The War Log of Bill Allen – part 7

Capture…..

“The following night we settled down about ten o’clock as usual, but we were awakened by the sound of German voices all around the ditch in which we were concealed. This was naturally a great shock as we never expected the Germans to start digging in anywhere within a mile of us. This situation then called for an immediate decision on our port, so after a whispered counsel of war we decided to get out as quickly and quietly as possible and make our way back to a hiding place that the paratroopers had previously used. We gathered together what few items of it we had, and then in single file we started out from the ditch. About twenty yards from the ditch we struck the main path or outlet from the marshes, and about ten yards down this path we saw, much to our horror, a number of Germans walking towards us in a single file with full pack on their backs as though they were just reporting to that area. The first three went past us without seeing us in the darkness, but the forth man spotted us and let out a shout, at the same time he started taking his rifle from his shoulder where it was slung on his equipment. The next minute our chaps and the Huns opened up at one another from close range, and the next few moments were like a nightmare. I was unarmed, and in the centre of the two parties, bullets were humming past my ears like bees, how I was not hit remains a miracle. On top of the shooting, all the Germans were shouting at the top of their voices, and others were answering them from a distance, it was pandemonium for about two to three minutes. I don’t know whether anyone was hit, and I did not wait to see, I took a header over this hedge and into the marshes out of the line of fire. I stayed quite still until all the noise and firing had subsided, and then started to crawl out of the marsh, but here again my troubles started. The reeds in the marsh had dried on the surface with the hot sun that had been on them for days, and every time I made a move they cracked like dry twigs in a forest. My nerves by this time were pretty ragged, what with the aircraft being shot down, and them all incidents following it, so that each crack of the reeds to me sounded like pistol shots, and in the silence which followed the shooting they echoed all over the place. To make matters worse, every time I made a sound, some Hun let fire with a rifle across the marsh, and although he could not see me, he was getting very close and I was getting a sweat on. After a few shots I decided to stay still and wait for a while, in the hope that the Germans would sheer off and then make another attempt to get out. I waited about an hour, but by this time it was getting fairly light as dawn was fast approaching. I decided to move again, this time a little recklessly, and as a result made a terrific noise, but strangely enough got out into a small patch between high rushes that led to the main path out of the marches. I started along this path quite nonchalantly, hoping to brazen my way past any Germans that I may have the misfortune to encounter; but at this stage my luck had completely left me and I walked bang into a the arms of a couple of Hun corporals and my freedom in France was at an end.

They searched me, and finding my escape map and compass accused me of being a saboteur, I was very lucky not to be shot on the spot. I showed my R.A.F. identity disc and when I realised the game was up I tried to make them understand that I was in the R.A.F. but they seemed very reluctant to believe me so I was marched off to the Commandant. The Commandant’s H.Q. was a large coach, very well camouflaged, and hidden under a large tree. As it was only half past four in the morning when I was caught, I was placed under guard at the foot of the tree until the commandant awoke, this was about nine o’clock. In the meantime, I was questioned by a First Lieutenant who could speak fairly good English. I gave him my number and rank only as I had been instructed by our Intelligence Officers, I refused to give him any information about my Squadron or anything else of military import. The Officer began to get annoyed, and he was going to have me shot as a spy, but I stuck to my guns, hoping he was bluffing, as this luckily proved to be the case, nevertheless I was getting a little hot under the collar, and wondering if the little information I could give them was worth getting shot for. A few moments later there were sounds of movement in the coach, and all the Bosches started dashing around, all obviously scared of the Commandant……”

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