Francoise – Partis vers 18 Avril et 5 Mai 1944
In various files for Françoise Dissard, there is a list of evaders helped by her organisation in Toulouse, together with dates that one might assume referred to their departure dates from Toulouse.
This story is about six of the men from the group dated 18 April (Joseph Sutphin, Melvin Porter, Lawson Campbell, Robert Martin, Marvin Alford and Harold Garman), and all seven men (Rex Hayes, Robert Henry, Tollie Berry, Ray Hindle, John Franklin, John Betollati and Joseph Holden) in the group dated 5 May 1944. One man was captured before reaching Toulouse but the other twelve set off together from Aspet (Haute-Garonne) on 6 May - although only four of them made it safely to Spain.
This page first posted 03 Feb 2021
1/Lt Robert Arthur Martin (#724) from Bakersfield, California was the 27-year-old pilot of 448BG/714BS B-24 42-100414 which was returned from Mont-de-Marsan on 5 March 1944 when they were hit by flak and then attacked by fighters.
Radio operator T/Sgt Richard K Thalhamer (#2299) had already baled out before Martin crash-landed his aircraft (he says near Péré (Poiteau-Charentes) while bombardier Rudolf Gabrys says La Croix-Comtesse), and none of the men was injured. The nine remaining crew ran from the burning aircraft to a nearby wood where they were joined by a group of local men who told them the nearest Germans were about six kilometres away. They also suggested the airmen head south-east, and the crew ran for about a mile and a half before stopping to organise themselves. All but two had escape kits and purses, and the contents were shared out while those who had GI shoes around their necks (rather than on their feet), put them on. They also disposed of any bright coloured or excess clothing before dividing into pairs, an officer with each enlisted man – co-pilot 2/Lt Lawson Campbell with tail-gunner PFC Charles Fluckinger (#1440), navigator 1/Lt Joseph Sutphin with left waist-gunner Sgt Melvin Porter, bombardier 2/Lt Rudolf Gabrys (#2150) with top-turret gunner T/Sgt George Hunt (#2152), and Martin with right waist-gunner S/Sgt Robert Metcalf (#2153) and ball-turret gunner Sgt Earl Hostetter (#2151). They then left the wood at twenty-second intervals, all heading generally south-east across a mixture of wooded and open ground.
Martin, Metcalf and Hostetter made their way down a valley before turning east, and late in the afternoon, met a French family who told them about Germans patrolling the roads at night on bicycles but said that it should be safe enough for the Americans to go through the next village, Chizé. They ignored this last advice, bypassing the village and reaching a river (Boutonne), walking along the bank until they found a boat. They broke it away from its moorings and were about to set off across the river when two more men from their crew (Campbell and Fluckinger) joined them. Once across the river, they met a fisherman who told them to hide, and that evening returned with food, and another man who took them to a farmhouse at Brieuil-sur-Chizé, where they spent the night with a “well-to-do farmer” and resistance man.
Next morning, the farmer and two others, brought Gabrys and Hunt to join them. They were given civilian clothes and shoes, and that evening taken in a bakery truck to Chef-Boutonne, where “Captain Thomas”, who (according to Gabrys) was in charge of the French resistance, parcelled them out to different houses. Martin and Hunt were sheltered with Alphonse Grimaud on Route de Gournay, Hostetter with local miller Maurice Thomas, while Campbell, Gabrys, Fluckinger and Metcalf stayed with English-speaking schoolteacher, Mme Elise Giroux.
After nine days at Chef-Boutonne, during which time they were promised all kinds of ways out of the country, Alphonse Grimaud arranged for Gabrys, Campbell, Metcalf and Fluckinger to be taken by car to Loubillé, where they stayed with a stonemason named Atenne, who was already hiding a M. Mondineau from Paris, while Martin, Hunt and Hostetter were taken to Villemain to be sheltered with ex-army lieutenant, cultivateur Auguste Fournier.
