The War Log of Bill Allen – part 4

Approaching the line…..

“The next three or four days were uneventful except that I borrowed a bicycle in one village that I passed through, but after travelling for about forty miles on it I went into a ditch and buckled the front wheel, so I left it there and continued walking. By this time I was starting to see more German troops, and consequently took precautions to avoid them, this naturally meant that I had to walk more on minor roads and to strictly avoid the towns, although I was dressed in civvies. It did not pay to take too many risks.

About twenty miles from the lines I came to a small village Croecy devoid of Germans but on this occasion, was full of evacuees from Caen and Troarn. By this time my food was gone so I approached a small café where I obtained wine and after I had explained my identity, some food. In the café was a girl of fifteen who could speak a little English, having been taught the language in school in Paris. The girl with her Mother had been evacuated from Paris because of R.A.F. bombing, but they bore no malice over this. They let me bathe my feet, and then gave me more comfortable shoes to wear on the remainder of my journey. I left the village again, the name of which O forgot to mention was Courey, and set off again on the final stages of my one hundred and thirty mile trip across France, or I should say over Normandy.

I should mention that up till now, I had not seen or heard of any of my Crew, and I am very much afraid they were all killed. There is a slight possibility that some of them baled out as the aircraft was a few moments before it blew up.

As I walked along I could hear the British and Germans guns getting much louder and nearer so I guessed that I was getting pretty close to the front lines. I should at this stage have found some place to hide up in and await the advance of the British and American forces, but I was a little too eager to get back to my Squadron and home, so I kept on.

I stayed that night at a farm about fifteen miles from the lines. There were some young French people there who had been bombed out of their homes in Rouen and at first they were loathe to help me, in fact, one young fellow wanted to hand me over to the Hun, however, they calmed down and we were soon on very friendly terms, the same young man spoke English fluently. The Farmer was a nice old chap and he gave me a good supper, and then bought me coffee in the morning before I left the barn where they had fixed up a bed for me, not having any room in the small farm house due to the crowd of evacuees living there.

The next few days were full of excitement, and considerably nerve-racking. As I progressed towards the front I encountered more and more Germans and less civilians. One of the villages I passed through, had in the centre of it a magnificent cathedral, much the largest I have ever seen. It was built of white chalky stones, and was obviously very old, it was designed in the form of a great square with the chapel at one end, and the other three sides containing many leaded windows. It had the appearance of a monastery which I believe now that it must have been. I forgot to mention before, but in every village and small town that I passed through the only church was Catholic. I went into many of them, and although they were all very old, they were very beautiful inside, especially the altars and the statues. The priests in their spare time were, strangely enough, either farmers or gardeners. I spoke to a number of them but only one could speak English and he, only a little. I walked into a church in a small town, very close to the lines, at half past six in the morning. As I arrived inside, a service was just starting, and the Church was packed, I think everyone in the village was there. I believe from my experiences in France, that ninety-nine per cent of the French people are Catholics. I stopped to the end of the service which was exactly the same as our own in England, and then proceeded on the last stage of my journey, and ultimate capture…..”

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