List of Evaders

A total of 26 members of aircrew from the Squadron, upon standing on occupied soil, using their training, cunning, determination and their utter trust of others, not only successfully avoided capture but also managed to return to mainland Britain. To a man, they received help from locals, whether they be members of the public, resistance or escape lines. These, to a large part unknown individuals faced potentially far higher penalty for being caught assisting a flyer than that airman himself and as such, this list will represent where ever possible their story as well as the airman involved.

B

BOARD
Sgt. Kenneth Birt Board
RAFVR 3030159 – Flight Engineer
7th of August 1944 – Attack Against Mare De Magne
Lancaster Mk.I HK567 AA – C
Pilot – Godfrey Arnold Brunton

The target was enemy troops and armour concentrations at Mare De Magne, being made in direct support of the Allied Armies advance in the Caen area. Seventeen aircraft were detailed, all of which took off and dropped their bombs with the aid of markers, and a concentrated raid developed. Opposition from A.A. fire was very slight, but a few enemy fighters were active. One aircraft had an inconclusive combat and another (Captain 150278 .F/O. G. Brunton) failed to return.

Lancaster Mk.I HK567 AA – C was compelled to crash land in the target area, reasons unknown. The two RAF Air Gunners did not survive the crash and were buried in the St-Valery-en-Caux Cemetery. All the remaining five crew survived and successfully evaded capture.

His IS9 debrief report was as follows:
“My flight and experiences are the same as F/O Brunton up to the time that I baled out. I landed north-east of St.Sxlyestae Le Co [Sp] about 03:00 hrs on the 8th of  August 1944. I hid my harness, mae west and parachute, and then lay up in some thick brambles on the hillside nearby. A few hours later I came down from the hillside and sat on a fence near a farmhouse. Shortly afterwards a young girl came up to me and told me that F/O Brunton was sheltering in the farmhouse. She took me to meet F/O Brunton and from this point my story is the same as his”.

Left France the 28th of August 1944.

Returned to the United Kingdom: 28th of August 1944.


BRUNTON
F/O Godfrey Arnold Brunton
RAFVR 1396875/ 150278 – Pilot
7th of August 1944 – Attack Against Mare De Magne
Lancaster Mk.I HK567 AA – C
Pilot – Godfrey Arnold Brunton

The target was enemy troops and armour concentrations at Mare De Magne, being made in direct support of the Allied Armies advance in the Caen area. Seventeen aircraft were detailed, all of which took off and dropped their bombs with the aid of markers, and a concentrated raid developed. Opposition from A.A. fire was very slight, but a few enemy fighters were active. One aircraft had an inconclusive combat and another (Captain 150278 .F/O. G. Brunton) failed to return.

Lancaster Mk.I HK567 AA – C was compelled to crash land in the target area, reasons unknown. The two RAF Air Gunners did not survive the crash and were buried in the St-Valery-en-Caux Cemetery. All the remaining five crew survived and successfully evaded capture.

Returned to the United Kingdom: 28th of August 1944.


D

DRUMMOND
F/S Maurice Kennett Peter Drummond
RNZAF 0 – Mid Upper Gunner
28th of July 1944 – Attack Against Stuttgart
Lancaster Mk.III NE148 AA – H
Pilot – Noel Alfred Deal Stokes

Twenty two aircraft set out as detailed to attack Stuttgart. Twenty aircraft successfully bombed the target with the aid of markers, but it is thought that several aircraft undershot, as they appeared to be two concentration of fires 2-3 miles apart. Fighters were very active in the target area and also en route, several aircraft having combats. The aircraft captained by NZ413043 A/S/L. L. Drummond, was attacked five times by a JU88, all of which were indecisive, followed by an attack by an unidentified enemy aircraft which is claimed as destroyed, being seen to go down in flames. At the same time as this our aircraft was also being attacked by two JU88s, one of which was damaged by fire from our aircraft. Two aircraft failed to return, they were captained by NZ421403 A/F/L. N. Stokes & NZ421469 F/O. I. Blance.

Lancaster Mk.III NE148 AA – H, was one of the aircraft intercepted by night-fighters en route to the target. It was critically damaged by such an attack in which the Rear Gunner was killed; Mid Upper Gunner seriously injured, and one engine put out of action. The bomb load was jettisoned and the Pilot initiated a return to base. He ultimately was unable to prevent the aircraft losing height and ordered the crew to bale out. Minutes later NE148 crashed close to the village of Yevres, a mile East of Brau. Both the Pilot and Rear Gunner, who died, were buried in the village cemetery. The remaining six who baled out, all successfully evaded capture.

F/S Drummond’s debrief with IS.9 was as follows:
“My story up to the time of baling out agrees with that of F/Sgt Sampson. When I baled out I hit my head on the tail plane and lost consciousness until very near the ground when I pulled the ripcord. The parachute took the weight but I hit the ground very heavily. After about two hours (I was badly shaken) I found myself crawling along the road and finally crawled into some bushes and lay there. I lay in the wood until 16:00 hrs and heard a horse and cart coming along. I called out and a man came over to me. We both thought my leg was broken and he indicated I should crawl back into the bushes and he would return. He came back in a couple of hours in his cart. I was then taken to a barn where I saw F/Sgt Sampson and F/Sgt Raynel. From here my story is the same as that of F/Sgt Sampson until we parted near Chateauudun. His journey was arranged. I was sheltered until the Americans took the village and sent me onto the British lines which I reached on the 15th of  August 1944”.

Returned to the United Kingdom: 17th of August 1944.


E

ELLIOTTE
F/L Jack MacGregor Elliotte
RNZAF NZ427969 – Wireless Operator
7th of August 1944 – Attack Against Mare De Magne
Lancaster Mk.I HK567 AA – C
Pilot – Godfrey Arnold Brunton

The target was enemy troops and armour concentrations at Mare De Magne, being made in direct support of the Allied Armies advance in the Caen area. Seventeen aircraft were detailed, all of which took off and dropped their bombs with the aid of markers, and a concentrated raid developed. Opposition from A.A. fire was very slight, but a few enemy fighters were active. One aircraft had an inconclusive combat and another (Captain 150278 .F/O. G. Brunton) failed to return.

Lancaster Mk.I HK567 AA – C was compelled to crash land in the target area, reasons unknown. The two RAF Air Gunners did not survive the crash and were buried in the St-Valery-en-Caux Cemetery. All the remaining five crew survived and successfully evaded capture.

Returned to the United Kingdom: 25th of August 1944.


F

FOWLER
Sgt. Colin R. Fowler
RAFVR – Flight Engineer
11th of September 1944 – Mining in the Baltic Sea
Lancaster Mk.I LM268 AA – D
Pilot – Wilson Orchard Hadley

Eight aircraft were detailed to lay mines in the Baltic area, and they all dropped their mines as ordered. No opposition was met on the mining area, but fighters were thought to be active on the homeward route, and one aircraft had an inconclusive combat with a JU.88. Another aircraft (Captain NZ426041 F/O. W. Hadley) failed to return.

