News Updates

Welcome to 2015!

And to our  new website which is settling down and which we plan to update on a regular basis with new articles/items of interest.  We also now have a Forum (accessible from the link on the main menu) which we hope will generate questions and answers from the wider community  and be used as an information exchange facility.

What’s New

  1. Honours & Awards
  2. General Round-up
  3. Liberation of Auschwitz
  4. Italy – The Tenna Valley – a video
  5. France – Comete Line – a video
  6. A Mystery Solved
  7. Escaper or Evader

Honours and Awards

Our congratulations to Kathy Mellor and to Rene Ounsley.  Kathy, who has taken on the role of ELMS standard bearer has been awarded the MBE, and Rene has been awarded the BEM.

KATHY JANE MELLOR. Neonatal nurse practioner. Family care and founder, Birthlink. For services to neonatal nursing and charitable work to improve the survival of newborn babies in developing countries.  Kathy is currently in Africa.

Rene Ounsley is the Secretary of 50 Sqn RAF  (Bob Frost’s old Sqn) and has been awarded the BEM for her work as Secretary.


If any of the events listed on our calendar are of interest to you then please  do get in touch for more information.


We have a section specifically for schools (under Young ELMS) and will be continuing to develop that section this year and we have produced a school’s pack (created by teachers) which is free of charge.  Just contact us for your copy.


If you have any items, photos or articles which you think may be of interest then please do contact us using the contact form available on the main menu

Liberation of Auschwitz Concentration Camp

Many  ‘Helpers’ and their families were deported to Auschwitz or other concentration camps as a result of their involvement in Escape Lines work.  Many of those  have never received any recognition for their bravery, but the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz provides us with an opportunity to remember, once again, the bravery and sacrifice of all those involved.  We focus on Auschwitz because it is now a museum and the centre of Remembrance for the Holocaust.  Many of  those deported were sent to other camps and suffered a similar fate.  Anyone interested in more information can do a simple web search; there is no shortage of information. This link provides a good synopsis

When, on the 27th January 1945 Russian troops arrived at the gates of Auschwitz-Birkenau they found it almost empty.  Himmler had ordered the evacuation of all camps in January 1945, charging camp commanders with “making sure that not a single prisoner from the concentration camps falls alive into the hands of the enemy.  On January 17, 58,000 Auschwitz detainees were evacuated under guard, largely on foot; thousands of them died in the subsequent death march west towards Wodzisław Śląski.   Approximately 20,000 Auschwitz prisoners made it to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany, a distance of more than 500 miles,  subsequently liberated by the British on the 15th April 1945.   It is not known how many of those who completed the march survived until the camp was liberated.  Those too weak or sick to walk were left behind. When the 322nd Rifle Division of the Red Army arrived at the camp on January 27 they found about 7,500 prisoners and about 600 corpses.   Among the items found by the Soviet soldiers were 370,000 men’s suits, 837,000 women’s garments, and 7.7 tonnes  of human hair.  Estimates vary but the general consensus is now that  approximately 1.1 million people were killed in Auschwitz; 1 in 6 was Jewish and some 430,000 were Hungarian Jews.

There were at least 800 attempted escapes, and of these at least 144 were successful.

Freteval Forest Commemoration

On the  28th/29th June 2014 the 70th Anniversary Commemoration of  Operation Marathon – the secret camp that hid over 150 Allied airmen between May and August 1944 took place.  The forest of Freteval is south west of Paris and between May and September 1944 152 aircrew evaders from Great Britain, America, Canada, Belgium, New Zealand and Australia lived in perfectly organised camps in the forest, in the heart of occupied France, and under the very noses of German troops. It is quite remarkable how the Resistance groups involved managed to keep such a large number of evaders hidden and a secret from the inhabitants of local villages. Due to the excellent organisation of the camps, not a single evader was lost or captured.  For the full story look Here

National Arboretum Event Sunday 10th August 2014

The ELMS summer meeting took place as planned at the NMA on Sunday 10th August.  In-spite of poor weather,  that prevented a number of members from actually getting to the venue,  the hardy group that did make  it were treated to a brave display by the band, and a dedication at the ELMS memorial. The inclement weather did serve to remind those present that those escapers, evaders and helpers had to endure much worse, with little prospect of going home to a warm dry house,a hot meal and a change of clothes!

Tenna Valley Story

For anyone interested in POW matters in Italy here is a short video film (in Italian) made during one of our recent Tenna Valley Trail events.   The film looks at the exploits of Ken de Souza, who was a POW in PG 70, Monte Urano.  Following the armistice Ken hid in the camp, then escaped into the countryside and thanks to the help given by the Brugnoni  family was eventually picked up by sea and recovered to the Allied lines.  The film features Ken’s son, Ian,  during  visits to the park where a memorial  to his father has been erected, and also shots of the POW  camp,  a former leather factory but now disused.  For a longer article written in 2006 by Ian his son look here

Comete Trail 2014

For the French speakers amongst us, there is an interesting video report on last year’s Comete Trail, reported by journalists of Le Pays Basque magazine.  Have a look/listen here.

A Mystery Solved

Just to demonstrate how chance encounters can lead to the solving of age old mysteries! The hunt for Signalman Smith began during the Freedom Trail in the  Tenna Valley region of Italy  in September 2013, when the walkers came across a small iron cross by the roadside. At this spot a certain “Giorgio”, known to be an escaped British POW, had been killed. Nothing else was known about him. Anne Copley, who is a member of the WW2 Escape Lines Memorial Society as well as of MSMT, took up the challenge of investigating further. With the invaluable assistance of Dennis Hill of Indiana University and British researcher Brian Sims, the whole story has been revealed. In parallel, Roger Stanton, director of ELMS, also worked on the story.We now know that “Giorgio” was in fact Signalman Sidney Seymour Smith, captured at the fall of Tobruk and imprisoned at Camp 53  Sforzacosta.  How and when he escaped is unclear, but by November 1943 he was hiding at the house of the Mazzoni family, just outside Montelparo. The War Crimes file at the National Archives contains witness statements from the Mazzoni and Viozzi families (among others), from which the story of his murder by the S.S. can be pieced together.  For more information look Here and for a much more detailed explanation of what happened go to this link

Upcoming Events

  1. ELMS Reunion Week

    April 21 - April 27
  2. Italian Freedom Trail, Sulmona

    April 23 @ 5:00 pm - April 27 @ 10:00 am
  3. Tenna Valley Freedom Trail

    May 6 @ 4:00 pm - May 11 @ 10:00 am
  4. Chemin de la Liberte

    July 9 @ 8:00 am - July 12 @ 5:00 pm
  5. ELMS Family Day, NMA

    August 9 @ 10:00 am - 4:00 pm