EEIE-nav-960
 
Françoise - Partis vers le 10 Fev + fin de Fev
In various files for Françoise Dissard, there is a list of evaders helped by her organisation in Toulouse, together with dates that one might assume referred to their departure dates from Toulouse.
This article, about a party of eleven military evaders who set off on 19 February 1944 to cross the Pyrenees to Puigcerda, covers four men from the first group (Hans Unger, Henry Cantle, Dennis Carlson and David Butcher), who are shown as leaving on 10 February, and a second group of five (John Kennard Davis, Ivan Eveland, George Kelley, John Myrick and Stanley Plytynski), who are shown as leaving at the end of February - plus two American airmen (William LaForce and James Brandon) who aren't mentioned in the Françoise list at all.
The name Benstead is also included in the first group, and Butcher identifies him as Kenneth Benstead, who had escaped from an internment camp near Paris with fellow Englishman Johnny Williams, both of whom also crossed with this party.
This page first posted 25 Jan 2021
Gnr Hans Ernest Unger (1890) 2 AA Regt SAA (UDF) was 32 years old when his position on the Tobruk perimeter was suddenly over-run by German tanks on 20 June 1942. The Germans handed him over to the Italians that same day, and he was sent, via Brindisi and Bari, to Campo 60 (Lucca), and in November, to Campo 52 (Chiavari). At the time of the Italian armistice, a tunnel was under construction at Chiavari, and when the Germans arrived, they began moving the prisoners away in batches. Unger, along with two other men, Leading Seaman Arthur Briard (from HM Submarine Sahib) and a South African gunner named John, hid in the partially dug tunnel, and at 2300 hrs on 15 September 1943, left the camp, walking out through the open gates and into the mountains.
Unger and Briard lost touch with the gunner as soon as they left the camp, and spent the night in the mountains near Cicagna, where they were given food and civilian clothes by an Italian civilian. Next morning, they headed south, hoping to meet up with advancing Allied forces. They met a girl who recognised them as escapers, and she advised them to seek help and advice from the former commandant of Chiavari camp. The ex-commandant wasn't at home when they called but his family gave them a meal before they moved on that night.
They crossed the Lavagna river, heading south-east by night and resting by day, and on the third day reached the village of Ne. They made themselves known to the villagers, and were invited to stay with a man who had been a guard at Chiavari. Unger and Briand stayed several weeks at Ne until they felt it was time to go on. Briand had decided he would head for France but Unger preferred to try for Allied lines, and so headed south alone.
He was near Torplano when he contacted a priest who told him about an organisation under British Major (Gordon) Lett who was trying to round up British ex-prisoners to form a resistance unit. Unger was doubtful but on failing to find away across the Magra river, contacted Lett and spent a week with his group before leaving, along with a South-African corporal named John Vivier.
Unger and Vivier headed back towards Ne, and at Monte Domenico, met CPO Henry Cantle, who was being sheltered there. Vivier opted to remain at Ne but Cantle acquired two bicycles, and on 28 December, he and Unger set off, heading to Genoa and then west along the coast road, through Ventimiglia to Grimaldi, where they turned inland to avoid the inevitable frontier checks before rejoining the road at Menton, and arriving in France on about 31 December. They cycled on through Monaco, Nice and Antibes to Miramar d'Esterel, where they took their bicycles on the bus to Saint-Rafael, and then cycled inland to Les Arcs to take another bus to Aix-en-Provence. Then it was another bus to Arles before another cycle-ride to Lunel where they went to a café to ask about buses to Montpellier. They decided the proprietor looked friendly, and declared themselves to him, and he promptly contacted two men who helped Unger and Cantle on their journey.
CPO Henry William Cantle RN (1942) from London SE12 was 26-years-old when his ship, the Tribal Class destroyer HMS Bedouin, was torpedoed off Pantelleria Island on 15 June 1942. More than 200 of the crew were rescued, after seven and a half hours in the water, and taken by an Italian Red Cross ship to the port of Pantelleria. After about two weeks, they were moved to a transit camp at Castelvetrano, western Sicily, and four or five weeks after that to Campo 52 (Chiavari) on the Italian mainland.
When the camp commandant announced the concluson of the Italian Armistice on 8 September 1943, he also assured the prisoners that his officers and men would defend them from the Germans. However, when three lorry-loads of Germans arrived next day, there was no resistance as they took possession of the camp, and the few prisoners who tried to leave were turned back by Italian sentries.
The Germans marched columns of prisoners to the station at Chiavari, and on 13 September, Cantle was in one such party when a bus was stopped to let them pass, and under cover from South-African Sergeant-Major William Ward, Cantle was able to walk around to the back of the bus and get on board. The bus was crowded with passengers but they were willing to let Cantle sit on the floor and hide until the column had moved on. One of the passengers was the Italian wife of a Swiss man, who spoke English from having lived in the United States. She gave Cantle the jacket and beret of her 14-year-old son to put over his Italian military shirt, and invited Cantle to her home in Isolona (NE of Rapallo, south of Lorsica). The bus actually passed by the prison camp but was not stopped, and at Isolona, the woman gave Cantle a meal and civilian clothes.
The woman offered to get Cantle a train ticket to Rome but he decided to stay in the area and hope that British troops would arrive soon, and spent the next five weeks in woods near the village, with the villagers supplying him with food. Cantle's woman helper had put him in touch with a foreign doctor who said he could get Cantle shelter with an Italian resistance group, and when during his last week there, Cantle was joined by Sgt John Langdon RA, it was arranged that the two men would go there together.
