"I was shot down on 7 July while on a mission to
bomb targets of opportunity in the Loire region and to the north. We had
buzzed four trains already that day and were about 20 miles NW of Orleans
when a lot of flak unexpectedly came up from a fifth train I was attacking.
They bracketed my cockpit and I was sprayed with fragments of explosive
bullets. The right engine was shot away and the ship began to burn. I got
away as fast as I could, hedgehopping and looking for a good place to crash
I came down in a plowed field and by luck was only slightly hurt although it
was a rough landing. I took off for the woods as soon as I could get rid of
my chute. There were some farmers at the other side of the field,
gesticulating and coming towards me, but I remembered having been briefed
not to ask help from a group of Frenchmen, so I decided to get away. All of
this time, the rest of my squadron was flying overhead, giving me top cover.
After I had been hiding in the woods about an hour and had buried my flying
suit and gloves, a young Frenchman found me. I told him I wanted civilian
clothes and he went off, promising to return with them in half an hour.
After 1 ½ hours he had not come back and it was getting darker, so I took
off. I found another hiding place in the woods a mile away, and stayed there
all that night.
Early next morning I started off again, walking west. I contacted a farmer
soon after and got some food at this house. He gave me civilian clothes and
offered to take me to the Resistance. The local chief took care of me for
the next 4 days. I was moved every day, staying in some new barn or field,
where Resistance members would bring me food. Their security seemed very
good, though often they talked a lot. I was fed well and the Frenchmen told
me they had sent a message to London and that I had been identified as a
These people were well organized. They had plenty of Sten guns and
ammunition, and a British radio. There had been several parachute operations
in that region (near Chateaudun). I was told that a big camp for evaders and
escapers had been established near where I was, and that I would be taken to
it when one of the men in charge had come to see me.
On the 15th, an agent came to the farm where I was staying with some
Belgians, and told me to come with him. We walked most of the way to the
camp near Chateaudun. Only the Resistance chief knows anything definite
about the camp.
Discipline did not seem very good and there was a lot of bitching going on.
The ranking British officers tried hard but did not seem to be able to
control the men. A lot of them were drunk every night on Calvados or Cognac,
and several wandered off to the farms and towns around the Foret de Freteval.
The head agent made too many impossible promises. I do not think he had ever
done such a work before, and he did not understand the psychology of a bunch
of men living together under these conditions at all. In this part of the
camp nobody did any work if they could help it. In the other part where I
was later transferred and where most of the Americans were, there was a
better spirit. They had built a miniature golf course and their camp had a
lot more conveniences.
After 3 or 4 days I was moved to this other “American” part of the camp, and
as senior officer was in charge of it until we left on 13 august. Previously
it had been run by Lt Di Betta and a Belgian agent whom we all knew as John
– no last name was ever given, but his radio signal was OEB. John was really
good. If anyone deserves credit for the success of the whole scheme, it is
he. He held the men together for the 9 weeks by the force of his example and
by the unusual understanding of their needs and characters. He lived with
them throughout, unlike the other Belgian agent who supplied us with money.
I hope he is suitably rewarded.
At one point, an American gunner named Craig developed appendicitis while in
the camp. John the Belgian took him to a French doctor who worked for the
Resistance, who arranged to have him admitted to a hospital as a Frenchman.
John walked 15 miles in the rain to arrange this deal.
He was quite fearless, and used to go out to investigate when any Germans
were nearby. Once he was picked up by the Germans, but bluffed his way out
by pretending to be a Belgian worker from a nearby town. He helped maintain
security – no easy job, as the Germans had an ammunition dump only 400 yards
away. Jean Crequet also did a good job in keeping us supplied with food and
he acted as liaison officer between the two parts of the camp.
Towards the end of the time we were there, another agent called Louis
appeared. He worked with John, but may possibly have been hiding out
himself. He made contacts for us with the French around the camp, and told
us he had been instructed to have us all go to the Brest Peninsula for
Lt Wiseman and a man called Salomon (known as the Greek) left the camp
before we were found by the American forces. They expected to go to
Switzerland, but are probably with the Maquis somewhere in Savoie by now.
The Germans knew that a lot of people were hiding in the forest but thought
they were all Maquis or Frenchmen trying to keep out of labor draft. The
Maquis themselves did not know what went on, in most cases. When a parachute
operation took place and supplies for us and arms for the Maquis were
dropped, the Germans captured most of the stuff, but I think they thought it
was for the Maquis.
While we were in the camp, a man wandered into the forest one day and was
picked up by our guards. He turned out to be a Russian or Georgian who had
deserted from the German army. We had to keep him a prisoner for fear he
might tell too much. He spoke little French and no language any of us could
talk. His name was Killadze. He was turned over to the CIC at the PWE where
we were interrogated by I.S.9 (WEA). I think he is harmless and hope he is
When the American attack in Normandy began, the Germans ceased to trouble us
anyway. We had news every day from London and began to hope for release
soon. The men were under great tension and some of them could not wait. We
had to guard the camp area and prevent anyone from leaving it. It was hard
to get exercise and we could not speak loudly. Our diet was poor and not
very varied. Altogether, it was a relief when the chief agent from the other
camp came on 12 August to tell us that US units were at Le Mans, and that we
would be contacted soon and taken out. We packed up and waited, but it was
not until the following evening about 1700 that a reconnaissance troop from
the 818th TD Bn reached us with their armored cars. We were taken to the 5th
Division HQ, and thence to Le Mans, where we saw Major Neave and others
responsible for this operation.
Besides stressing how good John the Belgian was, I would like to say that I
think our whole group was given far too much publicity and fanfare at the
5th Division. The PRO was allowed to have us photographed with the insignia
of the camp, which was embroidered on chute silk. If there are to be any
more camp like this one, less noise about it all would be a better policy."