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genealogy of the Bird and Musgrove families
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Prisoners held in Italy : post-Armistice escape reports

British POW's were ordered to 'standfast' and remain where they were but many chose to escape.

When the Italian Armistice was announced on 8 September 1943 there were an estimated 80,000 Allied PoWs in Italy.  At this point all Senior British Officers (SBOs) informed their men of the so-called 'standfast' order.  This instructed them to remain in camp and await imminent liberation by the advancing Allied forces.  In reality, overall victory in Italy took far longer than anticipated.  Reaction to the Armistice varied from camp to camp.  In some, the Italian Commandant refused to hand over control to the SBO or his equivalent; others opened the gates and disappeared along with the guards.  In the latter circumstances, the more perceptive SBOs, realising the Germans would quickly take control, encouraged individual escapes; while some of the more enterprising prisoners escaped without official sanction.  Some escapers fled northwards towards Switzerland or southwards towards Allied lines.  Others hid near their camp to await developments or took the opportunity to explore the vicinity before voluntarily returning to their camp.  Ultimately, the confused situation meant that by the end of 1943 some 50,000 PoWs had been rounded-up and transported to camps in Germany.




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