Lancaster Mk.I LM268 AA – D, was brought down at 00:15hrs by a night-fighter near the southern end of Sjælland Island, Denmark. The aircraft crashed onto a farmhouse near the township of Orslev, killing five members of the family. Only two of the crew, the Fight Engineer and Air Bomber, succeeded in baling out, the former evading capture and the latter, although badly hurt, was aided by locals and hospitalized before being turned over to the authorities.
Of those in the crew who died, the Pilot and Rear Gunner were buried in the local Churchyard at Orslev while the other three were buried at the Svino Churchyard.

Returned to the United Kingdom: 27th of September 1944.


G

GRIFFITHS
Sgt. Robert E. Griffiths
RAFVR 1457278 – Navigator
19th of November 1943 – Attack Against Targets at Leverkusen
Stirling Mk.III LJ442 JN – F
Pilot – Noel Norman Parker

Sixteen aircraft were detailed to attack the above target with bombs of 2,000lbs, 1,000 lbs and incendiaries of 30 lbs and 4lbs. One aircraft failed to return, but the remainder successfully dropped their bombs in the target area. Except for one vivid  red flash seen through the clouds, little results were observed. Heavy and medium A.A. Fire co-operating with Searchlights was encountered, but caused negligible damage. Some enemy aircraft were seen and a few combats took place but no damage was sustained by our aircraft. The aircraft  captained be F/S R.Hunt met a J.U.88 which attacked his aircraft, the fire was returned and strikes were seen on the enemy aircraft. Our aircraft was then attacked by a FW190, the first was returned but the enemy aircraft disappeared. The weather was poor, being ten-tenths cloud over the target, there was also a fog at base which necessitated the aircraft landing at BRADWELL BAY on return. Navigation was very good. The missing aircraft was captained by F/Sgt. N. PARKER.

Stirling Mk.III LJ442 JN – F came under attack from a night-fighter (Lt Otto Fries, 5 /NJG1) a short time after take-off while en route to the target over the Belgian coast. After a series of attacks by the fighter causing considerable damage, fire broke out in LJ442’s starboard wing and a crash-landing attempt was made by the Pilot at Horrues, North West of Soignies, Belgium. Only the Pilot, Navigator and Air Bomber survived. Parker and Griffiths evaded capture but Hyde, who was seriously injured, was taken as P.o.W. The four who died were buried at Chievres, 10 miles from Horrues.

Returned to the United Kingdom: not known.


H

HYDE
Sgt. W.J. Hyde
RAFVR 1895228 – Flight Engineer
28th of July 1944 – Attack Against Stuttgart
Lancaster Mk.III ND756 AA – M
Pilot – Ian Edward Blance

Twenty two aircraft set out as detailed to attack Stuttgart. Twenty aircraft successfully bombed the target with the aid of markers, but it is thought that several aircraft undershot, as they appeared to be two concentration of fires 2-3 miles apart. Fighters were very active in the target area and also en route, several aircraft having combats. The aircraft captained by NZ413043 A/S/L. L. Drummond, was attacked five times by a JU88, all of which were indecisive, followed by an attack by an unidentified enemy aircraft which is claimed as destroyed, being seen to go down in flames. At the same time as this our aircraft was also being attacked by two JU88s, one of which was damaged by fire from our aircraft. Two aircraft failed to return, they were captained by NZ421403 A/F/L. N. Stokes & NZ421469 F/O. I. Blance.

Lancaster Mk.III ND756 AA – M, was shot down in flames by a night-fighter over France, crashing at 01:25hrs close to Millery village, 3 miles North of Pompey. All but the Flight Engineer, Navigator and Rear Gunner died and were buried at the Millery cemetery. The surviving three crew members had baled out of the burning aircraft successfully. Sgt Hyde (F/E) and F/S Kirk (R/G), evaded capture and escaped but F/S Grieg (Nav) was captured as prisoner of war.

It was revealed that 1,500 local inhabitants of Millery Village turned out for the funeral of the four airmen who died. Two large rooms in the church were overflowing with flowers.

Returned to the United Kingdom: not known.


J

JACKSON
Sgt. K.E. Jackson
RAFVR 1336192 – Mid Upper Gunner
10th of June 1944 – Attack Against Dreux
Lancaster Mk.I HK553 AA – S
Pilot – Thomas Rodgers Donaghy

Of the twenty four aircraft detailed to bomb Dreux, twenty two successfully attacked in good weather, the marshalling yards being visually identified until they were obscured by smoke. One aircraft had an inconclusive combat with a JU.88. The aircrafts captained by NZ422098 P/O. L. Bonisch and NZ422267 F/S. Donaghy, T. failed to return.

HK553 was attacked by a night-fighter to the west of the target and crashed near Tillièrs- sur-Avre, where six of the crew were buried. Sgt Jackson, RAF, the mid-upper gunner, survived the crash and successfully evaded capture.
Shot down during the early morning of 11 Jun 1944 and successfully evaded capture. On return to England he was interrogated by MI-9 as follows:

“We took off at 2331 hrs on 10 June 1944 from Mepal to bomb Dreux. Just after we had bombed the target, and while still in the target aarea, we were attacked by a Ju88 and the order was given to bale out. I saw the aircraft explode just after it hit the ground. I landed in the middle of a cornfield and immediately buried my parachute and harness and then made for a wood nearby. I remained hidden in the wood for the rest of the night as I had sprained my ankle on landing and my forehead was burnt. At dawn (11 June) I walked to a cart track near the cornfield . A farm labourer came along and when I told him who I was he went to the village to look for somewhere for me to stay. He returned with a hay cart and took me to a farm near the village of Tilliers-sur- Avre. I remained there until the Americans arrived and they arranged my journey back to England.”

Departed Bayeux 26th of August 1944.

Returned to the United Kingdom: 7th of August 1944.


JOHNSON
Sgt. Ralph Valentine Clingan Johnson
RAFVR 1545885 – Air Bomber
30th of August 1943 – Attack Against Targets at Munchen-Gladbach
Stirling Mk.III EH938 AA – F
Pilot – Victor Trevor Parkin

18 Aircraft were detailed to attack the above targets with incendiary bombs of 30lbs. and 4lbs. All aircraft with the exception of one which failed to return, successfully dropped their bombs in the target area. Very large fires which were well concentrated and spreading, were seen. All crews were of the opinion that this was a good attack. Moderate heavy A.A. fire and a few searchlights were encountered, which were ineffective. A great number of enemy aircraft were seen and some short combats took place. The aircraft captained by F/Sgt. Batger, H. sighted an enemy aircraft 600 yards away, ahead and the front gunner fired a long and short burst, the enemy aircraft then disappeared and was claimed as possibly destroyed. . The aircraft captained by F/S McGregor,K. sighted an Me110 astern, the rear gunner fired a long burst. The enemy aircraft replied and dived away with smoke pouring from its engines. It is claimed as a possible destroyed. There was 8/10ths cloud at the target approaches although it was clear in the target area. Navigation was very good. The missing aircraft was  Stirling MK.III EH938 captained by Sgt. Parkin, T.

EH938 was brought down probably by night-fighter action in the German air defensive ‘Box’ when returning to base. The aircraft crashed at Lommel (Limburg), Belgium. All but one of the crew died and funerals were held at St-Truiden. Their graves are now in Heverlee War Cemetery.

Sgt R V Johnson, the Air Bomber, was uninjured and able to parachute to safety. He successfully evaded capture.

