anzac POW freemen in europe

 Introductory Guide / Site Map

D. Definitions

3. What exactly is an AIF POW "Freedom Fighter"?

Many AIF POW who escaped from enemy prison camps and successfully avoided re-capture through the support of sympathetic locals, chose to carry on their war as active guerrilla fighters in local partisan groups. The word "guerrilla" is a Spanish one meaning "little war" denoting a person engaged in irregular fighting carried out by small bodies of men acting independently. But the Partisan movements in Europe were more than that.

In the mountains of Crete, banditry was a very old profession. "Banditti" operated in small bands very locally, and had been part of Cretan life for centuries.

In establishing the research parameters centred around escaped AIF POW "Free Men" in Switzerland, there was no problem with the classification given to them by the Swiss as "evaders". But when the research parameters were enlarged to cover other AIF POW on the loose in other European countries, particularly in Crete, neither the words "Partisan", "Guerrilla" or "Evader" adequately seemed to cover the many different circumstances in which many individual "Free Men" became involved.
Some of those that had actively fought with Partisans objected to the use of that word for all escapers. Others objected to the word "Guerrilla", or "Bandits" as these connote lawlessness. And particularly in Crete, many objected to the word "Evaders" as they felt they had never surrendered to an enemy from whom they had to escape.

With changes in the nature of warfare, there will also be concommitent additions to the current Rules of War set out in the Geneva and the Hague Conventions. Already, many observers regard them as outdated and incapable of dealing with detention of terrorist suspects. In current conflicts, the USA and her allies has declared war not only on a country and/or its allies with a defined territory and borders, but against " terrorism" - a concept which has different meanings to many different people. The Recorder has deliberately left open such specific activities such as "fighting with the enemy" in Italy. Or "juggling with politics" in Yugoslavia or Greece.

His aim is to list and report on those members of the AIF left behind the lines in Europe during WW II, together with those that escaped from established prison camps to join them up to the VE Day, after which all the AIF POW in the Middle East joined them for the final trip home.


M12 "Even Wars Have Limits", Gretchen Kewley, Faculty of Law, Monash University.
A8 "Swiss Neutrality", 3rd Revised Edition, published by DFA of Switzerland.
M38 "The Basic Rules of the Geneva Conventions", International Committee of the Red Cross, Geneva, 1983.

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