The Pat O'Leary Line
This is the draft of a chapter from my proposed book about the Pat O'Leary line
Escapes from Saint-Hippolyte-du-Fort - Part 1
Saint-Hippolyte-du-Fort is a small town in the Gard, about 50 kilometres miles west of Nimes, and site of the French internment camp (a converted barracks) that was used to house Allied internees – soon to be known to the French authorities as “Détachement W” - from early January 1941 until 17 March 1942. During that time, there were literally scores of escapes (although not all were successful), with more than 130 former detainees from Saint Hippolyte crossing the Pyrenees to Spain.
For more details of conditions at Saint Hippolyte (and other internment camps in France) I thoroughly recommend Derek Richardson's excellent 2004 book “Detachment W”, which I have used to include some additional information in this chapter.
Not all the escapes, or subsequent evasions, can be credited to the Organisation in Marseille but many can, and others presumed to have had the Organisation's assistance to a greater or lesser extent, and certainly some of the Pyrenean crossings were led by guides with links to the Organisation.
By January 1941, most of the British officers who had been in Marseille had left for Spain themselves, and it was agreed amongst those remaining that Lt Winwick Hewit would go with the men to Saint Hippolyte – where he would be Senior British Officer (SBO) - along with Lts Richard Parkinson and John Linklater, while Captains Leslie Wilkins and Charles Murchie would stay in Marseille, with Ian Garrow as their liaison between the camp and the city.
These are some examples from the 133 successful escapes that I have counted from Saint Hippolyte but note that because many of the details below are based solely on the men's MI9 reports, hardly any of the dates given are guaranteed, and it is not unusual for men travelling together to give differing dates (and other details) in their reports.
Dvr Robert Donnelly (906) (RASC) and 4193075 Gnr Cyril Elwell (RA) were the first men to escape from the internment camp at Saint-Hippolyte-du-Fort when they left on 11 January 1941, and walked to Montpellier. Donnelly and Elwell had only arrived two days earlier, having escaped from Fort Saint-Jean but been recaptured at Narbonne station, however Donnelly doesn't include any details of either escape in his MI9 report. After being sheltered in a house in Montpellier for about a month while they made plans to cross into Spain, their host's house was raided. Elwell was returned to Saint Hipployte but Donnelly gave his age as sixteen, and was sent to a civilian camp at Malaucène before hearing that escapes were being organised from Saint Hippolyte. He duly escaped from Malaucène (for the second time) and made his way back to Saint Hippolyte, where he was arrested just outside the camp walls. Donnelly finally escaped from Fort de la Rivère in the mass break-out of September 1942 [see Article] but Elwell was still with Detachment W when they were transferred to Italy in December 1942.
The second escape from Saint Hippolyte took place on 26 January, when Richard Parkinson took the entire six-man crew of 9 Sqn Wellington R1244 - Sgts Stuart Parkes (346), Leslie Goldingay (349), Harold Bratley (351), Lionel Willis (712), Ronald Vivian (713) and Reginald Blaydon (714) - and delivered them to Charles Murchie in Marseille [see Article]. On 10 February, Willis (712), Vivien (713) and Blaydon (714), were returned to Saint Hippolyte following their capture at Bourg-Madame - along with Bdsmn G A Barrett (276 ) (see later), who had joined them at Marseille.
On 12 February, Pte A MacQueen (425) and Spr R W Shears (452) escaped from Saint Hippolyte.
MacQueen, from Buckie in Banffshire, was serving with 5 Bn Gordon Highlanders when he was captured at Saint-Valery-en-Caux on 12 June 1940. Like so many men captured that day, he was marched across the country and into Belgium until, on 2 July, he and 2877458 Pte W J R Davidson (also 5 Gordons) dodged out of their POW column at Ninove. They went first to Oudenaarde, where they acquired civilian clothes, and then past Renaix and Tournai to cross back into France at Hergnies. They walked to Vieux-Condé, where they stayed for ten days before heading west to Saint-Amand-les-Eaux. On 21 July, they reached Valenciennes but then returned to Saint-Amand, where they stayed for the next two months.
On 22 September, they set off for the south, passing through Valenciennes, Le Cateau-Cambresis, La Fère, Chauny and La Charité-sur-Loire to cross the demarcation line into Unoccupied France a little west of La Guerche-sur-l'Aubois on 1 October. Next day, they reached Sancoins, where they were arrested and taken to Chateauroux, and then Le Blanc, where MacQueen spent ten days (6 to 16 October) in hospital. On 17 October, MacQueen and “11 ORs” were escorted to Marseille, and interned at Fort Saint-Jean, until transfer to Saint-Hippolyte-du-Fort in January.
Spr Shears, from Coulsdon in Surrey, was serving with 26 Field Company Royal Engineers when he was captured at Saint-Valery-en-Caux. He was in one of the many marching columns of POWs, and had reached Tournai in Belgium when he escaped on 28 June. The men were being held in a large field, and after fifteen hours with no cover or blankets, Shears, a regimental heavy-weight boxer, knocked one of the German sentries down and scrambled through the wire. He says that he followed the Pas-de-Calais canal to Calais, being joined at Saint-Omer by an unnamed Signalman, but finding no way across the Channel, they retraced their route, and shortly afterwards, his companion left for Bordeaux. Shears went to Bethune, where he was sheltered for two months before heading for Bordeaux himself. He was helped by an organisation which supplied money and rail tickets, and accompanied by Rifleman F Dowding (401), who says they left Bethune on 1 November. From Bordeaux, they crossed the demarcation line into Unoccupied France on 5 November at “a village west of Périgueux”. From Périgueux, they took a train to Marseille, where they were interned at Fort Saint-Jean until being transferred to Saint Hipployte in January.
Neither report gives many details of their escape from the camp, Shears simply saying that they got away on 12 Feb and crossed the Pyrenees next day, and MacQueen agreeing that they crossed into Spain on 13 Feb. They were arrested at Figueras, and spent five weeks at Miranda de Ebro until their release on 6 May, and repatriation. Both men left Gibraltar by sea for Glasgow on 4 July 1941.
On 13 February, Pte J Macauley (396) and Pte J Carroll (397) escaped from Saint Hippolyte. Macauley and Carroll, both from Motherwell, and both serving with 5 Bn Gordon Highlanders, were captured at Saint-Valery-en-Caux. They were marched across the country until 22 June when they escaped at Saint-Pol-sur-Ternois by dodging out of the POW column and hiding on a farm. What they don't mention in their combined report is that Pte Michael Donnelly (958) (also 5 Gordons) escaped with them, and travelled with them to Marseille. They acquired overalls and shirts at the farm, and set off for the coast, reaching Etaples on about 25 June. After several days of searching for a boat, the three men headed south towards Spain, reaching Bienvillers-au-Bois, south-west of Arras, at the end of July, where they were sheltered (with the Poiteau family). In November, they were moved to Guoy-en-Artois for three weeks before being taken into Arras, where they stayed over Christmas. On 27 December, they were taken by car to Abbeville, where they crossed the Somme by boat, and from Camors, took a train to Paris. What they also fail to mention is that from Arras, they travelled with 2931799 Pte Alex Naysmith and Pte J Cairney (410) (see below), two Belgians and a guide. They reached Bourges (Cher) on 29 December, and walked to Pampied-Givaudins, where a farmer took them across his fields to Unoccupied France, and on to Lissy-Lochy. From there, they went by train via Saint-Amand-Montrond (30 Dec), Chateauroux (31 Dec) and Toulouse (1 Jan) to Marseille, where they arrived on 5 January 1941. They were interned at Fort Saint-Jean for two days before being transferred to Saint Hippolyte.
