Canberra 2019: Stalag 18A Reunion Weekend
From 1st to 3rd of March, friends and family of Stalag 18A met at the Hotel Mercure in Canberra for a weekend of sharing memories and learning new things. Guests came from all parts of Australia and New Zealand with a few travelling from the UK specially for the occasion.
The weekend officially began on Friday afternoon with the guests gathering together to share memories and memorabilia. After dinner, Ian Brown gave a short presentation on the town of Wolfsberg and the history of Stalag 18A and its many Work Camps.
On Saturday morning, Deidre Mussen from New Zealand talked about her great uncle, Padre John Ledgerwood and his work with MI9 in Stalag 18A and the assistance given to POWs who escaped from the camps. This was followed by a lecture from Jim Claven on the camp in Thessaloniki where the POWs from the Greece and Crete campaigns were so harshly treated.
After lunch, the group walked the short distance to the Australian War Memorial to view the Museum and to join in the Last Post Ceremony. This ceremony is held every afternoon and was a very moving experience.
After dinner that evening, Ian Brown gave a second presentation on the proposed Memorial to Stalag 18A which it is hoped will be created in Wolfsberg.
On Sunday morning, two lectures were presented. The first was by Neil Churches, the son of Ralph Churches who organised a mass escape from a Work Camp in northern Yugoslavia with the help of the local partisans. The large group of POWs then walked for over 100 miles through enemy-occupied territory to finally be flown out to safety in Italy. The second lecture was by the archeologist Dr Michael Bendon on the discovery and history of a Landing Craft (Tank) which was involved in the Battle of Crete.
After lunch, Joe Woodward from the Shadowhouse PITS Theatre in Melbourne, gave a reading of 'A Bloke in our Unit', with the help of Mick and Bronnie Wallis and Joe's son providing a musical interlude. A fitting ending to the weekend.
Many thanks to Carole Mules and Iulia Wishart for organising the whole event.