Australian and New Zealand “Free Men”

I have just added a link to the blogroll on this site, but lest anyone overlook it, I want to take a moment to recognize its excellence. Its impressive collection of information is the exhaustive work of Australian WW II POW Bill Rudd.

The site, ANZAC POW Freemen in Europe, is devoted to records and history of prisoners-of-war in Europe of ANZAC—the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.

ANZAC is comprised of the New Zealand Australian Imperial Force (AIF) and the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF).

When I asked Bill Rudd about the use of his term “Free Men,” he explained:

“When I was asked by the Australian War Museum to extend my Swiss research to all other countries in which Anzac POW either escaped or evaded, but remained behind enemy lines, my first interest was the Anzac POW who had not been captured in Crete. Although technically they had been surrendered to the Germans in Crete, they had not been actually taken POW by them. Literally hundreds were recovered by SOE and MI9 operations and a considerable number came out under their own steam.

“When they eventually re-joined their units, they were never given the status of a POW.

“As a consequence, I had to change my working title to cover such cases and to accomodate the increasing number of airmen, who had crashed behind enemy lines and evaded among the civilian population of the area where that had occurred. Both the peasants of Crete and North Italy took enormous risks in succouring such Allied men. As did those brave patriots manning official escape lines developed throughout Europe.

“So I called all my evaders and escapers surviving behind enemy lines ‘Free Men.’ Many of course carried on their war with local partisan groups.

“My working research parameters was to cover all active escapers and evaders who were NOT sitting in a German prison Camp on VE Day. There were, of course, some exceptions of recaptured POW, but if they had been ‘on the loose’ for at least two months, I included them.”

The Special Operations Executive, or SOE, that Bill mentioned was a British organization responsible for training and coordinating the operations of partisan groups in occupied countries during WWII.

MI9—British Military Intelligence Section 9—was a department of the British Directorate of Military Intelligence, part of the War Office during World War II. It was charged with aiding resistance fighters in enemy occupied territory and recovering Allied troops who found themselves behind enemy lines. The department also communicated with British prisoners of war and provided them with advice and equipment.

Not only is Bill Rudd’s website a comprehensive repository of information, but it contains enlightening essays, such as “Neutrality: Swiss Style,” “The Role of Diamonds,” and “POW Marriages.” The site is worth exploring and savoring.

I have been eager to learn more about Camp 59 POWs from Australia and New Zealand. Two days ago I added to this site a new “Prisoner List” page. Of the nearly 400 POWs on that list only one is an Australian. Now, thanks to the ANZAC POW Freemen site, I will be able to add to that list other Allied servicemen from Australia and New Zealand who were interned at Camp 59.