Two men from the resistance group took Cantle and Langdon (along with the doctor's daughter, who flirted with them when they passed the camp) to their headquarters at Monte Capenardo, where they met Pte Kennard Davis (1888), who had been helped after his escape by two of the doctor's nieces. After about a month at the headquarters, Langdon and Kennard Davis decided to try and get to France, while Cantle preferred to return to Chiavera first and consult the wife of the Swiss man. Cantle was at the home of the woman's mother when Langdon and Kennard Davis arrived in Chiavari, where they were recognised by one of the carabieneri but managed to elude them, and were brought to the house by the Swiss woman. That evening, Cantle and the woman took Langdon and Kennard Davis to catch a bus before returning to the house, the woman then going back to her own flat where she lived with her children. That evening, a party of Italian police came to the house and arrested the mother, Cantle and two other people who were lodging there. Cantle declared himself as an escaped prisoner from Chiavari, and was handed over to the Germans, who took him to their barracks.
Three days later, Cantle escaped from his cell in the barracks, and made his way to down the coast to Cavi di Lavagne, and the home of one of the resistance men who had helped him earlier. He then returned to their headquarters on Monte Capenardo, where he joined three more ex-prisoners, AB John Edwards (from HMS Bedouin), Dvr Arthur Everett RASC and a South African, and spent the next six weeks (until 23 December) alternatiing between there and Monte Domenico.
Cantle reports that he first met Hans Unger in October, and that he reappeared in the district during the first week of December, accompanied by L/Cpl John Vivier. There were by then repeated visits by Germans and Italian Fascists, and he and Unger decided it was too dangerous to remain, and so decided to head for France.
The two men who helped Unger and Cantle in Montpellier were French ex-officers, and one of them took the two escapers by train, via Castelnaudary, to Revel (Haute-Garonne), where they stayed overnight (about 6 Jan) at the Hotel du Centre. The following morning, a man called Jean took them to a maquis group near Les Cammazes (Tarn), where they stayed while the group tried to contact a British Intelligence Officer at Revel. Three weeks after their arrival, the maquis headquarters was attacked, and after escaping into the woods, Unger and Cantle made their way to Saissac, where they made contact with another group, and were eventually taken to Toulouse.
At Toulouse, they were put into contact with a man who said he was an officer in a secret organisation, and they were taken to bicycle-shop owner Raymond Viadieu (of 15 rue de Metz), who took them to stay with M. and Mme Arnaud (Joseph Andrau at 147 Chemin (Allee) des Vitarelles – query) at their house outside the city. They stayed with the Arnoud family for a week before moving to stay with Mme Henriette Garric and her daughter Marcelle at another house on the outskirts (at 95 Chemin de Nicol, Croix-Daurade) where they stayed for another week, until 9 February.
Pte John Shelly Kennard Davis (1888) a 28-year-old farmer from Faversham in Kent, was serving with 24 Battalion, New Zealand Expeditionary Force at Sidi Rezegh in Libya when he was captured on 30 November 1941.
Kennard Davis developed double pneumonia and dysentry as a prisoner, and was in hospital at Tarhuna from 24 December until early January 1942, and at hospital in Tripoli for another ten days before transfer to the Italian Campo 66 (Capua), and on 9 March, to Campo 52 (Chiavari) at Coreglia, in north-western Italy. Following the Italian armistice, German troops took over the camp on 9 September 1943, and on 12 September, began moving prisoners in columns to the railway station, from where they were to be sent to Germany, and in the confusion, Kennard Davis escaped.
After the column had passed, Kennard Davis was found by two Italian girls who took him back to the house where they lived with their uncle (the doctor who helped Cantle), and sheltered him until 4 October. Word soon got out about Kennard Davis, and his host sent him to his native village of Gavi. From Gavi, a young Italian took him to a cabin in the mountains where three Italian officers were living, and where they were later joined by two other escapers from Campo 52, CPO Henry Cantle (1942) and Sgt John G Langdon RA. Because it was known locally that the Italian officers had a supply of weapons, the British decided it was too dangerous for them to stay, and on 1 November they set off for France with the intention of getting to Spain.
Their first stop was Chiavari, where they planned to get a bus to Soglio but Kennard Davis was recognised by a carabinieri from the camp, and he and Langdon had to make a run for it. Langdon found the woman had who helped Cantle at Isolona, and she took Kennard Davis and Langdon back to her house until evening, when there was another bus for Soglio. Cantle was also at the house, and he and the woman saw Kennard Davis and Langdon off on the bus that evening.
Next day, Kennard Davis and Langdon set off across the mountains, reaching Genoa on the morning of 8 November, and taking an afternoon train to Imperia, and then leaving Imperia as soon as possible in order to avoid the curfew. They set off into the hills, meeting a group of Italians, who took them to an inn at Triora on 9 November. Next day, an Italian officer provided one of his NCOs as a guide to take them to France, the NCO bringing another man to help, and they spent that night in an old house near Triora. Early on 1 November they set off over the mountains, crossing the border to Saorge in France that night.
They decided that a party of four was too conspicious, and so Kennard Davis and Langdon gave the two guides 200 lire and Langdon's revolver, and next morning walked down the valley to Breil-sur-Roya. After several days trying to find an organisation to help them, they walked to Drap, where they took a tram to Nice, arriving there at mid-day on 14 November. They went to a restaurant in the worker's quarter where they were soon recognised as British, and that evening, a Frenchman arrived with an English-speaking friend, and Kennard Davis journey was arranged.
The English-speaking man was Georges Cauvin, who owned a bar in Nice where Kennard Davis and Langdon stayed that night. Next day, Georges Roux and his wife sent them to stay with friends of theirs at Saint-Maurice (Nice) where they were sheltered in a hotel that had been closed following the internment of the owner and his son by the Italians. On 26 November, they were returned to Nice, where they stayed with Georges Roux at 14 rue Verdi, and also with Mme Roux's mother, at 28 rue Guiglia.