Macauley and Carroll give few details about their escape, simply saying that they left the camp and went by bus to Nimes, and then by train to Banyuls-sur-Mer. They avoided the town and crossed the Pyrenees on the afternoon of 14 February, and were arrested at Figueras next day. Their story is so similar to MacQueen and Shears (and they were in the same battalion as MacQueen) that it seems quite likely they escaped and travelled together. Macauley and Carroll also left Gibraltar by sea for Glasgow on 4 July 1941, along with more than 80 other repatriated servicemen.
Pte J Cairney (410), Pte David Bain (415), Pte G Price (423), Cpl George Wadsley (424) and Pte R Brown (601) also say that they escaped from Saint Hippolyte on 13 February.
Cairney, a cabinet maker from Edinburgh, was serving with 4 Bn Cameron Highlanders when he was captured at Saint-Valery-en-Caux. Marched across the country, he escaped from a POW column at Saint-Pol-sur-Ternoise on 21 June. He went first to a farmhouse, where he was given civilian clothes, and then to Bethune, and on about 21 July, arrived at Bienvillers-au-Bois, where a local gendarme sheltered him in the loft of his house for the next four months. His report (which doesn't mention anyone else) only says that he went to Arras on 26 November, and on 26 December, left with a guide. He was taken to Abbeville, where they crossed the river Somme in a rowing boat and on via Paris (28 Dec) to Bourges (30 Dec), “near where we crossed the demarcation line on that day”. He says that on arrival in Marseille, he surrendered to the French police and was sent to Fort Saint-Jean (4 Jan), and next day (sic) removed to Saint Hippolyte.
Pte David Bain, an asphalt worker from Perth with 18 years in the TA, was serving with 6 Bn Black Watch when he was captured at Saint-Valery-en-Caux. He escaped from a POW column outside Bethune on 26 June (along with L/Cpl W Reynolds (515) and L/Cpl Beard) by slipping into a garden. He acquired civilian clothes from the house, and made his way to Loos, where he had friends, and where he stayed for the next three months. On 20 September, he moved to Lille, where he was sheltered until leaving for the south on 21 December. What his report doesn't menton is that he was sheltered in Lille by Mlle Rachel Nieuwayer at 16 rue Maubeuge, nor that when he left, his “conducted party” included Gnr Leonard C Chandler (334) and Cpl Donald Hepworth (408), and that their guide was Mlle Cecile Hermey (a French professor, born 22 August 1908). He says that they went by train to Paris but does not know where they crossed the demarcation line - Chandler and Hepworth agree this was near Bourges. They reached Marseille on 27 December, and on 7 January, Bain and Hepworth were sent to Saint Hippolyte.
Pte G Price from Redditch in Worcestershire, with 11 years in the Regular Army, was serving with 1 Bn Black Watch when he was captured at Saint-Valery-en-Caux. He escaped just outside Rouen on 15 June, and made his way to Abbeville with F/Lt W P F Treacy (175), and while looking for a boat, says that they ran into a German machine-gun post and were captured on about 31 June. Treacy reports meeting three soldiers from the Black Watch at Buire-le-Sec and going with them to the Bay of Authie (near Fort-Mahon-Plage) to look for a boat but they were spotted by four German soldiers on bicycles, and captured.
Price was taken the Caserne Kleber in Lille, from where he and three other soldiers (with whom he later lost touch) escaped on 3 August. A Frenchwoman took Price (at least) to Tourcoing, where he was sheltered for the next ten weeks. On about 15 October, a French ex-captain gave Price some money, and two other Frenchmen took him south. They travelled mostly by rail via Paris and Tours to cross the demarcation, and on to Marseille where Price was arrested. He was held at Fort Saint-Jean until transfer to Saint Hippolyte on 7 January.
Cpl George Wadsley from Glasgow had 13 years in the Regular Army, and was serving with 1 Bn Black Watch when he was captured at Saint-Valery-en-Caux. Next day, he was taken to a hospital in Rouen, and on being discharged on 25 July, sent to a camp outside Lokeren in Belgium. On the night of 4 August, Wadsley and L/Cpl J M Grimmond (265) escaped through a latrine while the guards were being changed. They crossed into France near Conde-sur-l'Escaut on 6 August, reached Bourges on 3 September, and crossed over the demarcation line at Saint-Florent-sur-Cher that same day. They were arrested near Issoire and sent to a French military camp at Parentignant on 9 September. On 12 October, Wadsley stole a bicycle “and set off for Spain” with Pte F Butters (414) (see later), Butters giving their route as Tulle, Figeac, Montauban, Tarbes and Lourdes to Argelès-Gazost. They managed to cross into Spain but were arrested at Jaca on 30 October, and sent back to France. They were held at Gurs until being moved to Fort Saint-Jean on 8 November (Butters says 15 Nov), and Wadsley was transferred to Saint Hippolyte on 7 January.
Pte R Brown, a cotton operative from Hindley, Wigan was serving with 8 Bn The Loyal Regiment. His unit (which was made up of soldiers from IBD Rouen under Lt Stapeley of the Loyals) had withdrawn to the west of Rouen to Caudebec-lès-Elbeuf (on about 18 June), and as they were being “pressed” by German armoured troops, told to split into small groups and fend for themselves.
Brown says that he set off for the coast alone, visiting Le Havre, Trouville and Deauville “in the hope for getting a boat”, and on failing that, made his way to Saint-Etienne (Saint-Etienne-la-Thillaye) where he “worked on a farm for about two months until being warned to leave by local gendarmes”. On leaving Saint-Etienne, he walked as far as the village of Aizier, 8 miles south-west of Caudebec, where, being still in uniform, he was captured by a German patrol on about 29 July.
He was taken into Aizier, where he joined a column of French POWs, and next day they crossed the Seine, and reached Caudebec. Brown escaped a few miles from the town, “dashing through a hedge”. He had acquired civilian clothes from a farm immediately after capture, and now he set off for the south, crossing the Seine at Villequier and passing by Lisieux, Le Mans and Tours. He crossed the demarcation line from La Croix-en-Touraine to Bléré on 27 October with the help a young French farmer who had land on either side of the boundary, and went straight to the nearest frontier post where he “gave himself up”. Brown was taken to Loches, and then Marseille, where he was held at Fort Saint-Jean until being transferred to Saint Hippolyte on 8 January 1941.
None of men's reports include much detail about their escape from the camp apart from saying that they climbed over a wall, and took a train from Nimes to either Collioure or Banyuls-sur-Mer. They crossed the Pyrenees in what Price describes as an “organised party”, and were arrested near Figueras. Like most escapers who crossed the Pyrenees in 1941, they spent varying amounts of time in Spanish prisons before being repatriated to Gibraltar. Cairney, Bain and Wadsley left Gibraltar by sea on 22 May but HMS London was diverted to Freetown, and the three soldiers were returned to Gibraltar ten days later. All five men finally left Gibraltar by sea for Glasgow on 4 July 1941.
On 1 March, Sgts Lionel Willis (712), Ronald Vivien (713) and Reginald Blaydon (714) (see earlier) made their second escape from the camp, this time in the company of Sgt V T M'Farlane.
Sgt Victor T M'Farlane RAF (715) from Stonehouse, Plymouth, had been serving in the RAF for six years, and in 1940 was attached to ground staff of 12 Squadron AASF (Advanced Air Striking Force) one of three squadrons on an aerodrome at Sougé (Loir-et-Cher). When the squadrons were withdrawn on the morning of 15 June, M'Farlane was a member of the rear party, and wounded when the Germans bombed the aerodrome.
M'Farlane was taken to a French military hospital at Sables-sur-Sarthe, and says that when he heard about the French capitulation, left the hospital with Pte George Thompson (235), aiming for Saint Nazaire in the hope of evacuation to England. They got as far as Nantes before learning that the last British transport had left Saint Nazaire, and so on 19 June went to the French military hospital in Nantes, shortly before the Germans occupied the the town. M'Farlane was operated on three days later, and in August, moved to a convalescent home in the centre of Nantes.