Val cropped and scalled

Ralph Valentine ‘Val” Clingham Johnson, Air Bomber with the Parkin crew. Sole survivor and evader after an op to Munchen-Gladbach on the 30th August 1943. The photograph was taken while he was staying with the Georgeton family in Sillery, 13 – 15th October 1943.

Many thanks to Tony, Jenny, Fred, and Michael for contributing to this incredible tale of survival and evasion behind enemy lines.

Tony first contacted me about his Father, Ralph Valentine “Val’ Clingham Johnson, Air Bomber with Victor Parkin’s crew – the sole survivor of the crew after their aircraft was (most likely) attacked  by a German night fighter over Belgium. The story and details of Val’s evasion and the bravery of those individuals that assisted him and other airmen like him has been provided by Fred Greyer and Michael LeBlanc.

Based on Val Johnson’s debrief with MI.9, it would appear that that EH938 possibly fell prey to a German night fighter, within a nachtjagd ‘box’. Val was the only survivor of the crew, the rest of the crew being killed when the aircraft crashed at Lommel (Limburg), in Belgium. The airmen were all buried in St-Truiden before being moved to Heverlee War Cemetery.

F/S Victor Trevor Parkin, RNZAF NZ421090 – Pilot. Died age 21.
F/S Terrence Watters, RNZAF NZ417299 – Navigator. Died age 21.
Sgt. William Hadley Horrigan, RAFVR 1176649 – Wireless Operator. Died age 29.
Sgt. Trevor Silcock, RAFVR 1582836 – Flight Engineer. Died age 20.
Sgt. Richard Frederick Grove, RAFVR 1581242 – Mid Upper Gunner. Died age 22.
Sgt. Anthony Francis Saunders, RAFVR 1394719 – Rear Gunner. Died age 20.

The Possum Escape Line
Probably unknown to Val, upon landing, he was about to get assistance from a network of individuals and safe houses that were collectively known as the ‘Possum Escape Line

During the night of the 15th July 1943, two MI9 agents were parachuted into southeast Belgium (Province of Luxembourg) near Suxy. Dominique Edgard Potier was a Belgian airforce officer, who had arrived in England in March 1942. Accompanying him was Conrad Lafleur, his French-Canadian radio operator. At this time, many allied aircrew, on bombing raids to Germany, were being shot down over the Belgian Ardennes. Potier’s mission, known as Mission Martin in Belgium and the Possum Line in France, was to organise the recovery of these airmen and shelter, feed and provide them with false identity documents, before moving them to safe houses in and around Reims in Northern France. Unlike the Ardennes, this area was suitable for evacuation by air, using Lysander aircraft.

Of the six planned air operations, three were successful – 11 airmen and one SOE agent were repatriated. (From http://www.possumline.net/)

SPG 1579-1 SPG 1579-2 SPG 1579-3

What follows is a transcription of this interview document with detail added where available.

1st September 1943 
Baled out & landed west of Weert, Netherlands (just North of Maastricht) at approx. 3:00am
Walked west for approx. 4 hours.
“I was a member of the crew of a Stirling bomber which left Mepal, North of Cambridge, on 31 Aug at midnight to bomb Munchen-Gladbach. We reached our target and bombed our objective at 0210 hrs. On the homeward journey, there was a violent explosion in the aircraft. I remember reaching for ny parachute, but do not know how I got out. The next thing I remember was that I was in the air and in a cloud. I had severe wounds in one arm, one leg, and my face.

I came down at 0300 hrs (1 Sep) in a field , which I believe was somewhere West of Weert

I buried my parachute in a hedge and ran along the rain road in a westerly direction. When it became light, I hid in a hedge in which I remained all day. At dusk I worked with my compass and. walked West for about 4 hours. My leg started to give me trouble and I lay low again in a bush in a field”.

2nd September   
At 07:00 headed west again, reaching a wood. Stayed there all day and that night.
“I woke at about 0700 hrs (2 Sep) and headed West again, reaching a wood. Here I saw two Belgian woodmen, so lay low again, and stayed there all day and that night.”

3rd September   
Stayed at a cottage in Exel (North of Hasselt, Belgium), where identity was confirmed by an English woman. Taken by two gendarmes to M. Sols-Lensken, 66, Markt Str, Exel.Visited by a doctor for a bad septic arm and knee.

“On 3 Sep I left the wood and at about 1100 hrs approached a cottage at Exel (N.W.Europe, 25 km, North of Hasselt). I made my identity known and was beckoned in by a lad. I found a large family inside; the father told me, by signs, that he would fetch someone who could talk English. At about 1300 hrs a girl turned up on a bicycle, and, from this point, I was helped on my journey. The girl who came, to Exel, on 3 Sep on a bicycle was the daughter of an Englishwoman (name not remembered) whose father is:

Mr Alfred Woodis
174, Houghton Grange Road,
Bradford.

She told me to remain where I was, and went home to inform her mother. At about 1600 hrs, the mother came and asked me several questions to identify me and said she would see a man in an organisation. I went to bed and stayed till about 2300 hrs, when two men woke me, and after stripping me of my badges and flying boots, took me by bicycle to another house quite near:

M. Sols-Lenskens,
66, Markt Str,
Exel
(husband, wife, and child of six)”.

6th September  
Taken by train to Neerpelt. Stayed in a small cottage with Mme. Spelters, an old lady of 66 with six sons.
The men, who were gendarmes in plain clothes, left me here. I was visited by a doctor and nursed by the people for a bad septic arm and knee. I was given plain clothes and, on about 6 Sep, a man came and took me by train to Neerpelt to a small cottage.

Mme. Spelters,
Neerpelt
(old lady of 66, six sons)”.

10th September
Taken by train to Antwerp. Stayed for a few hours at the house of M. Daelmans, 15, rue d’Orange. Went by train to Brussels, with M. Daelmans, and from there to Virton, in the Ardennes, Province of Luxembourg. Stayed with the local organist, M. Georges Hennaut.
“I stayed here till about 10 Sep, when another man came for me and took me by train to Antwerp. In Antwerp I stayed for a few hours at the house of:

M. Daelmans,
15, rue d’Orange,

moving by train to Brussels, under Daelmans” guidance, and from there to Virton, I stayed here with the local organist:

M. Georges Hennaut,
Virton”.

11th September
Left by train for Florenville (28 km. N.W. of Virton). Stayed with priest.
“I left by train for Florenville (28 km. North West of Virton), where I stayed with. a priest till 13 Sep. I was then taken to Martue (2 km. from Florenville), staying there with a family:

M.P. Lemaire
Martue”.

13th/ 14th September  
Driven, by Louis Gerard, to Martue (2 km. from Florenville), and stayed with Paul Lemaire.
“Until 30 Sep.A doctor who treated me here for my arm, got me away by car”.

30th September/ 1st October          
Driven by Dr. Albert Pierre to Sedan. Then escorted, by another man, to Paris. Met by Edgard Potier and taken to Suzanne Bastin. Here there were seven other airmen, 4 Americans and 3 British.
“On 30 Sep to Sedan, from where another man. escorted me to Paris. In Paris I was met by a Captain MARTIN and taken to:

Mme. Bastin
? rue de la Barre,
Montmatre.