Kennard Davis says there appeared to be two organisations trying to help them, and on 7 December representatives from each came (separately) to see them. Kennard Davis chose one, and on 8 December, a young man took them by bus to the Villa Rogette at Cap d'Antibes where a Jewish couple from Alsace told them there were no arrangements being made. Kennard Davis stayed at Cap d'Antibes until 17 December, when he returned to Nice to try and contact the other organisation through Georges Roux. On 21 December, Kennard Davis took a train to Monte Carlo where he was met by a Colonel Fane and a man named Borgini, who said he was in direct contact with London. Fane, who lived at 9 rue des Orchides, was a retired British officer who had worked for the Cooks travel agency, and he took Kennard Davis to to an apartment (at La Marjolaine) on boulevard de Grande Bretagne where he met Miss May Aarathoon, and her sister Joan Aarathoon, who was living with their mother on the boulevard d'Italie, and Fane left Kennard Davis with May Aabathoon, asking him to meet next day at his bridge club.
May Aarathoon told Kennard Davis that she had sheltered an RAF officer named Bennett (this was F/Lt Frederick Higginson (892) who passed himself off after capture as Captain Basil Bennett RASC), who had escaped at the same time as Whitney Straight (787), and that they had had as many as fifty men (the majority soldiers) who had escaped from Fort de la Rivere (the previous year) in the flat, their meals supplied by Miss Trenchard at the Scotch Tea House. Miss Aarathoon said she knew nothing about the organisation but Kennard Davis was welcome to remain until he could be got away, which he did until 1 February 1944.
Langdon had stayed in Antibes, sending messages to Kennard Davis through a M. Smit, manager of a Belgian bank in London before the war, and also sent two young nurses, members of the organisation who visited Davis several times. On the morning of 1 February, one of the nurses, Julienne, (Mlle Julienne Saeu – query) came to tell Kennard Davis that a man from Toulouse would come and fetch him on 5 February. Because there was concern that Colonal Fane's son was becoming known to the Germans, Julienne took Kennard Davis to her flat in Nice. He stayed with Julienne until 5 February, when he was moved to the flat of a dentist called Rottenberg, but the man from Toulouse failed to appear. Julienne had also been to Antibes and found the the villa there closed, and Kennard Davis never heard from Langdon again.
On 7 February, a man from Toulouse arrived at the dentist's, and next day, took Kennard Davis back to Toulouse. A member of the “French Intelligence” asked Kennard Davis to fill in a questionnaire, and on the advice of his guide he claimed to be a Pilot Officer. Kennard Davis spent two nights in Toulouse, one night with a young student and the other at the lodgings of a “maquis member”.
On 9 February, Kennard Davis left Toulouse, meeting CPO Cantle and Gunner Unger at the station before a guide took them by train, via Carcassonne, to Quillan. They stayed overnight in a hotel at Quillan, and next day, were taken by truck to Usson-les-Bains (which is just north-east of Rouze, Ariège) where they “met up with” a party of Americans and several Poles.
The Americans were S/Sgt David Butcher and 1/Lt Dennis Carlson, who had walked up from Quillan the night before, and Major Ivan Eveland, S/Sgt George Kelley, S/Sgt John Myrick, 2/Lt James Brandon, 2/Lt William LaForce and 2/Lt Stanley Plytynski, who arrived about six days later.
Note that this route, via Carcassonne and Rouze, was one of several established by Andre Pollac (aka Sherry) before his arrest in Perpignan on 28 January 1944.
S/Sgt David L Butcher (#483) from Oak Park, Illinois was the 25-year-old tail gunner of 384BG/545BS B-17 42-3235 Lakanuki (Myer) which was on the way to Le Mans on 4 July 1943. Butcher reports they were attacked by fighters as soon as they crossed the French coast, the attacks continuing until the bomber dived and went into a spin, and he was thrown out. The aircraft crashed near the village of Poillé-sur-Vègre ( about 50 kms WSW of Le Mans) and Butcher, the only survivor, landed in a wheatfield about three kilometres away.
Butcher was helped immediately on landing by three men (Jean, Paul and Jacques) who asked if he were American, and Butcher gave them some cigarettes with US Army on the label. Two of the men then patrolled the road while the third took Butcher to a farm where they buried his parachute, bail-out oxygen bottle and Mae West, and exchanged his flying clothes for civilian items. Once he was dressed, they took him to the woods, and a couple of days later, to a farm where his journey was arranged.
Unfortunately, the finer details of Butcher's evasion are hidden in the scribbled notes of his interviewing officer, made more difficult by the fact that Butcher was helped by SOE agent Henri Frager's “Jean-Marie” organisation, about which I simply don't know enough.
The best I can offer is to say that soon after landing, Butcher was helped by Alfred Auduc, and sheltered in his house at 2 rue du Tourniquet, Le Mans. Two days later, he was taken to Chenu, where he was sheltered by a woman whose brother-in-law was said to be a radio operator with the resistance. After four days at Chenu, Butcher was moved to Chateau-du-Loir, and then by train to Tours, where he stayed in a nearby country home (Pavillons de Bellevue - query). There seems to have been some question about which organisation to pass him onto, the choice being between “Paul” (Henri Frager) and “Françoise” (Françoise Dissard). Eventually he was taken to Paris where I think he met Frager, and was then sheltered with Jean-Marie agents Joseph and Reine Heissat at 23 rue Clisson, Paris XIII. Butcher, who says that Joseph Heissat worked for the Gestapo in Paris, stayed with Heissat couple for about four months until being taken to the station, where he joined Dennis Carlson (#452) and a young man with dark curly hair who took the two Americans south by train to somewhere “just before Toulouse”.