Eight days later, they were taken by truck to Saint-Fraigne (Charente) where Martin and Campbell stayed on a farm with Mme Guy Martonneau, and Hunt and Hostetter in the town with Felix Lemerige, while Gabrys, Fluckinger and Metcalf were taken about five miles north-east of Saint-Fraigne to Souvigné, where they were sheltered with Mme Jules Lucas, a short, fat, 65-year-old lady who ran a grocery shop.
Martin says their helpers were apparently content to let the Americans stay until the end of the war, and made little effort to help them with their onward journey but he and Campbell wanted to move on, and on 29 March, they left Saint-Fraigne. The two men followed a route they had worked out over the previous week, with food and civilian clothes provided by their helpers, and using Michelin tourist maps for guidance. They were heading generally south-east, and hoped to cross the demarcation line somewhere south of La Rochefoucauld, not realising it was no longer patrolled. They followed secondary roads, spending the first night at Ausac-Viadalle, passing through Connezac (Dordogne), staying overnight at Grand-Bressac at the end of the fourth day, and walking on to Saint-Germain (Saint-Germaine-du-Salambre – query), where Campbell's finally feet gave out.
They went to the village square, and after being refused help twice, were approached by two young boys, armed and in blue uniforms. The Americans showed their dog-tags, and when told that two other Americans had stayed there for eight days, and only left two days earlier, they were able to identify them as Joseph Sutphin and Melvin Porter.
They realised they were in the hands of a resistance group when they were taken to stay overnight at a house which they were told had been attacked three earlier days by fifty Germans. They had been beaten off by the maquis, and Sutphin and Porter had taken part in the battle. As the maquis seemed to be preparing for another fight, Martin and Campbell left next morning to continue their trek south-east, and two days later reached Lunas, where they met a man who sheltered them overnight and next day while he contacted a British organisation.
That evening, a former motor mechanic arrived on a bicycle to take them to the home of the man they understood would take them across the Pyrenees, and then walked about seven kilometres north-east to the home of a wealthy family, although they only met the wife. It was too dangerous for them to stay in the house, so they were taken to another house, 300 yards away, where they were aheltered by Belgian dentist Emile Schiffelers and his English-speaking wife for the next 22 days.
During their stay, they were supplied with ID cards, and filled in a questionnaire they were told was sent to Mme Françoise in Toulouse. On the fourteenth day, a man came from Toulouse (35 years old, 5 ft 7 ins tall with a dark complexion and greying black hair) who told them he would come back to take them to Toulouse but in the meantime, there were two men being sheltered at La Force, near Bergerac claiming to be American airmen but who had only filled out part of their questionnaires. Martin said that he would be able to confirm their identities with a few questions but on the following Wednesday, the man told them he was convinced they were indeed 2/Lt Harold Garman and S/Sgt Marvin Alford. Next day, the man took them to Bergerac, where they were joined by Garman and Alford, and spent the night in a German Quartermaster's house.
Next morning, the four Americans were taken about sixty miles due east to a small station on the main line from Paris, where they got on a train for Toulouse.
S/Sgt Marvin B Alford was the left waist-gunner, and 2/Lt Harold G Garman the navigator of 445BG/703BS B-24 42-110029 (Lafferty) on an operation to Strasbourg on 1 April 1944. They were returning from the target when they were hit by flak, which stopped #4 engine, and then the others, and the aircraft was abandoned to crash near Rozoy-sur-Serre (Aisne).
Neither man has a RAMP report but the Françoise list includes a note that Alford and Garman had been brought from Sainte-Foy-la-Grande, Aquitaine by Copain (Françoise guide Rene Lamy).
“I was one of four men being moved from one town to another. We had been given identity cards. We had one guide and were on a crowded train. It was not expected that this train would be checked but at a small station, French Gestapo agents came aboard. We were standing in the aisles. As soon as our guide saw the agents, he motioned me to move into the next carriage. Two of our party [Lawson Campbell and Marvin Alford] sneaked back to the toilet and locked themselves in. I remained near the guide because I speak French well enough to answer questions about identity cards. The fourth man [Harold Garman] either missed the signal or found the passage back to the next coach blocked, for he stayed in his place. When the agent got to him he was asked for his identity card. The evader pretended not to understand so the agent, growing suspicious, asked where he was going. The evader kept up his play and finally the French agent said in English, “You do not understand”, and took him off the train. In leaving the car and walking down the platform by the window where the guide and I were watching, the evader did not by glance or word give us away.