Here there were seven other airmen, 4 Americans and 3 British, two from 218 squadron and one from 7 squadron”.

6th October
Taken by Potier to Quierzy (25km NE of Compiègne), with three Americans (probably John Desrochers, Ellis Klein and Fred Murray (USAAF)). Stayed in a farm for three days, waiting for pickup.
Note: there was no scheduled pickup on this date. The next one was scheduled for 16/17 October 1943, which failed.
“Captain Martin called for me on 6 Oct took three Americans and myself to Quierzy (10 km. East of Noyon) where we stayed in a farm for three days, waiting to be taken off by air”.

9th October   
No aircraft turned up; went back to Paris and from there to Reims. Taken by Raymonde Beuré with Fred Murray to Sillery (approx. 10 kms South East of Reims).
“No aircraft turned up, so we went back to Paris, from there to Reims, from where a girl took one American and me by car to Sillery, where we stayed,  in a hut.”

13th/ 15th October 
Germans started searching woods for draft dodgers, so moved to the home of the Georgeton’s in Sillery.
“In a wood till 13 Oct, and then with:

M.Georgeton,
Sillery”.

Fred Murray and Val Johnson

A remarkable series of pictures of Val and USAF airman Fred Murray, whom Val had met some X days before.

I find this images to be quite astonishing. I would have imagined that an evading airman would be constantly on the move, suspicious of everyone. The pictures above of Val and Fred Murray an American airman have a casual, almost relaxed air to them. In some respects, I am amazed that the photographs even exist – I would have imagined that the last thing a family, helping allied airmen escape would want is a camera full of pictures of allied airmen, let a lone a collection of photographs of them!

Potier parachuted back into France on the 20th December 1943. It had been his intention to move Possum to Amiens, as the organisation was becoming too “well known” in Reims. However, on the 28th December, as Conrad Lafleur was transmitting messages to London, he was surprised by the Germans. He escaped, but it was the start of a sequence of events that eventually lead to the arrest of Potier. Initially he was taken to Fresnes prison in Paris and then returned to Reims, where after being subjected to considerable torture, he committed suicide on the 11th January 1944. As more arrests followed, the organisation around Reims effectively collapsed. Paris, Amiens and the remoter parts of the network continued operating for a few more months, but were eventually traced and broken up. Georges d’Oultremont and Conrad Lafleur escaped down the Comète Line.

Of the 70 helpers arrested in the French sector of Possum, some 60 were deported, of which less than half returned. There are no complete records, but it is estimated some 60-70 airmen had passed through or were being sheltered by Possum at the time of its demise.

Whilst the Georgeton family played a small part in Val’s evasion, there were members of the Possum line and fully aware of the risks they exposed themselves to if caught. The photographs below show and remember a family who were prepared to act against the Nazis and help the allied airmen who every night flew overhead, themselves gambling that they would never be caught……..

Three of the Georgeton family were arrested by the Gestapo in May of 1944.

Gaston Georgeton died  on 5/11/1944 in Dachau concentration camp.

Georgeton 1

“(Far right) Dad with his air defence comrades (keeping watch for enemy? aircraft xxx??? and notification of air defence command). He was 44.”

Georgeton 2

“Photo taken at Sillery (House of Pommery) after the departure of the Anglo-American airmen picked up near us in October 1943 Dad = 48 years old Mum = 47”

Georgeton 3

“5/03/1944 Dad & Mum 3 months before they were arrested by the Gestapo. Last photo of Dad (1895-1944). (Last photo of my father, DIED for FRANCE on 5/11/1944 in DACHAU).”

Georgeton 5

“26.3.44 René Georgeton, my brother, at Sillery, 2 months before the family was arrested by the Gestapo. He was 13 years old. His young age allowed him to escape deportation.”

Georgeton 4

Robert GEORGETON, my brother, born in 1923 (He wasn’t there when the Gestapo came to arrest his father, mother and brother, which saved his life … )”

17th/ 21st October 
(Gaston?) Georgeton drove them to Mailly-Champagne (18 kms South East of Reims). Stayed with Lea Chandelot.
“We had to move from here, as the Germans requisitioned half the house, and were taken by car to Mailly-Champagne(18 kim. S.E. of Reims), where the American and I stayed with:

M.Chandelot,,
Mailly-Champagne.

M.Chandelot was a particularly staunch patriot, and kept us till 9 Nov”.

9th/ 13th November
Remy Chandelot took them by horse and car to Reims. Train to Fismes with Beuré.
Stayed with Lucienne Mulette.
“On 9 Nov he took us, by horse and cart, to Reims, and from there by train to Fismes, where we stayed 4 days with:

Mme. L.Muillet, (a tailoress)
Fismes”.

15th November
Taken by Beuré in a car back to Reims, from there by train to Paris and back to Bastin’s apartment.
“From here a girl took us by car on 13 Nov back to Reims, from there by train to Paris, and back to Mme. Bastin”.

16th November
Train to Chauny and then taken by truck to a small house in the country. Met Georges d’Oultrement (MI9 agent), Charles Breuer and Stanley Chichester (USAAF).
“On 15 Nov Captain Martin took two Americans and myself to Quierzy and to a field some distance away, from which this time, the air operation was successful“.

17th November
Aircraft pickup took place at approx. 02:00 (operation MAGDALEN II). Landed at RAF Tangmere approx. 03:30; met by Major Langley.

only-survivor

A newspaper article, describing in massively censored manner, Val’s experiences as an evader. One must imagine, given the tense that this article was written sometime towards the end of 1943.

Johnson Binder1 254

A simple, but a very touching note, sent to Val in August of 1945 from one of the many individuals that helped him to escape and return to the UK.

Having put this post together, I think this is as much the story of all those brave individuals that were willing to help Val Johnson, as it is about Val’s evasion.

Returned to the United Kingdom: not known.


K

KIDD
F/S Robert Miln Kidd
RNZAF NZ412700 – Pilot
23rd of January 1943 – Attack Against Targets at Lorient
Stirling Mk.I R.9248 AA – H
Pilot – Robert Miln Kidd

Nine aircraft were detailed to attack the above target with bombs of 1,000 lb. 500 lb. and 4 lb. incendiaries. This was a very successful and concentrated attack. All aircraft reported that their bombs were seen to fall in the target area. Large fires were seen to be lighting up the whole area. A fair amount of heavy, medium and light flak was encountered, only a few searchlights were seen. A few enemy aircraft were seen, but no combats took place. The weather was very clear at the target and good visibility. Navigation was by D.R., T.R., pinpoints and visual. Stirling I R9248 captained by Sergt. R.M.Kidd failed to return.

R9248 was hit by AA fire shortly after bombing, causing catastrophic damage. The captain attempted a crash landing at St Thégonnec (Finistère), about 8miles SE of Morlaix, France. All but one of the crew died in the crash and were laid to rest in St Thégonnec Communal Cemetery. Sgt Kidd escaped slightly injured from the wreck and managed to evade capture.

Returned to the United Kingdom: 8th of May 1943.


