Escapers from the Heilag at Rouen
This article first posted 01 June 2020

In the summer of 1941, a scheme was finally put in place whereby captured Allied servicemen who were injured, or otherwise not eligible to fight, would be repatriated back to England in exchange for injured German POWs, and at the beginning of October, some 1,500 men were brought from Germany to the Heilag (Heimatlager - repatriation camp) established on the site of an old British barracks (now the Parc du Madrillet) at Sotteville-lès-Rouen. However, by the time the men reached Rouen, the Germans had changed their minds, and the exchanges that were due to take place between 4 and 7 October, were cancelled.

On 21 Nov 1941, RAF Sgts James, Magrath, Patterson and Maderson escaped from the Heilag.
Sgt Oliver B James (682), from Salisbury in Wiltshire, was the pilot of 83 Sqn Hampden which on the way Brest on the night of 20-21 March 1941 when they ran into an electrical storm, and the mine they were carrying exploded. The aircraft broke in two and crashed in flames near Callac in Brittany, with the crew still onboard. 748196 Sgt Alexander Millar and 970663 Sgt Norman Stewart Weir were killed, but Sgt D MacCallum (374) managed to make his way to a farm to get help with recovering the badly burned James and take him back to the farmhouse. Having little choice, MacCallum was soon persuaded to leave James when a girl from the farm took him away by bicycle, and the start of his journey home via the Pyrenees.

James was captured that morning and taken to a German hospital in Morlaix where his left arm was amputated. On 6 May, he was taken by train via Paris, to the Dulag Luft at Frankfurt. Next day, James was transferred to a civilian hospital, where he joined 15 other RAF personnel until he was returned to the Dulag on 29 July. Next day, he and about 56 other RAF personnel were sent to Stalag IXC (Bad Sulza), where they were housed in the town hall. Ten days later, James was transferred to the main camp, where he stayed until 2 October, when he says that a number of Army wounded were sent to the Heilag at Rouen under a repatriation scheme, James donning an army uniform to join them.

After a two-day journey to Rouen, the prisoners were taken to the Caserne Jeanne d'Arc but soon suspected there was a problem with the proposed repatriation scheme when they were moved into the Heilag, situated on a racecourse outside the town (at Sotteville) , where they were housed in British Nisson huts, surrounded with British barbed wire. The RAF ORs were given a hut to themselves, James joining thirteen other sergeants and one corporal, with three RAF officers (under P/O Colson) also in the camp.

Having decided the repatriation scheme had fallen through, four of the sergeants decided to try and escape: James with Sergeants Patterson, Maderson and Magrath (683). Having studied the problem, they decided that the only way out was through the wire, and having acquired wire-cutters from a French worker, and under the cover of noise provided by the other ORs bartering loudly with German guards, cut through three fences on the night of 21 November and made their way to a copse where, at about ten-thirty, and as arranged, they divided into pairs, James going with McGrath.
I suspect that Sgt Patterson was Sgt G G Patterson (LIB/186 – missing) from 57 Sqn Wellington T2970 which FTR 14 Mar 41, and that Sgt Maderson was Sgt A A Maderson from 12 Sqn Battle L5190 which FTR 10 May 40. Maderson is reported as wounded, and repatriated in Oct 43.

Sgt William J Magrath (683) from Belfast, was the observer of 82 Squadron Blenheim R2772 (Blair) attacking the aerodrome at Aalborg in Denmark on 13 August 1940 when they were shot down by fighters, and crashed into a fjord west of Aalborg at about two o'clock that afternoon. They were picked up by local men a few hours later and taken to a hospital at Aalburg, both the pilot, Sgt D Blair, and gunner, Sgt W Greenwood, having slight wounds while Magrath had a broken arm and leg.