My identity card was checked and I was asked a few questions, such as “Where are you going” and “What do you have in the package”. I answered the questions in French to the agent's satisfaction. Perhaps because of the crowded conditions or because one man had been taken off the train, the toilet in which the others had taken refuge was not checked.” (MIS-X EE-724 Martin)
Martin, Campbell and Alford arrived in Toulouse at 1345 hrs, and were supposed to leave again at 1430 hrs for Perpignan but they were met by a guide who told them the plan was changed. Martin was also asked about Sutphin and Porter, who had left two weeks earlier (12 April) for Spain, and should have arrived there on 15 April (both captured near Luchon on 21 April). Alford was taken to a house across from the German headquarters while Martin and Campbell were sheltered with florist Jean Bovis (at 15 rue Job – query). On the second night they were there, the neighbourhood was searched by German and French Gestapo but for some reason, the Bovis house (where Martin and Campbell were hiding under Jean's bed) was not searched. Next day (Friday), they were moved out of town to stay with Jean Bovis parents, and that Sunday night, there was heavy air raid on the nearby powder factory.
The address of Jean Bovis parents isn't given but Martin says they were half-way between the powder factory and an airfield, with three anti-aircraft guns in the backyard, and that he and Campbell stayed there until the following Friday.
Françoise came to see them on the day they left (Friday, 5 May), bringing John Bertolatti (#709) with her, and they saw her again at the station, along with T/Sgt Tollie Berry, T/Sgt Rex Hayes, S/Sgt Robert Henry, F/Sgt John Franklin (1945), Sgt Raymond Hindle (1946) and F/Sgt Arthur Holden (LIB/676). They were given a cache of food, and met their Pyrenees guide and a French girl at the main Matabiau station but then because of damage on the line, were taken by truck to the station at Muret, 12 kms south of Toulouse, where they took a train to Lestelle-de-Saint-Martory (Haute-Garonne).
2/Lt John (NMI) Betolatti (#709) from Danbury, Connecticut was the 21-year-old bombardier of 384BG/545BS B-17 42-37816 Big Stupe V (Heffley) which was on the way to Schweinfurt on 13 April 1944 when they were attacked by fighters. They lost two engines, and had to jettison their bombs as they fell out of formation and turned for home. They were hit by flak over Luxembourg but made it to France, losing altitude fast before crash-landing – Betolatti says close to Cornviélle near Commercy, Meuse while co-pilot Walter Mabe (#843) says 200 yards north-east of Rambucourt.
Everyone cleared the aircraft (Bertaletti was thrown through the plexi-glass nose) but pilot 1/Lt Farris O Heffley, navigator 2/Lt Louis P Carini and tail-gunner S/Sgt Glen E Alfter were wounded, and Bertolatti says he went back and gave them medical attention while the rest of the crew scattered. There wasn't much Bertolatti could do for the injured men, and there were numerous local people nearby, so he ran to a wood, which he found to be full of Senegalese from the numerous work camps in the forest. Betolatti used his language card, and the men directed him west, so he walked that way for the next five hours until meeting a woodcutter, whose family sheltered him overnight.
