Jack Edward BIRD, 6 Queen's Own Royal West Kent: POW, Stalag XXA Thorn - end of war

Discussion in 'Prisoners of War' started by Linda White, Dec 29, 2023.

  1. Linda White

    Linda White New Member

    Is anyone able to help me with more information about the Long/Forced march participants from Stalag XXA please?
    My Uncle, Jack Edward Bird, was captured in Arras on 25/5/1940 and spent the whole war in Thorn but I am lacking information about what happened at the end of his time in the camp and how he came to be liberated. I have read about long marches heading towards Germany, others towards Russia and also the camp itself being liberated but how can I find out what happened to my Uncle? I have contacted the Red Cross but they had very little information, I have his POW cards from the NA but cannot locate a liberation questionnaire for him. I have also applied for his war record but have little hope of that telling me anything!
    Jack was part of C company, 6th Battalion of the Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment and I have read the official war diary thanks to help from someone in the Stalag XXA FB group so I now have a rough idea of how he came to be there and what it was like. Just want to tie up the loose ends for my cousins!
    Many thanks.
  2. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery

  3. Tullybrone

    Tullybrone Senior Member


    Men were broken up into small columns (up to 250 strong) and whilst they headed in a general direction westwards there would be differences so I doubt you will find a precise route for your uncle. Some men remained in the camps and were released by advancing Russian forces and some reached allied lines via Odessa.

    You could get a copy (should be available via your local library) of John Nichol’s 2005 book The Last Escape. He covers alot of the routes taken on The Long Marches 1944/45 and has interviews with many veterans who took part in the marches.

    John Nichol - Books

    Wikipedia says - Note mention of route taken by Charles Waite

    Robert Schirmer was the Red Cross delegate in northern Germany when the evacuation of POW camps was taking place. His situation report was received in London and Washington on 18 February 1945. He is likely to have seen a group of marchers on the road in Pomerania. He had knowledge of the overall POW situation in Germany, and his report described three main POW evacuation routes to the west:[4]

    The direction of travel was not consistent. An individual group would sometimes travel in circles and end up at a previous stopping point; it often zig-zagged. Charles Waite describes his route as: Marienburg (Stalag XX-B), Neustettin, Nuebrandenburg, Schwerin, heading for Lübeck but diverting south to Wittenberge, Stendal (after crossing the frozen Elbe), Magdeburg, Halle (just north of Leipzig), Luckenwalde, Belzig, Brandenburg, eastwards towards Potsdam and then in the direction of Berlin. Waite estimated the distance covered as 1,600 kilometres (990 mi).[5] Comparison of this route with Schirmer's description of the three lines of march may suggest to the reader that his group started on the northern line of march and finished on the central one.

    According to Nichol and Rennell, the forced march of thousands of western Allied POWs from Stalag Luft VI at Heydekrug beginning in July 1944 was the first of the series of marches known as the Long March. The POWs were marched either to Stalag Luft IV at Gross Tychow (a journey which also involved a 60-hour journey by ship to Swinemünde), or to Stalag XX-A at Thorn in Poland (with part of the distance covered by cattle train).

    The March (1945) - Wikipedia



    HIS service record will mention little or nothing about his time as POW. Usually one line “Missing In Action” then some weeks later “Confirmed POW” often with mention of a camp. Sometimes but not always a change of camp May be noted but the last entry from 1945 will be a simple “No longer POW”. Date of return to U.K. is usually noted. There is never any mention of the Long March.

    Swiss (ICRC) POW records only note the main camp and neither the work camp or details of the March route are usually recorded in the man’s file. ICRC relied on information provided by Germany and as their systems were disintegrating for 6 months before the end of the war records are “sketchy”.
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2023
    davidbfpo likes this.
  4. Linda White

    Linda White New Member

    Thank you so much!
    I'm convinced he was on a Long March because I'm sure I found a document somewhere that said he was a participant. I didn't know what the Long March was at that point so had to research it. I clearly didn't save the document though and can't find it again of course!

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