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Archie Barlow continued - with some Marie-Odile, Jean-Marie and Françoise connections
On the morning of 19 April 1944, 21 evaders (plus a number of civilians) set off to cross the Pyrenees - but only five of the airmen made it into Spain
This page first posted 23 Nov 2020
Archie Barlow and Lynn Drollinger were helped by Marie-Odile in Paris; William Hendrickson and Paul Pearce were helped in the Pas-de-Calais by Hunter-Nord and passed to Marie-Odile in Paris. S/Sgt Stanley E Lepkowski and T/Sgt Theodore Kellers were brought to Paris in early November 1943 by Comète; and T/Sgt Curtis E Finley had been sheltered in Paris for several weeks until being passed to réseau Françoise guide Paul Henri Jourdan who took them all by overnight train to Toulouse, arriving there on the morning of 18 April 1944.
William Taylor, John Ansell, Thomas Taylor, Stanley Cammish, John Acthim, David Balmanno, James Liles, James McMahon Jnr, Charles Jackson and Robert Lindstrom, were brought to Paris from Nancy by “Jean-Marie” agent Andre Romvald. After a few days in the capital, they were passed to Françoise guide Madeleine Rouède and taken to Toulouse, leaving Paris at about noon on 17 April, and arriving in Toulouse on the afternoon of the following day.
They were joined in Toulouse by Wilfred Gorman and at some stage by Joseph Sutphin, Melvin Porter and George Hardy RNVR, although it's not clear exactly when or where.
T/Sgt Archie R Barlow (#687) from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, was the 20-year-old engineer and top-turret gunner of 44BG/68BS B-24 42-7635 Ram It-Damn It (Howington) on a raid to Pas-de-Calais and Cherbourg V1 sites on 21 January 1944. They were circling the target for the third time when they were attacked by enemy fighters, and with the co-pilot killed and the flight deck on fire, the aircraft was abandoned to crash at Lignieres-Chatelaine (Somme).
Barlow had been in a party of fourteen airmen crossing from Foix to Andorra at the beginning of March (see Furniss-Roe Article) but had dropped out towards the end of the first night walking in the mountains. After resting in a barn for four days, he found his own back through Saint-Jean-de-Verges and Toulouse to the “Fortune du Pot” in Paris.
On Barlow's return to the “Fortune du Pot” on 13 March, he stayed at the restaurant until evening when Simone Rossenu took him back to the apartment at 7 Impasse Molin where she lived with her parents. Barlow stayed at the Gaillet home until 17 April, being joined there briefly by Sgt Arnold Pederson (#615), and then on about 2 April, by Lynn Drollinger. Barlow says he sometimes went to stay with Simone's brother-in-law, Camille René Rossenu (born 2 November 1910) (of 4 rue Cail, Paris X), and on 16 April, Camille came and told them that he had to take an examination for work in Germany.
2/Lt Lynn Howard Drollinger (#710) from Spokane, Washington, was the 20-year-old pilot of 357FG/362FS P-51 43-6729 on a bomber escort sortie on 28 March 1944. He had flown through some flak, and noticed coolant forming ice on his windshield before turning for home somewhere near Dijon. He finally bailed out at about 20,000 feet, delaying his drop until about 4,000 feet, and landing near Villiers-Saint-Georges, Seine-et-Marne, about 75 feet from a farmhouse. After hiding his parachute in a haystack, he approached a farmer who was watching him. Then some Germans appeared, and Drollinger ran into the man's barn. He saw a woman directing the Germans away down the road, and then she helped Drollinger to hide under the hay in the barn. Later, the woman brought him supper, and in the morning, brought breakfast, and told him that someone would come for him that night.
That evening, Bernard Vivien (aged about 25, he spoke a little English) arrived to take Drollinger back to his farm near Flaix, about 4 kms south of Villiers-Saint-Georges. Bernard exchanged all of Drollinger's clothes (except his GI shoes) for civilian clothing, and Drollinger stayed with him that night. Next morning (30 March), Lucien See arrived. Drollinger says that Lucien was 24 years old, had an English mother (since deceased) and a French father who had managed a wrestler, and toured the US in the 1930s, while Lucien had gone to high school in Upper New York State. Early the following morning, Bernard and Lucien took Drollinger by bicycle to Paris, taking a bus to the centre of the city and a café where they sold the cheese and eggs they had brought from the farm. Then they went to the Hotel Amsterdam, which was run by Lucien's sister Pauline, where their brother Alec also lived (and which I think was at 183 rue Championnet, Paris XVIII).
That afternoon, Bernard contacted Mme Darras (Mme Leonie Margulius née Darras 28 September 1900), and then took Drollinger to her apartment at 20 rue de Bruxelles. After careful questioning, Mme Darras took Drollinger down to her restaurant, “La Fortune du Pot”, where he met Simone Rossenu, and that evening, Simone took Drollinger back to the apartment at 7 Impasse Molin, where she lived with her parents, and where Drollinger joined Archie Barlow. Drollinger reports that “Mme Laroche” (Mme Pauline Barré de Saint-Venant) was in Switzerland at this time, and they were all waiting for her return.
S/Sgt William B Hendrickson (#714) from Englewood, New Jersey, was the 28-year-old radio operator of 323BG/543BS B-26 41-34866 (Mandiberg) on a mission against rocket sites in the Pas-de-Calais on 5 February 1944. They were on their way to the target when they were hit by flak, co-pilot John R Martin Martin (#2267) says the right engine was completely destroyed, and Hendrickson saw the bombardier (1/Lt Winton A Scott) signal for them to bail out, jettisoning their bombs before they did so.
Hendrickson says he jumped at about 7,000 feet and pulled his ripcord at once, only to be knocked out when he landed in a field a few miles north of Hestrus (Nord-Pas-de-Calais). He woke up to find that he was being dragged across the ground by his parachute, and when he hit the release, the chute blew away, at which point he was joined by his top-turret gunner, Sgt Paul Pearce, who had landed fifty yards away. The two men were trying to hide their equipment when a French boy ran up and led them to a farmhouse but just as they reached the house, they spotted a German truck approaching, and the farmer hid them in some tall grass, from where they could see the Germans searching the field where they had landed.