KIRBY
P/O Russell George Kirby
RAFVR 1431495/ 134555 – Air Bomber
14th of June 1943 – Mining in the Gironde Estuary
Stirling Mk.I BK646 AA – N
Pilot – John Lloyd Edwards

Six aircraft were detailed to carry out the above operation with Mines of 1500lb., two aircraft returned early, one owing to intercommunication failiure and the other owing to engine trouble and one aircraft failed to return. The remaining three aircraft successfully dropped their mines in the allotted area and the parachutes were seen to open. Some light A.A. fire and a few searchlights were encountered, but they were ineffective. A few enemy aircraft were seen, but no combats took lace. There was thick cloud in the mining area although visibility was fairly good. Navigation was very good. Stirling Mk.I BK646 captained by F/O J.L. Edwards failed to return.

BK646 was shot down by a combination of flak and a Me109 night fighter, attempting a crash landing at Moulines-la-Marche, SSW of Brettville-sur-Laize, France. With a loss of one engine and damaged ailerons, the captain ordered the crew to abandon the aircraft. All except Edwards got down safely, with Sgt’s Dunnet, Rawlinson, Jones, and Maxwell being captured as prisoners, and P/O Kirby and Sgt Sansoucy successfully evading capture. F/O Edwards did not survive and was laid to rest in the Canadian War Cemetery.

Returned to the United Kingdom: not known.


KIRK
F/S Aubrey Charles Kirk
RNZAF 425845 – Rear Gunner
28th of July 1944 – Attack Against Stuttgart
Lancaster Mk.III ND756 AA – M
Pilot – Ian Edward Blance

Twenty two aircraft set out as detailed to attack Stuttgart. Twenty aircraft successfully bombed the target with the aid of markers, but it is thought that several aircraft undershot, as they appeared to be two concentration of fires 2-3 miles apart. Fighters were very active in the target area and also en route, several aircraft having combats. The aircraft captained by NZ413043 A/S/L. L. Drummond, was attacked five times by a JU88, all of which were indecisive, followed by an attack by an unidentified enemy aircraft which is claimed as destroyed, being seen to go down in flames. At the same time as this our aircraft was also being attacked by two JU88s, one of which was damaged by fire from our aircraft. Two aircraft failed to return, they were captained by NZ421403 A/F/L. N. Stokes & NZ421469 F/O. I. Blance.

ND756 was shot down in flames by a night-fighter over France, crashing at 01.25hrs close to Millery village, 3 mls N of Pompey. All but the Flight Engineer, Navigator and Rear Gunner died and were buried at the Millery cemetery. The surviving three crew members had baled out of the burning aircraft successfully. Sgt Hyde (F/E) and F/S Kirk (R/G), evaded capture and escaped but F/S Grieg (Nav) was captured as prisoner of war.
It was revealed that 1,500 local inhabitants of Millery Village turned out for the funeral of the four airmen who died. Two large rooms in the church were overflowing with flowers.

Returned to the United Kingdom: 2nd of September 1944.


M

MACDONALD
F/S Alexander Malcolm Macdonald
RNZAF NZ426070 – Rear Gunner
21st of March 1945 – Attack Against Munster Viaduct
Lancaster Mk.I NG449 AA – T
Pilot – Jack Plummer

Twenty one aircraft were detailed to attack the Muster Viaduct. There was hardly any cloud over the target. It is thought that the concentration was good although the formation was broken up just prior to bombing. Three aircraft failed to return from this operation – AA”T”, NZ42451 F/L J. Plummer, AA”R” NZ429139 P/O A. Brown and JN”P” 190947 P/O D.S. Barr. All three aircraft were seen to hit in the target area. Considerable H/F was encountered.

NC449 came under heavy AA fire over the target area and received hits in two engines, then began breaking up. Four of the crew were virtually thrown from the disintegrating aircraft and parachuted to safety, however all were captured as prisoners of war. Both Sgt Fell and F/S McDonald were badly injured. P/O Humphries implored the Germans to arrange medical treatment for them. They were sent to a semi-medical centre where they remained for a short period until the arrival of allied forces.

Returned to the United Kingdom: 7th of April 1945.


MASON
Sgt. W. Mason
RAFVR – Rear Gunner
18th of July 1944 – Attack Against Aulnoye
Lancaster Mk.I LL921 AA – E
Pilot – John William Anthony Myers

Twenty eight aircraft took off to attack the aircraft works at Aulnoye, one of those originally detailed being withdrawn. All crews were successful in attacking the target, and the bombing was well controlled by the Master Bomber. A concentrated raid developed, and several crews were able to identify the target visually. A.A. opposition was very slight, but enemy fighters were more active, and one aircraft (Captain NZ411411 F/O. G. Kennedy), claimed to have shot down two enemy aircraft. One of our aircraft (Captain NZ405801 A/F/L. J. Myers) failed to return.

LL921 was brought down by a night fighter at Harveng (Hainaut), 3.5 mile South South East of Mons. The fighter had collided with the Lancaster during an attack from below, causing severe damage to the starboard wing and an uncontrollable fire in the outer engine. All crew baled out successfully on the Pilots’s orders while he managed to keep the aircraft relatively stable. It too then plunged into the ground, sadly killing the Pilot. The enemy fighter also crashed nearby.

Of the six who landed safely, three were captured as POW’s while the other three successfully evaded capture.

Returned to the United Kingdom: not known.


McGEE
F/S William Edward McGgee
RNZAF NZ427902 – Mid Upper Gunner
21st of July 1944 – Attack Against Homberg
Lancaster Mk.I ME752 AA – E
Pilot – Gerald Brian Roche

Twenty six aircraft took off, as detailed, to attack the oil refinery at Homberg. Nineteen aircraft were successful in bombing the target, with the aid of markers, which seemed well concentrated. Two good explosions were seen and smoke came up from the target area. Heavy A.A. fire was moderate, but fighters were very active, eight combats taking place. Seven aircraft failed to return, the captains were AUS22776 W/O. Gilmour, H., NZ428819 F/S. Howell, E., NZ421829 F/S. Mackay, K., NZ422057 F/S. Davidson, N., NZ42488 W/O. Whittington, H., NZ413219 F/S. Roche, G. & NZ414560 P/O. Burtt, H.

ME752 was brought down by a night-fighter at 01.15hrs at Heythuysen in the Dutch province of Limburg, 7 mls east of Weert. All crew members, except the air bomber and mid-upper gunner, died in the crash and were first buried in the Heythuysen cemetery but are now lying in Jonkerbos War Cemetery. F/S Burgess survived and was captured as a POW. F/S McGee also survived and successfully evaded capture.

He successfully evaded capture and was safe in the U.K. 14 September 1944. On return to England F/Sgt McGee was interrogated by IS 9 as follows:

“I left in a Lancaster at 2350 hrs on 21 Julu 1944. I baled out at Heizthuizen at 0200 hrs on 22 Jul 1944, the aircraft having been shot down by a night-fighter. I buried my parachute, harness and and mae west. I came to some woods where I slwpt. Here I heard two more planes crash. The next morning I started walking and was right in the centre of the above-named village, which has a population of 3,000 when I was picked up by someone who was in contact with the organization. I was sheltered in various places until along with a party of 11 others we were taken to the Belgian border which we crossed at night and travelled to Masyack. I stayed here for a week with the three others and then moved to Liege where I lost touch with the organization. I was left in a church which was raided by the police but received notification in advance and so walked into the town where I was picked up by another member of the organization and taken to a village called Seraing where I stayed for 3 weeks until liberated”.

