WWII’s Great Escapes: The Freedom Trails by Monty Halls


In this series on Channel 4 former Royal Marine Monty Halls retraces the routes of great escapes from Nazi territory.

Last night’s episode saw Len Harley, who was being held a Prisoner of War (PoW) at Camp 78 in Abruzzo, central Italy escape across the Majella mountains in winter after the guards abandoned the camp due to the allies advance from the South in September 1943.

Len and his mates were never safe and had to move villiage-to-village as his German pursuers grew ever closer, and he soon found himself being sheltered by Rosina Spinosa in a nearby farm. Seventy-five years later, speaking from his home in Kent, he still comes alive at her memory.

“An absolutely wonderful woman. So brave – she brought us food even when the Germans were close. It’s all because of her that we survived, all because of her.” 

Len who is now 98 was a PoW for two years. Credit: Channel 4.

In 1944 he returned to the UK, married and had two children; all only possible thanks to the help he received by complete strangers. Len – who’s now 98  was able to thank Rosina for the first time in a very emotional video call, both surrounded by their family.

It is remarkable to think of the perils and hardships that Len faced on a daily basis both as a PoW and on the run. Incredibly humble and armed only with the will to survive the former Sergeant in the Rifles is an amazing example of courage and determination.

If you didn’t manage to catch it don’t worry you’re in luck as it’s available on Channel 4 Catch-Up  and certainly worth a watch. The next episode is on Saturday 30th September at 8pm.

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