As soon as it was dark, the two men set off walking south across country until about three in the morning, when they stopped to rest in a haystack. It was too cold for sleep, so an hour before dawn, they set off once more, through some woods to a road (they had to wait two hours before it was safe to cross) and on to a church they spotted in the distance. They decided to wait until dark before approaching the church, and were laying up in a wood when a couple with a child sat down close to them. Hendrickson called to them, and the man told him to go back further into the woods, and that they would come back after dark. The couple duly returned as promised, bringing civilian clothes, and once the two Americans had changed, took them back to a house in Hestrus.
The couple took Hendrickson and Pearce back the home of their daughter and son-in-law, M. and Mme Leon Laguay, where they were sheltered for four days while the maire of Hestrus, Cesar Broquet, made identity cards for them. On the third day, they were visited by Blanche Deschamps-Briche, who lived in Verchin with her parents and three sisters, and who spoke English from having grown up in the US when her father had worked in Illinois. The following day, the maire's son took them in a wagon to Verchin and passed them over to Raymond Boulet, who took them to the edge of town, and a farm where they were sheltered by Pierre Richez (born 13 February 1903) and his wife Marie (née Coache).
Hendrickson and Pearce stayed on the Richez-Coache farm at Verchin for a month, often being visited by Blanche Briche and Raymond Boulet, and seeing B-17 pilot Neil Lathrop (#613) and Typhoon pilot Robert Crosby RAF (1908), who were also being sheltered in the village. After about a month, Raymond Boulet moved the two Americans to the nearby farm where he worked for Mme Vve Alice Tartare-Hernu (widowed before the war and with a 13-year-old daughter), the Americans living in a room next to where two German soldiers were billeted. After eight days, two men arrived in a car, one of them Dr Guy Delpierre, and they took Hendrickson and Pearce to Isbergues, where they were handed over to a man who took them, led by a girl on a bicycle, to 5 rue Censé Balque, home of BCRA réseau Hunter-Nord agent, Louis Rieutort.
Hendrickson describes Louis (born 15 July 1902) as being “a grey-haired man, married, works in a steel mill, and is the chief of resistance in the locality”. Hedrickson and Pearce stayed with Louis Rieutort, his wife Lucienne and her father, Louis Cluzon, for two weeks until the man who had led them there took them to the station and passed them on to a “cross-eyed young man who was the courier between Rieutort's house and Paris” (assume Gabriel Chaubit). The young man took the two Americans by train to Paris, where he handed them over to a doctor who interrogated them. Then two men took them the apartment of a French artillery major - a short, thin-faced, partially bald man who spoke fluent English, and owned a copper factory in Paris which had been confiscated by the Germans - his wife worked in French Intelligence, and his daughter lived in the country. After two nights with the major, the same two men who had brought them, returned to take them to Clamart, where they were passed to another man, who in turn passed them to Lucienne Michaut (a 31-year-old widow from Alsace) and her 13-year-old daughter Jacqueline, who took them back to the house at 5 rue Louis Dupont, Clamart where they were living with gendarme Andre Maitre .
Hendrickson and Pearce were given new identity cards, new clothes, and hob-nailed boots, and after eighteen days at rue Louis Dupont, Lucienne took them to a bus station where they joined two more Americans, Stanley Lepkowski and Theodore Kellers, and their guide, a gendarme in plain clothes. Lucienne and the gendarme took all four evaders to the gare d'Austerlitz where a woman gave them new (presumably replacement) identity cards, and Lucienne and the gendarme led them onto a train where they joined Archie Barlow, Lynn Drollinger, Curtis Finley and a French girl.
S/Sgt Stanley E Lepkowski was the left waist-gunner of 91BG/401BS B-17 42-37737 Tennessee Toddy which was returning from Munster on 10 October 1943. The navigator, 2/Lt Arthur J Horning (#369), reports that they had turned the almost new aircraft back the previous day with overheating engines, and although it had been checked on the ground, no air check was carried out – he says the crew knew they were in a “flying coffin, and would never come back”, but they also knew they could not abort as their senior officers thought they were all “fakers”. Just before the target, the #4 engine was feathered (Horning knew thay hadn't been hit) and they couldn't keep up with their formation, and then #2 engine over-heated and ran away, leaving their pilot, 2/Lt Earle R Verrill, with no option but to order his crew to abandon the aircraft.
Horning was the only successful evader from Tennessee Toddy (although tail-gunner Sgt Robert D DeGhetto (mentioned below) got as far as Arras before being captured on 8 April 1944), and he landed in Holland, so I can only presume that Lepkowski and the rest of the crew did the same. No RAMP file found for Lepkowski but in November, he was brought from Belgium to France with Theodore Kellers.
T/Sgt Theodore Kellers was the top-turret gunner/engineer of 96BG/339 BS B-17 42-30372 Shack Rabbit III, flying as “tail-end Charlie” of a formation heading for Duren on 20 October 1943. One of their superchargers wasn't working, and shortly after crossing the German border, they were unable to keep up when the formation started to climb, and so turned back. They were hoping to be able to hide in the clouds and haze but were attacked by fighters, and despite dropping their bombs to make manoevering easier, their rudder was shot off and the elevators badly damaged. Being unable to dive or take evasive action, pilot 1/Lt Robert Zeno Grimes (#361) sounded the alarm bell and ordered his crew to bail out.
In his RAMP file, Kellers lists Mme De Blommaert at Wavre (Bierges-lez-Wavre) in Belgium for sheltering him from 21 to 26 October, and M. Pirart (Florentine Pirart-de Wit of 8 rue des Tournesols, Anderlecht) in Brussels for supplying food and clothing from 26 October to 4 November – evasioncomete saying it was Michou (Aline Dumont) who organised the accommodation before taking Kellers, along with Lepkowski, Robert DeGhetto, T/Sgt Jarvis Allen (#266) and three Belgians, across the border into France near Basieux (Nord) and on to Lille. They were passed to Amanda Stassart (born 17 Feb 1923 in Lausanne, Switzerland of 2 bis rue Marguerite, Paris XVII) who took them by train to Paris where the group was split up, and Mme Suzanne Bastin (of 75 rue Coulaincourt, Paris XVIII) took Kellers and Lepkowski to stay with Emile Chassagne and Mme Vve Jeanne Vacquier at 127 avenue de Montrouge in Gentilly, Seine – Kellers confirming Mme Vacquier in his file as providing food and shelter from 5 November 1943 until 25 March 1944, when the resistance group “had trouble and we lost contact with them”. Kellers then names Mme Lena Peny (Mme Leonie Janson née Peny) of 214 avenue de Paris in Clamart who sheltered them in one of her apartments from 25 March to 17 April; and Jean (sic) Fleuriot of 8 rue de Vannes in Clamart for providing food and supplies ready for their attempt to cross into Spain – evasioncomete saying it was policeman Henri Emile Jourdain (born 3 March 1907) of 40 avenue de Tilleuls, Clamart who delivered them to Rene Marie Alex Fleuriot and his wife Jeanne, and on 17 April returned to take them to the gare d'Austerlitz.