1/Lt Dennis Percy Carlson (#452) from Mitchell, South Dakota was the 28-year-old pilot of 94BG/332BS B-17 42-3538 Ten Knights in a Bar Room on a mission to Frankfurt on 4 October 1943. Having dropped their bombs on target, they were turning away when an aircraft ahead of them was late on release, and his bombs fell onto the lead aircraft of the second element. One of the bombs caromed off and went into the #1 engine of Carlson's aircraft before bouncing off the fuselage.
Carlson tried to dive ahead of his formation but was unable to maintain altitude, and with the #1 propellor refusing to feather, could not keep up with them. They were then attacked by fighters, and when they dived again, the #2 engine caught fire and began vibrating. Carlson pulled out of the dive but with his speed reduced to just 105 mph, and losing altitude fast, he rang the bail-out bell. Once he was sure everyone had left the ship, Carlton set the automatic pilot and jumped through the forward escape hatch at an estimated 2,500 feet, just missing the open bomb-bay doors, and leaving his aircraft to crash about 12 kms NW of Reims .
Carlson landed in a ploughed field, kicked off his flying boots and buried them, his Mae West and parachute before setting off in his uniform ODs, leather A-2 flying jacket, coveralls and cadet shoes. He hid up for the rest of the afternoon, believing he was probably in Germany, and then spent the next ten days, heading generally south-west. He tried following a railway line, and in the late afternoon of the sixth day, reached Lizy-sur-Ourch – the first time he actually knew where he was. He was hoping to hitch a ride on a train to Paris but still dressed in his coveralls, was reluctant to approach anyone for help, and wound up walking to Meaux, and then following a path along the side of the Marne. It was on about his tenth day in Occupied France that Carlton found a sign saying he was close to Paris, and he seems to have celebrated that by going into a shop to try and buy some grapes. He was immediately recognised as an evading airman, and taken to a place where his journey was arranged.
Like Butcher, the finer details of Carlton's subsequent evasion are hidden in the scribbled notes of his interviewing officer, again made more difficult by Carlton being also helped by SOE agent Henri Frager's “Jean-Marie” organisation in Paris.
The first helper identified is Joseph Gulliermo, who lived with his wife and 27-year-old daughter Jacqueline on the outskirts of Paris at 99 avenue d'Isle, Joinville-le-Pont. Carlton also mentions an English-speaking Frenchman named Andre (aged about 35, about 5 ft 8 ins tall, with brown hair, blue eyes), who told him that he had sheltered two Americans before, and I think it was this Andre who organised the next stage Carlson's onward journey. It seems to have been several weeks before Carlson was taken to Paris to stay with garage owner Rene Vatin and his wife at 10 avenue du 11 Novembre 1918, Bellevue, Seine et Oise (now Meudon, Hauts-de-Seine), where Carlson was sheltered for the next “two months and nine days”. During his stay with the Vatin family, Rene told Carlson that his boss (Henri Frager) had gone to London, and although expected back, had not been heard from for some time, and that the organisation radio operator had been caught. Carlson also mentions Mrs F A Pearl of Bellevue, an English lady who had been in an internment camp; a woman named Evelyn who visited regularly; and “Paul's contact”, a woman he refers to as “Lady Barbara”. For his last ten days in Paris, Carlson was sheltered by Jean-Marie helper Armand Georges, an elderly man (born 16 July 1888) who lived at 17 rue Jean Robert, Paris XVIII, before a lady and a young fellow took him by Metro to the railway station where he met David Butcher.
Carlson and Butcher were taken to a station north of Toulouse (assume Montauban) where they were met by a young teenage girl who led them to a house on the outskirts of town. They stayed with a man whose wife had died several years earlier, and were visited by a dark, Jewish-looking man named Maurice. Maurice (who they understood to be the local resistance chief) was in his forties and wore glasses, and although he didn't speak English, he got the message across that he had previously had trouble with some other fellows and had shot them. After three days with the widower, Maurice and the young girl took the two Americans by train to Toulouse, along with the guide who had brought them from Paris.
On arrival at Toulouse (on about 9 February), they went to a restaurant, apparantly a regular meeting place for the organisation, where another guide brought two Englishmen, Kenneth Benstead (whose mother worked in resistance in Paris) and Johnny Williams, who had escaped from an internment camp near Paris. That same day, the four men were taken by train to Carcassonne, where they were handed over to a young Spanish guide, who took them by narrow gauge railway to Quillan, arriving there at about midnight. They were driven for about twenty minutes in a truck but then had to walk the remaining twenty-five kilometres (and climb more than 600 metres) up to Usson-les-Bains, Carlson saying that he “nearly died” on the long trek through the snow. They stayed for the rest of the day at the home of their guide's brother, meeting the guides who were going to take them across the mountains before walking another twenty-five minutes to a “bunkhouse”, where they found a group of Spaniards who were wanted in Spain. Next day, they were joined by Unger, Cantle and Kennard Davis, and five days after that, by six Americans.
Major Ivan Wayne Eveland (#478) from Missoula, Montana was the 27-year-old squadron commander, and flying as co-pilot of 401BG/614BS B-17 42-37770 Flak Rat on a mission to Cognac-Chateaubernard aerodrome on 31 December 1943. Pilot 2/Lt Homer E McDanal (#444), who was on his first mission, says they were attacked by fighters, and with Eveland flying the aircraft, he was watching as a B-17 ahead of them exploded before heavy flak hit them, causing the ship to lurch upward and fall off to the left. Bombardier 2/Lt Daniel H Goetsch (#396), says they going into the target when they were hit by what must have been flak, which lifted the left wing almost vertical, while Eveland says it was a second fighter attack that really did the damage. Either way, the aircraft could not be held in level flight, and was contiinually stalling so while McDanal tried to help with the controls, Eveland gave the bail-out order.
