Françoise – Partis vers 12 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 refer to their departure dates from Toulouse. This article covers two such groups, which although listed together and dated 12 May 1944, actually formed and crossed into Spain quite separately. The first group (Arden Brenden, Wallace Trinder and Herman Hermanson) set off from Saint-Gaudens and crossed to Les in Spain, arriving there on 12 May. The second group (Milton Ramsey, Robert Montgomery, Walter Meldrich, Harry Bisher, Frederick West and Frederick Greenwell) set off from Montréjeu on 14 May, arriving at Les on 17 May.
This page first posted 10 Aug 2022 - updated 8 Jan 2023
Brenden, Trinder and Hermanson
S/Sgt Arden N Brenden (#749) from Starbuck, Minnesotta was the 22-year-old left waist-gunner of 92BG/407BS B-17 42-31022 (Starks) which was on the way to Munich on 16 March 1944 when they were attacked by fighters. Brenden saw the left wing on fire and tried to notify the pilot but the intercom was dead, and then he heard the bail-out bell. Brenden left the aircraft at 23,000 feet, delaying his jump to about 5,000 feet before pulling the rip-cord, and landing near a barn about two kilometres from Ponthion (Marne).
A group of people had gathered, and as Brenden fractured a bone in his foot on landing, one of them advised him to surrender but he says he snatched a stick from the ground and crawled into a patch of woods that the other people directed him to. Brenden stayed in the wood for three hours, watching as German motorcyclists patrolled the road, and at five o'clock that afternoon, three women (a mother and her two grown-up daughters) came close to the wood, pretending to pick flowers. Brenden decided they were looking for him, and having made himself known to them, they fetched food and bandages, and said they would come back later that evening. After dark they returned, bringing a man (a 35-year-old plasterer) who took Brenden to a hut in the woods where he stayed for the next two days, being supplied with food, medicine and civilian clothes. Because his foot was so swollen, he was unable to put one of the shoes on and so converted one of his electrically-heated boots to cover it. On the evening of the second day, another man brought Sgt Trinder to the hut.
S/Sgt Wallace A Trinder (#750) from Shrewsbury, Massachussetts was the 27-year-old right waist-gunner of B-17 42-31022, and he followed Brenden out of the aircraft, also delaying his jump, and landing about 300 yards from him. Trinder hurt his back on landing but managed to get into some trees where he hid his parachute, and stayed there until dark. That evening, he crossed a field and swam a river to a swamp where he soon met a man cutting wood who immediately realised what he was, and hid him, soon returning with food and civilian clothing. Trinder spent the rest of the night in the swamp before using his compass to head off south-west, acquiring food from a lone worker at lunch-time, and spending that night in a wood. Up early next morning, Trinder carried on until about noon when he asked a man in a field about the local Germans and whether it was safe. The man (a friend of the plasterer who had helped Brenden) gave him rough directions but after Trinder had walked about 100 yards, called him back and led him to the hut where Sgt Brenden was sheltering.
That night, two of their helpers brought cigarettes and wine but next day, the plasterer ran in to say that Germans were coming into the wood. He took the two Americans to a river and told them to follow it to the village of Ponthion where, after becoming lost whilst trying to find a way around it, they sat in a clump of trees and waited to try and find someone alone they could approach. That afternoon, they were spotted by a man and woman who directed them to a bridge near the village, where they met the woman (Mme Fernande Meyer). She led them around the village to a wood and said she would come back later, and when she did, brought a young man, and they took the Americans to her farmhouse, where she lived with her 12-year-old daughter Jacqueline.
Brenden and Trinder were sheltered at the Meyer farmhouse for 22 days, Brenden's injured foot being treated by an elderly veterinarian; a Red Cross woman and a young man named Gaston helping but it was the 60-year-old village butcher (Maurice Fetu or Louis Lionel – query) who managed to contact an organisation for them.
On 22 April, a friend of the butcher, a heavy-set man, aged about 35, an ex-tank sergeant who owned a garage in Vitry-le-Francois, took Brenden and Trinder to stay with Charles Perrin and his wife in Vitry-le-Francois – Charles being a designer of farm machinery, previously a lieutenant in the French army and living in Grenoble, he and his wife were very active in the resistance. The contact man with Paris was the local barber, a tall, slim young man with dark curly hair, and he told the Americans that three of their crew were being sheltered somewhere outside Vitry, and that two others had been captured in the town.
