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Episode 1

Episode 1 of 2

Duration:
28 minutes
First broadcast:
Friday 30 August 2013

On September 8th 1943 around 50,000 Allied prisoners broke out of their POW camps in Italy. On the 70th anniversary Edward Stourton presents The Italian Freedom Trails, the incredible story of the biggest mass breakout in history. In the recounting of the history of World War II it's often forgotten that Italy surrendered to the Allies and the Italians threw open the doors of their POW camps. For the prisoners in Italy this was a golden opportunity that amazingly they were ordered to ignore. While their Italian guards put down their rifles and in many cases left the prison camps completely, the order from London was for soldiers to wait for Allied troops to arrive so they could quickly be integrated back in to fighting units - any serviceman making a run for it would be regarded as a deserter. The vast majority of men though didn't hesitate and headed for freedom. All of those who obeyed orders were transported to Germany. Edward Stourton joins an Anglo-Italian memorial walk in the Apennines, along the routes taken by escapers, to tell their extraordinary stories and the stories of those who helped them; stories of bravery, endurance, sacrifice and love, as Eric Newby told in his classic "Love and War in the Apennines." The series includes interviews with Wanda Newby, the woman who helped Newby while he was on the run and who eventually married him, with veterans who escaped and with Italian families who helped them. These are moving stories of individuals and of a mass escape which helped changed the course of the war and subsequent history of Italy.

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