Magrath left Aalburg on 17 August for Reserve Lazarette 2 at Stalag XA (Schleswig), where he remained until 2 December, when he was sent to a German military hospital at Neumunster for an operation, being returned to Schleswig on 22 December, and then on 4 January 1941, transferred to Stalag Luft 1 (Barth), spending much of the time in the sick bay until being sent to Lazarette 5 at Stalag XXIA (Schildberg), where he was seen by an International Medical Commission. On 1 May, he was returned to Barth, where he remained until 28 September, when he was sent to Stalag IXC (Bad Sulza) and placed on the repatriation list. Magrath left Germany on 1 October by train for Rouen, where he and about a hundred other wounded men were billeted in barracks for fourteen days before being moved into the Heilag on the outskirts of town.
James and Magrath made their way to Les Essarts (near Orival) , where they got some bread from a girl, and on to a small village, where another girl took them to the maire who advised them to go to Oissel where they could get civilian clothes to replace the blue-dyed pyjamas they were wearing. They spent the night of 23 November in a wood before setting off for Oissel but got themselves lost and wound up back at Les Essarts . As it was a Sunday, they went into a church where the curé was conducting a children's service, and asked his advice. That evening they were taken to the home of the uncle of one of the children at the church, where they were given complete sets of civilian clothing and “a lot of food”. They spent another night in the woods, and then walked to Oiselle, from where they took an afternoon, and very crowded, train to Paris.
Not having any contacts in Paris, the two airmen walked the streets all that night until finally approaching an elderly woman and telling her who they were. She took them back to her home, where her son and his wife gave up their bed for them. Next day, they tried various churches, without success but then found a notice from the US Embassy, and so headed there. On the way, they passed a French Red Cross office, where they spoke to a woman who immediately took them inside and gave them a British Red Cross parcel, 50 francs and two oranges each. Then she took them to an Irish Catholic church near the Etoile where a senior clergymen interrogated them, suspicious that they might be German agents. Fortunately McGrath came from the same town as the priest and was able to convince him that they were genuine, and they stayed overnight with the churchman. Next day, a French doctor came and told them that they would be sent to Nevers the following day to see a friend of his. One of the Irish priests, who been a padre with the BEF, bought their train tickets and took them to the station. The two airmen stayed in Nevers (no details given) for three weeks while arrangements were made for the next stage of their journey.

They crossed the demarcation line somewhere between Nevers and Clermont-Ferrand, being taken across the river Loire in a small boat on the night of 19 December. Next day, they were taken by car to Chemin-sur-la-Fosse (query), and took a train to Marseille, arriving at six o'clock on the morning of 22 December, where they were recorded by Louis Nouveau on pages 48 and 49 of Volume 44 of his 1823, 70-volume Complete Edition of Voltaire. On 24 December, they were taken to Toulouse, and on 27 December, to Port Vendres, crossing the Pyrenees with two guides and four Belgians, and arriving at Vilajuiga in the early hours of 29 December. They were then taken by train to Barcelona and handed over to the British Consulate-General. Oliver James and Bill Magrath left Gibraltar by sea for Gourock on 4 March 1942.

On 31 January 1942, Major Robert Challenor escaped from the Heilag, along with Dvr C W Croucher, Dvr Kenneth H Griffin and twelve other men.

Major Robert Challenor (711), a peace-time engineer from Blackpool, who had served in the 1914-18 War (where he lost an eye and so wore a black eye-patch) , was serving in the Second War with the Royal Engineers. On 8 June 1940, he was withdrawing from a position on the river Andelle, north of Rouen, towards the Seine, east of Rouen with about 130 men but on finding themselves surrounded, Challoner split the party into groups of 10 or 12, each with an NCO, and ordered them to head east. He says that the group with him soon found they could not go on, and he carried on alone, marching for seven days [heading south until] reaching the Seine near Limetz (assume Limetz-Villez) , where he was captured on 17 June. He was taken by lorry to Neuf-Marché , where there were a number of French POWs. A few days later, he was transferred to Saint-Omer, where he joined six other British officers, and they were taken by train to Arras, to join some 400 French troops. On 25 June, they were marched to Cambrai and put on a train which took them through Belgium and Holland to Oflag VIIC at Laufen, in south-east Bavaria. In August, Challoner was told that he would be repatriated, and on 19 February 1941, this was confirmed by a Swiss Board but it wasn't until 26 September that he left Laufen for the Heilag at Rouen.