After a week in Vitry, Mme Perrin took Brenden and Trinder by bicycle to Chalons-sur-Marne, where a Doctor Dabout (assume Dr Babou) (a TB specialist and hospital director) was chief of the local organisation, and two sisters, Georgette and Andrée (both in their twenties, and both husbands PW) took them to their dress shop. The two Americans spent the night at the dress shop, and the following night were taken to stay in a vacant house on the outskirts of town, opposite the two girls parents house (assume Bernard and Ferdinand Leclaire at 1 rue du Consistoire) who brought them food for the twelve days they were there.
Doctor Babou brought a man from Vitry-le-Francois to see them (Claire or Collaire) (assume Louis Collard of rue du Flocmagny). He had been an observation pilot with the RAF, captured at Dunkirk but subsequently escaped and was then the principal of a boy's training school in Vitry. He was about 35 years old, married with three sons; an accomplished organist whose father owned a champagne firm in Epernay.
After twelve days at the vacant house, Brenden and Trinder were taken back to the dress shop, where they stayed for three days until Andrée took them by train to Vitry-le-François. They were met by a 20-year-old pupil of Louis Collard who took them to the cottage where Collard stayed whilst teaching at school, and Doctor Babou came and gave them 6,000 francs.
Next day, two young men with instructions from Louis Collard, took them by train to Toulouse, and the home of M. Collaine (at 14 rue Temponières), a tall man with a wooden leg who was vice-president of the Juniors Employment and Benefit Organisation. There they met Gaston Lejeune and his English wife Joan who took them back to their house at 13 rue Hélène Boucher, Montaudran. At the Lejeune home, Brenden and Trinder met “The Captain”, an elderly Frenchman who spoke both English and German. Gaston was apparently going to send them out with the Dutch-Paris organisation but when they returned to M. Collaine, they were taken on by a French organisation.
A gendarme in plainclothes arrived at the Collaine house the following day to give Brenden and Trinder labour certificates before putting them on a truck with three more gendarmes (also in civilian clothes but armed) and driving to Saint-Gaudens (Haute-Garonne). They were taken to a farmhouse, where they shared with a French captain of the Chasseurs Alpine who had escaped from a German prison camp, and received a visit from a man known as Frisco (this was American-born Joseph John Barrère of Loures-Barousse). After six days at the farmhouse, Frisco took them by truck back to Saint-Gaudens where they picked up Sgt Herman Hermanson and a Frenchman, and then took them to another farmhouse where they were joined by two armed guards, and on to a village where they joined two Englishmen and several more Frenchmen.
Sgt Herman F Hermanson (#751) from Austin, Texas was the 21-year-old top-turret gunner of 388BG/561BS B-17 42-30207 Big Red which on the way to Bordeaux on 27 March 1944 when his turret jammed, flames shot out of the turret motor and spread rapidly. Navigator 2/Lt John J Carroll (#753) says the bombardier (2/Lt John R Luzell) reported that the bomb-bay was on fire but neither man seems to know what happened. Hermanson didn't hear pilot 2/Lt Julius Lederman sound the bail-out bell but saw the co-pilot (2/Lt Waite D Law) leave the ship, and followed him out.
They were at about 15,000 feet when Hermanson jumped, his parachute opening before he was aware of pulling the rip-cord, his descent not helped by him not fastening his parachute to his harness properly, which meant he couldn't control his descent as he landed about 8 kilometres north of La Roche-sur-Yon (Vendée), in a pool of water at the base of a tree, with his chute tangled in the branches.
There were several men waiting for him, and they pulled him out of the water, cut off his harness and threw a civilian coat over him. Hermanson hesitated about being taken towards some houses where there was a group of people so his helper took him to a cave on the side of a hill instead, where he remained overnight. Next morning, an older man brought him food and civilian clothes, and said he would be back the next day. When the man duly returned, he led Hermanson to a road where he had hidden two bicycles, and they rode to his office in La Roche-sur-Yon where they met a dark, bald, English-speaking man. The man questioned Hermanson carefully before telling him that three members of his crew were in hospital, and that one of them looked Asiatic (Hermanson thought this was probably bombardier 2/Lt John R Luzell), and then took him back to his house for the night. Next morning, the man gave Hermanson a knapsack of food, bought him a ticket and put him on a train to Bordeaux.
Hermanson's helper had told him he would be met at Bordeaux but after waiting at the station for several hours, Hermanson bought himself a ticket for Langon (writing his request to the ticket seller on a piece of paper). Hermanson had already been warned there were Germans in the town, and so got off at the station before Langon with the intention of crossing the demarcation line on foot, and then because it was getting dark, walked out into the countryside to spend the night. He continued on next morning until confronted with a river (Garonne) but then found a man with a boat who instantly realised Hermanson was American and ferried him across. The man also gave him instructions on the best way to cross the line (at Verdelais), which Hermanson followed “with complete success” before making way to the town of La Réole. Hermanson then repeated his deaf and dumb routine to buy a train ticket for Toulouse, and after waiting until the ticket office there opened, bought another ticket to Saint-Gaudens. Hermanson set off walking, passing through Aspet to Sengouagnet, planning to carry on across the mountains, however the height of the mountains ahead, the snow and his lack of suitable footwear convinced him to return to Aspet, where he fell asleep in some undergrowth.