The aircraft went into a spin as Eveland jumped, landing in some pine trees, with a branch falling on his head and dazing him as he hit the ground, somewhere north of Morcenx (which is NW of Mont-de-Marsan). Eveland spent the next six days wandering across country in the rain, getting very cold and catching dysentery, probably from drinking unclean water, and receiving occasional help at isolated houses. He managed to cross the demarcation line at some point, and finally found a family who gave him hot soup and bathed his blistered feet. He was put to bed with a hot brick to try and keep him warm, and next day directed 6 kms north to the village of Benquet (Landes, Aquitaine), where the family told him that the comte de Laurens spoke English, and was a “good Frenchman”.
On entering the town, Eveland saw a well-dressed man in his thirties entering the police station, and when he asked the blacksmith if that was the comte, was told it was. Eveland waited until he came out and then showed the comte his USAAF ring and dog-tags, and after answering the comte's questions about how and when he had been shot down, and how he had survived living in the woods, was led to a wine shop for beer and a cigarette. On hearing that it was Angelina (from the family at the farm) who had recommended him, the comte took Eveland back to his chateau for dinner. Eveland met the comte's wife, and a servant waited on their table before the comte took Eveland to meet his friend, Pierre Lemee at nearby Bretagne-de-Marsan. Eveland spent the night in one of the comte's barns, and the comtesse gave him medecine for his fever and bathed his feet but the comte was worried about his servants, and because his brother-in-law had recently been sent to Germany, felt that he was under surveillance.
Next day, Pierre Lemee took Eveland to stay overnight at his home at Bretagne-de-Marsan, where he was the local maire. Lemee gave Eveland an identity card, which he stamped himself, and a Mlle Nicol (formerly a nurse and now administrative officer in the nearby sanitorium), procured civilian clothing, medicine and dressings for his feet. Eveland met people who were living in the maire's house; his secretary, a woman who had escaped from Alsace, an anti-fascist Italian who had come to France, and someone who had escaped from a German prison camp; and had some visitors, including the doctor in charge of the sanitorium where Mlle Nicol worked, and his wife.
The following day, Gustave Dupeyron and his son collected Eveland in a truck and took him to Mont-de-Marsan where they owned a garage. Eveland reports that Mme Andrée Dupeyron (born 10 December 1902), was the well-known aviatrix who had flown against Jacqueline Cochran (later to became the first woman to break the sound barrier) and held some world records herself. Their garage was primarily built on German business, and they lived directly over the garage - the shop next door being a favourite German drinking spot - and the family gave Eveland information on the Mont-de-Marsan air-base.
Meanwhile, Gustave Dupeyron made arrangements with a man in Bordeaux named Gustave Souillac, and two or three days later, he drove Eveland to the railway station and handed him over to Gustave Souillac and a very blond young man, who took him to Bordeaux. From the station, they went by “street-car” to Gustave Souillac's apartment at 34 avenue Victor Hugo, where Eveland stayed for three weeks. Eveland reports that Gustave was one of two brothers who owned a slipper factory (although a war-time lack of leather resulted in them making shoes from wood), and that the other brother, who he thought was the company president, was a collaborator - not so much that he loved the Germans as because he feared the Russians. Eveland says that Gustave devoted most of his time to intelligence work, was known as Edouard HG 220 - Eveland thought he was the chief of French Intelligence in Bordeaux, and that the young blond man was a French IS agent. Eveland also met other IS agents; the local priest, a thin-faced man aged about 35 who wore horn-rimmed glasses; a woman aged about 30, 5 ft 4 ins tall, with noticeably receeding chin, she was an English professor; and a slender, very fair lieutenant (son of a banker) who was a pilot and had escaped to Africa before returning to France by parachute.
On 5 February, Eveland was put onto a wine truck, where he joined Sergeants George Kelley and John Myrick, and Lieutenants Stanley Plytynski, William LaForce and James Brandon. Eveland says they rode inside wine barrels and drove along secondary roads to Sainte-Foy-La-Grande, where they met a local maquis chief. As there were too many of them to fit in his car, LaForce and Brandon stayed at Sainte-Foy while Eveland, Kelley, Myrick and Plytynski were hidden in a maquis camp for three days.
S/Sgt George Francis Kelley Jnr (#479) from Westbury, Long Island was the 21-year-old left waist-gunner of 351BG/510BS B-17 42-3495 on a morning mission to Bordeaux on 31 December 1943. Pilot Ralph M Saville (#560) describes the flight out as routine until they reached Pauillac, when they ran into heavy flak as they turned to run up to Saintes and drop their bombs on their secondary target at Cognac. After the run, they were heading (south-west) back towards the coast, and down to one functional engine when he gave instructions for the crew to bail out. Seven crew (including Kelley) left the ship as ordered but right waist-gunner Sgt Sidney C Pulver was wounded and unable to jump, and so Saville and co-pilot, 2/Lt William E Playford (#575) decided they would crash-land the aircraft, which they did just east of Saint-Vivien-de-Medoc (Gironde).
Kelley only delayed his jump by about 2,000 feet, and then spent ten minutes in the air before landing in a swamp, probably near Vendays-Montalivet. He spent his first three hours in France just trying to get out the swamp before finding a road and following it to some farmhouses. A man took him into one of the houses and gave him a drink but Kelley noticed a girl leaving, and afraid she might be going to report him, left and continued on down to the road. Later that day, a man gave him some wine but Kelley couldn't understand anything he was saying, and so carried on walking for another four hours before spending the night in a wood. He was still wearing his heated suit and flying coveralls but it was a wet night, and early next morning he called at a farmhouse to dry himself out, and was taken in and given a meal. After another five hours of walking, Kelley approached a farmer in a field and asked him for food and civilian clothing, which the man duly fetched, explaining that he couldn't take Kelley home because there were so many Germans around.