M'Farlane says that he and Thompson escaped from the convalescent home on 1 October - along with Sgt G Roskell (234) and Dvr L Farnsworth - by climbing over a wall after which a Frenchman who had been visiting them, took them to a house where they were given civilian clothes. After being sheltered in Nantes for a week, another Frenchman took the four escapers by train to Perpignan and then Marseille. The US Consul in Marseille advised them to go to the Seamens' Mission (on rue Forbin) where they were arrested two days later, and sent to Fort Saint-Jean.
Thompson and Roskell were passed for repatriation by the Mixed Medical Board in December but M'Farlane and Farnsworth were transferred to Saint Hippolyte in January 1941 - T/198543 Dvr L Farnsworth RASC was still with Detachment W when they were transferred to Italy in December 1942.
Blaydon was captured at Narbonne station but Willis, Vivien and M'Farlane made it across the Pyrenees to Spain. Blaydon was third-time lucky the following month - see later.
M'Farlane (who was also interviewed on 29 April 1942) says that the details of his escape are identical to those of Willis, Vivien and Blaydon (sic), and like them, left Gibraltar by sea for Gourock on 5 June 1941.
On 13 March, Bdsmn G A Barrett (276) escaped from Saint Hippolyte. Barrett, who had been in the army for eleven years, and gives his address as c/o Miss M Brown of Capel near Folkstone, was serving with 2 Bn Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry on 31 May 1940, fighting a rear-guard action north of Dunkirk. Barrett was captured next day and marched off towards Nieuport. He was locked in a hut that night, where he found a discarded Belgian uniform, and says that he “put it on, and in the morning, walked out of the hut and got away”.
Barrett made his way across the border into France (5 June), and was sheltered in Lille (no details) for the next three months. On 5 September, he took a train (full of Germans) to the Gare du Nord in Paris, the Metro to gare d'Austerlitz, and next morning, a train to Ramorantin - the efficiency of this journey suggesting that he had a guide. Barrett crossed into Vichy France at Villefranche-sur-Cher on the night of 8-9 September, and made his way to Port Vendres. After failing to find a boat, he went to Marseille (20 Sept), where the Polish commandant of the refugee camp sent him by car to the English Hospital at La Calade.
“On about 12 February” (Barrett says he was not certain of the date), he left Marseille with 2/Lt Parkinson, three RAF crew from a bomber that had crashed in Unoccupied France (Willis, Blaydon and Vivien), and a young Belgian but “unfortunately”, they were stopped by police at Bourg-Madame, and taken to Saint Hippolyte.
Barrett gives no details of his subsequent escape from the camp, simply saying that on 13 March, “in the company of a young Frenchman”, he stowed away on a ship bound for Gibraltar. They hid in a lifeboat for two days before giving themselves up, Barrett reporting that “Fortunately the Captain took our side and we were well treated and arrived at Gibraltar on 16 Mar.” Barrett left Gibraltar by sea for Belfast on 4 April 1941.
On 20 March, Gnr R S Bainbridge (359), Pte A Simpson (411) and Pte D Stevenson (416) escaped from Saint Hippolyte.
Bainbridge from Hornchurch in Essex, with 10 years in the Regular Army, was serving with 23 Field Regiment RA when he was captured at Saint-Valery-en-Caux. On 28 June, he escaped from a POW column in Belgium, along with Dvr A W Berry (470) and Bdr Alfred George Jones (no record) - Berry (who makes no mention of Bainbridge in his report) says their route was Doullens, Saint-Pol-sur-Ternois, Bethune, Seclin, Tournai and Renaix, and that they escaped at Kerksken. They broke away from a POW column and hid in a cornfield until dark before making for the coast via Sottegem (Zottegem), Ghent and Deinze but on finding that “the presence of too many Germans made progress impossible”, returned to Brussels on 7 January 1941. Jones remained in Brussels when Bainbridge, Berry and three Belgians left for France on 29 January, crossing the demarcation line at the end of February at Bazas (Aquitaine), on to Toulouse on 1 March, and arriving in Marseille on 3 March, only to be interned at Saint Hippolyte - note that Berry's version of the journey is quite different.
Pte A Simpson from Aberdeen, was serving with 4 Bn Cameron Highlanders when he was captured at Saint-Valery-en-Caux. He was marched across the country and into Belgium until escaping alone at Alost (Aalst) on 1 July by hiding in a cornfield. An Englishman (naturalised as Belgian) gave him a change of clothing and guided Simpson across the border to Roubaix. Simpson stayed in Roubaix (no details given) from 2 July until the end of March 1941, when a guide (no details) took him via Paris and Tours to cross the demarcation line. He was arrested at Chateauroux and sent to Saint Hippolyte.
Pte D Stevenson from Glasgow, with 6 years in the Regular Army, was also serving with 4 Bn Cameron Highlanders but he was captured at Saint-Valery-sur-Somme on 12 June 1940. He says that he was taken ill on the march and doesn't remember the route but he and two other men escaped on 17 June whilst passing through a village near Amiens. They made their way to Rouen, where the other two men were caught after crossing the Seine, and Stevenson went on alone to Caen, where he was sheltered (no details) until 15 February 1941. He says that he crossed the demarcation line on 16 February, and on 23 February, was interned at Saint Hippolyte.
Following their escape from the camp, Bainbridge, Simpson and Stevenson travelled via Ganges and Montpellier to Perpignan, and according to Lewis Hodges (345), they were guided by 2/Lt John Linklater, who took them over the frontier. They crossed to Figueras and followed the railway line to Gerona where a young Spaniard put them on the road for Barcelona. They contacted the British Consul, and two days later, were sent by train to Madrid where they stayed for another three weeks before going on to Gibraltar. I suspect they first left Gibraltar on 22 May, on board HMS London (along with Cairney, Bain and Wadsley - see earlier) but she was diverted to Freetown, and the soldiers returned to the Rock ten days later. They finally left for Glasgow on 4 July, arriving in Scotland on 13 July 1941.
On about 23 March, Gnr Albert Edward Hilditch (340), Gnr Albert Hills (341) and Gnr Jack Rothwell (362) escaped from Saint Hippolyte. Hilditch, from Warrington in Lancashire, with 8 years in the Regular Army; Hills, a labourer from Bexley in Kent; and Rothwell, from Bury in Lancashire with 10 years in the Regular Army, were all serving with 23 Field Regiment RA when they were captured at Saint-Valery-en-Caux. They were marched across the country and into Belgium until they escaped on 28 June outside Renaix (Ronse) on the Nederbrakel road, Hilditch hiding in a stream, Hills having to get away twice before joining him, and both then joining Rothwell who was being sheltered by a gamekeeper and local gendarmes in a wood near Ellezelles. After an unsuccessful attempt to reach the coast, the three men returned to Ellezelles, where they were “lodged and fed by farmers and villagers” for the next four months.
In January 1941, Hilditch, Hills and Rothwell left for the south. Few details are given in their reports, only saying that they crossed into France at Tourcoing, and were given papers and advice at the Café de l'Universe in Roubaix before going by rail to Paris and Tours, and then by bus to Reignac (Reignac-sur-Indre), where they crossed the demarcation line on 2 March. They were arrested by French police at Chateauroux next day and sent to Marseille, and on 6 March, taken to Saint Hippolyte in handcuffs.
Hilditch, Hills and Rothwell are three of the 39 evaders listed as being given money by Louis Galant, in this case 800 francs each to Hilditch and Rothwell, and 400 francs to Hills - the money being raised by M. Magnier of 23 avenue Guynemer, Marcq-en-Baroeul from his more fortunate friends.
Louis Galant (born 18 April 1894 in Roubaix), a mirror and glass manufacturer who lived at 202 rue de Lannoy in Roubaix, was awarded the KMC.