T/Sgt Curtis E Finley was the top-turret gunner/engineer 303BG/427BS B-17 42-39786 G I Sheets (Fowler) which was on the way to Frankfurt on 29 January 1944 when #3 engine began to fail and they dropped out of formation. They were attacked by fighters which destroyed the oxygen supply so the aircraft was taken down to low altitude, hiding in cloud cover until it cleared when they were attacked again. With the rudder controls shot away and several of the crew injured (one fatally), the aircraft was crash-landed in south-west Belgium. Finley set off from the crash-site with his co-pilot, 2/Lt Bernard W Rawlings (#671) to hide in a nearby wood but according to Rawlings, Finley was poorly clothed and concerned about exposure, so he left.
Finley's RAMP report gives few details of his evasion, simply naming his helpers in Paris as French Postal Service worker Alfred Coquelin and his wife Martha (sic) of 26 rue du Fer-a-Moulin, Paris V, who sheltered him for two and half months, and helped contact the underground; Mme Angele M Howard of 53 rue Legendre, Paris XVII, who fed and sheltered him for three weeks; M et Mme Rennecon of 73 rue Trauffaut, Paris XVII who also fed and sheltered him for three weeks, and an English girl called Dolly, a friend of the Rennecons who interpreted for them, and contacted the underground.
On 17 April, Archie Barlow andLynn Drollinger were fitted out with clothes by “Mme Laroche” and taken to the station where they joined five other Americans (Hendrickson, Pearce, Lepkowski, Kellers and Finley), along with a French doctor (Doctor Lucien Marcel Meric (born 27 July 1908) who worked with both Jean-Marie (SOE Donkeyman) and reseau Françoise) and a young Frenchman who had “been with” Barlow the first time (assume Françoise guide Paul Jourdan).
They took a train from the gare d'Austerlitz to Toulouse, arriving there the following morning, and going to the same Boy Scout clubroom that Barlow had been taken to before. They went back to the station that afternoon, and found the “whole coach was full of evaders”. Barlow says that the train ride was about three hours to a small village north of Tarbes (sic), where the whole party went to a small hotel and had a meal. Then an American called “Frisco” took them, six or seven at a time, by car up a mountain road and put them in two small cabins for the night, their guides all armed with Sten guns.
Hendrickson says that the girl (assume Madeleine Rouède) went with them to Toulouse, where she took them to a youth organisation club-room where a large group of evaders were assembled. They were given bags of food and led back to the railway station in pairs by young girls. They had tickets for Lannemézan but got off the train three stations before that, at Montréjeau (Haute-Garonne). There were now 35 in the party, and they were taken to an unused hotel behind the station where they met their guides. Then an American called “Frisco” took them, eight at a time in a Ford car into the foothills, where they spent the night in a hay-barn.
On the evening of 25 February 1944, 50 Sqn Lancaster LL791 took off on a mission to Augsburg. They were about ten miles west of Strasbourg (Alsace) when they were attacked by fighters, and despite taking evasive action, with the aircraft on fire, F/O Taylor ordered his crew to bale out. He says the whole seven-man crew jumped at about 25,000 feet but navigator F/Sgt Kenneth Edric Gilson was later found dead on the ground “with his parachute spread open over him”.
F/O William Herbert Taylor (SPG LIB/1190) from St Helens in Lancashire, was the 27-year-old pilot of Lancaster LL791, and after landing near Bénaménil (Lorraine), he set off walking through the night. Next morning, he met farmer Lucien Rolle, who took him back to his house at Reherry. On 28 February, Lucien passed Taylor on to Joseph Zott in Badonviller, who sheltered him before passing him on to a third man, Charles Joseph Michel at Pierre-Percée. There he met the Hagondange Chief of Police, Mons L Coupot, who took him to the local resistance chief (who wouldn't give his name), where he met 2/Lt James J McMahon Jnr USAAF, along with three of his own crew, John Ansell, Thomas Taylor and Stanley Cammish .
F/Sgt John Ansell RAAF (LIB/541) from Yanco, NSW, Australia, the 21-year-old wireless operator/air gunner of Lancaster LL791, landed just east of Luneville with two sprained ankles, and two broken ribs from his badly adjusted parachute harness. He says that he crawled through the forest for a few hours before sleeping in a shelter near a railway line. Next day (26 Feb), he made his way south, slowly and in stages, until reaching the main Luneville to Saint-Dié road that evening, where he spent the night in a barn. Next morning, he spoke to a passing cyclist who advised him to carry on towards Luneville. Ansell followed the man's advice, and was met on the outskirts of Luneville by three men, one of whom took Ansell back to his small hotel by the side of the road, where Ansell was given a meal and put to bed.
That evening, a gendarme escorted Ansell to a café near the railway station where his injuries were looked at by a doctor. He also met his rear gunner, Thomas Taylor, before being taken to a house in Luneville where he was confined to bed. He was provided with civilian clothes and an identity card, and Ansell stayed at this house until the evening of 1 March when a gendarme took him by car to Nancy. He was X-rayed by Doctor William Jackson, and then sheltered in a Police Superintendant's apartment Robert Van Dromme) where he joined his rear gunner Thomas Taylor and engineer Stanley Cammish. On 6 March, Dr Jackson drove them to a farmhouse outside Maizerolles where they stayed with dairy farmer Robert Durand, being joined there by their pilot William Taylor.