Kelley, now dressed in the blue overalls, raincoat, hat and shoes the man had donated, tried to follow the directions he had been given for Bordeaux but got himself lost, and spent a second cold, wet night sleeping in the woods. Next morning, after food at another farmhouse, and now armed with a map, he headed on towards Bordeaux until reaching a main road where he stopped at a house and asked for food. He was given a meal and shown part of the wing from a B-17, along John Myrick's dog-tags, before being taken to join Myrick.
S/Sgt John Ray Myrick (#480) from Puryear, Tennessee was the 21-year-old ball-turret gunner of B-17 42-3495, and he followed Kelley out of the aircraft, delaying his jump to about 10,000 feet, and landing in the top of a tree, from which he was unable to dislodge his parachute. He crossed a road to a swamp and then hid in the woods, where he spent the rest of the day and a cold wet night. Next morning, he walked until about eleven o'clock before approaching a farmhouse, and on pronouncing that he was “an aviator americain” was rushed to the back of house and into the kitchen to dry himself off. Myrick was given a meal, a map and directions to Spain but the woman was unable to supply him with civilian clothes. She took him to a road, which he followed (in the rain) until early afternoon, where he stopped at another farmhouse for food, which he was given, and again at about four o'clock – believing this was the best to approach strangers. At this third house, an elderly lady gave him a bottle of wine, and when he asked if he could sleep in her wood-shed, she gave him some food and let him dry out in front of her fire. He was about to leave when she called him back, and took him to another house, where he was given civilian clothes and a bed for the night. Next day, he was told that one of his comrades was nearby, and a man took one of his dog-tags, returning a little later with George Kelley.
Details of Myrick and Kelley's subsequent journey are hidden in the hand-scrawled notes of their interviewing officer but I think they were taken to spend the next two days in a cabin in the woods before being brought back to the house, and then to another farmhouse, where they were sheltered for sixteen days. They seem to have met a young English-speaking schoolteacher (Simone – query) who then took them to her home for about ten days. A woman came from Bordeaux, and I think they were taken by bicycle to Lesparre-Médoc (where they learned that Plytynski and LeForce were in the area), and then by truck, taken by a man and wife, to Bordeaux, where I think Myrick stayed with the woman while Kelley stayed with Paule Coine (or Paul Coyne) at 14 rue Serzvandoni.
On 5 February, Kelley and Myrick left Bordeaux by truck, collecting Major Ivan Eveland and 2/Lt James Brandon along the way, to be driven to Sainte-Foy-la-Grande . Kelley and Myrick stayed in a house in the town near the Post Office for about half a day until being taken to another house where they joined Eveland, 2/Lt William LaForce, and two maquis men.
On 8 February, the maquis chief took Eveland, Kelley, Myrick and Plytynski to Perigueux, where they met a man they knew as Philppe. This was Jean Henri Bregi (born 27 November 1898), who told them he was a member of the IS, and is described by Eveland as being 5 ft 11 ins tall, rather English in appearance, speaking excellent English, and wearing heavy horn-rimmed glasses when reading. Philippe turned Eveland and Plytynski over to Rene Lamy (born 12 September 1912), secretary to the police in Perigueux, and Lamy (aka Copain, and often know to airmen as Claude) sheltered the two American officers in his home at 85 boulevard du Petit Change, for the next seven days.
Meanwhile, Philippe (Jean Bregi) took Kelley and Myrick to the station and put them on a train to Bergerac, where they were sheltered with Rene Barre on rue Jean Nicot. During their stay, they report meeting two other Americans, 2/Lt Coleman Goldstein (#542) and 2/Lt Shirley Casey (542), who were sheltered with Fernand Genestie and his wife, also on rue Jean Nicot.
On 15 February, Eveland and Plytynski were joined by LaForce and Brandon, plus a French captain, and taken by train to Bergerac , where Philippe brought Kelley and Myrick to join them. Philippe then passed the whole group over a very pretty 18-year-old brunette (assume Simone Caimels), and her fiance, and they stayed on the train at Toulouse while the girl bought tickets to Carcassonne. Just before they pulled into the station at Carcassonne, she pointed out a new guide, a man who took them on a narrow-gauge train (Eveland calls it a funicular) to Quillan, in the foothills of the Pyrenees.
Eveland reports that they were going to start off across the Pyrenees from a small cabin but at Quillan their guide told them the truck which was to take them to the cabin had broken down, and that they were going to have to walk there. They were told it was 25 kms but Eveland says it was actually 37 kms, between 15 and 20 kms of which was in heavy snow. They had had nothing to eat all day, and one of the American officers became so exhausted that he lost control of his limbs and mind. Lieutenants LaForce and Plytynski (in particular) helped to carry him to the cabin so that he would not freeze to death. Fortunately, he says, the real climb did not begin for another five days, so they had time to rest and recuperate somewhat.
The other three American airmen in this story do not have MIS-X reports.
2/Lt Stanley Plytynski and 2/Lt William R LaForce were the navigator and bombardier of 388BG/560BS B-17 42-5899 Sioux City Queen on a mission to Bordeaux Merignac aerodrome on 5 January 1944.