Returned to the United Kingdom: 14th of September 1944.


MEANLEY
Sgt. Ralph Meanley
RAFVR 0 – Flight Engineer
28th of July 1944 – Attack Against Stuttgart
Lancaster Mk.III NE148 AA – H
Pilot – Noel Alfred Deal Stokes

Twenty two aircraft set out as detailed to attack Stuttgart. Twenty aircraft successfully bombed the target with the aid of markers, but it is thought that several aircraft undershot, as they appeared to be two concentration of fires 2-3 miles apart. Fighters were very active in the target area and also en route, several aircraft having combats. The aircraft captained by NZ413043 A/S/L. L. Drummond, was attacked five times by a JU88, all of which were indecisive, followed by an attack by an unidentified enemy aircraft which is claimed as destroyed, being seen to go down in flames. At the same time as this our aircraft was also being attacked by two JU88s, one of which was damaged by fire from our aircraft. Two aircraft failed to return, they were captained by NZ421403 A/F/L. N. Stokes & NZ421469 F/O. I. Blance.

NE148 was one of the aircraft intercepted by night-fighters en route to the target. It was critically damaged by such an attack in which the rear gunner was killed; mid-upper gunner seriously injured, and one engine put out of action. The bomb load was jettisoned and the captain initiated a return to base. He ultimately was unable to prevent the aircraft losing height and ordered the crew to bale out. Minutes later NE148 crashed close to the village of Yèvres, a mile E of Brau. Both the Pilot and Rear Gunner, who died, were buried in the village cemetery. The remaining six who baled out, all successfully evaded capture.

Returned to the United Kingdom: 16th of August 1944.


MORRIS
F/O John Moore Morris
RNZAF NZ422424 – 2nd Pilot
28th of July 1944 – Attack Against Stuttgart
Lancaster Mk.III NE148 AA – H
Pilot – Noel Alfred Deal Stokes

Twenty two aircraft set out as detailed to attack Stuttgart. Twenty aircraft successfully bombed the target with the aid of markers, but it is thought that several aircraft undershot, as they appeared to be two concentration of fires 2-3 miles apart. Fighters were very active in the target area and also en route, several aircraft having combats. The aircraft captained by NZ413043 A/S/L. L. Drummond, was attacked five times by a JU88, all of which were indecisive, followed by an attack by an unidentified enemy aircraft which is claimed as destroyed, being seen to go down in flames. At the same time as this our aircraft was also being attacked by two JU88s, one of which was damaged by fire from our aircraft. Two aircraft failed to return, they were captained by NZ421403 A/F/L. N. Stokes & NZ421469 F/O. I. Blance.

NE148 was one of the aircraft intercepted by night-fighters en route to the target. It was critically damaged by such an attack in which the rear gunner was killed; mid-upper gunner seriously injured, and one engine put out of action. The bomb load was jettisoned and the captain initiated a return to base. He ultimately was unable to prevent the aircraft losing height and ordered the crew to bale out. Minutes later NE148 crashed close to the village of Yèvres, a mile E of Brau. Both the Pilot and Rear Gunner, who died, were buried in the village cemetery. The remaining six who baled out, all successfully evaded capture.

Returned to the United Kingdom: not known.


N

NEWBOLD
Sgt. L. Newbold
RAFVR – Rear Gunner
24th of October 1942 – Operations. Attack Against Targets At Milan
Wellington Mk.III Z.1652 AA – ?
Pilot – Howard James Hugill

Five aircraft were detailed to attack the above target. Bomb load of 1,000lb. 500lb. 250lb and incendiaries were dropped in the target area. Some slight A.A. fire was encountered, cloud stopped searchlight activity. No combats with enemy aircraft took place. 10/10ths cloud from the French Coast to the target made identification of the target difficult. Navigation was difficult owing to cloud preventing the use of Astro. Wellington Z1652 captained by Sergt. Hugill and Wellington BK725 captained by Sergt. McConnell failed to return.

Z1652 was shot down over France, crashing at Ville-aur-Retourne (Ardennes) on the south bank of the River Retourne, 13miles SSE of Rathel. The Captain and the navigator were both killed and were buried in the Ville-sur-Retourne churchyard.

Sgt’s Worsdale, Newbold and Barnes survived. The first two evaded capture but Barnes was taken prisoner.

Returned to the United Kingdom: not known.


P

PARKER
W/O Noel Norman Parker
RAAF AUS.413240 – Pilot
19th of November 1943 – Attack Against Targets at Leverkusen
Stirling Mk.III LJ442 JN – F
Pilot – Noel Norman Parker

Sixteen aircraft were detailed to attack the above target with bombs of 2,000lbs, 1,000 lbs and incendiaries of 30 lbs and 4lbs. One aircraft failed to return, but the remainder successfully dropped their bombs in the target area. Except for one vivid  red flash seen through the clouds, little results were observed. Heavy and medium A.A. Fire co-operating with Searchlights was encountered, but caused negligible damage. Some enemy aircraft were seen and a few combats took place but no damage was sustained by our aircraft. The aircraft  captained be F/S R.Hunt met a J.U.88 which attacked his aircraft, the fire was returned and strikes were seen on the enemy aircraft. Our aircraft was then attacked by a FW190, the first was returned but the enemy aircraft disappeared. The weather was poor, being ten-tenths cloud over the target, there was also a fog at base which necessitated the aircraft landing at BRADWELL BAY on return. Navigation was very good. The missing aircraft was captained by F/Sgt. N. PARKER.

LJ442 came under attack from a night-fighter (Lt Otto Fries, 5 /NJG1) a short time after take-off while en route to the target over the Belgian coast. After a series of attacks by the fighter causing considerable damage, fire broke out in LJ442’s starboard wing and a crash-landing attempt was made by the pilot at Horrues, NW of Soignies, Belgium. Only the captain, navigator and air-bomber survived. Parker and Griffiths evaded capture but Hyde, who was seriously injured, was taken as POW. The four who died were buried at Chièvres, 10 miles from Horrues.

Returned to the United Kingdom: not known.


R

RAYNEL
F/S William George Raynel
RNZAF 0 – Wireless Operator
28th of July 1944 – Attack Against Stuttgart
Lancaster Mk.III NE148 AA – H
Pilot – Noel Alfred Deal Stokes

Twenty two aircraft set out as detailed to attack Stuttgart. Twenty aircraft successfully bombed the target with the aid of markers, but it is thought that several aircraft undershot, as they appeared to be two concentration of fires 2-3 miles apart. Fighters were very active in the target area and also en route, several aircraft having combats. The aircraft captained by NZ413043 A/S/L. L. Drummond, was attacked five times by a JU88, all of which were indecisive, followed by an attack by an unidentified enemy aircraft which is claimed as destroyed, being seen to go down in flames. At the same time as this our aircraft was also being attacked by two JU88s, one of which was damaged by fire from our aircraft. Two aircraft failed to return, they were captained by NZ421403 A/F/L. N. Stokes & NZ421469 F/O. I. Blance.