Sgt Thomas James Taylor (SPG LIB/1052) from Bucknall, Staffordshire, was the 19-year-old rear gunner of Lancaster LL791. He landed in a field, and after burying his parachute and Mae West, walked until about three o'clock when he stopped to spend the rest of the night in a wood. Next morning, he called at a house just outside Luneville, and an elderly Frenchwoman took him to some friends nearby who were member of the reistance. The family there gave Taylor some food and hid him in a field until evening, when four gendarmes and two civilians arrived with seven bicycles, and they rode with Taylor into Luneville. The gendarmes left the two civilians to take Taylor to a café where they had a drink before Taylor was taken through into the kitchen. He met the French woman owner of the café and her five children, and the kitchen was soon filled with people come to hold an undergound meeting. One of the men was married to an English woman, and they gave Taylor a complete outfit of civilian clothes before taking him back to their house for the night. Next morning, they arranged for him to stay with another elderly couple for two days, during which time Taylor was taken out and introduced to several families, and his photograph was taken. He was also visited by a police sergeant who took his details and finger-prints for an identity card. He also told Taylor that his navigator (Sgt Gilson) had been found dead but his engineer, Cammish, was also being hidden in Luneville. Next day, the sergeant returned with Cammish, and took them both to another house, where they stayed for another two days.
Sgt Harrison Stanley Cammish (1944) from Scarborough in Yorkshire, was the 20-year-old engineer of 50 Sqn Lancaster LL791, and he landed near Emberménil, on the embankment of the Strasbourg to Paris rail line. After burying his parachute in the snow, he walked along the railway line to Emberménil station. He heard two porters speaking French, and after listening for half an hour, approached them for help. The men took him to the house in the village where Mme Georgette Collin lived with her husband, and Cammish was given a meal, civilian clothes, and shelter for the next three days. Early on the morning of 28 February, one of the two porters took Cammish back to the station, and then by train to Lunéville and the house of a resistance member. Cammish thought that the woman who owned the house was a Mme Chapleur (query), and that she and her daughter ran a general store. While Cammish was staying with Mme Chapleur, he was joined by rear-gunner, Sgt Thomas Taylor.
Early on the morning of 1 March, the same railway porter who had brought Cammish to Lunéville, along with another resistance member, took Cammish and Taylor to Nancy, and the home of a doctor, who was also in the resistance. The doctor telephoned the Chief of Police, Robert Van Dromme, who sent for a gendarme with a car to take them to Van Dromme's house, where they met their radio operator, John Ansell. The three men stayed with Robert Van Dromme, his wife and daughter, until 6 March, when they were taken to Maizerolles in a police car and delivered to Robert Durand. They stayed with Robert Durand, his wife and adopted son, for about five weeks, being joined there after about three weeks by their pilot, William Taylor and American 2/Lt James McMahon.
Thomas Taylor says that Robert Durand was head of the local resistance, and that he received arms dropped by air. There was a delivery of weapons dropped while they were staying at the house, and Durand explained to them how the system of signal lights worked.
2/Lt James J McMahon was the pilot of 384BG/544BS B-17 42-3041 which was on the way to Stuttgart on 6 September 1943 when they were shot down. Left waist-gunner, S/Sgt George J Kemp (#2177), the only successful evader from the aircraft, says they came down somewhere between Metz and Saarbrucken, just inside the French border. I've not found any report for McMahon, and so don't know where he'd been for the previous six months.
On 12 April, an unnamed Frenchman took Cammish, Thomas Taylor and Ansell by train to Nancy, while William Taylor and McMahon went by car, all meeting up again that evening in a room over a café where they had a meal. There were already two other American evaders there (James Liles and Robert Lindstrom), and two hours later two more of Taylor's crew, Belmanno and Acthim were brought in, along with W/O Charles Jackson. That evening, they were taken to the railway station and put in a reserved compartment (apparently for a football team) for the journey to Paris.
Sgt John Acthim RCAF (SPG LIB/180) from Rainy River, Ontario, was the 20-year-old mid-upper gunner of 50 Sqn Lancaster LL791. He landed at Leintrey, damaging his foot. He crawled for an hour to a wood where he hid for the rest of the night, and next morning, “hobbled” to a shed. He was found later that day by five Frenchmen who took him to a church in Leintrey, from where the priest took him to a farmer's house where Acthim was sheltered for a week.
At the end of the week, Acthim was taken to a cave overlooking a village about 12 kms from Badenvilliers, where he stayed for a month, and where he says he met his bomb-aimer, F/Sgt David Thomas Balmanno RAAF. They were then taken by car to Nancy where they rejoined the rest of their crew (except of course their navigator, who was killed), and some Americans.
W/O Charles William Jackson (LIB/1448) from Stoke-on-Trent was the 21-year-old navigator, and only survivor, of 76 Sqn Halifax LW629 (Davies), which was returning from Stuttgart on the night of 1-2 March 1944 when they were shot down by a night-fighter.
Jackson bailed out and landed unconscious near Epinac (sic). When he came round next morning, he made his way to a farmhouse at Moussey (Vosges) where an elderly couple, Joseph (IS9 says Octavie) Poirot and his wife, and their son and daughter sheltered him for the next five weeks. During his time with the Poirot family, Watkins was visited by Mme Marie Talevez, an English-speaking Frenchwoman who brought him books while her husband, a commercial traveller, arranged a contact in Luneville. On about 6 April, the couple's son Andre took Jackson half-way to Lunévillle and handed him over to another man, who took him into Lunéville, where he was sheltered with a retired French colonel.
On 12 April, a gendarme arrived at the house. He said he was part of an organisation and then handcuffed Jackson and took him under escort to Nancy, and a house where Watkins joined six other aircrew (Taylor, Ansell, Taylor, Cammish, Belmanno and Acthim), and when it got dark, a guide (no details) took the airmen by train to Paris – Watkins doesn't mention any Americans.
2/Lt James Louis Liles (#692) from Dallas, Texas, was the 23-year-old co-pilot of 92BG/326BS B-17 42-30623 (Nashold) which was on the way to Augsberg on 25 February 1944, when they were attacked by enemy fighters. With their #3 engine and electrical system knocked out, they were forced to drop out of formation, and as the attacks continued, the order was given to bail out, leaving the aircraft to crash near Thionville (Lorraine), about 30 kilometres north of Metz.
