John Wilkinson didn’t realise until after the end of World War ll that he’d broken his back when the plane he was piloting in North Africa was shot down. Captured and beaten up by Italian soldiers, interrogated by the Gestapo, John eventually ended up in the notorious Stalag Luft III prison camp in what is now Poland. He was involved in the Wooden Horse Escape, one of the most famous of the war. Later he would meet his future wife at the camp, a displaced person from Lithuania. Now 95, John’s memory of his wartime experiences remains undimmed.
Porokoru Patapu (John) Pohe was the first Māori pilot in the RNZAF. Nicknamed 'Lucky Johnny', he was a WWII hero who flew an amazing 22 missions, was involved in the legendary 'Great Escape' from Stalag Luft III, and insisted on removing his blindfold when he faced a German firing squad. This award-winning docu-drama tells Pohe's extraordinary life story. When it screened on Māori Television, Listener reviewer Diana Wichtel called it "a terrific yarn", and it won Best Documentary Aotearoa at the 2008 Wairoa Māori Film Festival Awards. Actor/singer Francis Kora plays Pohe.
This edition of the National Film Unit’s wartime newsreel series tracks the 1000s of New Zealand prisoners of war being repatriated from Germany, shortly after VE Day. “Men from all over the world are here. Waiting to get out. Waiting to get back to their homes …” The ANZACs travel to a transit centre in Brussels, where they enjoy “a first real beer in years” and go sightseeing, before crossing the North Sea to be hosted in England, where thoughts turn south. The reel ends with a rousing rendition of the Māori Battalion marching song in an English pub.