The War Log of Bill Allen – part 5

Too close for comfort…..

“By this time, my feet were blistered and sore, and on the next day I could hardly walk at all. I went to a cottage kept by a very old couple to try and obtain a drink, and the old man took me on to the next village in a small cart drawn by a horse. This ride was very welcome, and took me almost as far as I could go by day, so I started looking round for somewhere to hide up with a view to letting the Germans come past me in their retreat. I walked though the town of Troarn, which at that time was infested with Germans, and was the centre of activities. Every minute a salvo of shells from the British guns came over, and burst among the buildings; I had one or two very narrow escapes. On one occasion I went into a large barn to sleep, at about ten o’clock in the evening, but I had no sooner entered the place than a flight of Typhoons came over and dive bombed the place, so I moved out of there very quickly, especially when the roof started falling in on top of me. I was very surprised that by this time I had never been challenged by the Bosche. Once I thought my time was up, as I was walking along the main road through Troarn. Both side of the roads were lined with Bosche, all manning machine guns or mortars; about half way down the road a German corporal stepped out of a gun post and walked up to me, my heart almost stopped beating, but he only asked me for a light for his cigarette. I was able to supply him with one from a box of matches supplied by the R.A.F. in my escape kit. Luckily he spoke French and I was able to understand him.

Shortly after this incident I came to a barn which appeared to be very conveniently situated in the centre of the German lines but not particularly near to any of the troops.

I stayed in there for four days and nights, but there was no sign of the Bosche coming back, and by this time I was very hungry as I had not eaten for five days. I was so weak from lack of food and exercise that I decided to come out of the barn and find a place to hide up nearer the village where I could get food.

The nearest village was called St. Paire, about three kilometers from Troarn, and about seven miles from Caen. As I passed through St. Paire I came upon a small café standing a little way from the road, and as I was by that time a little desperate for food I decided to go in and try my luck at obtaining some from them. I walked inside and the only other occupant was a young fellow who appeared to be the proprietor; I asked for food and drink, but was told that they could not give me any food as the Huns had been and taken what they had for that day. I had a glass of wine which cost me thirty francs. (I forgot to mention that I had two thousand francs in my escape kit, and it was from this supply that I was able to pay for the wine). After about 10 minutes, I had weighed up the young Frenchman, and decided to tell him who I was. The result was rather startling, he took me through into the private parlour, and introduced me to his mother who asked me to sit down to lunch with them. They gave me a very good meal accompanied by the almost inevitable wine, which appears to be included in all French meals. In the room also, were two girls, whom I learned were the sisters of the young fellow, and were twins, their age they told me was eighteen, the boy was 22. After lunch the boy came in with an old Farmer, and they took me on an old hay cart along a path into some marsh land, and imagine my surprise, when an English Officer (1st Lt.) of the 9th Airborne Infantry Division, and eight ‘other ranks’ including a glider plot, emerged from a very well camouflaged ditch. It was a very pleasant surprise to see Englishmen again. They told me that the glider in which they had been flying had been released about fifteen miles from rendezvous and as a result, they were cut off from the remainder of the Division and were hiding up in the hope that our invading armies would get them out. They had been three days in the hide out, and the French Café Proprietor and the Farmer were bringing them food three times a day. I stayed with them for three days. On the second day, the Lieut. And myself went out on a reconnaissance to try and find a weak point in the lines through which we might reach our men. We were both in civvies, and set off at about eleven o’clock in the morning, our objectives was a long stretch of cornfields between Troarn and Caen. On reaching the cornfields we had to pass a German Divisional H.Q. and two large concentrations of vehicles i.e. tanks, supply trucks, motor cycles, etc. that were parked on the edge of the racecourse, and under a belt of trees, naturally these were well guarded. However, we strolled casually past these, and the Bosche never even gave a glance. Next we came to the railway line from Troarn to Caen and we had to cross this at a small signal box that was now deserted as the line had been well and truly wrecked by R.A.F. and U.S.A.A.F. Beyond the Railway line was the stretch of cornfields that we had planned, with the aid of maps and photographs to investigate…..”

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