Liles says that he pulled his ripcord as soon as he cleared the aircraft, remembering too late that he should have made a delayed jump. He counted one other parachute in the air before being distractd by a Fw190 that waggled its wings at him. Liles was then able to watch as his aircraft made a complete turn before diving and exploding, noting the geography below him, and seeing three other parachutes landing at least a mile away.
Liles landed in a wood with his parachute caught firmly on the top of a tree, leaving him hanging just a few inches off the ground. Having established that he couldn't dislodge the parachute, he started running, stopping only to throw his Mae West and flying boots under a branch. He headed west, having seen from the air which way the woods stretched, and then spent the next few hours hiding from the German soldiers searching for him, and commenting that his brown flying overalls, leather jacket and GI shoes helped him blend in with the woods. He set off again that night, using the compass from his aids box to head south-west, knowing he was probably in Lorraine and wanting to try and make sure he was actually in France. At about four o'clock that morning he found a concrete blockhouse, crawled in and built himself a small fire with old boards and sacks before eating most of the rations in his aids box. A couple of hours later, he went out to investigate a large house he had passed in the night, and after producing his AGO card (which he shouldn't have been carrying) and dog-tags, was pulled inside and told that part of the house was occupied by a Nazi official.
Liles to taken to an upstairs room and told that the German lived on the other side of the house, and Liles was shown where to hide if necessary. He was given food, a man joining them for supper who gave Liles civilian clothes in exchange for his leather A2 flying jacket. That evening, Liles was taken on foot to a railway station where he and his helper took a train to Thionville, arriving there at ten minutes to midnight. They went to the house of a Mme Charles (Karl) Jost – she was French but her German husband was a member of Nazi party, and have would nothing to do with Liles – his attitude being that his wife's business was her own.
Mme Charles, who was surprised and worried when Liles was brought there, explained that her husband had his country and she had hers. Things seem to have been further complicated when one of her friends, Marguerite Noel, who was a secretary to a Nazi official, brought him cigarettes and clothes; and Liles helpers went out and got drunk with her husband, sitting around and cussing Hitler.
Liles stayed with Mme Charles for four days, and Marguerite Noel brought an English-speaking man (he ran the only auto garage in town), who said they were sending for a man from Nancy to take Liles into France.
Rene Lebrun arrived with his wife's identity card for Liles (her first name could be either gender) on which he wrote deaf and dumb, and took Liles back to his home in Nancy at 28 avenue Anatole France – passing him off as his brother at the two checks they had to pass through.
Liles stayed with Rene and his wife for three days, Rene getting new papers for Liles from the Nancy Chief of Police (Robert Van Dromme) , and saying that if the police chief couldn't get Liles away then he would take him to Spain himself. The police chief told them that a liaison officer with a Paris organisation was in town, and on the third day, an Intelligence Officer (IO) arrived to see Liles. He said that he was the liaison with an English woman who was head of organisation established by the English for sole purpose of helping escapees – he was 5 ft 9 ins tall, with piercing grey eyes, a small head and sharp features; 29 years old, he had been a “ham” radio and radio repair man – he had his own set, and his mother, who was also in Intelligence, worked for an insurance agency in Nancy, and was a friend of the police chief.
The IO took Liles to Daniel Charton at 22 avenue Anatole France; he was the son of M (assume Georges) et Mme Charton at 1 rue Saint Lambert, who ran a beauty parlour that was the clearing house for all Nancy Intelligence. Meanwhile, Liles says that the IO went to Paris to see the head of the organisation, an Englishwoman who lived in a villa 50 kms out of Paris, between there and Lille. She was apparently was going to send some of her men to Nancy but before that happened, “a woodsman” brought 1/Lt Robert Lindstrom in.
1/Lt Robert Lindstrom was the pilot of 96BG/339BS B-17 42-31142 which was on a mission to Regensberg on 25 February 1944. I've not found any report for Lindstrom but bombardier 2/Lt Edmund N Bairstow (#727) reports they were hit by flak over the target and the order was given to prepare to bail out. He believes that three or four men may have bailed out early but says the rest of them were over France when they jumped, and that he counted five parachutes in the air before landing near Mouzon (Ardennes).
Liles and Lindstrom stayed with Daniel Chartron for five weeks while the IO wrote to the Englishwoman. When he got no reply, he finally went to Paris himself, and then to Lille, where he learned that the Englishwoman's organisation had been caught (sometime between 8 and 14 March). This left them with a problem - until Daniel's mother telephoned a man at an asylum who was a contact for the Jean-Marie organisation. In the meantime, Liles reports the arrival of an RAF crew, which included Stanley Cammish, and an American pilot from New Jersey, James McMahon.
Three men came to Daniel's house - Liles says they were nervous and didn't want to be seen. They took Liles AGO card to show to their chief, and asked Liles if he trusted the people who were sheltering him. Two days later, Jean Eltzer (born 9 August 1903 in Germany) and his wife Eugenie (born 7 April 1923, and known as Mickey) arrived. Liles describes Jean as being about 5 ft 3 inches tall, fat, with pannicky brown eyes and puffy cheeks; and Mickey as slightly taller than Jean, heavy-set, with dark brown hair, brown eyes and a broad face – neither of them spoke English. They spoke to the IO and the Chartrons, and Jean agreed to take them all, and would move them out in 10 days.
Ten days went by without any word from Jean but the 11th day (3 April) they heard that the Germans had placed a control at Nancy station. Jean continued to put them off, setting a new date of 8 April, and finally arriving on 11 April with a tall blond slim curly-haired man (Andre Romvald), to tell them they would all be leaving that night.
Liles says that the slim curly blond guy took them to Nancy station where all ten evaders were put into a single compartment. They travelled overnight, arriving in Paris at seven-thirty the following morning. They were supposed to be met at the station but were not, which “left blondie on the spot with 10 on his hands” .
Their guide led them away from the station, and they spread out to follow him while he made several telephone calls. He then took the evaders by Metro and left them for an hour before returning with another man who took Liles (and I think Robert Lindstrom) to the home of a Christian Scientist. Both he and his wife spoke English, the man having living in Los Angeles for fourteen years, and they sheltered the two airmen for three days until “a boy and a girl” took them by Metro to the chief's house.
