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Escape report Capt Moses J. Gatewood (serial number O-743752)



Capt Moses J. Gatewood took part in the bombing of the railway bridge between Sartrouville and Maisons-Laffitte on June 24, 1944. His aircraft (a B-26 named "Mama Liz") was downed by flak and crashed in Flexanville (Seine & Oise, now Yvelines).


The story below was obtained by merging the story he wrote after returning to London on August 17, 1944 and the story he wrote later on and that can found on web site.

  B-26 Mama Liz
Photo of the "Mama Liz" - 'Franklin Allen Collection, via Brian Gibbons'



"Flak over the target shot away all our controls except the elevators and wounded co-pilot. The ship went into a steep drive, and when I had straightened it out with the trim tabs, flak hit us again and knocked out the right engine. When we reached 3000 feet, we bailed out. I left plane by nose wheel door. When chute opened, I counted 5 chutes and saw our plane crash into a wood and explode.

I landed in apple orchard, I gathered my chute up alone with my Mae West and ran to a nearby road where a French woman was standing mutely by a bicycle. Racking my confused brain for French, I managed to utter "Est il possible, pour vous m'aider", at which she began to cry and wail in French that I was a poor, poor boy and asked if I was hurt. I sheepishly but worriedly said "Non" and pleadingly asked "Cacher, cacher?" Just then a farmhand ran to us, calling out “les allemands”. I jumped into a patch of brambles. Three German motorcycles and a staff car drove past my hiding place, and I thought that I recognised my crew members in the car as it went by. I slept in the brambles that night. Next morning (Sunday) lots of traffic on road and waited till 14.00 for my original helpers to return. Then since no one had come for me, I crawled across a field to a wood, and there found a stream which I followed for some 6 kilometers towards Flexanville. I was then near a village. I finally saw a peasant woman (65 yrs) and declared myself to her. She was very frightened, and so I left her quickly and made my way around the town to a wood on the other side. For the next two days I wandered through the woods asking different civilians for help then back-tracking and running after they said no. This happened about 12 times and I became despondent so began to walk along a road. In woods, I approached a young woman, man (Pierre) and child. They took me into their house and gave me food and clothing. There was a man named Jacques (dark haired) to whom I gave my pistol. Then they heard Germans had seen me. So I hid in woods for ½ hour. Then the young man and woman took me to the house of a doctor in Flexanville. Stayed in his house that night. Next morning Pierre came and took me across fields to a large farm near Orgerus, 3km SW of Flexanville. Mme Benoit, a daughter of 21, kept me 3 days, gave me new clothes, made me stay in the house. Met a man here who was moving picture producer, hiding out.

Pierre told me all my crew P/W and one had broken leg on hitting ground.

There Mme Benoit and daughter drove me into Orege to Mme Benoit’s house here, where a couple (M Mme Violette) (He a former gov of Algiers and ex mayor of Dreux) were hiding out. Stayed here for four days.

Then a car drove up with 5 men –one Jean Varron (born in Strasbourg)and another a Belgian colonel whose brother in law is an English Captain Maurice Fitzgerald, Royal Hospital, Chelsea. Also Arthur, the chief. Jean Varron said he’d get me out of France by submarine.

Next day he returned in car + drove me to Paris along roads on which German convoys were going to front. He took me to an apt near Physical Educational Academy of Paris. They left a man named Georges with me in this apt. Second day, a tall Swiss, slightly bald, who was a social and economic expert came to see me.

They told me that they were the remnants of the old HQ of the deuxième bureau. I met an old white haired colonel whose wife had been in prison in Germany. At present they worked through Algiers but it took them a long time to get a message through. They are working with de Gaulle but wanted a direct communication system with the Americans in London.

They wanted me to take a code system out.

I was in their apartment for 2 weeks. Meanwhile, Jean had gone to Brittany for 10 days. Then he returned with a car + took me to Lancaster Hotel, 7 Berry St (off Champs Elysée). There we picked up a good looking brunette, really Jean’s wife (PAT) registered under the name of Mme de Nouault + a lot of luggage. We met Richard here (an Alsatian). Jean had a laissez-passer naming him as an agent of the Gestapo to travel from Paris to Marseilles + return. He also had a German passport ordering all Germans to give him help.

We drove to Sens, stayed in hotel that night and all next day. We had to stay to get car fixed. Left Sens late that afternoon.