Challoner reports that the camp was on a racecourse and that there were 1,308 men, including 126 officers held there. He says that he acted as adjutant for the prisoners, and “gained the confidence” of Colonel Martin, the German Commandant.

After the repatriation scheme fell through [see Newman] , Challoner was asked to make up a list of men who had lost limbs, and were therefore unable to attempt escape, the remainder being sent to Germany (on 19 December) . With just 301 men left, including a number of able-bodied for the cookhouse and other duties, they were moved into a smaller, more secure compound. Challoner says that he got permission for a party of men to fell timber just inside the wire of the outer compound, and these men contacted French civilians who threw parcels and letters to them, and on translating letters from one of the French girls, found that she was willing to help with any escape attempt. Challoner tried to prevent any “rash” action by the ORs by agreeing to go with them so long as they would wait until he gave the word. He also says that the Commandant took him around the outside of the smaller compound to show him that escape was impossible, Challoner using the opportunity to inspect the position of the sentries, finding a flaw in the defences, and cutting two panels of the wire himself.
They decided to escape on the night of 31 January, arranging to meet their helpers between 2015 qnd 2115 hrs. The men wore Red Cross pyjamas dyed blue, and Challoner had a pair of overalls that had been smuggled in to the camp. He says their leaving was covered by the other prisoners, and that at 2025 hrs, he led his 14 men through the wire, the whole party reaching the other side in three and a half minutes. They found two Frenchmen (one of them a policeman named Pierdet) and two girls waiting for them but missed one of their own men. Four other men then went off to meet some other girls who had promised them a car, although Challoner says they heard later that this scheme fell through and the four men gave themselves up. The rest of the party were taken into Rouen, and a flat near the German Kommandatur, where Challoner found Private Stevens of the Queen's Royal Regiment, whom he had last seen on 10 June 1940.
Challoner names the men who escaped with him as Pte C Hackwell, Pte K Griffin and Pte C Croucher (all Australians), Pte L Mason (Norfolks), Pte R Bourne (RAMC), Cpl Dunning (Lincolns), Pte J Matthews (RAMC) and Pte J Lockhurst (Foresters) – this was Pte J N Luckhurst (Green Howards).
They were sheltered at the flat until 16 February when they (including Stevens) were taken in small groups to the station, with the same two men and two girls as their guides. They travelled to Paris, and then took a train for Chalons-sur-Saône but got off just before at Fontaines. They were taken south through the Foret de Givry, and after some confusion, crossed the demarcation line into Unoccupied France on the Buxy to Chalon road at four in the morning of 17 February. They then made a fast walk to Sennecey-le-Grand to catch the 0610 train for Lyon, arriving an hour earlier than necessary as they hadn't allowed for the time difference between the northern and southern zones.
At Lyon, the group waited at the Café de Paris while Challonner and the policeman, Pierdet, went to the American Consulate, leaving instructions for the others to follow later. At the Consulate, they were met the Vice-Consul, George Whittinghill, who told them that the Gestapo were watching the Consulate, and Pierdet hurried back to intercept the rest of the party. Whittinghill told Challoner they would have to leave Lyon in parties of three, that he would give instructions on how to reach Spain, and that Challoner should go with the last group.
Their guides from Rouen returned home, and Challoner reports that the first party left for Perpignan and the Pyrenees that evening (18 February) but next day, a man arrived from Marseille, and he and Whittinghill persuaded Challenor to return to Marseille with him.
The man from Marseille either knew someone, or was himself, in the organisation, because next day Challenor was met at the Gare Marseille Saint-Charles by Louis Nouveau and taken back to his apartment (where he is recorded on page 55 of Voltaire). Challoner stayed with Nouveau from 19 until 22 February when he left by train for Toulouse with F/O Mieczyslaw Taras (721), a Polish colonel named Waclaw Kamionko, two Frenchmen (Georges Marsenay and Henri Delarue) and SOE agent Ben Cowburn (sent to Nouveau from Lyon by Virginia Hall). In Toulouse, they stayed for ten days at the Hotel de Paris, and on 1 March, a Spanish guide from the Ponzan Vidal organisation took Challoner, Taras, Kamionko and Cowburn to Banyuls-sur-Mer. They arrived in Banyuls at six-thirty that afternoon, and set off across the mountains that evening, crossing the border next day and reaching Vilajuiga at 2000 hrs. They were then taken by train to Barcelona, where Challoner, Taras and Cowburn stayed for a few days before going on to Madrid, Cowburn leaving there for Lisbon, and a flight home, and Challenor and Taras going on to Gibraltar. Challenor left Gibraltar by sea for Liverpool on 5 April 1942 , and Taras on 27 April.
Includes information from Ponzan Vidal courtesy of Stuart Christie. See also Cowburn, Benjamin (1960) “No Cloak, No Dagger”, and Nouveau, L H (1958) “Des capitaines par milliers”.
Challenor doesn't include any Helper names in his report apart from the policeman Pierdet but I assume it was Challenor who first told Nouveau about Mme Germaine Chéron, a florist at the Rouen flower market with the sign "Au Camélia", and Pierdet, both of whom Nouveau later met in Rouen, Mme Chéron becoming a much trusted friend.
Pte Alfred Leonard Matthews (LIB/1054), an RAMC orderly from Bristol, had been captured at Watou (just across the Belgian border) on 30 May 1940 and held at Stalag VIIIB (Lamsdorf) until transfer to the Heilag at Rouen in September 1941. He was awaiting repatriation with the wounded prisoners, and in the meantime, was one of those engaged in cutting down trees for fuel. He reports that they made contact with two French girls (Christiane and Yvonne) who supplied them with wire-cutters and arranged to have civilian clothing ready for them on 31 January. The group spent three days cutting through the fence that surrounded the camp, and fifteen men escaped at about nine o'clock that evening, meeting the two girls, and two policemen, one called Raymond, who took them to a flat in Rouen where a Frenchwomen, Mme Germaine Chéron, who they discovered was responsible for all the arrangements, distributed them to various houses in the town.
Mme Germaine Chéron (born March 1906), lived at 21 rue de la Chaine. IS9 list her address as Place des Carmes but I think that was where she had her florist shop. Mme Chéron was later denounced and arrested, and in June 1944, deported to Germany. She was liberated in April 1945, and repatriated in July.

