The Second World War brought out the worst in humankind.
It also brought to the fore its most heroic deeds. Nothing can equal the
greatest escape of all; that of Clemens Forell a young German lieutenant
captured by the Russians and sentenced to twenty-five years penal servitude
in the dreaded Siberian lead mines. If you ever come across a book entitled
'As Far as my Feet will Carry Me' as narrated to J. M Bauer then pick it up
and treasure it. (Don't even ask; I am NOT parting with my copy).
This is the true account of the soldier's fate after he was captured by
partisans and with tens of thousands of other German infantrymen and
officers disappeared into Stalin's Siberian hell, the Gulag Archipelago.
After years of working underground in intolerable conditions from which men
rarely survived he made the amazing decision to walk home.
Helped by a doctor he set out, ill-equipped and ill provisioned to trek
across 8,000 miles of enemy occupied land to freedom.
During his incredible journey Forell suffered untold hardships. He learned
how to live off the hostile Siberian wastes, he fell in with wandering
tribes, at one stage he roamed the countryside with a desperate band of
Russian criminals who tried to murder him. Stealing, enduring, he contrived
to drift southward and westward until three years later he crossed a border
The Daily Herald described it as "One of the most fantastic episodes of
human courage an endurance ever written." The Observer: "The book stands out
in the reader's memory with moving, tragically and sometimes frightening
The author says, "The whole story was so nightmarish, the incidents and
situations he claimed to be true so incredible, that I kept on raising
doubts, yielding only to the stubbornness with which he stuck to history or
to corroboration from other sources. Time and again, when I did turn
elsewhere for corroboration, his story was confirmed."
Such is the epic that be warned, you will not put it down the whole night
SPRINGING THE ITALIAN LEADER
Another escape recorded for posterity is that of the then Italian leader's
rescue by German Commandos. This took place on 12th September 1944.
Benito Mussolini had fallen victim to an allied coup and had been placed
under 'house arrest' in various Italian locations. Hitler's fear was that
Italy's allied-backed stooge, Marshall Pietro Badoglio would make peace with
the allies. This would likely involve his giving permission to the allies to
invade Germany's back door via Italy. The vengeful Churchill was already
gloating at Germany's impending misfortune.
To turn the tables on the allies the Fuhrer personally chose the
battle-hardened SS-Sturmbannfuhrer Otto Skorzeny to carry out one of the
most daring escapes in history.
German intelligence tracked down Mussolini to his latest prison, a ski
resort on the high peak of Gran Sasso in the Appenine Mountains. His gaolers
had chosen it as being virtually impregnable, the only access being by cable
Skorzeny carefully planned his intended raid. Aerial reconnaissance had
identified a small grassy meadow, just yards from the hotel that might just
offer a landing opportunity for expertly piloted gliders. The assault force
was made up of a mix of carefully selected Waffen-SS commando specialists
and Fallschirmjager (paratroopers).
A dozen light assault gliders soared high above the Appenine's snowy peaks
whilst the rest of the paratroopers' battalion went by road to capture the
Aquila airfield in the valley below the soaring mountain redoubt.
Eight of the gliders slithered to a stop and before the land borne
paratroopers had arrived the guards had been bloodlessly overpowered. Within
minutes the Italian leader was spirited away in a Fiesler Storch
reconnaissance aircraft piloted by Skorzeny himself.
Churchill was foiled. Benito Mussolini was restored to power and Otto
Skorzeny was awarded the Knight's Cross that was personally presented by the
grateful German leader. Such was the valour shown that the epic then and now
earned international acclaim. Perhaps it should be made into a movie. Might
we suggest it be called, 'The Great Escape'?
THE SOUND BARRIER
Officially America's Chuck Yeager was the first pilot to reach Mach.1
otherwise known as the Sound Barrier (between 661mph and 742mph according to
altitude). In fact it was first broken by Hans Guido Mutke, a Luftwaffe
pilot over two years earlier. On April 9th 1945 Dr Mutke was flying his
ME262A at 36,000 feet. Suddenly he was told of a fellow pilot who was under
attack from an RAF Spitfire. He dived at the speedometer of his aircraft
remained frozen in the red area (1,100km/h or 684mph). The aircraft entered
the shaking phase that sets in at Mach.1 and the rivets started to fly out
of the wings.
He managed to pull out at 26,000 feet but on the ground his aircraft looked
as though it had been struck by a giant.
Further support comes from Kurt Doetsch, now 94 if he is still alive. This
retired aeronautics professor was assigned in 1944 to find the reason for a
series of mysterious and fatal ME262 crashes.
These aircraft were disintegrating in the air or out of control smashing
into the ground. Professor Doetsch subjected the jets to a series of tests
and found that the problems began at Mach.85. Some of the pilots had
obviously broken the sound barrier and paid for it with their lives.