He was found by Jean Marie Dispet, who ran a restaurant on the main street in Aspet, Theophile Mora (an ex-locomotive engineer) and Marceline Cazalbou, and they called Pierre Bouigue, aged about fifty-five, who spoke English having once lived in London. Pierre Bouigue and his son Leon sheltered Hermanson in their home just north of the town at Balijon for the next five weeks, with help from the Mora, Cazalbou and Felicien families. Finally, they heard about two Americans in Saint-Gaudens, and Marceline's 19-year-old son Marcel, a schoolboy who worked in an organisation with his schoolmaster, took Hermanson to a point on the road where Frisco (Joseph John Barrère) was waiting for him in a car, along with Sgts Arden Brenden and Wallace Trinder, and a 22-year-old Frenchman named Jacques Bertrand, who crossed with them.
At 0200 hrs on 11 May, the party of twelve (including the guides and three Americans) set off walking, and by 1800 hrs reached a high cliff about half a mile from the border. After resting, they carried on, strung out in single file until about 300 yards from the border when they were fired upon by German soldiers below. Their guards returned fire and drove the Germans off while the rest of the party crawled over the cliff. The whole party arrived at Les in Spain at 0300 hrs (on 12 May), and a hotel where the woman in charge hid their valuable before they turned themselves over to the Spanish police. They were kept at the hotel in Les for three days before being taken to Viella for a week, and then on to spend a night at Sort (where they and Jacques Bertrand are recorded as arriving on 18 May). Next day they went on to Lerida, where they were held for 16 days before spending three days at Alhama de Aragon.
On 12 June, the American Military Attaché took them to Gibraltar, and on the evening of 14 June, Trinder, Brenden and Hermanson left by overnight flight to RAF Whitchurch, just south of Bristol.
Ramsey, Montgomery, Meldrich, Bisher, West and Greenwell
F/O Milton Herman Ramsey (#747) from Grandview, Washington was the 23-year-old pilot of 78FG/82FS P-47 42-22463 Apple Knocker (a reference to his rural upbringing) on an escort mission to Frankfurt on 29 January 1944 when his flight was attacked by enemy fighters. After extended low-level action, Ramsey escaped into cloud cover before being attacked again, and then found he was running out of fuel. He pulled up to about 4,000 feet, rolled his aircraft onto its back, and bailed out, pulling his ripcord as he entered the clouds, and landing “easily” in a ploughed field near Deulémont (Nord).
Ramsey ran towards a farmhouse, and a woman on a bicycle told him to hide in the barn. The woman went into the house while a crowd who were following Ramsey, went in after her. Ramsey knew this was a mistake, and set off jogging along a lane for about four kilometres before cutting across a field. On the far side of the field, someone on a bicycle (Clothilde Noyez) directed him to an old blockhouse that had built by the Germans during the First War, and a young man brought him some civilian clothes. That evening, people began arriving with food, Ramsey quickly realising that so many visitors were very bad security but then the young man came back and took him to a farm several kilometres away, from where his journey was arranged.
The farm was near Quesnoy-sur-Deule (Nord-Pas-de-Calais) and belonged to M et Mme Auguste Hazebroucq, with Ramsey being sheltered there, and also with siblings Louis, Paul and Jeanne Renard on their farm, for three days until 1 February. It was Mlle Sophie Vervisch who contacted another young lady, Mlle Georgette Prevost (of rue d'Ypres, Quesnoy-sur-Deule), who took Ramsey by train to La Madeleine, and then by tram to Tourcoing. Mlle Prevost delivered Ramsey to Jean and Adolphine Delarue (née Englebert 4 April 1897) at 32 rue du Tonkin, Ramsey spending his time between them and their neighbours, Adolphe and Germaine Castelain-Hennion, while Jean Delarue tried to find an organisation that would help him.
Finally, on 28 March, a large, dark-haired, 40-year-old man named Eugene Hegedos (aka Antoine – he was the regional chief of Bordeaux-Loupiac-Zone-Nord) took Ramsey to Lille, where he spent the night in the man's apartment at 38 rue Jean Bart. Next day, Hegedos friend Georges Varieras (aka Maurice), took Ramsey back to Tourcoing to stay with reserve capitaine (and Bordeaux-Loupiac agent) Fernand Jean Vanaerde and his family (including dog Ketty) at 27 boulevard Gambetta where he joined Lt-Col Robert Montgomery.