They were hidden in Rouen for nearly two weeks before the Frenchwoman and her friend, along with the two policemen, took fifteen (sic) evaders by train to Paris, arriving there at two o'clock in the morning. They went to a house where they stayed with a French family (no names given) until taking an early morning train to Dijon, arriving that evening, and crossing the demarcation line that night to Chagny (sic), where they boarded a train to Lyon.

In Lyon, they contacted the American Consul (George Whittinghill), and the French girl who was his secretary, Marguerite Fellows, sheltered Matthews and Pte Bourne-Royston (RAMC) (sic) for three nights, the other men being distributed amongst her friends. The Consul gave them 200 francs each and railway tickets to Perpignan with instructions to meet a bus-conductor called “Jean” at a red brick castle in Perpignan, and the route to take to the Spanish border.
Matthews doesn't say who was with him when they contacted Jean in Perpignan, and he took them in his bus to Saint-Laurent-de-Cerdans. They were three kilometres into their walk when they were spotted by gendarmes, who signalled to others who confronted the party with drawn pistols and arrested them. They were taken by van to a civilian prison at Arles-sur-Tech, where they were kept for four days before being moved to the French internment camp at Saint Hippolyte-du-Fort.
Dvr C W Croucher (952) and Dvr Kenneth Henry Griffin (953), both from Sydney, Australia, were serving in the Australian Army Service Corps with 6 Division, Australian Imperial Force (AIF) on Crete when the Germans took over the island in June 1941, and they escaped in a boat with 57 others. They hoped to get to North Africa but ran out of petrol, and on 4 June, were picked up by a German flying boat and taken to Athens. They left Athens on 13 June, taken by train to Salonika where they arrived four days later. On 24 June, they were sent by train to Stalag XVIIIA (Wolfsberg) in Austria, where they remained until 22 September. As ambulance drivers, they were listed among the protected personnel, and included in a repatriation scheme, and on 22 September, left for Bad Sulza in eastern Germany where personnel eligible for repatriation were being gathered. Two days after their arrival in Germany, they were on a Red Cross train bound for Rouen in France.
At Rouen, personnel intended for repatriation were housed in the Caserne Jeanne d'Arc, a former hospital, but a week later, Croucher and Griffin were transferred to the racecourse across the river at Sotteville, which had been converted into a prison camp. Whilst at the camp, they were often employed cutting trees for firewood, and during these trips, met two French girls who passed cigarettes and food to the POWs. The girls also helped a number of prisoners in making plans to escape, and supplied them with wire-cutters, and some dark blue dye with which they could make their pyjamas look like overalls. Croucher and Griffin say that they intended to escape before Christmas but were dissuaded by the British officers in the camp who still hoped to be repatriated. Just before Christmas however, a thousand POWs were sent to Germany, and the objections ceased.
In their combined MI9 Report, Croucher and Griffin defer all details of their journey to Lyon to Challoner but in his very detailed post-war memoire, “Escape from France 1942” (kindly sent to me in 2020 by Ken's sons Grahame and Rick), Ken Griffin says there were just seven men in the wood-cutting party: four Australians (himself, Clarrie Croucher, Charlie Hackwell and “Silver” Harrison) and three Tommies. There was an avenue of ornamental trees next to a wire fence bordering the rue du Madrillet, and they were given a couple of cross-cut saws and some axes, their job being to cut down a couple of trees each day to supply fuel for the stoves in their huts. Every day, local women would come to the fence and throw packets of cigarettes or food over the fence. Two of the women, both of whom could speak English, were Yvonne (tall dark and aged about 20) and Christianne (shorter and fairer), both pretty and well-dressed. They soon worked out a system for exchanging notes, their guards being distracted while