NE148 was one of the aircraft intercepted by night-fighters en route to the target. It was critically damaged by such an attack in which the rear gunner was killed; mid-upper gunner seriously injured, and one engine put out of action. The bomb load was jettisoned and the captain initiated a return to base. He ultimately was unable to prevent the aircraft losing height and ordered the crew to bale out. Minutes later NE148 crashed close to the village of Yèvres, a mile E of Brau. Both the Pilot and Rear Gunner, who died, were buried in the village cemetery. The remaining six who baled out, all successfully evaded capture.

Returned to the United Kingdom: 17th of August 1944.


S

SAMPSON
P/O Newton Trevor Sampson
RNZAF NZ421774 – Air Bomber
28th of July 1944 – Attack Against Stuttgart
Lancaster Mk.III NE148 AA – H
Pilot – Noel Alfred Deal Stokes

Twenty two aircraft set out as detailed to attack Stuttgart. Twenty aircraft successfully bombed the target with the aid of markers, but it is thought that several aircraft undershot, as they appeared to be two concentration of fires 2-3 miles apart. Fighters were very active in the target area and also en route, several aircraft having combats. The aircraft captained by NZ413043 A/S/L. L. Drummond, was attacked five times by a JU88, all of which were indecisive, followed by an attack by an unidentified enemy aircraft which is claimed as destroyed, being seen to go down in flames. At the same time as this our aircraft was also being attacked by two JU88s, one of which was damaged by fire from our aircraft. Two aircraft failed to return, they were captained by NZ421403 A/F/L. N. Stokes & NZ421469 F/O. I. Blance.

NE148 was one of the aircraft intercepted by night-fighters en route to the target. It was critically damaged by such an attack in which the rear gunner was killed; mid-upper gunner seriously injured, and one engine put out of action. The bomb load was jettisoned and the captain initiated a return to base. He ultimately was unable to prevent the aircraft losing height and ordered the crew to bale out. Minutes later NE148 crashed close to the village of Yèvres, a mile E of Brau. Both the Pilot and Rear Gunner, who died, were buried in the village cemetery. The remaining six who baled out, all successfully evaded capture.

Returned to the United Kingdom: 16th of August 1944.


SANDERS
F/O George Herbert Sanders
RNZAF 0 – Navigator
28th of July 1944 – Attack Against Stuttgart
Lancaster Mk.III NE148 AA – H
Pilot – Noel Alfred Deal Stokes

Twenty two aircraft set out as detailed to attack Stuttgart. Twenty aircraft successfully bombed the target with the aid of markers, but it is thought that several aircraft undershot, as they appeared to be two concentration of fires 2-3 miles apart. Fighters were very active in the target area and also en route, several aircraft having combats. The aircraft captained by NZ413043 A/S/L. L. Drummond, was attacked five times by a JU88, all of which were indecisive, followed by an attack by an unidentified enemy aircraft which is claimed as destroyed, being seen to go down in flames. At the same time as this our aircraft was also being attacked by two JU88s, one of which was damaged by fire from our aircraft. Two aircraft failed to return, they were captained by NZ421403 A/F/L. N. Stokes & NZ421469 F/O. I. Blance.

NE148 was one of the aircraft intercepted by night-fighters en route to the target. It was critically damaged by such an attack in which the rear gunner was killed; mid-upper gunner seriously injured, and one engine put out of action. The bomb load was jettisoned and the captain initiated a return to base. He ultimately was unable to prevent the aircraft losing height and ordered the crew to bale out. Minutes later NE148 crashed close to the village of Yèvres, a mile E of Brau. Both the Pilot and Rear Gunner, who died, were buried in the village cemetery. The remaining six who baled out, all successfully evaded capture.

Returned to the United Kingdom: 16th of August 1944.


SANSOUCY
P/O Joseph Germain Fabien Sansoucy
RCAF R.66953/ C.86345 – Flight Engineer
14th of June 1943 – Mining in the Gironde Estuary
Stirling Mk.I BK646 AA – N
Pilot – John Lloyd Edwards

Six aircraft were detailed to carry out the above operation with Mines of 1500lb., two aircraft returned early, one owing to intercommunication failiure and the other owing to engine trouble and one aircraft failed to return. The remaining three aircraft successfully dropped their mines in the allotted area and the parachutes were seen to open. Some light A.A. fire and a few searchlights were encountered, but they were ineffective. A few enemy aircraft were seen, but no combats took lace. There was thick cloud in the mining area although visibility was fairly good. Navigation was very good. Stirling Mk.I BK646 captained by F/O J.L. Edwards failed to return.

BK646 was shot down by a combination of flak and a Me109 night fighter, attempting a crash landing at Moulines-la-Marche, SSW of Brettville-sur-Laize, France. With a loss of one engine and damaged ailerons, the captain ordered the crew to abandon the aircraft. All except Edwards got down safely, with Sgt’s Dunnet, Rawlinson, Jones, and Maxwell being captured as prisoners, and P/O Kirby and Sgt Sansoucy successfully evading capture. F/O Edwards did not survive and was laid to rest in the Canadian War Cemetery.

Returned to the United Kingdom: not known.


W

WILKINSON
F/O James Stewart Wilkinson
RNZAF NZ4211042 – Navigator
7th of August 1944 – Attack Against Mare De Magne
Lancaster Mk.I HK567 AA – C
Pilot – Godfree Arnold Brunton

The target was enemy troops and armour concentrations at Mare De Magne, being made in direct support of the Allied Armies advance in the Caen area. Seventeen aircraft were detailed, all of which took off and dropped their bombs with the aid of markers, and a concentrated raid developed. Opposition from A.A. fire was very slight, but a few enemy fighters were active. One aircraft had an inconclusive combat and another (Captain 150278 .F/O. G. Brunton) failed to return.

HK567 was compelled to crash land in the target area, reasons unknown. The two RAF air gunners did not survive the crash and were buried in the St-Valery-en-Caux Cemetery. All the remaining five crew survived and successfully evaded capture.

Returned to the United Kingdom: 17th of August 1944.


WILLIS
Sgt. Leonard Willis
RCAF R.92498 – Mid Upper Gunner
13th of February 1943 – Attack Against Targets at Lorient
Stirling Mk.I R9316 AA – K
Pilot – Roy Arthur Williams

Eleven aircraft were detailed to carry out the above operation with bombs of 1,000 lb. and 4 lb. incendiaries. Nine aircraft are known to have successfully attacked the target, of the other two, one returned early owing to the mid upper and front turrets being u/s and the other aircraft failed to return. Fires were burning fiercely in the target area, although they appeared to be scattered. F/Lt. Trott had his aircraft damaged by flak at the target, the number two tank on the port side was holed, the trimming tab was hit and his aerial was shot off. He preceeded to Middle Wallop and landed safely. Both heavy and light flak was encountered which was intense at first but later spasmodic and appeared to be swamped. Searchlights were seen in the early part of the attack but later went out. Some enemy aircraft were seen but no attacks were made. The weather was very good with clear visibility and no cloud. Navigation was very good. The missing aircraft was Stirling 1 R9316 captained by Sgt. R.A. Williams.

R9316 was hit by flak over the target and fire broke out. The Captain ordered the crew to abandon the aircraft and all but himself and the rear gunner parachuted successfully, landing near Plouay, (Finistère), 11 miles NNE of Lorient. Four were captured and taken prisoner but the fifth, Sgt Willis, RCAF, successfully evaded capture.
The deceased, Sgt’s Williams and Harding-Smith, were buried at Guidel, near Lorient. The latter was the son of the Venerable Archdeacon T J Smith, of Nelson, New Zealand.

