Ex-POW recalls escape bid on Nazi death march

By Laura Paterson, PA Scotland

Soldiers Jimmy Johnstone and Bert Petrie joined two other prisoners of war in an attempt to escape from their Nazi captors.

Their bid for freedom came as they were marched back into Germany in 1945 after five years in POW camps in occupied Poland, as the Nazis felt the pressure of the advancing Allied troops.

Temperatures fell to minus 28C during the months-long death march and the malnourished POWs risked being shot if they fell behind.

Mr Johnstone said: “I had attempted to escape with Bert and two other men, Gerald Fury and Jim Watt, on the death march.

“It must have been early April 1945, and one of the German guards, who said he had been a prisoner of war in Scotland during World War One, spoke to me.

“The guards with us were all older guards and no longer able to fight. This older guard couldn’t speak a word of English, so we spoke in German.

“He said to me, ‘You give me a note saying I have been a good guard, and I will take you and your friends to this farm house I know’.

“I wrote a note that actually said he ought to get a boot up the behind, but he thought I’d written a nice note. He was so happy and put it in his pocket.

“He took us away to this farm. It was dark and wet. Three days we were there. Then we heard the Russian advance of shells and the bombs firing around us, so the guard told us we’d have to go. So many bullets.

“When the Americans freed the troops, I remember this American sergeant took the old guard and gave him a right doing over.

“But now I feel so sorry for that old guard. I regret writing that note now. I believe in the Bible and forgiveness. But at that time after being a prisoner of war for all that time that’s how I’d felt.”