the women passed parcels over the fence, often including notes. The men starting writing back, asking if the women would help with any escape attempt, and whether they could supply wire-cutters. The women said they were members of an organisation, and also supplied some blue dye which the men used to colour their pyjamas and turn into overalls. The original plan was to leave on Christmas Eve, and all the preparations were in place but a week before Christmas, the guards were doubled, the wood-cutting party refused permission to go out, and some 1,500 men were sent off to Germany, including two of the officers who had intended to escape with them.
After Christmas, the wood-cutting was resumed, and contact re-established with Yvonne and Christianne, and a new date set for the end of January. With a smaller population of prisoners, the compound was reduced in size, and a second wire fence erected. Griffin says that they spent three nights quietly cutting a square hole in the new fence, with the top part still attached, the guards being distracted just long enough for the men to have twenty minutes at the wire. They were also informed that Major Challoner would be going with them – described by Griffin as apparently having a good record from the First War, where he had lost an eye and now wore a black shield, and being a bit of a character.
The first five men out were Charlie Hackwell, Challoner, a Tommy named Mason, Croucher and Griffin, in that order. Charlie finished cutting the wire and the others followed him through the fence, then it was past the grandstand to another fence, this one bordering the Grande Route, which Charlie cut through, where they met Yvonne, Christianne and two young Frenchmen. The escapers were given overcoats and caps, another four escapers joining them at this point, and Christianne took Charlie and Ken Griffin across the river and into Rouen. They went to an apartment where more members of the organisation were waiting for them, including a woman named Cecile who good spoke English, having lived in England and America. Later that evening the other seven escapers joined them, the tenth man, Silver Harrison, having failed to make it. There was also a British soldier at the flat, who Griffin refers to as John, who had been wandering from farm to farm ever since Dunkirk, and picked up by the organisation about a month earlier.
Griffin says that the brains of the organisation was Raymond (Raymond Pierdet), a thin, dark man in his early thirties who had a senior post in the police force. He names the other women as Marie-Louise, the owner of the flat, a kindly middle-aged woman; Germaine (Chéron), fairly young, plump and always laughing, she and Marie-Louise had flower stalls near the cathedral; Cecille, dark, very French and a woman of the world, and Suzanne, a widow, pretty and petite. The only other man they met was Lucien, a little fellow, full of fun, who owned a business in the town (this was Lucien Leblond of 1 rue Henry Barbet).
Griffin and Mason were taken to be sheltered by Suzanne in a flat beneath a floor of offices belonging to an estate agency a few streets away, where she lived with her son Roger (who worked in a garage), their food supplies being supplemented by the local butcher and baker, both of whom knew the soldiers were there. Croucher and one of the English lads stayed with an elderly couple and their two daughters, while the rest of men stayed with Marie-Louise.
Two weeks later they left Rouen - Griffin says there were ten of them, with Raymond, Lucien, Germaine and Suzanne as their guides – taken by train to Paris, where they stayed overnight before going on to a village near the demarcation line. It was dark when they arrived, and Raymond led them to a village church where they waited while he and Lucien went to get directions. When they came back, Raymond told the men to space themselves out behind himself, Lucien, Germaine and Suzanne, and they set off walking through the night, eventually crossing into the southern Unoccupied Zone. They carried on walking until dawn, when they reached Sennecey, where they found they had to wait for another hour for the train, not having allowed for the time difference. Raymond got talking to two gendarmes, and they were invited to spend the hour drinking beer in the local police station. When they got back to the railway station, Raymond bought them tickets for Lyon, and they arrived there later that morning without incident.