Next morning he was given a meal, and an old peaked cap but was otherwise still dressed in his heated flying suit over OD trousers and green shirt when he set off once again heading south-west until he came to a lime kiln. There was a woman there, working alone who immediately told everyone around who he was before a man appeared to chase them away, pointing out that such a crowd was bound to draw the attention of the four German officers who lived across the road. The man exchanged Betolatti's heated suit for an old jacket, and said he would take him to his chief. However that never happened, and Betolatti was eventually left to carry on walking alone, spending that night in a shed in an orchard. Next day, he hitched a ride on a passing truck and declaring himself to the driver who took him to a house in a city, where he was fed, and then taken to a railway station. Unfortunately Betolatti was unable to buy a ticket without identification so his friend drove him to another town (Vitry) to try his luck. The ticket lady there soon realised he was an American and called a man over who took him to a café for dinner. That afternoon (16 April), Bertolatti took a train, using the instructions that had been written down for him to change three times (including an express to Toulouse and a local train to Foix). He had also been given a blue conductor's cap, and he sat at the back of the train, next the regular conductor, a trick which failed on the second train, after which he continued as a regular passenger.
From Foix, Betolatti took a crowded bus to Saint-Girons, where he slept overnight in a barn before and setting off the following morning, walking south into the foothills of the Pyrenees. The road soon petered out to a track, and then to nothing but snow. He says he crossed two peaks before his strength gave out near Salou, and he found a road that led east, where he was stopped by three German officers. His disreputable state, lack of papers or the ability to understand French, caused them to arrest him, and he was taken (he says to the village hotel at the Port de Salau but today at least, there is no village there), where he produced his dog-tags as evidence he should be treated as an American officer. A fire was lit to warm him up while his soaking wet clothes were searched, and then he was taken by car back to Saint-Girons.
Betolatti spent three nights in a civilian jail in Saint-Girons before breaking through the crumbling wall of his cell into the corridor. He hid in another room until his escape was discovered, and then in the resulting confusion, walked out of a door onto the street.
He decided he was in no condition to try the mountains again just yet, and so headed north, following the railway line until midnight. He set off again at dawn until reaching a town where he stopped a man to check that he was on the right road for Toulouse, and spent that night sleeping in a barn. Next day, he put his “reliable old GI shoes” back on and walked to the outskirts of Seysses, where he went to a farmhouse to ask for food. Once his identity was established, he was taken in, given a meal, and his subsequent journey arranged.
One of the men at the farmhouse came from Toulouse, and said that his son spoke English. He gave Betolatti ten francs, and told him to take a bus to Toulouse, while he cycled, and would meet him at the station. They duly met up as arranged, and the man took Bertollatti back to his house. Betolatti stayed with the man (Adrien Andre Culot (born 23 March 1913) of 71 rue Bayard, Toulouse) for ten days before being taken to another house where he met some other American evaders (four of them with Campbell, and all of whom were caught). They were supposed to be taken by truck to Andorra but that didn't happen so they (including Robert Martin, who came to the house) left next day by truck to Muret where they took a train to Lestelle-de-Saint-Martory .
T/Sgt Tollie Gerald Berry was the radio operator, and S/Sgt Robert Franklin Henry the tail-gunner of 96BG/337BS B-17 42-30040 Wabbit Twacks III (Harmeson). They were on the way to Schweinfurt on 14 October 1943 when they lost #3 engine, and had trouble maintaining their place in the formation, despite droppping their bombs somewhere over Germany to reduce weight. Eventually they turned back for England but were then attacked by fighters, and the aircraft was abandoned to crash near Bar-le-Duc.
T/Sgt Rex L Hayes was the top-turret gunner of 306BG/368BS B-17 42-31245 Top Hat (Coleman) on an operation to Augsburg on 25 February 1944, when they were hit (presumably by fighters, like other aircraft shot down in that area on that day), and with no rudder control, and the tail and bomb-bay on fire, the aircraft was abandoned to crash a few kilometres south-west of Charleville-Mezieres (Ardennes).
I have no details of Hayes evasion beyond a mention by Top Hat navigator 1/Lt Louis Rodriguez (#2181), whose report says that whilst he was being sheltered at Mohon, Charleville (6-9 March), he saw Hayes, who was staying at La Francheville (just south of the town), and that a few days later, he spent two days at the Café de L'Industrie in Meziers with Hayes.