Hilditch and Hills combined report (which doesn't mention Rothwell) only says that they took a taxi to Perpignan and then went by bus to Prats-de-Mollo. They were arrested at Figueras on 28 March, and Hilditch and Hills were released from Miranda on 24 May, and left Gibraltar by sea for Greenock on 6 June 1941. No date is given for Rothwell's release but he left Gibraltar for Glasgow on 4 July.
What none of their reports mention is Saint Valery escaper Tpr S Smith (LIB/1000) from Edinburgh, who in his interview by IS9 on 1 October 1945 says that one day (date not given), he was taken to a wood near Nederbrakel where he joined four escaped POWs. He says that two of them left the next day but he stayed with Gnrs Hilditch and Rothwell until 7 July when he was taken to a farm at St Martins (assume Sint-Martens-Lierde), He also says that he received a letter from them in December saying that “plans were complete for getting back to the UK”, and asking him to meet them at Ellezelles. Smith (who doesn't mention Hills) says they stayed in a chateau at Ellerzelles, owned by a Belgian who was arranging their escape, and that on 3 January, he instructed them to go to the railway station at Renaix, where they would be met by another Belgian, who would recognise them by the newspaper they were carrying. They duly met the second Belgian, and he took them by train to Brussels, and a building which had been a British Import Company. Towards the end of January, three Belgians took them by train to the Belgian/French border, and walked them across to leave them at the house of a French officer. That afternoon, the French officer took Hilditch and Rothwell away, telling Smith that he would join them later. Next day, the French officer took Smith to Roubaix, where he was introduced to an English-speaking Frenchwoman named May Verbays, of 27 rue de la Gare in Roubaix. Smith says that he worked (on and off) with Mlle Verbays (who IS9 suggest may have been a collaborator) and an organisation until he was arrested at a barber's shop in Roubaix on 22 July 1942. Smith also mentions meeting L /Cpl M (Matthew Vaughan) Connelly (who was captured on 14 October 1942) , Pte E Escott and Pte W MacIntyre “during his escape”.
On 4 April, L/Cpl H L Forster (295) escaped from Saint Hippolyte. Forster, a fitter from Newcastle with 15 years in the TA, was serving with 9 Bn Royal Northumberland Fusiliers when he was captured at Saint-Valery-en-Caux. He was marched across the country until 23 June when he escaped at Frévent. Fusilier A Robinson (387) (7 RNF) says that he escaped with him, agreeing 23 June at or near Frévent but says they went their separate ways soon afterwards.
Forster made his way a few kilometres north to Séricourt, and two nights later, to Rubbivet (presume Roubaix) where he was sheltered by a “Mme X”, who he reports as having helped 8 other POWs to escape. Forster says that stayed with Mme X until 11 July, when he left for the south, taking Pte John Cross (506) (see also later) and 282344 Pte Jack O'Shea (4 Seaforths) with him via Paris to cross the demarcation line at Bourges on 19 July. Cross has a slightly different version, saying that he and O'Shea (who had been at Dunkirk two days earlier) had been “joined by” Forster on 15 July, that they arrived at Bourges on 27 July, and that they crossed the demarcation line a few miles south of the town on 13 August.
Forster (whose report suggests that he travelled alone but Cross generally agrees the details) went on through Tulle and Toulouse, and made three attempts to get into Spain - the first time he says that he was turned back from near Barcelona, and the third time (on 3 August), he was caught by French police near Andorra. He was held at Port du Fois (Foix) for six days before being sent to Montferran-Savès, and on either 18 or 20 October, he (and the other internees) were moved to Fort Saint-Jean in Marseille. Forster says that he escaped from Marseille to the Pyrenees but was caught and put in “Carpains prison”, from where he escaped back to the Seamen's Mission in Marseille, where Captain Fitch (133) advised him to return to the Fort, and January 1941, he was transferred to Saint Hippolyte.
This was Forster's second escape attempt from the camp (no details given of the first), and next day, he crossed the frontier about 15 kms west of Le Perthus - his guide to the border being 2/Lt John Linklater. From San Jorde (assume Sant Jordi Desvalles), he took a train to Barcelona, arriving there on 8 April. Four days later he left for Madrid but was arrested on the train and put into a jail in Madrid. He spent 12 days in the jail, where he met Lt Richard Broad (284), who was “instrumental” in his release. Forster left Gibraltar by sea for Liverpool on 8 May 1941.
On 5 April, Gnr G Stephenson (319) escaped from Saint Hippolyte. Stephenson, a driver from Bishop Auckland in County Durham, with 6 years in the Army Reserves, was serving with 23 Field Regiment RA when he was captured in a wood near Le Havre on 12 June 1940. He says that after three days of marching, he “dropped into a wood”. A few kilometres later, he met a Frenchwoman who gave him civilian clothing, and Stephenson made his way across country to Lens, where he stayed with a Polish friend. On 28 July, his friend's house was searched, and Stephenson was taken to Arras where he was made to wash dishes for the Germans. He says that he escaped again three days later but was retaken “before reaching Lille” and made to work in a barracks. He escaped from the barracks on 25 September, and “found asylum” with a Frenchwoman at Faches (Faches-Thumesnil), a few kilometres south of Lille.
Stephenson left Faches on 26 January 1941, and says that he crossed the demarcation line near Castillon (assume Castillon-la-Bataille) on 2 February, and on arrival at Marseille, stayed first at the Mission (assume the Seamen's Mission on rue Forbin), and then at Saint Hipployte.
Stephenson's report simply says that he crossed the Pyrenees, and arrived at Barcelona where the Consul gave him a ticket to Madrid. He was arrested on the train before arriving there, and spent 12 days in prison before being released and “sent to Gibraltar for repatriation”.
This sounds so similar to L/Cpl Forster's story in Spain, that I suspect they travelled together. Richard Broad (284) reports meeting them both at Madrid on 21 April, saying they had been in the prison for some 7 or 8 days, and “so weak from lack of food they were hardly able walk”. He says that as soon as he was released three days later, he reported their situation to British Embassy officials, and food was sent in to them. Broad also reports the arrival of Louis Nouveau's son, Jean Pierre, who was travelling as a French-Canadian with the name Peter Bedard - he was also “half-starved” and soon transferred to the prison hospital. Like Broad (and his party) and Forster, Stephenson also left Gibraltar by sea for Liverpool on 8 May 1941.
Pte F Galloway (385) and Leading Seaman N S Ingram RN also escaped from Saint Hippolyte on 5 April. Galloway, an ex-coal-miner from Doncaster, with 4 years in the Regular Army, was serving with the Highland Light Infantry when he was captured“about ten kilometres east of Armentières” on 28 May 1940. On 1 June, he escaped from a POW column by jumping into a cornfield about 6 kms west of Audenarde in Belgium. He crossed back into France and headed for the coast, reaching Cayeaux-sur-Mer (NW of Abbeville), where he was captured on 19 June by a German officer who took him back to his Company HQ. Three days later, he was taken to a Brigade HQ at Crecy, where he met Pte G Robert (428) (who says they met at Lille). After a night at Crecy, they were marched to Hesdin, and then taken to Lille. On 26 June, Galloway, Robert and Spr S Charlotte (274) escaped after squeezing through some iron railings. They went to Lens, where they left Charlotte (who makes no mention of Galloway or Robert), and Galloway and Robert headed south.
Charlotte's very brief report says that after being captured at Dunkirk on 25 May, he was taken to a POW transit camp at Lille on 7 June. He walked out of the camp on 10 June, and shortly afterwards “joined forces” with Pte J B Pusey (273) at Lens. No date given when they met a Frenchman took them to Paris and straight on to Marseille but they crossed the Pyrenees from Port Vendres on 27 December. Pusey's even briefer report says that following capture at Cassel on 23 May, he escaped the following day and made his way to Bethune. He then “met” Charlotte at Lens “with whom I effected the rest of my escape through Marseille to Spain”.