At St Florentin (SE of Sens), control coming in, control in middle, control coming out of town. On RN5 just East of St Florentin (which is 25km NNE of Auxerres) a railway trestle on the right side of the highway as one goes eastwards there is a rectangular concrete building, three storeys high with very heavy walls and 25 yards of frontage on the highway. This building is surrounded y heavy wire and covered by a camouflage net. The whole enclosure is heavily guarded. A well camouflaged train was drawn up in the enclosure at the time of observation (Observation early in july 1944)

We went to Autrenne, a small village. Stopped at friends here for supper. Then to Dijon. Dijon had more troops movement than any town I’d seen. Here we went to German motor pool to get car fixed. Then we drove to Chalon sur Saone. Here we stayed at Grand Hotel (German town commander live here). Next day, the German town major put our car into a convoy with two military lorries and a command car, and so accompanied, we drove to Lyons. In Lyons, we stayed in a boarding house (Russians (daughter named Xenia) in the organisation) for 2 days. Then we drove to Marseille. Heavy Germans controls every 10 miles between Lyons and Marseille.

I also had been called upon to carry a suitcase radio set into and out of hotels and would nervously sit in the hotel room each night as the French worked the radio. This radio, the code system, and staying in German hotels got on my nerves, but the climax came at Avignon where we got mixed up in a fight between the Maquis and the Germans - I remaining neutral under the car while bullets whistled by overhead. After fighting, my friends returned with SS troopers and after much arguing in German, we were taken before the SS Captain of the town. I talked French with him for ten minutes explaining that I was a collaborator traveling with my German friends and that I had left my papers in Lyons by mistake in another unit.

Got to Avignon at 10.00 pm that night. Got to Marseille late that night + stayed in hotel. Stayed here for 3 days.

Here we met Bastien Sebastien, an Algerian, a Marseilles gangster who worked as hatchet man for Jean. Submarine had fallen through.

(88 mm guns set on hill tops camouflaged in niches in the granite N of Marseilles. E-boats in the Vieux Port + lots of Germans billeted on the Quai de Vieux Port + Commander lives in Fort St Jean. Other important German officers in Grand Hotel. No one allowed past Quai de la Tourette)

Bridge at Arles still open + very heavily guarded. All along road from Saloul to Arles, heavily mined in vineyards.

Drove on to Montpellier + then to Narbonne + then to Perpignan. Perpignan full of Gestapo. Two days in Perpignan at hotel + here met François (5’8”, getting bald, blondish brown hair, bet 35+40, small moustache). Also at Perpignan, I dropped my paratrooper boots in front of two German officers as we stood in line checking out clothes before going swimming. I did a slow death as I picked them up but the Germans didn't seem to notice. Then drove to Font-Romeu where I stayed at Regina and ate at Casino Hotel (Brieuteux family friends of Jean (he a violinist and she is related to the princely family of Monaco). Next day, Jean, Richard and François went to Spain and then came back. Then Jean took his wife to Spain and took a letter from me to the American consul. He bought me letter saying I should give code book to a messenger (Giou). After Jean had checked him, I gave Giou the message + code.

August 7, I + Jean, Pat, Richard + a Mr Olivier drove to the Spanish border through UR where we dropped Olivier. From here, we walked through Puigcerda and met a man (one of our secret service men). Then this man, Pat and I walked across bridge past German sentinels to whom we gave the Hitler salute. The man mumbled something to the sentinels. Once over the bridge and out of site of the German sentries, the man left, and Pat and I went on and met Jean and Richard who slipped across the border at Bourg Madame. Then they told me to go to a hotel and turn myself up to a Spanish colonel of police. I did this. I then saw the French delegate of Red Cross. I stayed here in hotel. (Next day, I saw Jean and François in hotel). Mr Abtaix, was given me as a reference who knew Jean as HM. Next day, Mr Forsythe came and took me to Lerida. There they outfitted me and met Lt Distoroughs FO Champs and Campbell and then went to Zaragoza and then went to Tuleda. Forsythe left us there. After 2 ½ days, Spanish H.I. took me back to Zaragoza and then took me to Alhama where Col Spillman was waiting for me and took me to Madrid. There I was interrogated by American Secret Service (OSS) and gave him the whole story. He told me that I should meet someone in OSS in London.

Then to Gilbraltar on 14 august. Left Gilbraltar on 16 and arrived in London on 17 Aug






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