The Long March to Freedom, Friday, April 27
Mao's Red Army.
SBS One, 9.30pm
In January 1945, with the Red Army bearing down on Germany, thousands of prisoners of war, mainly British and Commonwealth troops, were marched west from camps in Poland toward Berlin. This excellent three-part documentary deals with that journey, retold through the eyes of its survivors, old silver-headed Scots, Welsh and Englishmen whose memories are by turns grim and blackly funny.
In tonight's episode they tell of the lead-up to their capture, of being scandalously ill-equipped and under-trained, not to mention abysmally led. Faced with annihilation, “our officer was the first one to leave us,” one veteran says. “He said every man for himself, and he went.”
Many made it to Dunkirk, but 50,000 were captured, joined later by those taken prisoner in North Africa and Italy. For many, capture was not in the script: “I'd thought about being badly wounded, I'd thought about being killed,” one man explains. “But I'd never thought of being taken prisoner. That happened to other people.” Maximum stories, minimal myth making.