WWII Prisoner Of War Celebrates 102nd Birthday By Fundraising For Forces Charities

Norman Lewis, who was held in Poland during the Second World War, is raising £10,000 to reflect his 10,000-mile escape.

A Second World War veteran and former prisoner of war has launched a charity appeal to celebrate turning 102.

Former sapper Norman Lewis hopes to raise £10,000 to reflect his 10,000-mile escape from Poland.

Mr Lewis joined the Territorial Army in 1939 and was posted to France once the war began.

He was captured in a German ambush on 7 June 1940, about 10 miles from Rouen. 

"After two or three days on the march, it had dawned on me that I was a prisoner and that I couldn't do much about it, so I accepted it," he said.

"Some of the lads wouldn't accept it; they killed themselves. A lot died."

Mr Lewis was held in Poland for five years before he managed to escape.

"One day in 1945 we heard gunfire. It was the Russian Front," he explained. "They got closer and eventually the German guards decided they would leave.

"They asked us to go with them and tell the Russians – if they caught up with them – that they were good to us. We all refused.

"At first they wanted to shoot us, but they changed their minds and they locked us in the prison and threw away the key."

Mr Lewis went on: "Some Poles came and broke the door down and hid us as the battle went on. When we came out of hiding the Russians were in charge."

The veteran embarked on a 10,000-mile journey to the UK, by sea and land, as the war continued.

Former sapper Norman Lewis was captured by Nazi Germany during the Second World War (Picture: SSAFA).

He made it home, weighing just eight and-a-half stone. 

"I got to my parent's house at 4 o'clock in the morning. My dad opened his bedroom window and said, 'Who's there?'

"I said, 'It's me, Dad. Norman," the veteran said.

Now, Mr Lewis aims to raise the money for the Tri Service and Veterans Support Centre and SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity, by encouraging people to walk, cycle, drive, or run – to raise the equivalent of £1 for each mile of his long journey home. 

His birthday celebrations included a Guard of Honour made up of the Royal Engineers Association standard, the Lord Lieutenant for Staffordshire, serving members of the Royal Engineers, and representatives from SSAFA.

He said: "When I saw all the people standing there for my birthday, I was shocked, I didn't know what to do or what to say or where to go, but it's marvellous. I've had a lovely day today."

To receive help, find out more or get involved, click here, or call 01785 212680.

Cover image: Norman Lewis celebrating his birthday (Picture: SSAFA).