They were taken to a café, where Raymond, Lucien and Challenor left them while they went to the American Consulate to make arrangements for their onward journey. The three Australians said good-bye to their friends from Rouen, and were taken to the home of a lady doctor named Juliette, who lived with her mother. They had a hot bath, some food and a few hours sleep. They were visited by the US Consul, and an English secret agent who told them that he had helped several escapers to cross the border into Spain, and he gave them some Spanish money. Their instructions were to take a train to Perpignan, where they would find a red bus that stopped by an old tower in the middle of town. They were to tell the boy who was the conductor that they wanted to cross the frontier, and he would take them on the bus to the terminus and then guide them across the border. They followed the instructions but on reaching the terminus, they were arrested by gendarmes. After a night in the cells, they were given the opportunity of getting breakfast in a local café, meeting three more of their party from Lyon along the way. All six men spent that night in the cells before being taken back to Perpignan, and were soon on their way to Saint Hippolyte-du-Fort.
Croucher and Griffin would later escape from Fort de la Rivère (see previous article) but TX3848 Pte C Hackwell (AIF), 7360883 Pte A J Matthews (RAMC), 7349899 Pte R Bourne (RAMC), 4390699 Pte J Luckhurst (Green Howards), 5045548 Cpl G Dunning (Lincs) and 6084027 Pte W A Stevens (QRR) are listed as being with “Detachment W” when it was transferred to Italy on 6 December 1942. 5771338 L/Cpl L W Mason of the Norfolk Regiment was taken from Grenoble Hospital (along with 2817859 Pte J Cowie, 6584501 L/Cpl A J Larkins and 24527 Pte Mughal Khan) and sent to Italy on 2 January 1943.
On 15 February 1942, Major Philip Newman and Lt Finlayson escaped from the Heilag.
Includes detail from Newman's 1983 book “Safer than a Known Way”, where there are some differences from his May 1942 MI9 Report.
Major Philip H Newman (736), born May 1911, a surgeon from Ingatestone in Essex, was serving with the Royal Army Medical Corps, and one of the 17 Medical Officers attached to 12 Casualty Clearing Station (CCS) when the evacuation from Dunkirk began. The CCS was situated in a chateau near Rosendale, being shelled almost continuously, and by 1 June 1940, only Newman and two other Medical Officers remained, all three being captured by the Germans (along with more than 400 wounded) on 4 June.
On 6 June, the Medical Officers and wounded were moved to a large French hospital at Zuydcoote, about 5 miles from the coast, where they joined about 7,000 French wounded. On 8 July, they were taken to Brussels, where about 120 British wounded were housed in barracks with another 20 men in a civilian hospital. On 10 November, all the wounded were taken by ambulance train to Germany and a hospital at Dieburg, near Frankfurt-am-Main, with most of the officers being sent from there to Oflags. Newman was sent to Oflag IX A/H (Spangenberg) on 19 December, where he stayed until 17 February 1941, when he and two other MOs were transferred to a hospital (actually a converted factory) at Stadtroda, near Erfurt. On about 17 March, the whole hospital was transferred in cattle trucks to Schleiz, Weimar, and by the middle of August, Newman reports that the number of wounded had dwindled to 40 British, 70 French and 70 Serbian patients, with three British Medical Officers. At this point, Newman and Captain A Crook (RAMC) decided to escape while the third MO, Captain Dickie, agreed to remain.
Newman and Crook disguised themselves as German civilian workers, climbed out of a window, crossed a series of roofs, and set off walking towards Hof but were stopped by a German policeman. They were held at the civilian jail in Schleiz for 48 hours, and then sent to Stalag IXC (Bad Sulza) for ten days before being returned to Spangenberg on 2 September.

