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History: WWII

Ron Bowley - the Story of a Lincolnshire Regiment Prisoner of War, Retold in a 75th Anniversary Map

This informationn was kindly supplied by Ian Bowley.

27 april 2020

In the weeks leading up to victory in Europe, thousands of prisoners of WWII were liberated in Germany, having been forced to march many hundreds of miles from prisoner of war camps in Poland. Some of their stories are told, and their routes mapped, in a new web resource www.lamsdorflongmarch.com

Theirs is a story rarely told. The maps published today are, we believe, the most accurate ever produced. They demonstrate the supreme effort required to survive and get home.

I hope you feel this is a story which should be told. Please find our press release attached.

Ian Bowley



Private Ernest Ronald ('Ron') Bowley (4802342), who was in the Lincolnshire Regiment, is one of 48 prisoners of war featured in a new interactive map commemorating the 75th anniversary of the 1945 Lamsdorf Long March, an often overlooked part of World War Two history.

Using personal accounts and diary entries, the online map at www.lamsdorflongmarch.com traces each man's treacherous journey from Poland to Germany in sub-zero temperatures. As the Russians advanced, 21,867 men from the allied forces were marched from Stalag VIIIB (344) and its associated work camps where they had already spent up to five years in wretched, cramped conditions enduring hard physical labour on a poor diet and limited medical facilities.

Map co-creator, Dave Lovell, from Romsey in Hampshire, would like the men, including his father, Arthur Lovell a private in 7th Battalion the Royal Sussex Regiment, to be remembered as 'Beacons of Hope' during difficult times.

This is a story of hope, of how an instinct for survival, dogged determination and the support of fellow men helped overcome the most extreme conditions. It is also a story of utter deprivation and unfathomable human resilience.

He recalls: "My father said very little about these three months of his life but they undoubtedly shaped his life and his beliefs. In making the map I discovered the harsh reality of his daily routine, his courage and conviction that kept him alive where others fell by the wayside."

Co-creator Ian Bowley from Consett in County Durham, whose father Ron served in the 2nd Battalion, the Lincolnshire Regiment, explains: "I had been a member of the Stalag VIIIB Facebook page for many years prior to the launch of this project. While I had researched my father's Long March route in great detail, I knew very little about other routes, so jumped at the chance to get involved."

"One of the biggest challenges has been to identify the current place-names of locations recorded, in some cases in pencil 75 years ago, in occupied territory and therefore with places re-named. I was extremely fortunate to have the help of a small team of volunteers to achieve this whilst Dave coordinated the creation of the story map."

Ian believes this part of World War Two history has been largely overlooked as having been captured was somehow seen as a failure after the war, even though many stayed behind at Dunkirk to slow the German advance and enable more than 300,000 men to get away.

"I firmly believe that a POW medal should have been awarded to all men who had spent time in POW camps during World War Two but petitions have been rejected on a number of occasions. Hopefully, the success of this project might provide fresh impetus to this appeal", he said.

Rick Catt, a member of the 75th anniversary commemorative committee added: "A simple nationally sponsored memorial recognising them for their sacrifice (and contributions) giving us all a place to remember them in our own way and to provide later generations with a lesson in fortitude would be all I ask. We have this already in Australia."

For him, the map project not only honours the men of Stalag VIIIB but has also provided greater insight into the life of his father, Noel Catt a Sergeant in the Royal Air Force.

"From a very few comments by my father, I've been able to establish his approximate route on the march and get a better feeling for what he went through during that period. Like so many other men, the whole period from when he was shot down until he returned home was rarely spoken about and we knew not to ask", he said.

The map was created using esri story maps with help from Ordnance Survey, where Dave Lovell began his career as a surveyor. It enables users to learn more about the build-up to the evacuation of the POW camps, as well as allowing them to watch an interview with one of the survivors.

The individual stories include the hidden diary of a Military Cross recipient, secret photos, a daring escape, and a homemade sledge built under the nose of camp officials. Some of the men remembered were remarkably young having lied about their age to enlist. Others simply did not come home.

Men judged to be unfit to travel were left behind when the camps evacuated. Some of these were evacuated by train, others were liberated by Soviet troops on 17th March 1945.

Philip Baker, curator of the Online Museum of Prisoners of War (www.lamsdorf.com) says that: "The stories, maps and videos will enable me to considerably enrich the 'Long March' pages of the Lamsdorf website, thanks to all the hard work of the volunteers contributing to this project."



About Ron Bowley

Private Ernest Ronald ('Ron') Bowley (service number 4802342), was a driver in 2nd Battalion, the Lincolnshire Regiment. On May 29th, 1940, he was captured during the Battle of Dunkirk, when a German pincer movement around the town of Poperinge cut off his escape route to Dunkirk. He was 19 years old. Ron and his fellow POWs were forced to march through Belgium, in hot weather and with little food and water. In Holland, they were marched to a railway station and herded into cattle trucks, spending several days in appalling conditions on a journey through Germany into Poland. When they reached Stalag VIIIB at Lamsdorf (date unknown), he was given his POW number (15570). In early August 1940, Ron was sent to a work camp (E22) close to the Oehringen Bergbau coal mine in Sosnitz (Sosnica).

For further information contact Ian Bowley. Email: ianbowley@btinternet.com