A COUPLE from Chirk have completed a trek that saw them follow the route their family took when they escaped from prison of war Camp 53 in 1943.

Phil Moore, 71 and her husband Stephen, 70 have completed their 55-kilometre trek in the Tenna Valley, Le Marche, Italy. They were retracing the routes taken by escaping Allied POWs in 1943 and 44.

“When we told people we were going, they thought it would be interesting," said Phil.

"We now realise we were following the footsteps of twenty-somethings through rough and steep countryside, not that simple when you’re 70 and 71. We had the luxury of walking during the day. "The POWs walked under cover of night though every farm has a dog which might give them away!

"Villages were always built at the top of hills, originally to defend from Ottoman raiders. It was steep getting there and steep when you got there too!

On the way Phil and Stephen stopped at several safe houses. POWs were surprised that they were rarely turned away. An armistice had been signed with the Allies in September 1943 and POW camps thrown into confusion.

Phil continued: "That’s why there were so many on the run. Despite being threatened with being shot and having their homes burned to the ground, the ordinary Italian people still shared what little they had with the POWs.

"We had some British gift packs for the ‘helpers’, those who were actually there at the time.

"It was only a simple token, tea bags, shortcake, honey and spice cake, tied with a ‘union Jack’ ribbon but it was recognition as we passed.

"Now all in their eighties and nineties, where there is real need, the Escape Lines Memorial Trust will use their funds to help with medical bills or other needs. The recent earthquake in the region left three ‘helpers’ on farms with no electricity so generators were bought and installed.

"As we went, we remembered those who fell, both Allied and Italian.

On the final evening, the couple invited a number of guests to dinner at their hotel. Amongst them was Enrica Remia, a brave child of six, who used to take blankets to the hideaway where Phil’s father and uncle slept on her father’s farm. Now at 81, she is on the list of ‘helpers’ and a local contact will keep them all in touch.

"We’re exhausted now and a little sore but pleased that we had discovered so much. In particular, it is good to know that money donated is still needed and being well used, repaying just a little, to the communities that risked everything for total strangers! Our appeal page will remain open for a few days yet," she added.

The couple are raising money for the ELMS and the Monte San Martino Trust, which awards English language study bursaries in England to Italians, aged 18 to 25, in recognition of the courage and sacrifice of the Italian country people who rescued thousands of escaping Allied POWs after the Armistice in 1943.

To donate to www.mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/stephenandphilmoore