish prisoners were going berserk, shouting and screaming at two guards who were standing between the trip wire and the fence with their rifles aimed at them and holding a snarling alsatian by its lead. Almost at the same time an open-backed lorry roared into the Polish compound and screeched to a halt. Ten German guards, who were in the back of the lorry, jumped out and, armed with submachine guns, formed a line with the other two guards facing the enraged Polish. By this time we were also shouting at the guards and shaking the wire.
Without a warning the Germans opened fire, just over the heads of the Polish prisoners. They stopped shouting, as it was bloody clear that the next time the guards fired it wouldn’t be over their heads. More guards arrived and the Polish were herded back into their huts and locked in. We were still standing by the wire, but the Germans now came into our compound and, pushing and prodding us with their rifles and submachine guns, locked us in as well. It all became very quiet and, about ten minutes after the last hut had been locked we heard a single pistol shot. We eventually learned that the Polish prisoner we had seen hanging over the wire had been going stir-crazy for quite some time. They had tried to keep him calm and his friends were watching him like a hawk fearing that he would try to do something rash, but that afternoon he had snapped and, screaming about his family, had shaken off the couple of prisoners who were exercising in the compound with him, jumped over the trip wire and ran to the fence.
The Germans in the high tower, about fifty yards away, had shouted at him to stop. He ignored them and, reaching the fence, had started to climb up it, screaming swear words in Polish at them at the top of his voice. Desperate to pull him back to safety, one of his friends had run after him and jumped over the trip wire to try and grab him, just as the tower guards opened fire. The machine gun caught the prisoner on the top of the wire with a burst of bullets and the other prisoner was shot dead by a single rifle bullet, fired by the other tower guard…”
Read more about William Marsh’s terrifying escapes.
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(click on image for larger view) As the War is ending, Bill escapes to Prague to witness the civilian uprising and the extraordinary turn of events which saw the german soldiers of the waffen SS massacring the civilians at the barricdes and then being fought to a standstill by Russian soldiers, also in German uniform.
A heartrending escape story covered by the Telegraph newspaper (2013) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/9627322/British-PoW-escaped-200-times-to-meet-German-lover.html
Some noted films featuring escapes from prison camps, listed on http://www.cheatsheet.com/entertainment/6-great-pow-films-based-on-true-stories.html/?a=viewall
Recommended stories of Prisoners of War from BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/categories/c1204/
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