Robert says that they went on foot, sometimes getting a lift, through Arras, Amiens, and Beauvais to Paris, and were “given assistance” to continue on through Melun and Auxerre to the demarcation line, which they crossed on 10 July at Chalon-sur-Saône. They reached Lyon on 13 July, where they stayed for three days before setting off for Spain. They got as far as Tournon (assume Tournon-sur-Rhône), where they were arrested that same day, and a week later, sent to Fort Saint-Jean in Marseille. Galloway was transferred to Saint Hippolyte on 5 January - Robert says February.
No details are given about their escape but it was Winwick Hewit (1063) and John Linklater who took Galloway and Ingram (about whom I have no further details) to Prats-de-Mollo. They were shown the route to take across the mountains and advised to head for Barcelona before Hewit and Linklater returned to Saint Hippolyte, and Hewit says it was after this trip that they (meaning the Organisation) sent Bruce Dowding to Perpignan, where he stayed to help people they sent from Saint Hippolyte to cross the frontier.
Galloway and Ingram crossed into Spain and got as far as Figueras before being arrested on 8 April and sent to Miranda. They were released on 28 May and sent to Gibraltar. Galloway (and presumably Ingram) left Gibraltar by sea for Glasgow on 4 July 1941.
On about 10 April, Dvr J Smith (663) escaped from Saint Hippolyte. Smith, a motor driver from Manchester, was serving with the RASC when he was captured at Saint-Valery-en-Caux. Smith (and others) was kept in a barn for two days before being marched off, and about 10 kms from Saint Valery, when the column was halted to rest, Smith and T/90820 Dvr V R Ellis, slipped into a cornfield. They stayed in the field until nightfall, and then went to a house where they were given food and civilian clothes, but fearing a German search, the two soldiers moved on. They walked by night and slept through the day, and Smith says they skirted Lens three nights later and carried on to Arras (which suggests they started out a long way north of Saint Valery) and Pommier (SW of Arras), where they had been billetted. After a week at Pommier, work was found for them about 3 kms away on a farm near the village of La Herlière, where they stayed for the next eight months, working in exchange for their “board and lodging”.
Just before Christmas, a neighbouring farmer introduced them to a girl from Bavincourt who said she could take them to a British Consul in the south of France, and on about 4 January 1941, they stayed at her house for three days while a priest took their photographs and gave them identity papers. On the morning of 7 January, the priest took them to the main road, told them to get on a bus, and to sit next to a woman in a grey coat and green hat. They duly followed the woman on the bus to a railway station, and she took them to Abbeville, and on the train, they met Cpl J R Thomas (473), who was travelling with another Frenchwoman.

At Abbeville, they were all given local identity papers that allowed them to cross out of the Zone Interdite by way of a canal footbridge, to another station where they took a train to Paris. After spending the night in a hotel near the station, they took a morning train to Bordeaux and Dax, and then an electric train to Salies-de-Béarn, and on 9 Janury, they crossed the demarcation line. Once into Unoccupied France, they walked to the nearest village and went by bus and train to Pau, and after a fortnight in Pau, went on to Marseille (24 Jan) where their guides left them. Two days later, they were arrested and taken to Fort Saint-Jean but Smith says that he found the place so filthy, he walked out again that same day, along with Pte F Royston (737).

They returned to the city where an Englishman (no details) gave them the equivalent for 4 pounds in French francs, and they used the money to stay in a different hotel each night for about a week, taking their meals at the mission (assume the Seamen's Mission on rue Forbin). They used their last 200 francs to go by train to Cannes and Monte Carlo, and later to Cette (Sète), but on finding it impossible to get a boat for Spain, returned to Pau.
At Pau, they met a man who claimed to be from the Deuxième Bureau, and could get them across the Pyrenees for 3,000 francs each. Another man, also claiming to be from the Deuxième Bureau, said they could get a boat from Cette (Sète) to Barcelona for the same price. They contacted “British friends in Marseille”, and one of them came to Pau and said that 1,000 francs would be paid immediately for the voyage from Cette, and the rest paid on arrival at Barcelona. They duly went to Cette, along with Dvr T P Green (517), Sgmn L R MacDonald (479) and 1508693 Gnr B Bicheno, where they met a clergyman who sent them to a hotel. Four days later, they were interrogated by the police about the clergyman, who had apparently been denounced. They denied everything but were arrested anyway (MacDonald says on 24 March) and sent to Montpellier, and two days later, to Saint Hippolyte.
Smith had cut through some wire at the latrine that afternoon, and slipped out of the camp that night. After waiting in vain for another (unnamed) man to follow him, Smith walked to Nimes where he was sheltered by an American - I assume this was Louis Nutter at Victor Hugo Boulevard - and a week later, another American took him to his house in Montpellier, where he rejoined Pte F Royston (737), who had been with him at Fort Saint-Jean and Saint Hippolyte, and escaped from the hospital in Nimes.
They stayed at Montpellier until early September, and after an aborted attempt to cross the Pyrenees from Laroque-des-Albères, where their guide left them in the mountains, and Smith and Royston separated, Smith tried again on about 20 September. He took a train to Perpignan and walked to Laroque, and crossed from there on 21 September. He was arrested at Figueras and sent, via Barcelona, to Miranda where he was held for eleven weeks. Smith left Gibraltar by sea for Gourock on 30 December 1941.
On about 11 April, F/O Lewis M Hodges (345) and 2/Lt John P T Linklater escaped from Saint Hippolyte. Hodges, from Cardiff, and with 5 years in the RAF, was the pilot of 49 Sqn Hampden P1347, returning from Stettin in the early hours of 4 September 1940 when they got themselves lost and ran out of fuel. Hodges says that he told his crew to bale out before he crash-landed the aircraft near Saint-Brieuc in Brittany but rear gunner, Sgt John Hugh Wyatt (280), didn't hear the bale-out order because his intercom plug had come out, and Hodges found him still in the aircraft. They were unable to set fire to the aircraft without petrol but did succeed in burning all their papers.
Hodges and Wyatt set off walking south, generally heading for Spain, using maps from the backs of calenders to make their way through Goven (SW of Rennes), where they got civilian clothes, and on to Chateaubriant. At one stage, when they were without a map, they were stoppped by gendarmes, and on showing their RAF tunics were given a new map. They continued south through Riaillé to be taken across the river Loire somewhere between Ancenis and Varades by a fisherman, then south through Cholet and south-east through Thouars to cross the river Vienne north of Chauvigny. At Antigny, the villagers took Hodges and Wyatt to a chateau owned by a French woman, married to an Englishman (assume Mme Phillips at the Chateau de l'Epine, Antigny) [M et Mme Marcel Giraudet are also listed by IS9 as living at the chateau], who gave them a complete set of clothes and shoes, some money, and put them on a bus for Limoges. From Limoges, they took a train to Toulouse, where they took another for Montréjeau (Haute-Garonne). After a night at Montréjeau, they took another train for Bagnères-de-Luchon, getting off two stops early because they were getting so close to the frontier. They were told that it would be safe to try and get a guide at Luchon but on entering the town, they were stopped by two gendarmes, who took them to the gendarmerie, and then back to Toulouse. On 1 October, they were put into a “small concentration camp” in the chateau Isle Jourdain (Montferran-Savès), where there were “30 Englishmen and 3 officers” - the other two officers being Captains Ian Garrow (1075) and Bill Bradford (382).
On 18 October, the internees were transferred to Fort Saint-Jean in Marseille, and Hodges used the opportunity to stow away on a French cargo vessel which he hoped would taken him to Casablanca. Hodges later found 4 Poles, 2 Czechs and 2 British soldiers on board who apparently had the same idea but when the boat docked at Oran, they were all “slung off the ship”, put into prison and two days later, returned to Marseille.