Lt-Col Robert P Montgomery (#746) from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania was the 27-year-old pilot of 20FG/77FSHQ P-38 42-68036, on a bomber escort mission to Frankfurt on 11 February 1944, and chasing an Me-109 over northern France when his right engine failed (he says it threw a rod). As he dived, he tried to close on a B-17 that was being attacked by a Fw-190 but with no power or speed, was forced to bail out at low-level, his parachute being holed by burning fuel from his aircraft.
He was knocked out on landing, and dragged across a field by his parachute until a group of local men came to help. They managed to get the message across that Germans were on their way, and two boys took Montgomery for more than a mile, Montgomery having to stop at one point to inject himself with morphine to ease the pain in his sprained right knee. The boys left Montgomery on the outskirts of a village, indicating that he should go there but he opted to walk around the village (he was still in uniform), heading east and avoiding a second village (Gommeignes) until meeting a young man in an orchard. The man took him back to his house, gave him food and some old civilian clothes that Montgomery put on over his uniform, and hid him in a barn for the next two days while his journey was arranged.
On 13 February, a woman named Wattu took Montgomery back to her house in Gommeignes. Montgomery stayed with Mme Wattu until 8 March, when he was taken by bicycle to Sebourg where the chief gendarme took him to a house just outside the village. Montgomery stayed with a man named Pierre Decke who gave him 2,000 francs, and exchanged the Belgian money from his escape purse for French francs, while Montgomery turned over his ring and wrist-watch.
On 27 March, Pierre handed Montgomery over to a 45-year-old man who took him by bus to Valenciennes, from where a young lady (tall, about 27 years old, married, very attractive, her husband was in trouble with the Gestapo) took him to Lille, where she knew an English professor who taught at a girls school, and they had lunch together. Montgomery met “Antoine” (Eugene Hegedos), and stayed that night and next day in his apartment, before “Maurice” (Georges Varieras) took him by tram to Tourcoing to stay with a French captain named Vanaerde, where he was joined next day by Milton Ramsey.
Ramsey and Montgomery stayed with the Vanaerde family until the evening of 19 April, when the door-bell rang, and the Gestapo arrived. The family had planned for this possibility, and the two Americans made their way to the roof of the three-story building while German agents searched the house. An hour later, a young boy came and told them the Vanaerde family had been arrested, and that two Germans had stayed to guard the house. The Americans climbed through a skylight to hide in a store-room, and then waited until morning before sneaking down the stairs and making their way to the nearby home of Jean Vervenne at 35 rue Famelart. Next day, they moved to 353 rue Blanc Seau, home of Rene Lecocq, an English professor at a local boys school, whose son was active in the resistance.
Fernand Jean Vanaerde (born February 1892) and his wife Celeste Emilienne (born September 1899) were arrested at their home on 19 April 1944, along with their daughter Gisele Yolande (born August 1921) and son Jean Francois (born July 1924). Fernand Vanaerde was deported to Germany in September 1944 and liberated from Dachau on 29 July 1945. The family are credited with helping at least twenty Allied evaders, and Fernand Vanaerde was recommended for a KMC.
On 1 May, Mme Helene Himpe (born 5 December 1888) took Ramsey and Montgomery, collecting 2/Lt Walter Meldrich (#744) from a printing shop along the way, to her home at 135 rue du Chêne Houpline in Tourcoing, where they joined 1/Lt Harry Bisher (#745).
2/Lt Walter Alex Meldrich (#744) from Aberdeen, Washington was the 21-year-old bombardier of 303BG/358BS B-17 42-39807 Nero which was returning from Hamm in Germany on the evening of 22 April 1944. They had struggled to keep up with their formation on the way out out, and lost two engines as they turned away from the target. It soon became obvious they wouldn't be able to get back to Engand, and when the other two engines began to fail, pilot 2/Lt John R Seddon (#1484) gave the order for his crew to bail out.
Meldrich jumped at about 14,000 feet, delaying until about 4,000 feet before pulling his rip-cord, and landing in a wheatfield near Inglemunster, Belgium. He saw people running towards him and so abandoned his parachute and headed south-west until meeting a farmer who hid him in a rabbit pen. That night, the farmer took Meldrich into his house, gave him a meal and some civilian clothes. After a night in the rabbit pen, Meldrich located himself on his cloth escape map and set off south using his compass until reaching the outskirts of a small town (Courtrai – Kortijk) near the French border. He saw a German guard checking papers and so ran behind some houses, then stopped to ask a woman for a drink of water. She took him through her house and let him out the front door but on seeing more guards, Meldrich went to another house and declared himself to the woman there as an American aviator. The woman was afraid that he was a German agent, and called her neighbours, one of them a man who spoke some English. When Meldrich finally managed to convince them that he was a genuine evader, he was given food and then taken to a place from where his journey was arranged.
