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Thread: Second World War Blunder That Doomed 50,000 British PoWs

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    Second World War Blunder That Doomed 50,000 British PoWs

    Source: Guardian (UK) (11-1-09)
    A fateful blunder by British military intelligence allowed the Nazis to seize 50,000 Allied prisoners of war from the Italians during the Second World War and transport them to camps in Germany and Poland where thousands are believed to have perished.

    Newly published evidence reveals that a top-secret branch of the Ministry of Defence known as MI9 ordered British PoWs in Italy to remain in their camps after Italy surrendered. The order, issued in June 1943 as Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery was planning the invasion of the Italian mainland, and revealed for the first time in a new book, Where the Hell Have You Been?, was transmitted in code on a BBC religious broadcast. In some camps, British officers posted their own guards to prevent the men from leaving, even after the Italians had laid down their weapons.

    As a result, the German army was able to walk into dozens of camps and round up the PoWs. According to War Office records, more than 50,000 Allied soldiers were transported from Italian camps by cattle train to far worse conditions in Germany and Poland during the summer of 1943. Thousands are estimated to have died, either shot while trying to escape from the trains or in the camps over the course of the following two winters.


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