Pilot 2/Lt Norman P Kempton (#559) says that as soon as they dropped their bombs on the target they were hit by flak which damaged the controls and started an oxygen fire in the cockpit. Kempton pulled out of formation, intending to abandon the aircraft but got back into formation when he saw that the engineer (assume TTG S/Sgt Emil E Taddeo #516) and co-pilot (2/Lt Paul A Davis) had got the fire under control. They were then attacked by fighters, and by the time they were twenty miles out to sea, #4 engine stopped and the propellor could not be feathered, #2 was losing oil, and the ship was vibrating violently. Kempton turned back, and as soon as they were over land, gave the order to bail out. He says Davis reported that all the crew had left the ship before he and Kempton jumped as the plane stalled at 4,000 feet. Taddeo landed near the village of Hourtin (on the Medoc peninsula, between the Gironde estuary and the sea) and it seems reasonable to presume that Plytynski and LaForce landed somewhere close by but I have no further details of their evasion until mentioned by others in this story.
2/Lt James Leonard Brandon was the navigator of 96BG/339BS B-17 42-37808 which which was returning from Bordeaux Merignac aerodrome on 5 January 1944.
Pilot 1/Lt Meredith H Rueff (#513) reports that they had been hit by flak over the target but not seriously, however as they headed out over the sea their squadron leader's aircraft began slowing. The squadron began to lose altitude, and had dropped back from the main group when they were attacked by fighters. Rueff's aircraft was hit several times, their control cables were damaged and the AFCE auto-pilot wouldn't work, and when they had to feather the #4 engine, they headed back towards land. The intercom was out but the alarm bell was sounded, and bombardier 2/Lt Joseph H Broussard went back to tell the rest of the crew to prepare to bail out as soon as they were over the land, Rueff and co-pilot Ernest Rufer (#573) being the last to leave the doomed aircraft. I am confident that Brandon, along with the rest of the crew, and like Plytynski and LaForce above, landed on the Medic penisula but again, I have no further details of his evasion until mentioned by others in this story.
The group stayed at the cabin near Usson-les-Bains until the evening of 19 February, when they set off on their four-night crossing of the Pyrenees. Their journey across the mountains can only be described as a nightmare for those involved, with typically understated reports (some of which are included below as written) giving just a glimpse of the terrible ordeal the men endured. Their tribulations were not unique however, several groups of evaders had similar experiences, on this route and others, and not everyone survived.
“We started to cross the Pyrenees on 19 Feb with three Spanish guides. Conditions were very bad with deep snow and severe blizzards, especially on the first night, on which the guides said we had to get through the prohibited zone. We walked from 2030 hrs on 19 Nov (sic) to 1000 hrs on 20 Nov (sic). During the first night Major Eveland collapsed and Cantle, Unger, myself, and several of the Americans took turns of helping him. At one stage he had to be carried on our sticks. Another American also showed signs of collapse that night and required assistance. Most of us, including myself, got our feet frost-bitten the first night. On the morning of 20 Feb we lit a fire in a small wood and thawed our food, stopping only long enough for a meal. During the second night (20-21 Feb) our objective was an empty barracks in the mountains. We had split into two parties, one of which, including Eveland, Cantle, Unger and several Americans, was unable to reach the barracks and slept the night in the open. My party reached the barracks. The other party met up with us on the morning of 21 Feb, and we continued as one group. By this time Eveland had recovered, but Cantle was then having trouble with his feet. The crossing of the Pyrenees took us three days and four nights, and we arrived at Alp at 0300 hrs on 23 Feb. On the night of 22-23 Feb we had to leave Cantle and an American at a small village on the frontier. One of the guides stayed with them, and they joined us later.
We were in Alp for a fortnight, a week of which we spent in a stable. All of us, with a few exceptions, suffering from badly frost-bitten feet. We were then moved to a hotel in Alp which belongs to the brother of one of the guides. On the night of 7 Mar we were picked up near Alp by a Spanish army truck in which was a Spanish army captain. We reached Barcelona in the truck at 0700 hrs on 8 Mar.
Eveland, Carlson, Unger and I spent two days in a private house after reporting to the Consulate-General. On 10 Mar, Carlson, Unger and I were sent by car to Madrid, where we were put into hospital. Unger and I left Madrid on the evening of 11 Mar and arrived in Gibraltar 12 Mar.
I was in hospital in Gibraltar from 12-17 Mar. On arrival at Prestwick on 18 Mar. I was sent to hospital at Turnberry, where I was detained till 1 Apr. I was then transferred to Hill End Hospital, St Albans, where I am still a patient.” (WO208/5583-1888 Kennard Davis, interviewed 25 Apr 44)
Unger simply says that guides were obtained for them, and they were taken by train to Quillan, and then by truck to Querigut (sic), where they stayed for about two weeks. They set out with their guides for Puigcerda on about 19 February, one of the party, an American officer called Major Eveland became very exhausted and they had to carry him a great part of the way. The party also included Pte Kennard Davis (1888). They eventually reached Alp, where they had to stay for a week while the guides were making contact with the British Vice Consul at Barcelona. The remainder of Unger's journey was via Madrid to Gibraltar and the UK. On arrival at Prestwick on 18 March, Unger and Kennard Davis, both of whom were suffering from frostbite, were sent to hospital at RAF Turnberry, and on 1 April, transferred to Hill End Hospital, St Albans, where Unger was still a patient when interviewed on 28 Apr 44.
“On the night of 20 January (sic) we started out. We were each given a small piece of meat and a loaf of bread to tide us over the next two days. The trip actually lasted four days. The snow was very deep, and kept on falling all of the first night. Most of the party had been given strong shoes but several were very poorly shod.