His basic report seems to have a skipped a bit, and I think Meldrich crossed the border and walked to Neuville-en-Ferrain, where he saw people being stopped for their ID papers. He then turned off the road and cut through some gardens before asking an elderly woman for a drink of water, and it was there that he was let through the house. The woman then called a young man named Jean Fevriet (query scribbling). I don't know where Meldrich spent that night but next day (23 April), Jean brought a man named Louis Vantyghem (who lived in Neuville, and worked in Tourcoing) to see him. I think that Meldrich stayed with Louis Vantyghem until 1 May when he was taken to a printing shop in Tourcoing, where he was told that he would be going to Toulouse with Montgomery and Ramsey.
Unfortunately, the remainder of Meldrich's story is concealed in MIS-X interviewing officer 1/Lt Donald Emerson's trade-mark scrawl, from which further details are extremely hard to extract.
1/Lt Harry Elmo Bisher (#745) from Arlington, California was the 22-year-old pilot of 20FG/55FS P-38 42-67923, and on 4 March 1944 was returning from an aborted bomber escort mission to Berlin when his left engine failed. He managed to stay above the clouds for a while, and then because he was close to the coast, decided to head towards the Straits of Dover. Then his right engine began to fail, and just as he was gettting ready to leave, an enemy fighter attacked him. Bisher rolled his aircraft and bailed out, delaying his jump to about 2,000 feet, and landing near Saint-Léger in Belgium.
Bisher sprained his ankle on landing, and before he could get out of his parachute harness, was surrounded by people asking if he was an American. When he said that he was, they promised to help but he had to do exactly what they told him because there were a lot of Germans in the area.
Bisher was hidden in some straw in a field but then a man (Jean Lafevre – query) ran up and took Bisher to a house where he was given civilian clothes, taking them with him as he was rushed by bicycle to some other people who seemed to waitiing for him. Bisher managed to change clothes along the way, and on arrival was questioned very carefully before having his face washed and taken, again by bicycle, to a place (I believe he was sheltered by Hector Windells, aged 53, and his 51-year-old wife, in Warcoing) (Bisher also mentions Evregnies) where his journey was arranged.
Like Meldrich, the remainder of Bisher's story is also concealed in Donald Emerson's scrawl, from which details are equally hard to decipher.
We only have Montgomery's account at this stage, and he says that next day (2 May), Mme Himpe (who didn't speak very much English) took the four Americans (Ramsey, Montgomery, Meldrich and Bisher), to Lille , where they stayed overnight in a hotel before taking a morning train to Paris. They arrived in the capital at about two o'clock that afternoon, and after sitting in a park until six, travelled third-class on an overnight train to Montauban. Mme Himpe left them in a park while she contacted some friends - Montgomery says that Mme Himpe was not connected to any organisation but knew lots about them [In a post-war interview, Françoise Dissard names Jules Himpe (of 2 avenue Gambetta) as a contact in Montauban who brought evaders from Tourcoing]. Because the Gestapo were so active in the town, the four Americans spent that night in Mme Himpe's hotel room, and while Ramsey, Meldrich and Bisher were soon moved elsewhere, Montgomery stayed on with her for another three days before joining two young boys in a delapidated farmhouse.
I think that Ramsey stayed with M and Mme Georges Puig, two professors who lived at 13 rue d'Elie in central Montauban while Meldrich and Bisher first went to stay with Alix Renard at Le Coteau, Beausoleil Bas Montauban, before Bisher was moved to 40 Faubourg du Moustier to be sheltered by Mme Marie-Rose Gineste.
On 11 May, Mme Himpe took them all by train to Toulouse (their tickets being the only thing they paid for – she told them to give the rest of their money to the resistance), where they were handed over to another woman, who took them to an apartment, two blocks from the station where other Americans had stayed before, with a 50-year-old, ruddy-faced man who spoke English. Next day, they were split up, Montgomery and Bisher staying together, and in the morning, to another apartment for meals. Montgomery reports Mme Françoise coming to see them before they left Toulouse, and told them to contact “(Donna Maria)”.
At 8 pm on 12 May, they were split into two groups, and a tall thin man, aged about 37, took Montgomery and Bisher, while Ramsey and Meldrich were taken by a girl, on a four-hour train ride, getting off at a stop (not a station) where they joined a Frenchman and 2/Lt Frederick West – about ten of them in all getting off the train.