There is a note on the Françoise lists that suggests Berry, Henry and Hayes were helped by Henri Frager's “Jean-Marie” organisation but none of them have RAMP reports, and so far I have not been able to confirm that.
F/Sgt Frederick John Franklin (1945) from Luton in Bedfordshire, was three days past his 21st birthday, and Sgt Raymond Philip Hindle (1946) from Cardiff, was one day past his 30th birthday, when they took off from Tarrant Rushton in Dorset on the evening of 5 April 1944. They were the wireless operator and engineer respectively of 644 Sqn Halifax LL228 on a “special mission” to France (dropping supplies to resistance groups).
Their target is not included in their report but it does say they failed to carry out the mission due “lack of co-operation on the ground” – which I take to mean a lack of signal lights, or perhaps the incorrect signal. Whatever the reason, they were near Bordeaux on the return leg when they were hit by light flak from an aerodrome which set the starboard inner engine on fire, and stopped the starboard outer. They were at about 1.500 feet when, a few minutes later, pilot F/Lt Richard F W Cleaver (1967), gave the order for them to bale out, leaving him to crash-land his aircraft in a field near Chateauneuf-sur-Charente.
Franklin and Cantle landed close to one another in a field near a river, somewhere near Saint-Simeux, and after hiding their parachutes and flying gear, hid themselves in a hedge until the following evening. That night (6 April), they walked south through Hiersac and Saint Estèphe to Blanzac, where they called at a farmhouse. The inhabitants were members of a resistance organisation, and they gave the two airmen a meal and some civilian clothes, and allowed them to spend the night, and the following morning gave them a haversack of food and directions for a good route to follow.
On the night of 8 April, Franklin and Cantle walked to Rudeau-Ladosse, where they were sheltered overnight on a farm, and next day reached Razac-sur-l'Isle (Dordogne) where they spent the night in a building filled with disused cars and wagons. They remained there through the following day, and that night, walked to Marsaniex. At dawn, they stopped at a farmhouse where they were taken in and their onward journey arranged.
The farmer who sheltered them told them about an Englishman called Hel who had lived in France for thirty years, had a French wife and teenage son, and was living with the local Curé. Hel then took them to some nearby woods where they stayed for four days, Hel bringing them food each day. On 14 April, the Curé took them to another farm (probably near Breuilh), where a small maquis group was operating, and they stayed overnight before being taken to the main maquis camp near Creyssenac (assume Creyssensac-et-Pissot). The headquarters was in an old farmhouse, with about sixty members there, and Franklin and Hindle stayed for about ten days waiting to be taken to Switzerland. That plan fell through however, and on about 25 April, two men (probably from an escape organisation) took them by lorry to Perigueux, and a house in the centre of town (assume the Lamy home at 85 boulevard du Petit Change). They filled out a form asking for personal details, and were told they would be taken to Geneva.
Next day (26 April), Françoise guide Rene Lamy took them via Brive-La-Gaillarde to Toulouse, where they arrived that evening. They went to the suburb of Croix-Daurade, and the villa Pamplemousse at 27 Chemin Cazals, where they met Lamy's wife Andree and their three children, Claude, Marie-Louise and Annick. Franklin and Hindle stayed with the Lamy family for five days, being joined there (on 28 April) by F/Sgt Arthur Holden.
F/Sgt Arthur Joseph Holden (LIB/676) from Birmigham, was the 31-year-old wireless operator of 405 Sqn Lancaster LM345 (Logan), and he had been evading since his aircraft was shot down over Holland late in the evening of 27 September 1943. This would be his second attempt at crossing the Pyrenees.
The party for Spain which gathered at Lestelle-de-Saint-Martory comprised a number of Frenchmen, three Dutchmen, three English and seven Americans, with two guides – one named Etienne, a pilot with the French air force who had apparently already made seventeen trips over the Pyrenees. There was truck waiting for them at the station, onto which they climbed in full view of three German half-tracks, to be driven south for an hour into the hills. They were dropped off near a farmhouse, where they stayed until about nine o'clock that evening before setting off.