On his return to France, Hodges was treated as a civilian, brought before a juge d'instruction on the charge of taking passage without a ticket, and held in prison for two months. Hodges reports that the French officer in charge of Fort Saint-Jean contacted the General Staff in Marseille on his behalf, and he was let out on parole whilst awaiting trial, and at the end of January 1941, he was taken in handcuffs to Saint Hippolyte. There was correspondance between Hodges and the American Consulate-General, and Richard Broad even went to Vichy on his behalf but by April it became fairly obvious that no trial was never likely to take place, and Hodges handed in his parole in preparation for his escape.
John Linklater (who Hodges had known at school) forged four-day leave-of-absence passes for himself and Hodges, and used them to get half-price rail tickets to Perpignan. Hodges reports that Cpl (Bruce) Dowding RASC, who had been with Linklater at the camp, went with them, that he worked with Ian Garrow, and was living at the Hotel de la Loge in Perpignan (using the name André Mason). Dowding took Hodges and Linklater by taxi to Laroque-des-Albères, and showed them the way across the mountains. They were arrested near Figueras on 13 April and taken to a military prison. Two days later they were moved to Cervera but while changing trains at Barcelona, Hodges was able to telephone the British Consul-General, and he and Linklater were given permission to go and see him. The Consul gave them money, socks and food to take with them to Cervera, where they were held for two weeks before being transferred to Miranda de Ebro. Linklater remained at Gibraltar after Hodges left on an overnight flight to Mount Batten (Plymouth) on 13 June 1941.
I suspect that F/O Hodges MI9 report is a week out in the dates given as far as Figueras, and that he and Linklater escaped on 3 April - see reproduction of the four-day (3-7 April 41) leave-of-absence pass for Hodges in “Detachment W”, which was supplied by Sir Lewis Hodges for the book.
Hodges says that Linklater had been captured after the Armistice, sent to a German POW camp at Montargis, and later transferred to Marseille (Fort Saint-Jean) and Saint Hippolyte.
John Linklater, although born in Prague on 18 June 1920, was registered as a British subject at birth. He attended schools in London, and as a fluent French speaker was in France in the summer of 1939, and (with the consent of the British Ambassador in Paris) enlisted in the Czech army. He was captured (details not known) on 19 June 1940 and sent to Montargis.
205930 Lt John Philip Thomas Linklater was captured again on 15 September 1943, while serving with the Intelligence Corps, attached to 1 Airborne Division at Gioia del Colle (about 50 kms north of Taranto, Italy). He escaped four days later from a train taking him to Germany, and was eventually guided to Rome at the beginning of January 1944. The London Gazette announced his award of an MBE on 26 July 1945.
Note that future MI9 officer, James Langley (213) included a paragraph about Linklater in his March 1941 MI9 report, concluding that “It is my impression .. that this man was working for the Germans”.
Kenneth Bruce Dowding (born 4 May 1914 in Melbourne, Australia) had been in France since March 1938 - he spoke fluent French and had been working as an English tutor at the Ecole Normale in Loches. On 1 December 1939, Dowding enlisted in RASC, and as 131722 Cpl Kenneth Bruce Dowding, was captured at Boulogne (query) and taken to Frontstalag 151 at Montargis. He is believed to have escaped from Montargis on about 27 August, and certainly by the end of the year was at Fort Saint-Jean, where Gordon Laming (225) recalled (in a telephone conversation with Derek Richardson in November 2005) playing chess with him on 8 December 1940.
Montargis is in Loiret, which after the Franco-German Armistice of 22 June 1940 became part of Vichy France. My guess is that Linklater and Dowding passed themselves off as French on capture, and so were sent to Montargis (rather than Germany); and then as Allied servicemen, transferred to Fort Saint-Jean for internment.
On about 13 April, Cpl H W C Surridge (365) and Pte E J Small (372) escaped from Saint Hippolyte. Note that Sgt Reginald Blaydon (714) (see earlier) says that he made his third (and finally successful) escape with Surridge and Small on 2 April, although neither soldier mentions the airman in their reports.
Surridge, from Canterbury, with 10 years in the Regular Army, was serving with 111 AMPC when he was captured near Fleury-sur-Andelle on 14 June 1940. He says that the Germans put him into a barn but as it didn't seem to be guarded, he escaped a few hours later through a back door. He stayed in the Fleury area (Marcouville (query), Longuemare, Houville-en-Vexin and Radepont) for the next five months. In November, a doctor from Pont-Saint-Pierre gave him money for a rail ticket to Paris, and he was met on the train by a woman, “detailed by the doctor” who took him to a house near the station in Paris. Next morning, a Frenchman took them to Bourges where Surridge was given details of a route across the demarcation line. He crossed into Unoccupied France at Saint-Florent on 1 December, and went by train to Vichy (2 Dec), where the US Consul gave him 1,000 francs for his railway journey to Lyon (3 Dec). He went on to Marseille (5 Dec), where he was arrested and sent to Fort Saint-Jean, and on 15 January, transferred to Saint Hippolyte.
Pte Small, a brewery worker from Fulham in South London, was serving with 2/6 East Surrey Regiment when his company was dispersed by a German tank attack on 7 June 1940. Small says that he, Pte J Coddington (545) and 6144718 Pte W F Beale headed south together, crossing the demarcation line at Vierzon in a stolen rowing boat, and reaching Marseille on 17 July.
Coddington says that he was captured near Blagny (Blagny-sur-Breslé) on 7 June and escaped at Doullens on 20 June, along with Pte William Miller (118) and a Pte J Doyle (no record) who they later had to leave at the American hospital in Paris. He agrees crossing the demarcation line near Vierzon but says that he, Small and Beale swam across the river Cher on the night of 16 July before making their way to Cerbère, where they were arrested and sent to Fort Saint-Jean in Marseille on 24 July.
Surridge says that on leaving the camp, they followed routes given to them by two British officers at Saint Hippolyte, while Small says they were acting on instructions from 2/Lt Hewit (1063), and that 2/Lt Parkinson (611) took them as far as Perpignan, where he arranged their journey across the Pyrenees before returning to Saint Hippolyte. Neither Surridge nor Small give any more details but those arrangements in Perpignan were almost certainly made with Bruce Dowding.
Reginald Blaydon says that a British officer took them to Tarbes (sic) and Montpellier, and then on to Perpignan and Argeles. The following day, a guide led them across the mountains to Figueras, arriving there on 7 April. He says they jumped a train (presumably bound for Barcelona) but were arrested within half and hour, and returned to Figueras, where they were held in a civilian prison before being handed over to the miltary authorities.
Surridge and Small were arrested in Figueras and sent to Miranda, and both men left Gibraltar by sea for Glasgow on 4 July 1941.
On either 16 or 17 April, Pte A M'Phillips (441), Pte J S Beattie (594), Pte John Hill and Pte Charles Hill, escaped from Saint Hippolyte.
M'Phillips, a labourer from Uphall in West Lothian, was serving with 5 Bn Gordon Highlanders when he was captured at Saint-Valery-en-Caux. He escaped from a POW column near Bethune on 22 June, along with Pte Hugh Monaghan (102) from his battalion, by hiding in a ditch until nightfall. They walked to Amiens and Boulogne, and from 1 July to 16 July, lived at Saint-Martin-Choquel, near Desvres. They then walked to Amiens and Albert, and went by train to Paris, where M'Phillips lost Monaghan whilst changing trains. M'Phillips was sheltered in Paris by a Frenchwoman (no name given) until 19 August, when the woman's daughter took him by train to Tours. M'Phillips crossed the demarcation line at Courçay on 21 August after bribing a French guard. He reached Marseille on 24 August, where he was arrested and held at Fort Saint-Jean. Two days later, he stowed away on a ship to North Africa but was discovered before she sailed and served 82 days in prison before being released “on the intervention of the US Consul”. M'Phillips was returned to Fort Saint-Jean, and transferred to Saint Hippolyte on 7 January 1941.