The Germans n fact made no end of astonishing scientific breakthroughs, in
biochemical weaponry and non-military areas such as cancer research. Much of
their groundbreaking work was centred on aerospace and missile technology.
All of this was shipped out to the United States which, with the removal of
the British Empire as a trade barrier, provided the rocket fuel for post war
American advances and prosperity.
THE SKY'S THE LIMIT RAF
Air Vice Marshal 'Johnnie' Johnson who died in January 2001 was no doubt an
exceptional gallant and skilful fighter pilot having been credited with
shooting down 38 enemy fighters. But as the Sunday Telegraph's Kevin Myers
pointed out, 'the simple infuriating truth is that he would never have made
it to the Luftwaffe's list of top fighter aces'. The Luftwaffe's record show
more than 100 of their pilots each shot down more than an incredible 100
The top scoring Luftwaffe pilot was Major Erich Hartmann who downed more
than 352 allied aircraft that were attacking his country. His was more than
the combined total of the RAF's eleven top fighter plots.
Between them the Luftwaffe's top 104 plots downed more than 15,000 allied
aircraft between them. Nor was their prey relatively useless Soviet cannon
fodder. Hans Joachim Marseille shot down 158 RAF fighters in just two years,
a greater tally of enemy aircraft than achieved by the top four RAF aces
combined. Of these four RAF aces only one in fact was British. One was Irish
and the other two were South African.
GAGGED BECAUSE HE WITNESSED BRITAIN'S SHAME
One of the most daring British escapes was that of 19-year old soldier
William Robert Alderson who had been captured at Dunkirk. He managed to
escape twice but finally made good his escape, and incredibly walked from
Czechoslovakia to Odessa, pulling a sledge over 1,000 miles. He was taken
prisoner by the Russians but escaped yet again.
Back in Britain and 'The Land of Free Expression' after the war's end he was
not allowed to publish his book, 'The Long Road Back' because it contained
his eyewitness account of having witnessed the forced return of the Cossacks
who had fled to the west. Disembarked from the first of many such ships at
Odessa, he saw them lined up and shot on the quayside. An American company
finally published the book in 1994.
The heroic soldier died unsung in 1996, but his family still lives in
Padiham, Burnley in Lancashire, England.
WHOSE SACRIFICE WAS THE GREATEST?
The British Merchant Navy has never earned recognition for its sacrifice and
valour during World War 11. Because many merchant seamen did not wear a
uniform civilians thinking them draft dodgers often presented them with
white feathers, the symbol of cowardice.
On the other hand Bomber Command's airmen, flying far above the appalling
carnage they inflicted on a relatively defensive civilian population have
constantly carped on about their perceived lack of recognition.
The airborne apocalypse has constantly whinged about their losses when set
against the other services. They have been less forthcoming about their
largely undefended and innocent victims. For the record Bomber Command lost
55,573 aircrew and 8,953 aircraft during Churchill's war.
The Merchant Navy lost more. The service suffered 61,631 casualties
inclusive of foreigners serving under its command. These included seamen of
defensively armed merchant ships. Altogether 5,150 merchant ships were lost,
2,828 of them to mainly German u-boats.
The sad irony is that the Merchant Navy's losses would have been
considerably fewer if instead of indiscriminately bombing defenceless
civilians the RAF had transferred its air resources to Coastal Command to
defend British shipping.
"WE WOULD ALL BE SPEAKING GERMAN NOW?
"If it hadn't been for (fill it in yourself________________________________
we would all have been speaking German now."
The German armed forces occupied a number of European countries. None of the
inhabitants were ever required to learn the German language. Life carried on
much as it had before. In most areas one could easily forget that a war was
Here in England we would have continued speaking English, which is in fact
pidgin-European. There is no such thing as an English language. Its origins
are a mix of Greek, Latin and German languages with a few contributions from
countries occupied by England during its empire-building days. Remove from
the English language words of Greek or Latin origin and conversation would
be impossible with the little that remained.
SOVIET AND BRITISH BARBARITY EXTENDS TO THE DEFENCELESS DEAD
During the war the advancing Red Army destroyed thousands of military
cemeteries as it swept over territory previously lost. The wooden crosses,
many intricately carved by grieving Axis comrades, were used as firewood.
The graves were casually driven over and often obliterated.
The German intention was to consider their war dead graves as temporary. The
war's end would allow for the creation of vast, formal military cemeteries.
Thus neat rows of their fallen across the Russian steppe were covered with
only about 40 cm of soil.
Following the collapse of the blood-soaked Soviet Union, Britain and
America's former ally, so-called 'black diggers'; squads of grave-robbers
using wartime maps, archives and local knowledge plundered these graves.
These bands of grave robbers systematically ransacked the resting places of
brave servicemen, filching military artefacts for sale at military
During the 1990s the German authorities were allowed to return to some
military cemeteries. Such was the disorder prevalent, with scattered bones
everywhere, that many unfortunates will forever be listed simply as 'missing