Jack Deall and Fred Gare
Having escaped from the Germans, they then had to escape from the French
This article first posted 04 July 2020
 
Sgt Leslie Jack Deall (400), a bank official from Croydon in Surrey, was serving with 182 Field Ambulance, RAMC when he was captured at Berck Plage on 6 June 1940. He escaped from a POW column that same day, commenting in his report that the long line of French and Belgian PWs that he was with was inadequately guarded. He was recaptured at Le Tréport on 23 June, and taken to Rouen on 30 June, where he was employed as a medical orderly at the Hôpital d'Ernemont.
Deall says in his MI9 report that he escaped from the hospital on 2 February 1941, being lowered from a window “by friends”. He was given railway tickets by two girls who had visited the hospital, and joined a party of six (sic) other soldiers, including Pte H Coshall (383), who left Rouen by train that night. He gives few details of their journey, simply saying that they went on to Toulouse and Marseille (14 Feb), and were interned at Saint Hippolyte (15 Feb).

I met Jack Deall when he was a neighbour in Somerset, and he gave me a copy of his memoire, “The Long Road Home”, written in 1990. The quotations below and other details are taken from there.

“Just after Christmas, that is in early January 1941, the CO, Major Kinnaird, told me that the Germans had ordered a reduction in the British staff in the hospital and he had decided that the unmarried men would be chosen for transfer to prison camp. Those remaining would, he thought, stand a better chance of quick repatriation across the Channel under the Geneva Convention. Of course, my name was at the top of the list.

Another sergeant due to go off to Prison Camp was Fred Gare of the Black Watch who had been retained on the staff as a very useful masseur. He had received visits from Monsieur and Madame Fagot; I had gathered the address of Madame Mallard [another frequent visitor], thus we had two outside contacts. So we discussed plans. Over the past months, I had found a way out of the hospital over piles of coal which blocked the main drive, and I had been out by night and visited a sympathetic captain of the French Mercantile Marine.”

According to Jack's memoire, he escaped from the hospital sometime in mid-January. Fred Gare was due to accompany him but just after a group of five sergeants had lowered Jack from the Officers Mess window, there was a sudden alarm, and the window had to be closed. The original plan had been for the two men to make their way to the Fagot home but Jack didn't know where they lived so the only place he could try was that of the French captain. The captain welcomed him but could not shelter Deall as he had young children at home, so he took him to 60 rue Louis Ricart, where Maurice and Jeannine Fagot sheltered Deall, and Maurice said that he would go and find Mme Mallard to see if she could help Jack to leave the city.
Deall stayed with the Fagots for about a week, and then spent the weekend with Mme Vve Marcelle Mallard and her daughter Jacqueline at 32 rue Hyacinthe Langlois. Deall then returned to Fagot home, having decided his only way home to England was by going south, and it was arranged that he would join a group of British “stragglers” due to be taken to the Unoccupied Zone. About a week later, he was taken to the railway station in Rouen where two girls who were to be their guides were pointed out to him. There was a delay while they waited for some officers to join the party and when they failed to apper, the group dispersed back to their respective homes before returning to take a six'oclock evening train for Paris. Deall doesn't name the other men in the party but they were Pte H Coshall (383), Pte John Breagan (384), Pte Sidney Fullager (800), Pte James Goulden (903), 7264501 Pte J Atherton, 3388397 Pte E Marsden and 2755481 Pte A Ramsey of the Black Watch.

Pte H Coshall (383), from Sunbury-on-Thames, with 15 years in the Regular Army, and Pte John Breagan (384), from Notting Hill in West London, with 16 years in the Regular Army, were serving with the Queen's Royal Regiment, attached to 111 AMPC (Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps) when their unit was captured at Fleury-sur-Andelle on 15 June 1940. They were taken to a camp at Rouen, from where they and Pte E A Powell (486) (from their unit) escaped on either 21 or 22 June. They made their way to an area just south of Radepont, where the people of Bonnemare and Pont-Saint-Pierre (Powell says the whole of the small community of about 25 families) looked after them. Powell left for the south on 30 November but Coshall and Breagan stayed until 4 February 1941 when their joint report says that arrangements were made with a French doctor, and an English-speaking French girl who took them via Paris and Bordeaux to cross the demarcation line near Perigueux. They went on to Marseille, where they were arrested, and sent to Saint Hippolyte on 13 February .

Pte Sydney Fullagher (800), from Sittingbourne in Kent, with 15 years in the Regular Army, was also serving with the Queen's Royal Regiment but says that on 6 May 1940, he was attached to the 51st Division, which was retreating from the Belgian frontier, when an order was given for them to break into small groups and head for the coast. He says that he made his way to Pont-Saint-Pierre, a small village about 14 kms from Rouen, where he hid in the woods, fed and helped for four months by the la Marchand family of Saint-Pierre-Pont. For some reason, Fullagher (who was interviewed by MI9 on 31 July 1942) says that Coshall (383) evaded with him but Coshall, Breagan and Powell's reports contradict this.