“The night before we left Toulouse (we believe it was 5 May) there had been a raid by the RAF, and the main station was out of use. About 1430 hrs our guide and his wife took us to the station where we met Françoise, seven Americans, three Dutchmen, and several guides. We got into a lorry outside the station and were taken to Muret, where we boarded a train for Saint-Gaudens. There (sic) we walked out of the station and got into a small private bus that was waiting for us. We spent that night at a small farm near Aspet, and here we were joined by some French men and women and two guides – a man and a woman.
We started walking about 2200 hrs (6 May) in pouring rain. We marched all through the night and next day until 1600 hrs. By this time we ran into snow, and our guides, who were to have taken us over a certain pass, left us after giving us directions to continue our journey. We spent the night in a cavern and in the morning (8 May) the French people left us and our party split up. An American second lieutenant [John Betolatti] came with us and we made for Melles, where we arrived about 0700 hrs. We remained there until dark and crossed into Spain at 2200 hrs (8 May).
We walked on to Bossost and spent that night in an empty farm. At dawn we spoke to a Spaniard who advised us to give ouselves up to the Spanish police who, he told us, would look after us well and pass us on to the British authorities. Accordingly we went to the police station and gave ourselves up. We were not interrogated but sent to a hotel, where we remained for a day and a half. We were then taken under escort to Viella (Vielha) where we met 1/Lt Martin USAAF, who told us that the remainder of the party had taken the main road from Melles into Spain and, with the exception of himself, they had all been caught by the Germans. Here we were searched but not interrogated beyond filling in a form which asked only for personal datails.
Our journey was then Viella (four days) – Sort (two days) – Lerida (five days) – Alhama (four days) – Madrid (three days) and Gibraltar.” (WO208-5583-1945/1946 Franklin & Hindle)
“During my second crossing we were badly delayed by the poor physical condition of one of the party. Then we were caught in a snow storm, and the guides got lost. By the time we got back to the trail, we could not make the final pass before the arrival of a German patrol. At the top of a mountain, they told us to follow a river in the valley, and then deserted us. We reached the river and followed it to a highway. Here the party split, some of the men followed the highway. I thought this much too dangerous, and set off with two Englishmen along the mountains paralleling the road. It was hard going as the mountains kept forcing us down to the road, and it was torturous getting up again. It was with a great relief that we finally stumbled past Franco's picture into Spain.” (MIS-X EE-709 Betolatti)
“I crossed the mountains in a party that included a woman. The rest of the party were not pleased about this but the reasons given us were sufficient and we carried her pack. We started up the first mountain at midnight, in heavy rain, and twenty minutes later the woman had given out and was being carried. The guides got lost and we backtracked until we picked up the right trail. At 0700 hrs we got our first break in the climb and were told we were only 7 km from the first pass. One of the Americans [Campbell] was wearing new shoes, and his feet were a very bad shape. We had to cut the shoes to relieve the pressure of the swelling. During a half-hour break we were revived by Benzadrine tablets. Now we started for the pass but with only a hundred yards covered, the woman gave out again.
We crossed the snow-line, and it began to snow, soon turning into a blizzard. We took another break in a shepherd's cabin and tried to persuade the woman and a guide to stay behind so she could be taken down the valley into a village but she would not give up. At the top of the pass we were all in very bad shape. The first group reaching the top waited thirty minutes for the woman to be dragged up the mountain.
It was only 2 km to the border, our guide said. The guides set a fast pace and in thirty minutes were lost. For six hours we stuck to the guides and by that time we were strung out with a much as a mile between the first and last elements of our party. It was not impossible to follow the trail in the snow however. This went on all day, and when the storm let up we were on a ridge with a small village [Melles] in sight far at the other end of the valley. By checking our maps we thought we must be 15 km from the pass. We followed the ridge for 3 km until we came to the edge of a box canyon. All the party had caught up except the woman and man [a Dutch attorney] who was trying to help her. A guide went back to look for them and returned to say that they had found a cabin at the top of the mountain. The woman was dying. We found a cabin to sleep in.
