The War Log of Bill Allen – part 9


“We were again interrogated at Chartres, and were given food which we were very glad of. After three days our party grew to thirty-five, and we were taken out at three o’clock on the morning of the 11th of July, and taken by coach to Paris.

This Journey was a very interesting one, and in the interest of our surroundings we could almost forget that we were prisoners. Our journey took us past the aerodromes on which I had landed by parachute nearly three weeks previously, and which now appeared to have had a severe bombing since that occasion F.W. 190’s and M.E. 109’s were however, still operating and I could see in three hangers a number of M.E. 210’s, that I had not suspected were in the area. A few miles farther and we entered Versailles. The coach took us right up the centre of the city, past the Palace and, to a large group of grey buildings that were the French School of Aeronautics. We were only there for a few minutes and then we proceeded on our way to Paris. The most notable thing about the journey from Versailles to Paris was that we were passing through built up areas all the time and we never really knew when we were out of one town and into the other.

One amusing incident I forgot to mention, was in the front of the Palace of Versailles. An old lady not knowing that we were prisoners and thinking we were tourists came up to the coach trying to sell us postcards with views of the City on them.

Another notable feature of the journey through the streets was almost every third shop was a café, with dozens of tables and chairs out on the pavement, and a gaudy coloured awning over the top. One of the sights I had the pleasure of seeing the Eiffel Tower, I would have preferred to see it under happier circumstances, but it was still very impressive, especially as we crossed the River Seine with the Tower in view all the time, it was a marvelous sight.

We drove around Paris until we arrived at the Gare du Nord which is the main Railway Station in Paris, and is right in the centre of the town. Here we drew up outside the entrance whilst the Ober Feltwebel (Sergeant) in charge went into the canteen on the Platform to try to obtain food for us. After a few minutes he came out and took myself and three others into the Canteen which was being run by the German Red Cross girls. It was a strange sight to see German soldiers, sailors and airmen sitting around reading magazines and newspapers and drinking ersatz tea without sugar or milk, two items which are almost unobtainable in both France and Germany.

In one corner of the Canteen were three French girls selling silk stockings, handkerchiefs etc. We went through into the kitchen where we received bread and cheese, also macaroni soup for the thirty-five of us. As we came out onto the platform again, we passed a young fellow very smartly dressed in a brown suit, wearing no hat, and, with his hands stuck in his pockets, was apparently interested only in the trains but as I drew level with him he said “hard luck mate”, in perfectly good English, so I suppose he was just one of the many Englishmen in Paris waiting for the British to take the town so they could get home again.

We ate the soup incidentally, sitting on the pavement, this naturally aroused the interest of the French people in the vicinity. At first these people had appeared not to be interested in us, obviously afraid of the guards, but as their numbers grew they started to give us a sly wink now and again. By the time we were ready to move off, terrific crowds had collected around us, and all along the streets away from the station. As we drove away German soldiers had to push back the crowd with rifles, they were by this time openly cheering us and giving us the ‘V’ sign. We drove round to the back of the station into the Goods Yard, and there we were directed to a wagon where we were to stay until twelve o’clock when we were transferred to a coach and taken across France into Frankfurt, Germany. As it was only six o’clock we had quite a long wait in this truck, se we asked the guard to let us walk up and down the yard, this he agreed to but only five of us at a time with two guards. A little amusement was provided about eight o’clock by two sailors and a soldier rolling along the line of trucks almost blind drunk, and each with a bottle of brandy in his hand. Every time one of them staggered my heart missed a beat in fear he dropped the bottle of brandy. They came up to our party, and drunkenly insisted that the Feltwebel have a drink, he did so and then told the soldier to give me a drink. The Ober Feltwebel by the way, had shown signs of friendliness towards me all through the journey, no doubt the reason being because I was of the same rank as himself. This he pointed out to the soldier who came as smartly to attention as he could, and saluting me, he offered me the bottle, needless to say, I had a good drink. At twelve o’clock we were transferred to the coach, and were on our way to Germany…..”

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