2/Lt Frederick Warren West (#748) from Wilkes Barr, Pennsylvania was the 29-year-old pilot of 55FG/338FS P-38 42-67738, flying a morning escort mission to Metz on 24 March 1944. Approaching the target, West and Red Flight Leader, Lt Ernest W George (flying P-38 42-67467), were dropping their belly tanks but West's tanks failed to release. When he reached for the mechanical release, he lost sight of the other aircraft, and thinking it was directly below him, turned just as George's aircraft pulled up. West collided with the tail of the other aircraft, cutting through the right boom, and went into a spin, losing about 10,000 feet of altitude before pulling up and stalling, at which point he bailed out.
West made a good landing between two trees in a wood, and after hiding his parachute and Mae West, set off walking, and sometimes crawling, to the edge of the wood, where he hid in a hole in the side of a ditch, camouflaging his position with leaves and branches. A couple of hours later, two girls appeared in the wood, and West whistled to them. West asked if they had a father or brother in the resistance, and one of them said she bring her father to see him that evening. Several hours later, two men arrived, one wearing a beret, whistling in an attempt to find West, and despite West keeping silent, eventually found his hiding place. They had brought him bread, sausage and whiskey, and he soon learned that the his journey had already been arranged.
The man in the beret was Camille Guyot (of Delouze-Rosières, Meuse), a communist who had escaped twice from Germany, and was well known in the district for his resistance activities. Camille said he had tried to rescue Lt Ernest George, and dress his wounds but the Germans arrived and he only just got away. He kept contact with Lt George after he was taken to the hospital, had an ID card ready for him, and hoped to steal him out of hospital and start him on his way a few days after West left. Camille was in the shoe business, which kept him travelling, and had a car to use when he had fuel - his wife was expecting a baby. The other man was a Pole who had taken refuge with a French family named Jonet (query writing), and once it got dark, West was taken to the Jonet home in Delouze-Rosières (Meuse), where he was given civilian clothes, and spent the night.
Next day, Camille Guyot arrived at the house with an ID card, expecting West to set off straight away but he wanted to stay for a few days while he memorised his phrase card and story. Camille agreed, and took West to the home of Marius and Lena Pozzi, where he stayed for the next 28 days. The Pozzis lived in Delouze-Rosières with Marius sisters Yolande and Carmele, his mother and two little brothers, one of whom was named Jean. Marius was an impoverished wood-cutter but everyone in the neighbourhood chipped in to help keep West, especially a Mme Soldette (query writing) who brought books and food, and whose son and his wife were in the resistance. Once, to throw people off the scent, Camille convinced them that he was taking West away, and they spent the whole day away trekking.
Around 14 April, a man named Remy, a minor worker in espionage and sabotage, came from Nancy with a mimeographed sheet with questions asking for name, rank, ASN, Squadron, Group and what had happened, which after talking with Camille, West filled in. On 20 April, Jules Monnier (query writing), Pozzi's employer, who was thought of by the Germans as a collaborator, took West to his "imposing” home for the night. He gave West champagne, food, clothes and 4,000 francs – West having left 1,000 francs under his pillow chez Pozzi.
On 21 April, Monnier gave them his truck; Marius drove and Camille came along for the ride. The truck was loaded with wood and West was hidden in the middle, Monnier making them swear in blood that if the Germans stopped them, the two Frenchmen would fight while West took off. They went to an apartment in Nancy where a student named André (a tall blond, about 23 years old with moustache and glasses) put him in a room to wait for Remy , who arrived that afternoon with his fiancé, “a little doll named Jeannette”, who was also in the resistance.
That night, they went to 2 Chemin du Haut de Chèvre, home of Ernest Keller (born 11 December 1913 in Wissembourg) and his wife Paulette (née Fulisak (or Fullsack) aka Frey 16 February 1909 in Schussenried, Germany), described by West as being Alsations who spoke excellent German, and were trusted by the Germans - Ernest having a job in the tax department where he decided what taxes people have to pay. Two days after his arrival, he met Mme Mickey (Eugenie Eltzer, born 7 April 1923 in Strasbourg), who “kills Germans and blows up trains and bridges” – West describes Mickey (who didn't speak any English) as “lovely, gentle and quiet”. Three days later, West had to be moved after a neighbour heard conversations through the walls, and asked Keller if he were keeping an American or an Englishman, and West went to live with Mickey and her husband Jean (born 9 August 1903 in Germany) near the railway station for the next three days.