The next morning the guides wanted us to go back up the mountain to get the woman. None of us were in any condition to go back. The evader whose shoes had been cut open had frozen and bleeding feet. After questioning the guides about the woman we discovered her trip had only been for a visit to her husband in Algiers and not necessary. We left our guides here, they were to go back for the woman and we to continue on our own. We had half a day's rations left.
To get into Spain we had to go either over another mountain or down the valley. We asked a woodsman about Germans and were told that the highway and valley were carefully patrolled. Our party split here. Half [John Betolatti, Ray Hindle and John Franklin] decided to try the mountains and I went with the group [Lawson Campbell, Tollie Berry, Robert Henry, Rex Hayes, Marvin Alford and Arthur Holden ] down the valley. It was then 1900 hrs. We ate the last of our food, waited quietly until 2200 hours, and started crawling through the brush, following the stream that flowed through the valley towards the border.
I was leading the party. We travelled carefully for two km and had reached a steep hill which we skirted by crawling in a ditch next to some railroad tracks. We kept at least 100 feet from each other. I had just reached the end of the ditch when I heard a scuffling sound. Above me on the side of the hill I could see a patrol coming down the hill towards us. I signalled the man behind me to get down and then dug myself into the mud. I waited and waited and heard the three soldiers when they passed about ten feet away. They were about fifty yards beyond me when I heard a rifle bolt click and a challenge called. I was afraid to look around. Then I heard one of the soldiers ask “Can you speak English?” and one of our men said yes. I turned my head enough to see the others were bunched together. They had not separated enough when the alarm was given, and judging by the fact that most of the mud was on their knees and hands, I figured they must not have lain down.
I heard them being marched down the road toward the village and waited about ten minutes before I started edging forward again. I rested in a meadow under some logs and found that the patrols passed in opposite directions about every forty minutes. From there I got into a grove of trees and waited until another patrol passed. First I had gone up the side of the hill overlooking the fatal ditch and called softly to see if anyone had been missed. The patrols were walking along in a casual manner, sometimes talking but never looking into the fields and brush. About 0300 hours I got within sight of a guarded bridge.
I slept in some brush on the hillside rather than risk stumbling into guards in the dark now that I had gotten this far. I was awake at daylight. The guards on one end of the bridge were German and on the other end Spanish. Heavy lumber trucks were crossing every two minutes.
I crawled through a ditch to within twenty yards of the bridge and hid behind a waterfall at the edge of the road. I waited until trucks were being checked at both ends of the bridge, then hopped over the rail and crawled across to a ditch that ran along the base of a cliff and highway. By crawling low in this ditch I got by the Spanish guards while another truck was being checked and then ran for several kilometres and stopped at a farmhouse [or a village and the first hotel he came to]. The friendly Spanish woman advised me to get rid of any compromising articles before turning myself over to the Spanish police. She told me to not say that I was an American aviator but an American escaped from a prison camp. She had an idea I would get better treatment as an escaping American civilian than as an airman.” (MIS-X EE-724 Martin)
The woman said she would take care of his personal possesions, and a man turned Martin over to the police. He was questioned before returning to the hotel, where he was joined by one of the Dutchmen who had gone over the mountain, and they stayed overnight (9 May) at the hotel. The following morning, Martin (and presumably the Dutchman) was taken to Vielha, where he received medical treatment, and called the American Consul. Next stop was Sort (where he, Franklin, Hindle and Betolatti (and three Dutchmen - Frans Simons, Dr Jacques Van Goor and Frits Van Os) are recorded as arriving on 15 May) and then on to Lerida, where Martin (at least) met Robert Garcia from the US Consulate, and Alhama.
John Franklin (1945) and Ray Hindle (1946) left Gibraltar on 5 June by overnight flight to Whitchurch (Bristol). John Betollati (#709) and Robert Martin (#724) arrived Gibraltar on 5 June, and left by overnight flight to the UK on 7 June 1944.