In fact the beautiful house at 13 Boulevard du Montparnasse was Henri Frager's sister's house, and Liles met Frager, his sister, Mme Jeanne Jouga, and brother Louis, a chemist who owned a factory – Liles commenting that they were all wealthy people. He says no names were ever mentioned but describes the chief (Henri Frager) as being 5 ft 8 inches tall, a heavy-set man with broad shoulders, 50 years old (Frager was born on 3 March 1897) with sharp green eyes, iron grey hair and a vivid personality – Frager told Liles about him going to England by aircraft (on 26 Oct 43), describing a circling aircraft and saying that there was a Nazi agent (Henri Dericourt) involved. Because he knew that the agent organised air landings, Frager had returned to France by boat at the beginning of April (Frager was landed at Beg-an-Fry in Brittany by MGB 503 on 26 March).
Liles (and assume Lindstrom) stayed at the Boulevard du Montparnasse house until leaving Paris, when the chief came to see them off. Liles describes their guides as being two men - one was the blond-headed boy (Andre Romvald) and the other, a tall, slim black-haired friend of the chief's family); and two women - one a blonde girl aged about 25 (assume Françoise guide Madeleine Rouède), and an older girl, who was a secretary to one of chief's helpers and along for a change of scenery.
It should probably be noted that as an SOE agent, Henri (aka Paul) Frager was by this time hopelessly compromised by the machinations of Hugo Bleicher and the treachery of his own deputy, the double-agent Roger Bardet – to name but two of the dangerous contacts the seemingly naïve Frager had accumulated. However, I've found no evidence to suggest that his “Jean-Marie” organisation in Nancy was under similar threat, although it was only a matter of time.
Details of where the other airmen stayed in Paris are rather vague – William Taylor says that they travelled to the capital in pairs where they were met and taken to various addresses. Taylor, who I think was with James McMahon, names a M. Moreau who owned a fleet of transport lorries and provided them with lavish accomodation.
John Ansell says they “trailed around” Paris for a few hours before being split into smaller groups; Ansell and Balmanno staying first with Marcel Durand and his wife Helene at 3 rue Fantin Latour, Paris XVI, and then at a woman's studio.
Thomas Taylor says that their guide made a telephone call, and a few minutes later, another man arrived to take Cammish and Jackson. The rest of the group were taken to a Metro station in central Paris, where they were met by two more Frenchman, one of whom took him and John Acthim to his house (address unknown). The following morning, Taylor and Acthim returned to the station, and the Frenchman took them by train to a house just outside Paris, where they were well fed and looked after for five days before the Frenchman returned and took them back into Paris, and an elderly woman, who spoke English, where they joined Ansell and Balmanno. That same day, all four men were taken back to the station, and onto a train for Toulouse where they rejoined the rest of their crew and the Americans.
Stanley Cammish says that the party was split up with Cammish and Charles Jackson being taken to an unknown address for two days, and then to another house for one day before being taken to Henri and Suzanne Dey Dier at 10 rue de Turbigo, Paris I, who sent them to stay with a friend who lived nearby. On 18 April, the same man who had brought them from Nancy took Cammish and Jackson back to the station where they rejoined the rest of the original party, and met their guides, a married couple (sic) from Toulouse.
The ten evaders from Nancy and their guide Andre Romvald, left Paris at about noon on 17 April, arriving in Toulouse some twenty-four hours later – accounts vary on both departure and arrival times. The only stayed a couple of hours in Toulouse before getting on another train, being joined by another seven airmen who had arrived from Paris that morning, and F/Sgt Wilfred Gorman.
F/Sgt Wilfred M Gorman RCAF (LIB/20) from South Nelson, New Brunswick in Canada was the 21-year-old mid-upper gunner of 405 Sqn Lancaster LM345 (Logan), who had been evading since bailing out over Holland on the night of 27-28 September 1943. He and radio operator WO Arthur Holden (LIB/676) had been with a group crossing from Saint-Girons ten days earlier but Holden had dropped out after the first night of walking, and Gorman after another two nights, just one day's march from the Spanish frontier.
In a list that Jean-Luc Cartron sent me before the publication of his 2019 book “So Close to Freedom”, he added Arthur Holden, George Hardy, Melvin Porter and Joseph Sutphin to the military evaders. Holden is a wrong (and corrected in the book) – as already mentioned, Holden turned back from the same party as Gorman, although two days earlier, and then joined a party which included John Franklin (1945) and Raymond Hindle (1946), leaving Toulouse with them on 5 May. However, Porter and Sutphin are almost certainly correct, and Hardy is confirmed by Lt Ian McGeoch RN (1920) (Commander of HM Submarine Splendid) to have crossed the mountains with Maurice de Milleville and Edward (sic) Luff, all of whom McGeoch met in Switzerland shortly before his own departure for France and the Pyrenees on 8 March.
Lt George Gordon Hardy RNVR was the navigator of HM Submarine Splendid (P228) which was sunk off Capri on 21 April 1943. Hardy was one of five officers and 25 ratings picked up by a German destroyer and an Italian motor-boat and landed at Naples before they were sent to Italian POW camps.
Oliver Clutton-Brock told me in 2017 that following time at PG35 (Padua) and PG19 (Bologna), Hardy escaped on 12 September from a train taking him to Germany, and made his way to Switzerlnd. He crossed into France on 22 March 1944 but was one of those captured in the mountains on 21/22 April.
1/Lt Joseph E Sutphin and Sgt Melvin (NMI) Porter were the navigator and right waist-gunner of 448BG/714BS B-24 42-100414 which was crash-landed at Le Croix-Comtesse (Charente-Maritime) on 5 March 1944. They (although not Hardy) are listed as being helped by Francoise Dissard, leaving Toulouse on 18 April along with the other members of this group; and their pilot, 1/Lt Robert A Martin (#724) (one of seven men from this crew to evade successfully, although the only one to cross the Pyrenees), says that Sutphin and Porter left the party he was with in Toulouse to join another group which left on 12 (sic) April.
“We boarded the train at 2100 hrs (18 Apr) and arrived in Toulouse at about 1300 hrs next day. On the station at Toulouse we were met by a guide, who we were told was to take us across the mountains, and our old guides left us. He bought us tickets on to Lannemezan. The train pulled up just before entering Lannemezan and we all jumped off onto an embankment. We were taken to a disused hotel, where they met ten more Americans and some French and Belgian evaders. Our party now numbered about 35.
