There are many stories of daring escapes from Nazi prisoner of war camps during World War Two, but the story of Sergeant Louis Massey, 35, of the Royal Army Service Corps and is particularly impressive. Captured during the retreat of the British Expeditionary Force at Dunkirk, Sergeant Massey was sent to a German prisoner of war camp in France. In December Massey managed to give his guards the slip and escape from the camp. Trapped in occupied France with only the clothes on his back, Massey set off in Bitter December weather on an epic 1,600 mile journey.
Hiding where he could during the day Massey only travelled at night in an attempt to avoid German patrols. He was almost constantly starving an ate what berries and mushrooms he could find in fields and woods, plus the occasional bit of food that sympathetic locals could spare from their own meagre rations he managed somehow to make his way through Belgium, Holland and Germany, eventually reaching Poland were he managed to befriend some locals who helped him to cross the Russian border.
The ordeal did not end there though. With no papers to identify him and corroborate his story he was arrested as a spy and sent to a Russian Jail until June 1941 when the Germans crossed the Soviet border and the British Embassy in Moscow stepped in to get Massey released. On his release he linked up with the British Military Mission as he felt his experience in the RASC would be useful. He spent his time organising the transport of supplies and equipment until it was time for him to return home, a journey that took him through Persia, India, Africa eventually taking him home to Hampstead.
For his efforts in escaping captivity and trekking 1,600 miles to safety, Sergeant Massey was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal which he received from the King in an investiture at Buckingham Palace. Following the ceremony Sergeant Massey told the press that “The King, who seemed very familiar with my adventures, congratulated me on my safe return”