The pace was very fast for men who had had little or no exercise for the past few months. Within four hours, most of us were in difficulty, and I had passed out completely, and had to be carried. They tell me I was so limp they could not put their sticks under me so I could be carried more easily. We came to a village where one light was showing. I was conscious at the moment, and we agreed it would be best for me to go to it and ask for shelter. Lt LaForce insisted on staying with me. We had started towards the house when the guide returned, stuck his gun in Lt LaForce's back and told us to move on. He gave me a couple of shoves, and I passed out again. Gunner Unger, a South-African, Lt Carlson and Lt Plytynski had carried me in turn during all that time. Someone else was also unconscious that night, but I never learned who it was.
Toward noon, we built a camp fire in the snow and ate part of our ration. After that, my strength returned slowly and I managed, although with difficulty, to keep the main party in sight. By nightfall, Lt LaForce was in difficulty, and Plytynski and I assisted him. The guides were no longer sure of the way, and were going at a very fast pace in an effort to try and find the cabin at which we were supposed to spend the night. The group split in two, and we trailed the second group. We lost sight of them, and it was too dark to follow their footsteps in the snow. When they gave up looking for the cabin, and built a fire, we found them by the glow. We spent the night in the snow.
Next morning we found the cabin. We were allowed an hour by the fire before starting off again. After dark, the guides themselves grew weary and suggested that we build a fire on the mountainside. We took half-hour shifts gathering wood while the others slept. Next day the pace was so much slower that even the crippled could keep up. Six in the party had frost-bitten feet by now. Lt LaForce was also suffering from snow-blindness, CPO Cantle had collapsed and had to be carried. That night, we left a guide, who also had frost-bitten feet, at a farmhouse with Lt LaForce and CPO Cantle. They were to sleep in the straw and rest before crossing the border, which was then only a few miles distant.
We reached the frontier at 0300 hrs on 23 February and were taken to a sheepfold. We were kept there for seven days as the guides assured us that the trains were not running, the roads were blocked, and the wires down. One guide did go on to contact the consul. The second day a doctor was brought to the sheepfold and dressed the feet of those with frost-bite – eleven out of nineteen, if I remember rightly. When we threatened to turn ourselves over to the police, we were allowed to take lodgings in a nearby hotel. We spent for seven days there. There was no heat, but it was preferable to the sheepfold.
On the night of 7 March, those of us who could walk, went on foot to a rendezvous. The crippled were taken in a two-wheeled cart. The cart over-turned once, but no one was seriously hurt. Next day, we were in the hands of the consul.” (MIS-X EE-478 Eveland)
“During the first evening of our march across the Pyrenees, Major Eveland, an American member of the party, collapsed. Unger was the first to assist in carrying him. For about 24 hours the party had to take it in turns to assist Eveland, who gradually recovered. On the evening of the third day Unger assisted me, as I was having great difficulty in bending my legs because of the extreme cold. During the night some half dozen of us lagged behind from the main party with one guide. Unger, who was then fit, remained voluntarily behind with our party, assisting me as far as possible. The party's destination that night was a cabin, where a fire and straw for a bed had been promised. The guide however discovered he was lost, and we camped the night in the open round a fire. We were immediately overcome by sleep but Unger insisted on our remaining awake to save our lives and in fact kept us awake by jogging and pushing us and keeping us talking. In the morning we found we were 200 yards from the cabin. Within an hour of our arrival at the cabin the party was on the march again. Unger now showed obvious signs of strain but completed the journey unassisted.
On the night of 22 Feb 44, when we were near the Spanish frontier, I dropped out of the main party to spend the night at a farm with the chief guide and Lieut William LaForce, both of whom were suffering from severe frostbite. I also had a touch of frostbite and because of the acute cold, I had also lost the use of my knees. The main party carried on into Spain, and had been four nights in the snow before crossing the frontier.
With the chief guide and LaForce, I spent 24 hours at the farm. On the evening of 23 Feb the three of us crossed into Spain, accompanied by two new guides who had been sent back by the main party. One of the new guides accompanied the chief guide, and as the latter was now mounted on a mule, these two outpaced LaForce, the other guide and myself. As LaForce was in a state of collapse, I had no alternative but to take him to the nearest village, Guils de Cerdanya, where we surrendered to the Spanish police. We spent the night in a private house, in which a policeman also slept as a sign that we were under arrest. On 25 Feb we were taken by mule to Puigcerda, where we were 12 days in hospital, being very well treated by the nuns. On the twelfth day representatives of the British and United States Consulates in Barcelona conducted us to Barcelona (8 or 9 Mar). Here we were both admitted to the foreign hospital. On 10 Apr I was moved into a hotel, remaining there under the care of the Consulate till 21 May, when I left for Madrid. I was in Madrid from 22 to 26 May and reached Gibraltar on 27 May.” (WO208/5583-1942 Cantle, interviewed by IS9(W) on 28 May 44)
Carlson (#452) reached Gibraltar first, his arrival being reported on 12 March, and leaving again on 15 March by overnight flight to RAF Mount Farm, in Oxfordshire.
Most of the other men arrived at Gibraltar on 17 March, Kennard Davis (1888) and Unger (1890) leaving that same evening by overnight flight to Prestwick in Scotland. Eveland (#478), Kelley (#479), Myrick (#480) and Butcher (#483) left the following evening by overnight flight to RAF Valley on Anglesey. Cantle (1942) was probably the last man from this group to reach Gibraltar, and he was flown overnight to RAF Swindon in Wiltshire, where he arrived on 28 May 1944.
Plytynski, LaForce and Brandon are not mentioned in the American orders that report the arrival at Gibraltar of Carlson, Eveland, Kelley, Myrick and Butcher, and I don't yet know when they reached Gibraltar, or were returned to the UK.
 
My thanks to David Harrison and Franck Signorile for their help with this story.