Beattie, a labourer from Portlathen, Aberdeen, was also serving with 5 Bn Gordon Highlanders when he was captured at Saint-Valery-en-Caux. He says they were marched for two days and then taken by lorry to Doullens to continue on foot through Saint-Pol-sur-Ternois. On 22 June, Beattie escaped the POW column at Diével, along with Pte W S Donald (468), and they made their way to a farm, where they obtained civilian clothes, and burned their uniforms. They then went to Lillers, where Donald says they stayed for six weeks before “getting some bicycles” and cycled through Doullens, Amiens, Mondidier and Beauvais to Mehun, where they were recaptured. They were taken to Vierzon, and next morning to a barracks at Bourges where they spent the next three weeks sorting out clothes. Beattie says that they bribed a driver (with 100 francs) to smuggle then out of the barracks, and after crossing the river Cher (no details) and continued south to La Chatre where they “rested” on a farm for two months. They were eventually arrested by gendarmes and taken to Gueret, then Parentigat, and finally to Marseille (19 Oct), where they were held at Fort Saint-Jean before transfer to Saint Hippolyte on 7 January 1941.
Beattie says that he left the camp with a “conducted party”, and crossed the Pyrenees the following day, M'Phillips says from Perpignan. Beattie simply says that he then spent four and a half months in Spanish concentration camps, while M'Phillips says he was interned at Cervera from 21 April until 10 May, when he was transferred to Miranda, where he stayed until being released on 8 June. M'Phillips left Gibraltar by sea for Glasgow on 4 July, and Beattie left for Gourock on 1 October.
I don't know what happened to the other two men but according to the CWGC website, 22-year-old 2931521 Pte John Hill (QOCH) died on 10 May 1941 - he is buried at Cervera Cemetery, and his 26-year-old brother, 2929331 Pte Charles Hill (QOCH), died on 24 May 1941 - he buried at Barcelona (Monjuich) Cemetery.
On 17 May, 2/Lt John C S Jeffery (353) and F/O J A Whitecross (379) escaped from Saint Hippolyte.
Jeffery, a medical student from Bieldside in Aberdeenshire, was serving with 56 Medical Regiment, RA when he was captured near Coutrai on 25 May 1940. He was marched to Audenarde (28 May), and then towards Alost (29 May), being joined by a convoy of Belgians POWs. On approaching Alost (Aalst), Jeffery, a Belgian Commandant and two Captains, escaped by “dashing through a café as the column was turning a corner”. They made their way to Brussels, where the Belgians left Jeffery, but only after introducing him another Belgian captain who subsequently helped him. Jeffery rented a room in Brussels for a month while the captain tried to find a boat to cross the Channel, and then moved to a café where he stayed from 5 July until the beginning of August. The café owner became nervous, and a man who visited the café advised Jeffery to move to the Golf Club House at Waterloo. However, Jeffery found that to be occupied by Germans and went instead to the Red Cross in Brussels. The Belgian wife of an Englishman gave Jeffery 500 francs, and undertook to post a letter to his family, and for the next three weeks, Jeffery lived in another café. He then moved to a room in a private house where he stayed throughout August and September before being given shelter by a doctor.
Jeffery spent the next two months in bed recovering from the lack of food, being cared for by the doctor's wife and two daughters, and then stayed with the doctor and his family for another five months. On 28 April 1941, a French doctor living in Brussels, took him by train via Lille to Corbie, where they crossed the Somme from the Zone Interdite in a small boat. Next day, they took a train from Boves (just outside Amiens) to Paris, and straight on to Angouleme and Bonnes, about 15 kms from the demarcation line. They then walked to a farm about 2 kms from the line, an address they had been given earlier, and on 2 May, were taken across the line by two girls.
They took a train to Perigueux, where they stayed overnight, and on to Port Vendres but failing to find any kind of boat, they returned to Perigueux. They were arrested by French police at Perigueux on 9 May, and while the doctor was released (to return to Brussels), Jeffery, who disclosed himself as a British soldier, was sent to Saint Hippolyte, arriving there on 12 May.
Whitecross, from Winnipeg, Manitoba in Canada, was the pilot of 50 Sqn Hampden AD834 on the way to the La Rochelle area on the night of 28 April 1941 when they developed engine trouble, and the aircraft was abandoned to crash near Loudéac in Brittany. After landing safely, Whitecross made his way south-east through Josselin to Redon, and then through Blain to Ancenis (on the northern bank of the Loire) where he acquired civilian clothes from a farmer. He was also told that two of his crew, 543012 F/Sgt Douglas Frederick Ross and 976138 Sgt Joseph Francis O'Hare, had been killed, and that the third man, Sgt J E Martin, had suffered leg injuries and been captured. Whitecross continued on through Doue (Doué-la-Fontane), Loudun, Richelieu, Poitiers and then east through Ruffec to La Chignolle (Champniers) (4 May). He crossed the demarcation line the following day between Montemboeuf and La Rochefoucauld, “passing through a large wood in company with fifteen French refugees from Paris”. Whitecross was arrested at the first gendarme post he came to in Unoccupied France, and sent to Saint Hippolyte.
Following their escape from the camp on 17 May (no details), Jeffery and Whitecross took a train to Nimes, and then Perpignan where, in a hotel, they joined RAMC Captains F W M Plant (377) and J J McPartland (378) (who had escaped from the Val-de-Grâce hospital in Paris). All four men crossed the Pyrenees from Banyuls, with a guide, on the night of 26-27 May, and were arrested on the train to Barcelona. They spent three weeks in the Carcel Modelo before being released on 21 June. Jeffrey says that he was certified as unfit on a certificate given by Plant and McPartland, and that he reached Gibraltar on 2 June. Jeffrey left Gibraltar by sea for Glasgow on 4 June 1941, and Whitecross left by sea for Greenock on 4 July, as did Plant and McPartland.
On 20 May, Pte Frank Butters (414) escaped from Saint Hippolyte. Butters, from Invergowrie, Dundee in Scotland, with 10 years in the Regular Army, was serving with 2 Bn Seaforth Highlanders when he was captured at Saint-Valery-en-Caux. He was marched through Rouen (16 Jun), Bethune (19 Jun), Seclin (21 Jun) and Tournai (24 Jun) to Alost (Aalst) on 29 June when he escaped, along with Pte I Temperley (209) (who makes no mention of him) and Pte J Farrell (654). The three men made their way back through Tournai (3 Jul) to Lille (8 Jul), where they separated, and Butters continued on through Seclin (15 Jul) and Amiens (10 Aug) to Bourges, walking much of the way but with occasional lifts, and being sheltered at farmhouses along the way. He crossed the demarcation line on 22 August, about 13 kms east of Bourges, and was then arrested at Chateauroux. He says that he escaped from a guardroom at Chateauroux on 28 August and got as far as Montluçon before being arrested again five or six days later.
“After a week's detention” Butters and L/Cpl G Wadesley (424) stole bicycles (Wadesley says this was on 12 October) and rode through Tulle, Figac, Montauban, Tarbes and Lourdes to Argeles (Argelès-Gazost), from where they crossed into Spain. They were arrested at Jaca, Butters says this was at the end of October, sent back to France and interned in a concentration camp at Gurs, near Oloron, Basses-Pyrenees (now Pyrénées-Atlantiques) on 30 October. On 15 (query) November, they were transferred to Fort Saint-Jean in Marseille, and on 24 November, Butters and Pte J Farrell (654) (who makes no mention of this in his report) stowed away on a French cargo steamer bound for Casablanca. They were discovered shortly before the ship passed Gibraltar, and put ashore at Oran to be returned to Marseille. After serving 92 days in a civilian prison in Marseille, Butters was sent to Saint Hippolyte on 23 February.