Pte James Goulden (903), a baker from Manchester, with 10 years in the Regular Army, had been detached from his East Lancashire unit and on 3 May 1940, was working as a cook, serving near Forges-les-Eaux with men from the IBD (Infantry Base Depot) at Rouen. About three weeks later, they received orders to evacuate and return to Rouen but on the evening of 9 June, Goulden (and others) was captured near Abbeville. He joined one of the many columns of men being marched across France towards Belgium and captivity in Germany but a few days later, Goulden slipped out of the column along with two other men from his Regiment, Pte J Atherton and Pte E Marsden. They started walking towards Rouen and found shelter in the Malauny area, just north of the city, where the three men stayed until the following year.
The group spent the night in a small hotel (no details), and early the following morning, took the express train for Bordeaux. They left the train at a junction some miles north of Bordeaux, and took a slow local train east, towards the demarcation line. They got off the local train at what Deall describes as “a little wayside station”, and entered a nearby inn “which was full of people of people hoping to get across the border that night”. It seems that there was a farmer with land on both sides of the border, and that he had a pass that allowed him to take his car back and forth as he pleased. He drove Deall and seven other people to a point on the road where they got out to follow a man who guided them across the fields to rejoin the farmer with his car on the other side. The farmer then drove them to a railway station, where they were joined by the rest of their party after the farmer made a second trip. Next morning, they took a train to Lyon, where they stayed overnight in the staff quarters of a hospital. Deall reports that the two guides quarrelled at this stage, the elder one leaving in a temper while the younger one, took them on an early morning train to Marseille. Deall names the younger girl as Jeanette Poulain, and IS9 list a Mlle Jeanette Poulain as living at 8 rue d'elbeuf in Paris (sic).
On arrival in Marseille, Deall and Jeanette went to the American Embassy where Deall asked for a Captain X, whose name he had been given In Rouen. Captain X (almost certainly Charles Murchie) was “horrified” that his name should have been connected with any escape route, refused to help, and told Deall that he would have to go to Saint Hippolyte, “from where they should be helped to proceed into Spain as and when it was possible”.
They returned to the station, and Jeannette took them all by train to Nimes, where they would have to change for the local train to Saint Hippolyte. Jeannette left them at this point, returning to Rouen, while the escapers, who had missed the daily train for Saint Hippolyte, spent the night in a café near the station. Next day (a Sunday), they took the afternoon train to Saint Hippolyte and walked to the converted barracks that was the internment camp, where Deall met the three officers in charge (Lts Hewitt (1063), Parkinson (611) and John Linklater), and was directed to the Sergeant's Mess.
Cpl Fred H Gare (421) from Birmingham, with 7 years in the Regular Army, was serving with 1 Bn Black Watch when he was captured at Saint-Valéry-en-Caux on 12 June 1940. He had been hit by several bullets to his legs, and after two days lying in a farm, was taken to a hospital at Forges-les-Eaux, and on 1 July, transferred to the Hôpital d'Ernemont at Rouen. Gare was transferred to Saint Quentin on 10 February 1941, and then to Paris, prior to being taken to Germany. He escaped from the Paris hospital on 20 April, lowered into a courtyard “by comrades”, and in the morning, made his way to an address that he had been given by a hospital visitor, where he was sheltered overnight. Next day, he set out for Unoccupied France, getting as far as Montrichard (27 Apr) before being caught by a German patrol. He says that he was beaten up and thrown into a barn but the barn wasn't guarded, and he escaped through a window and into the woods. He swam across the river Indre (sic) that night about two miles from Montrichard and walked to Chateauroux, where he was arrested. He was sent to Saint Hippolyte, where he was reunited with Jack Deall, and on either 30 April or 1 May 1941, they escaped together.
At Saint Hippolyte, Deall was a Nursing Orderly Class II, and his morning duty was to assist in the Medical Inspection room, accompanied by a French sergeant of the Medical Corps.
“From my position in the Medical Inspection room next to the main gate, I had kept watch on the guards and their general procedures. It became apparent that in the mid-day heat, the guards became somewhat lax and at lunchtime, there was usually just one man in the guard house and he would often be asleep with his head on the table. There was a small gate inset in the big main gates by the guard room but the little gate was seldom locked at that time of day. So Fred Gare and I had a very early lunch one bright sunny day, stuffed our pockets with a few odd bits of food, and stole quietly down the stone staircase to the little entrance yard, and got safely by the guard room doorway - the man on duty was asleep. Then quietly opening the small door inset in the main gates, we stepped boldly forth. There were three or four guards at intervals along the front walls and one of them called out to ask if we had registered our passes, to which I replied "It's O.K." and we walked slowly down the street opposite the gates, while wanting to run like mad! We got safely away from the village, taking cover in a dry river bed, and set out to walk some thirty miles over the roughest country, to Nimes. It was important to avoid the road, for we had no idea how long would elapse before our escape became known and in any case, we were liable to run into a police patrol on the highway. Of course, we were both in civilian clothes, but it was not difficult to see that we did not belong in the countryside.”
Deall and Gare tried walking across country but soon found that to be impractical in the scrubland, and so followed the road, reaching Nimes early the following morning. After a quick “brush-up” in a stream, they booked a room in a hotel where Gare had stayed previously. After resting through the day, and a good night's sleep, they took a train to Perpignan, where they were able to leave the station and make their way to the hotel where they had been told that a British agent was living – this was Bruce Dowding at the Hotel de la Loge – and where they stayed overnight. The following morning, they were taken by taxi to a village (almost certainly Laroque-des-Albères), and by mid-morning, had climbed to the Spanish frontier. They decided to continue down into Spain but were soon spotted by two Guardia Civil, arrested, and taken by bus to the police station in Figueras. A few days later, they were transferred to the Carcel Modelo in Barcelona, and then to Cervera and Miranda. They were released from Miranda on 29 June, and left Gibraltar by sea for Glasgow on 4 July 1941.