Ernest and Paulette Keller, Jean and Eugenie Eltzer, Marcel Perrin and Romuald de Ruette (aka Andre Romvald) (see both below) were all members of SOE agent Henri Frager's “Jean-Marie” organisation – known in London as the Donkeyman circuit.
Ernest and Paulette Keller were arrested on 16 June 1944. Ernest was sent to Dachau and Pauline to Ravensbruck but both survived their ordeals. I believe that Jean and Eugenie Eltzer were killed on 27 August 1944, although further details are unknown to me.
On the second day, West went to meet Marcel Perrin (born 31 July 1912 in Eloyes) who lived on the hill outside Nancy at 10 rue de la Mairie, Maxéville. West describes Marcel as being about 30 years old, intelligent, ran a bakers shop, and had done much work with the resistance – and says that his maid Simone also collected information on the Germans. Because the house had a good view of the airfield (Aerodrome de Nancy-Malzéville), West asked if he could move in, and as everyone seemed delighted with the idea, West stayed with Marcel for four days.
On 7 May, West went back to Mickey's, where he met F/Sgt Fred Greenwell RAF and a Belgian called André (this was Jean-Marie guide Romuald de Ruette, born 19 June 1921 at Tenneville), who West describes as being “tall , well built, ill-kempt, with wicked eyes and a stiff right knee”.
F/Sgt Frederick Augustus Greenwell (1993) from Fence Houses, County Durham was the 19-year-old bomb aimer of 57 Sqn Lancaster JB565 (Harland) which was on the way to Schweinfurt on the evening of 24 February 1944. They were approaching Strasbourg when flak was reported ahead, and a few minutes later, with the starboard wing and part of the rear fuselage on fire, F/O Harland ordered his crew to abandon the aircraft.
Greenwell landed in snow, on a pathway between trees, about five kilometres south of Haegen (Alsace), and as it was so cold, wrapped his parachute around himself, and stayed where he was until morning. When it got light, Greenwell buried his parachute, harness and Mae West, and set off walking west across the mountains. About an hour later however, he came to a farmhouse, and opted to hide again until dusk, when he continued west, and by morning was so cold and hungry he decided to ask for help. He was close to another farmhouse, and he approached the farmer, asking in French for food, clothing and shelter but only getting food. The farmer then led him to the hamlet of Hultenhausen (Hultehouse), where he thought Greenwell might find assistance but again Greenwell waited until dusk before approaching. He was given food and shelter at the first house he tried, and next day they gave him food for the day, told him to hide in the woods and return after dark. When he came back that evening, he was told that four aircrew had been captured, and although they let him stay another night, told him they would have to go to the police the following day. Greenwell promised to leave the district, and was given some bread and an old raincoat to help him on his way.
Greenwell spent most of that day (28 Feb) in the wood before making his way (south-west) to Garrebourg, where he was sheltered in a house on the outskirts of the village (by Victor, Anna and their young daughter Marie) [Lambertrisel – query] for the next month.
On the evening of 28 March, Greenwell left Garrebourg with the intention of reaching France, making his way via Walschied (where he was sheltered by an elderly man overnight, whose son at Troisfontaines exchanged Greenwell's flying boots next day for more suitable, if rather large, pair of studded boots) to another house (at Abreschviller) where he was sheltered, and on the night of 31 March, his host's son took Greenwell to a woodsman's hut near the border. Next morning, he was taken to within an hour's walk of the frontier but after walking for three hours, still wasn't sure if he had crossed into France or not, and so hid until dark. That evening, he approached a house on the outskirts of Raon-sur-Plaine (on the French side of the new Franco-German border), where he was taken in, given food, and his journey arranged.
Greenwell stayed just one night (1-2 April) in Raon-sur-Plaine, where he was given a civilian suit before a girl took him by bicycle to Celles-sur-Plaine and the home of an elderly schoolmaster. The schoolmaster interrogated him, and then M. Georges, the local chemist arrived to take Greenwell to a house on the outskirts, where he stayed until evening. The chemist returned after dark to take him to stay with Mme Vve Vernier and her two working-age daughters, Germaine and Aline, at 77 rue de Tournelle, where he received frequent visits by an unnamed organisation member.
Greenwell stayed with the Vernier family until (Friday) 28 April, when the chemist (M. Georges) took him by car to Raon l'Etape, where he met the schoolmaster who gave him an identity card and work permit before another man took him by train to Lunéville.
In Lunéville, Greenwell was kept in a small room on the top floor of a furniture warehouse until the evening of 3 May, when a gendarme captain (in full uniform) led him to a house in the suburbs. Greenwell stayed at this house [with Mme Vve Corrard des Essart - query] until 8 (sic) May, when the captain arrived w ith car and driver, and took him to Nancy. He stayed overnight in a house (no details) where he was given a new ID card, and next evening, taken to another house, where he met 2/Lt Frederick West.