All Butters' report says about his escape from the camp is that he went to Marseille and took a train to the Spanish border, which he crossed on 25 May. It may be assumed that he got safely to the British Consulate because he says that he reached Madrid on 28 May. Butters left Gibraltar by sea for Glasgow on 4 July 1941.
On 28 May, L/Sgt J Barrett (516) and Gnr C F Kenny (521) escaped from Saint Hippolyte.
Barrett, a former welder with 13 years in the Regular Army, was serving with 23 Field Regiment, RA when he was captured at Saint-Valery-en-Caux. He was marched across the country, passing through Doullens on about 20 June, and on 22 June, near Frevent, he escaped from a column of POWs, along with S/Sgt W J Garrett (158) and a Bdr Verncombe (no record). They headed for Quend Plage (south of Fort-Mahon-Plage), obtaining civilian clothes along the way, and on 26 June, approached Maintenay. The village “appeared to be full of Germans” and as Barrett was the only one of the three who spoke any French, he went on ahead with an arrangement to meet the other two men later - this was however, the last time that he saw them.
Garrett (a 20-year Regular who was also captured at Saint Valery) says that Verncombe decided to give himself up a few days later, and Garrett spent the next three months making his way on foot to Switzerland, arriving there on 4 September. The British Consul in Geneva arranged a false passport for him, and Garrett left Switzerland on a “Cook's Tour omnibus” which stopped for just one night in Occupied France before crossing into Spain. He was then sent, via Madrid, to Portugal, where he reported to the Military Attache in Lisbon. Garrett left Lisbon on 25 October, taking an Imperial Airways flight to Poole in Dorset.
After failing to find a boat at Quend Plage, Barrett turned inland for Colline-Beaumont, and then followed the river Authie (back) to the sea, and at Le Pont à Cailloux, found a rowing boat. He was able to get some provisions from a nearby farmhouse, and set off down the river that evening but was fired upon from a machine-gun post and forced to give himself up. He was taken to Berck for questioning, and on 3 July, taken to the Caserne Negrier barracks in Lille.
Barrett escaped from the Caserne Negrier the following day, along with 1073787 Gnr James Dawson (no record), and they decided to try once more for a boat. They made their way through Armentières, Estaires, Merville and Desvres to Boulogne, and then followed the coast westwards as far as Dives-sur-Mer, Calvados. By then all boats were under German supervision, and Barrett and Dawson settled down on a farm “in the Calvados district” where they stayed from 31 July until the following February.
On 2 February 1941, Barrett left Calvados for Paris and Bordeaux (no details given), and paid a Frenchman 500 francs to take him to the demarcation line in his car. Barrett says that he crossed the line alone some 80 kms SE of Bordeaux on 7 February before taking a train to Pau (10 Feb), and then Toulouse and Perpignan, returning later to Toulouse and then to Marseille, where he was arrested, and on 25 February, taken to Saint Hippolyte.

Kenny, a former cook with 14 years in the Regular Army, was serving with 97 Field Regiment, RA when he was captured at Saint-Valery-en-Caux. He was marched across the country, passing through Saint-Pol-sur-Ternois to Lille, where he, 1915054 Spr W Coman RE and another OR escaped on 3 July. The other OR was captured shortly afterwards, and after being given civilian clothes by local inhabitants, Kenny and Coman went their separate ways, Kenny spending “the next six months on farms near Flêtre, Bailleul and the Foret de Nieppe”.

On 15 January 1941, two Frenchmen took Kenny south, passing through Armentieres, Lille, Bruay-en-Artois, Paris and Nevers to cross the demarcation line at Sancoins (Centre) on 3 February. They then cut across country to Lyon, and took a train to Marseille, where Kenny was arrested and sent to Saint Hippolyte.

Barratt says that they escaped with Sgt Willis RAF (494) and Sgt Southerst (538) (see below), and were “guided by the organisation” over the Pyrenees. His report actually gives the date of their escape as 28 March, and that they crossed after “five weeks of hiding near Perpignan” but this last is clearly wrong. He says that they were arrested at La Junquera and spent 12 weeks in Spanish internment camps. Kenny says that he escaped with Barrett and went with him to Perpignan, where they were given instructions on how to cross the Pyrenees. They were “picked up in Spain and and spent 3 months at the concentration camp of Miranda del Ebro”. Both men left Gibraltar by sea for Gourock on 1 October 1941.
On 28 May, Sgt F G Willis RAF (494) and Sgt J Sutherst (538) also escaped from Saint Hippolyte.
Willis, a letterpress printer from Coventry with 2 years in the RAF, was the second navigator of 75 Sqn Wellington T2474 (Chuter) on an operation to Mannheim on the morning of 22 December 1940 when the aircraft crashed between Le Havre and Fécamp. Willis and second pilot Sgt C Falcon Scott (499) were wounded on landing, and while Sgts E R Chuter, H M English and A Donaldson were uninjured and soon taken prisoner, rear-gunner 40207 Sgt Alfred Henry Ritchie RNZAF was killed.
Willis and Scott were taken to a German military hospital at Fécamp. A week later, they were moved to the Ernemont Hospital (Hôpital d'Ernemont) at Rouen, and at the end of January 1941, transferred to the Henri Martin hospital in Saint-Quentin. On 3 March, the two men were moved to the Val-de-Grâce hospital in Paris, by which time Willis reports that they were convalescing, and studying the possiblities of escape.

On 20 April, wearing civilian clothes and using passes provided by two French Cross nurses, Willis and Scott walked out of the hospital main gates. They went to an address they had been given by one of the nurses, where they stayed until evening, and then took an overnight train to Poitiers, arriving early the following morning. They headed east from Poitiers to cross the demarcation line later that day, “slightly south of Fleure”, and on to Montmorrillon, where they were arrested, and later taken to Saint Hippolyte.

Sutherst, with 10 years in the Regular Army, was serving with 10 Bn Royal Hussars (Prince of Wales's Own), 1st Armoured Division when he was captured near Le Neubourg (Eure) on 11 June 1940 by two German motor-cyclists. He was handed over to a German army lorry that was heading for Doullens but escaped four days later just outside the town. He headed towards Paris but stopped for a month on a farm at Louvriers before cycling to the coast to look for a boat, passing through Rouen, Le Havre, Honfleur, Caen and Bayeux to Cherbourg before returning through Bayeux, Saint-Lo, Avranches and Saint-Malo to Saint-Brieuc, at which point he headed inland and decided to make for the south.

In early August, Sutherst crossed the demarcation line by swimming across the river Cher at Saint-Aignan, a Frenchman with a pass bringing his bicycle across the following day. He then continued on through Chateauroux, Limoges, Montauban, Carcassone, Perpignan, Narbonne, Bezieres and Montpellier to Marseille (31 Aug), where he was arrested and held at Fort Saint-Jean, and on 15 January 1941, transferred to Saint Hippolyte.

Willis says that while his pilot, Sgt Falcon Scott (499), was passed for repatriation by the MMB, he was “obliged to get out of the camp”, and crossed the Spanish border on 1 June under arrangements made by Capt “G”.
Sutherst says that he and Willis got away by scrambling through the barbed wire fence, and that they joined forces with Sgt Barrett (516) and Gnr Kenny (521) at Perpignan. They then “crossed the Pyrenees unaided, only to be arrested by the Spaniards, and to spend three months in various concentration camps”. Willis left Gibraltar by air for Oban on 4 September 1941 while Sutherst, like Barrett and Kenny, left Gibraltar by sea for Gourock on 1 October.
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