On 22 September, Newman left Spangenberg for Bad Sulza where officers and men were being gathered for repatriation, and three days later they left Germany, sent on two trains to Rouen. At Rouen, they were held on the trains for three days, and on the “breakdown of the repatriations scheme”, the men were put into French barracks and the officers in a convent in the town before they were all transferred to an old British Base Depot Camp on the racecourse, across the river at Sotteveille. They were housed in Nissen huts with no flooring, and at first, no fuel for heating, and on 19 December, a thousand of the POWs were removed to Poland. Newman reports that there were a number of doctors and padres, as well as some Australians and New Zealanders who worked in the cook-houses and at wood-cutting. All the remaining POWs were put into a small compound with a fairly heavy guard. He says that when Major Challenor (711) and his party of 14 got out on 31 January, there was a colossal “flap” and the whole camp had orders to move to Poland.

Newman and Lt Findlayson (RAMC) had already begun work on a tunnel, digging down from one of the officers' huts, and early on the morning before the camp was moved (12 Feb), he and Finlayson hid in their tunnel, with a ground-sheet, a supply of food and some opium tablets to “restrain their natural functions”. An iron sheet was nailed over the hole, and stove put on the sheet, with ventilation provided by gaps in the floor boards.
Newman and Findlayson stayed in their hole for three days before levering the iron sheet away and climbing out, and then used a plank to form a bridge over the coiled wire between the two perimeter fences. They headed south-west towards Beaumont-le-Roger, and an address they had been given at the Heilag, reaching Le Gros-Thiel at about eleven o'clock on the morning of 17 February. Newman left Findlayson at Le Gros-Thiel because he was suffering from influenza, and his feet were troubling him, with the arrangement that Newman would return for him if he failed to join him at Beaumont-le-Roger .