On 20 April, we were taken in a car, driven by an English-speaking man who told them he was a New Zealander, to a hut about four miles away. We spent the night there and set off next day at about 0700 hrs. We had two guides, one of whom had a Sten gun and the other a revolver. We walked that day until 2100 hrs and the next day started off again at 0700 hrs. That day we marched for 23 hours, stopping only to eat some bread which we carried in our kitbags.” (WO208/5583-1944 Cammish)
James Liles says that there was no check on the train from Paris to Toulouse, where they changed to a train to Montrejeau but got off at Saint-Laurent-de-Neste and went to a house at the station. He says they were joined by more Americans, and issued with packs and food. He also met a man named Morris who had a list of all the people - there being thirty-nine in all by this time. Morris told Liles that he was the son of an Englishwoman who had run an organisation but been captured, and Liles says that Morris (this was Maurice de Milleville) was a lying bastard.
At seven o'clock the following morning (19 April), they set off, walking until evening and staying overnight in what Barlow describes as a combination of house and barn. Next morning, they carried on, climbing until early evening and stopping in a valley until it was dark before continuing through some woods to a village – Barlow reporting one American falling and injuring his head and hip (Cartron says this was James McMahon). They walked until about one o'clock the following morning, and then stopped in a cabin where they slept until noon on the 21st. Barlow says that one of the guides had gone with a local man to get food from a village, and while they were resting in the cabin that afternoon, they posted guards, one he describes as being a “British Intelligence Officer” (assume Maurice de Milleville, who told the Americans he was English) and the other was James Liles. At about four o'clock that afternoon, Liles ran in and told them there were Germans were coming.
“That evening, we were taken by car in batches up the first slopes of the mountains. We collected together, walked a little way, then slept the night in a barn. On 19 Apr three mountaineer-guides appeared and we set out walking in ernest. We struggled all day up and down through the snow, slept in a hut, began again early on 20 Apr and continued until early on 21 Apr. We had a few rests, by but now we were all very tired, and some of the French exhausted. We were forced to halt in a hut at 0600 hrs on 21 Apr. though we were within a short distance of Spain. Six mountaineer guides took over from the other three.
While we were resting in the hut during the afternoon, suddenly someone yelled “Germans”. We tried to scatter and run for it but there was a large patrol of frontier police fanned out across the mountainside, and we were surrounded and captured. I believe that Sgt Cammish and some others escaped.” (John Ansell LIB/541)
“The guides left us in a hut just south of Bagneres de Luchon, saying they would return the following afternoon with money and food. It was then 20 Apr. We had several Sten guns amongst us. At about 1600 hrs on 21 Apr a resistance man duly arrived with food, and simultaneously we were shot at from every direction. We opened up with our Stens but as we could not see our enemy, and their shooting was becoming alarmingly good, we surrendered. It is my opinion, and also that of the French resistance man, that our guides must have given us away.” (William Taylor LIB/1190)
Barlow and Lynn Drollinger were the last ones out of the cabin, and when they saw the rest of the party going left, they ran to the right and up the hill. Barlow says they had only gone about 50 yards when someone yelled for them to stop and began firing. Their guide was firing back at the Germans, and Barlow and Drollinger ran another 300 yards up the hill, and hid behind a tree until the shooting stopped. They then carried on up the hill, being joined by Stanley Cammish along the way. They climbed until seven-thirty that evening, when they saw the village of Luchon (Bagnères-de-Luchon) below them, and descended to the edge of the village, meeting James Liles who was walking on his own.
Cammish says they had two guides, one armed with a revolver and the other with a Sten gun. They walked all that day until about 2100 hrs and then started again the following day at 0700 hrs, marching for 23 hours, only stopping to eat some of the bread they had in their bags. When they reached Superbagnères, they stopped to rest in a hut, and their guides were changed. Next morning, their new guides left them, saying they would be back that night with food.
“At about 1800 hrs one of the party, who was on watch outside the hut, reported that about 30 Germans were coming up the hill towards us. There was general confusion in the hut, as most of the party were resting or sleeping. We scrambled up the slope in the opposite direction from the Germans, and after we had gone a short distance they shouted as us to halt. When they were within 50 or 60 yards of us they started firing. The hill was thickly forested, and I ran on until I was exhausted, when I hid behind a tree. I heard later that many of the party gave themselves up when the firing started and that several were caught in the hut. Before the guards went off they had given us two Sten guns, and I was also told that one of our party (name unknown) had opened up on the Germans and killed four of them.
After I had been hiding for about fifteen minutes I saw 2/Lt Drollinger and T/Sgt Barlow. We had between us a compass and a map and we set off in the direction of the border. I do not know where we crossed the frontier, but the journey took us 19 hours. We then went on to Viella, where we were arrested and all our money was taken from us, we were not interrogated. We remained in Viella for 16 days and were joined by T/Sgt Hendrickson, who had been with our party at the time the Germans rounded us up. While I was here I met a Frenchman who had crossed the frontier a few days after us with another party. He told us that the Germans had shot three of the Frenchmen in our party. He also said he had seen the party at a station (I do not remember the name) walking along with their hands behind their heads ..” (WO208/5583-1944 Cammish)
“In crossing the Pyrenees I was in a party of more than 30 people. We started early one morning and with a little rest, walked all of one day, crossing a mountain range. Half of the day we struggled through snow. By late afternoon we reached a valley and stopped that night to rest. Our food gave out as we had brought only enough for the one day. The next day we crossed another range on empty stomachs. Part of the time we waded through snow up to our armpits. We were caught in a blizzard that turned to cold rain. After several hours of wandering about lost, the clouds lifted and we found our way to a valley where we found shelter under the trees. When the rain stopped we continued our march. One of the Americans was injured in a fall and we had to take turns carrying him. The next morning we were too exhausted, cold and hungry to move after finding a place to rest in the sun.
One member of the party went down the valley to try and get food from a village while the rest of us slept. With another evader, I was out on guard duty. We walked about 100 yards down the trail and had been there about five minutes when we saw about ten Germans coming up the trail. We ran back to the others, yelled a warning and ran around the side of the mountain. As soon as we reached some thick bushes we dived in and heard gunfire back where the others were hiding. It lasted fifteen minutes. I saw Sgt Barlow and Lt Drollinger running in the same direction I had gone. I left my hiding place and ran up the mountain. The rest of the day I walked along the side of the mountain, following the valley. That morning, before going on guard duty, I had studied a map carried by one of the guides until I knew our approximate position and the direction of the frontier. If I had not done this I could have wandered around for days because the frontier in that area ran north and south instead of east and west.
