Ralph Churches – The Crow Who Escaped from Ožbalt

By , 19 Mar 2019, 17:31 PM Videos
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Through the Eyes of a Partisan Soldier is a recently published first-person account of one of the many notable events that occurred in Slovenia during the Second World War, one that’s known in English as the Raid at Ožbalt, or “the Flight of the Crow”. We’ll shortly be running an interview with the man who translated the book, which was written by his wife’s uncle, Alojz Voler, but in this post we’ll set the scene.

In short, in the summer of 1944 105 Allied prisoners of war were rescued by Slovenian Partisans, the story recounted in the book. Since many were being held at a camp by the village of Ožbalt, just west of Maribor, this daring rescue turns up on Wikipedia as the Raid at Ožbalt. The POWs and Partisans made their way south to Semič, near today’s border with Croatia, where they met up with an Allied aircraft that had flown in from a liberated part of Italy, which they then escaped to true freedom on.

The location of Ožbalt

The raid on Ožbalt was facilitated by Private Ralph Frederick Churches, a POW who, having made two previous attempts to escape, knew that the locals were hostile to the Germans and willing to help. Churches then made a third, and finally successful escape with six others prisoners, and managed to persuade a group of around 100 Partisans to help others do the same, with a total of 105 POWs escaping from the work camp.

But why is the story also known as “the Flight of the Crow”? Because Private Churches was from South Australia, with South Australians having the nickname “crow eaters”. A remarkable man, with a remarkable story, you can here more in his own words below.

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