Newman reached Beaumont that evening, and went to find the local curé, however he said he was unable to help as the town was full of Luftwaffe and other Germans officers. Newman settled down in a haycart but was discovered by the owner who moved him to his best barn for the night. Next day, Newman returned to Le Gros-Thiel to look for Findlayson, and finding no trace of him, decided to return to Rouen. After a night spent in a hotel at Rexonne (query), Newman walked back to Rouen but found no-one at the address apart from an elderly charwoman. Newman then decided to go to Paris, and was walking along a main street in Rouen when a small Frenchman asked him if he were English. He told Newman to follow him, led him to a café, and on learning that Newman had no real plan, took him back to his house at 17 rue de Lecat. The man was Bernard Pigeon, married to Lucie and with a daughter Paulette, who sheltered Newman for the next three weeks. Mons Pigeon introduced Newman to man who said that he could get him home, and gave him an address at Chateaurault where he said that Newman would find help in crossing the demarcation line. On 17 March, Newman went to Chateaurault but found nothing, and so took a train to Tours, where he also had an address. He was advised to go to Le Haye-Descartes (now just Descartes), and so took a bus to La Celle-Saint-Avant, arriving there on the evening of 17 March, where he spent the night on a farm. Next morning, he was taken to Le Haye-Descartes, a man on a bicycle taking his valise, and guiding him to a house in Le Haye, where the owner instructed a gardener boy to show Newman how to cross the demarcation line. The boy took Newman to a family where the daughter arranged for her younger brother to take Newman across the line the following day. Newman stayed overnight with the family, and next day, the boy took Newman by bicycle to another farm about 3 kms NE of the town where they left their bicycles and walked across the fields to a farm, where another boy took Newman to another farm at Abilly, in the unoccupied southern zone, where the first family's daughter joined him, and put him on a bus for Le Blanc .

Newman spent the night of 19 March in a hotel at Le Blanc, and next day went by bus to Argenton (Argenton-sur-Creuse), where he took a train for Toulouse, and then Marseille, where he was put in touch with an organisation.
Newman arrived in Marseille on 21 March, and spent the night in a hotel, going next morning to the US Consulate. He saw a Mr Donaldson who said that he could help, and after a second night in his hotel, Donaldson arranged to have Newman “billetted” with a Belgian woman named Mme Fontaine at 89 rue d'Aubagne (Newman calls her Marcelle in his book, and says at No 23). Six days later, Newman was introduced to Mario Prassinos (Newman's book says it was Marcelle who arranged the meeting while his report says Donaldson), and after spending two nights at Louis Nouveau's apartment (where he is recorded on page 65 of Voltaire), Newman was taken to Toulouse, where he stayed for six days at the Hotel de Paris, looked after by Francis Blanchain.
On 7 April, Newman was taken by train to Banyuls-sur-Mer, and crossed the Pyrenees that night with (according to his report) two British civilians, two Belgians, a French Canadian and a Frenchman, all led by a guide. They reached Vilajuiga early on the morning of 8 April, and left on the 0500 hrs train to Barcelona, all under the protection of a man who met them at the station, and guarded on the train by the Spanish police. At Barcelona station, Newman and one of the other men (Newman says a Dutchman called Helmut, who had come from Switzerland) were collected by the Consul's chauffeur, Frederick Haddock, and they stayed at his house until about 14 April, when they were driven to the British Embassy in Madrid. The day before he left the Embassy, two more evaders arrived, Hugh Woollatt (638), who had escaped from Biberach, and Airey Neave (676), who had escaped from Colditz and who Newman had last seen at Spangenberg. The three soldiers left Madrid together, along with three other men, newly released from Miranda, on a bus to Gibraltar, arriving there on 2 May. Newman, Woollatt and Neave all left Gibraltar by sea for Gourock on 4 May 1942.
It was the Spanish ancharchist Ponzan Vidal organisation that was responsible for getting Newman, Woollatt and Neave across the Pyrenees and safely delivered to the British Consulate in Barcelona, and according to their files, the British civilians were probably Bertram Butler (born Jan 1910) and Harry White (born Apr 1924), and the Frenchman, Albert Brouard, a Paris police inspector born Dec 1913.