Before dark I came upon a bridge, and while I was watching to see it was guarded, Sgt Barlow, Lt Drollinger and Sgt Cammish came up behind me. After dark we crossed the bridge and walked slowly along the road towards the last mountain range that lay between us and Spain. We had walked about one kilometre before noticing a German guard sitting on the side of the road trying to keep warm by a small fire. We scramled into the bushed and up the hill before he saw us. We climbed all night and at daybreak reached the snow-line, and then after getting in the snow, Sgt Cammish yelled that he could see six German soldiers coming up the mountain in our direction.
Two hundred yards short of the top I had to stop. The others couldn't help me and struggled on. I must have slept about two hours. When I awoke the Germans were about 300 yards below me. They started shooting at me as soon as I began to move, I had about 50 yards to cover before I disappeared from their sight but I made it over the top without seeing them again. It took me all day to get down into Spain, and I had to stop often to get some sleep. When I finally reached a road I sat there until a truck picked me up and took me to a village where a gendarme (sic) arrested me at once, and I joined the others who had reached the village earlier in the day.” (MIS-X #692 Liles)
Hendrickson says that the guards and all the Frenchmen in the party were armed. They walked all the next day, slept in a barn, and next morning walked to the outskirts of a village where six Germans were known to be posted. They hid until dark before skirting the village in single file and then came to a second village where six armed Frenchmen met them to escort them through the village. An American pilot (name unknown) fell into a canyon here and Hendrickson thought that the noise and lights of the torches which had to be used to find him and rescue him must have aroused the suspicions of the Germans. The party reached the cabin they were heading for at 0500 hrs next morning where they rested while the guides went down to the village for food. One of the party also went into the village. At 1500 hrs a woodcutter came by the cabin and said that he had seen the member of the party, who was supposedly a Belgian, talking to a German in the village. Two sentries were then posted, an Englishman and Liles. At 1700 hrs Liles gave the alarm that the Germans were coming. Twenty or twenty-five of the party ran up the hill to the left of the cabin. Hendrickson was the last man of this group, and within a few moments he caught sight of the Germans coming up behind them. He called out a warning, jumped off the trail, and ran back in the direction of the Germans but bore to their left. Just as he left the trail, the Germans opened fire. Then shots were fired from above the party so that Hendrickson concluded that a detachment of Germans had moved movd on the trail higher up and had cut off the party.
Hendrickson ran on down the mountain towards Luchon and hid in a gully, where a French shepherd stumbled upon him. Hendrickson declared himself to the shepherd, and while they were hidden in the gully conversing, Hendrickson saw 22 Germans come down the mountain trail towards Luchon with 22 prisoners from his party. Presently a man about sixty years old came along and said that he would help Hendrickson. After dark Hendrickson followed this man to his house in the village but just as he was about to enter the house some people came up the road and the man waved Hendrickson back. Hendrickson ran back up the mountain into the wood and wandered about until he came to a barn. There was a man there who took him in for the night and fed him, and in the morning pointed out the way to Spain. At 1500 hrs that afternoon, Hendrickson met a French boy who hid him on the edge of Luchon. The boy brought him some food, and after dark, returned with two other boys and three girls, and they led Hendrickson past Luchon and Montauban-du-Luchon to a cemetery where the boy gave him instructions how to proceed before leaving him.
Hendrickson set off into the darkness, and by dawn had reached the peak of a mountain where he hid until the following night. He then crossed the border at 0300 hrs on 23 April and walked to the police station at Bossost. He found Maurice de Milleville (RAF) (sic) there, and the two of them were taken by police bus to Viella where they joined Drollinger, Barlow and other evaders from their party.
Barlow, Drollinger, Hendrickson, Cammish, Liles and de Milleville are all reported as arriving at Sort Prison on 9 May. Barlow and Liles left Gibraltar by air for Whitchurch on the night 29 May; Cammish on the night of 5 June; and Drollinger and Hendrikson on the night of 7 June 1944.
I have made references to Jean-Luc Cartron's book “So Close to Freedom” but deliberately delayed reading it until I had more or less finished writing this article. In addition to giving details of the evaders, in his impressively researched work, Jean-Luc pays special attention to the civilians on this crossing, as well as offering suggestions as to how they were betrayed and captured. In addition to Maurice de Milleville, he says the civilians included Englishman Edmond Luff, Frenchmen Fernand Bellenger, Dr Marcel Hulin, Raymond Krugell, Jules Lautman, Jacques Liddell, priest Paul Louis and 20-year-old Françoise guide Jacques Lartigue (born in Montauban on 18 March 1924); along with Roger Bureau from Belgium and Dr Max Rens from Holland – all captured that day but Bellenger, Hulin, Krugell, Louis and Lartigue later escaped whilst en route for Germany. He also says their chief guide for the crossing was Jean Louis Bazerque (aka Charbonnier, born 11 May 1905 in Pau).
Jean-Luc says the evaders left the train from Toulouse at what he refers to as Saint-Laurent/Saint-Paul. I am not sure exactly where they got off as the few evader reports that mention a place-name at all, vary on this point.
He also identifies the man known as “Frisco” as being Joseph Barrère, born in Oakland, California in 1913. Françoise guide Joseph John Barrere (born 1 August 1913) was married to Anna, and lived at Loures-Barousse, Hautes-Pyrenees. Joseph was shot and killed, along with fellow guides Jean Bazerque and Pierre Sabadie (born 2 July 1914), trying to run a road-block near Saint-Gaudens (Jean-Luc says at Larroque, Haute-Garonne) on 13 June 1944.
Special thanks to David Harrison and Paul McCue for their help in identifying some of the “Jean-Marie” helpers in Nancy; to Edouard Reniere, Philippe Connart and everyone at evasioncomete for their help in tracing Lepkowski and Kellers movements; to René Lesage at Fauquembergues for sharing his expert knowledge of helpers in the Pas-de-Calais, to Franck Signorile for his endless patience, to Oliver Clutton-Brock, and to Pierre-Baptiste Castandet for identifying Doctor Lucien Meric.