Returned to the United Kingdom: not known.


WORSDALE
Sgt. Edwin Worsdale
RNZAF NZ412919 – Wireless Operator
24th of October 1942 – Operations. Attack Against Targets At Milan
Wellington Mk.III Z.1652 AA – ?
Pilot – Howard James Hugill

Five aircraft were detailed to attack the above target. Bomb load of 1,000lb. 500lb. 250lb and incendiaries were dropped in the target area. Some slight A.A. fire was encountered, cloud stopped searchlight activity. No combats with enemy aircraft took place. 10/10ths cloud from the French Coast to the target made identification of the target difficult. Navigation was difficult owing to cloud preventing the use of Astro. Wellington Z1652 captained by Sergt. Hugill and Wellington BK725 captained by Sergt. McConnell failed to return.

Wellington Mk.III Z.1652was shot down over France, crashing at Ville-aur-Retourne (Ardennes) on the south bank of the River Retourne, 13 miles South South East of Rathel. The Pilot and the Navigator were both killed and were buried in the Ville-sur-Retourne churchyard.

Sgt’s Worsdale, Newbold and Barnes survived. The first two evaded capture but Barnes was taken prisoner.

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Fake identity papers produced to assist Edwin Worsdale, Wireless Operator with the Hugill crew escape from Switzerland, back to the United Kingdom. Accession no. 2011/256.1 ©Air Force Museum of New Zealand

The Air Force Museum of New Zealand has just presented another 75(NZ) Squadron RAF related item in it’s ‘Object of the week‘ series. This time it is a set of forged identity documents that Edwin Worsdale used to escape back to the United Kingdom with after he was shot down at 00:30 on the night of the 25th October 1942.

Owing to adverse weather conditions, the crew had failed to reach the necessary height to cross the Alps and the decision was made to abort only their 5th Op as a crew and return to Mildenhall.

Whilst on their return flight over France, Edwin and crew, skippered by Howard Hugill crashed after being attacked by an ME110. Unable to maintain height, one crew member, James Barnes the Air Bomber, baled out prior to impact, but the rest crash landed, resulting in the Pilot, Sgt Howard James Hugill, RNZAF NZ414293 and Sgt. Edmund John Pete, RAF 1279494 the Observer, being killed in the crash, approximately 30 kms east of Reims.

Edwin and another crew member, Sgt. Newbold made off on foot from the site of the crash, reaching Switzerland 18 days later, having been provided assistance by French families along their 30km a day escape. Whilst in Switzerland, Edwin spent 9 months at the British Embassy in Geneva as a cipher clerk.

On the 5th of June 1944, Edwin left Switzerland for Spain, briefed by the British escape and evasion representative in Switzerland and carrying the necessary forged documents to assist in his escape – under the alias ‘Lucien Bovet’, an insurance inspector. His initial train journey took him to South Western France and in order to get to Spain he crossed the Pyrenees unassisted. On arrival in Spain, he gave himself up to the Spanish authorities and was released to the charge of the British Embassy. Edwin returned to the United Kingdom, via Gibraltar on the 11th of July 1944.

On his return to the United Kingdom Edwin was interviewed and debriefed by Intelligence School 9 (I.S.9), which had as its chief task the support and rescue of escaped POWs and Evaders (E&E’s) stranded in enemy territory in Europe. I.S.9 activities fell under M.I.9 (British Directorate of Military Intelligence Section 9), a department of the War Office during WW II.

“I was a member of the crew of a Wellington Mk III aircraft which took off from Mildenhall on the 23rd October 1942 to bomb Milan. On the outward journey we could not get the aircraft to rise above 12,500 ft whereas we required to rise to 14,000 ft when approaching the Alps. The pilot accordingly turned back. We were uncertain of our position but thought that we were well south of Paris. We then flew out of cloud and were hit at about 10,000 ft by a fighter, the rear turret being put out of action. The pilot took evasive action, diving to about 3,000 ft in the hope of being able to hedge-hop home. However, first the instruments and then the motors went out of action, and fire started in the bomb bay where we had a full load of incendiaries. We crash-landed. The bomb aimer (J G Barner) had already baled out and I learned a year later in Switzerland that he was a P/W in Germany. Before we hit the ground we jettisoned the incendiaries but the fire was pretty bad. In spite of this the pilot made a magnificent landing about midnight. We came down in a ploughed field between a wood and a village, possibly Menil- Nelles. And certainly about 20 20 west of Vouziers. The rear gunner was trapped in his turret, but I was able to push his turret from the inside and so make an opening for him to get out. I then took off all my equipment and after the rear gunner had pushed the turret round for me, I was able to get out through the same opening. We had just got clear from the aircraft when the petrol exploded. We were unable to get at the Pilot and Navigator who were still in the aircraft. We did not know at that time that the Bomb Aimer had baled out and thought he also was in the aircraft.

Newbold and I walked all night and rested all the next day (25th October). At night we set out again and early on 26th October passed through St. Souplet-sur-Py. We continued till daylight and then slept for the day on what we believe was a former battlefield. In the evening we called at a farm at Suippes where we were allowed to stay overnight, leaving before daybreak on 27th October. The weather was bad and we could not walk far before daylight. We hid in the woods till evening when we went to Somme-Suippes. Here we found shelter at a farm for the night and the next day (28th October). From the evening of 28th October when we left Somme-Suippes, till 1st November we continued walking through woods by day and on roads at night, getting food but no other help at farmhouses. On Ist November we were taken in at a farm at Villers-le-Sec and given food and civilian clothes (up to this point we had still been wearing battle dress and flying boots). We left the farm next morning (2nd November) and from then on walked by day, approaching villages only at night time for shelter and food. We decided to head for Switzerland for the following reasons (1) We thought it was too late in the year to make for Spain. (2) Neither of us could speak French. (3) We had not been able to get in touch with any organization. I do not now remember our route but we followed a compass course S.E. avoiding all the main towns. We saw only four Germans during the whole of our walk – two in a car and two on bicycles. We got very good help from French peasants in the way of food and shelter for a night at at time. On 11th November we crossed crossed the Swiss frontier at Damvant SW of Porrentuy. We had no assistance in crossing. The country is hilly and wooded and we crossed in thick fog about 1700 hrs without seeing any German guards or patrols or any frontier wire. We gave ourselves up to the Mayor of Damvant who handed us over to the Military Police. The latter took us to Porrentruy where we spent four days in prison. We were then handed over to the British Legation in Berne. For the last nine months of my stay in Switzerland I was employed in the Consulate in Geneva, having previously been in Vevey. I left Switzerland on 5th June 1944 with Lieutenant Commander Stephen and my subsequent journey is described in a separate appendix to this report.”

After returning to New Zealand and after a training course, W/O Edwin Worsdale was commissioned as a Pilot Officer, serving as a cipher clerk in the South Pacific region. Edwin received a Mention in Dispatches on the 1st of July 1945:

“In recognition of distinguished service and devotion to duty.”

Returned to the United Kingdom: not known