West says it was 7 May when Mickey (Eugenie Eltzer) and André (Romuald de Ruette) took him and Greenwell on an early morning train to Paris. André stayed with Greenwell on the train while Mickey stayed with West in a different carriage - Mickey's fluent German persuading a German officer to let them have seats in his reserved compartment.
On arrival in the capital, Mickey took West to stay with a cousin of her husband while she went to see her boss, “Uncle Paul” – this was SOE agent Henri Frager. Later Frager came to visit West, who describes Frager as being “about 40 years old [born 3 March 1897], suave, intelligent, well-dressed and good-looking, with greying hair and blue eyes, he is about 5 ft 7 ins tall”. After their meeting, Mickey took West to a park where they rejoined Greenwell and Andre, and went for dinner in a café. After the meal, they went to meet Denis Hurant [or Daniel Hericault ], a pilot with 3,000 hours (possibly French-Canadian) who went to Spain with them, and a wounded French aviator, about 25 years old, who was in the resistance movement. Mickey told West that she was not satisfied with André as a guide to Toulouse, and so got Uncle Paul's permission to go with them.
West says they reached Toulouse on 8 May, where the contacts were André's, not Mickey's, although she had heard of Françoise, and told him that Françoise never sent money along the line but kept it all herself. West then spent the night in the apartment above Françoise, which belongs to a baritone who used to be in the opera. He describes Françoise as a remarkably energetic old woman, who never stopped smoking; she had yellow teeth and bow legs, and was all bent over like a gnome. She talked at the top of her lungs, spraying saliva freely, and bounced off the ground when she got excited. She also had the mimeographed sheet that West had filled out for Remy in Nancy. The following day, West was taken to “the regular stopping place”, which is two minutes out of Toulouse, and where Mickey and Andre left him.
“On 12 May, we [West, Greenwell and the French pilot] met Françoise and a man on a street corner. He took us to the train, bought our tickets and turned us over to the mountain guide for the first part of the trip. Before the train pulled out, we were joined by Lt-Col Montgomery, Lt Bisher, F/O Ramsey, and Sgt Meldrich.”
Greenwell's version is slightly different. He says that it was 0300 hrs on 10 May, when a Belgian escorted Greenwell, while a girl [Mickey] took West, by train (in different compartments) to Paris. In the capital, the four walked around for several hours before the girl took West to a house, and the Belgian took Greenwell to a park. They stayed in the park until evening, when they were reunited, along with a Frenchman (Daniel Hericault) who was posing as a Canadian, and took an overnight train to Toulouse.
On their arrival in Toulouse next day (11 May), they visited “Mme Françoise”, who told them she was the chief of the organisation, and spent that night at her house (possibly 12 rue Paul Meriel but she could have been staying anywhere). Next day, Greenwell, West and Hericault were taken to a house on the outskirts of the city (this was the Villa Pamplemousse at 27 rue Cazals, Croix-Daurade, which was being managed at that time by Mme Andrée Lamy). They stayed at the house until 14 (sic) May, when they were taken by train to Montréjeau, along with Robert Montgomery, Milton Ramsey, Walter Meldrich, Harry Bisher, a Jewish family, a French schoolteacher, a resistance member and a guide.
Greenwell (who seems to date everything a couple of days later than the Americans) says it was 14 May whilst Montgomery says it was the evening of 12 May when he, Bisher, Ramsey and Meldrich left Toulouse by train to Montréjeau, naming West and a Frenchman as also being on the train, and joining them when they arrived. He says they were marched down the road in a party of eighteen, including Sgt Fred Greenwell, and walked to a bus for a ten-mile journey to the foot of the mountains – also included in the group were an elderly Jewish couple with a teenage boy and girl who were hoping to get to Africa, and four guides.
They set off walking, and three hours later reached a hut where they rested briefly, two of their guides being replaced by another two who walked them through the night and next day. That afternoon, the guides took money from them before leaving, saying that Spain was just over the next mountain. This turned out not to be quite true but they met a local man herding cattle, and paid him to take them across the border, the Jewish family giving up at some point and not being seen again. The journey took three days - Montgomery saying they reached Spain on 15 May, and Greenwell saying they crossed the border north-east of Canejan (Catalonia) on 17 May before walking down to Les, where they were arrested by Spanish police.
They were searched, questioned and briefly detained before being taken to Viella (Vielha), and searched again, and where Greenwell says they met a party of Americans (probably Brenden, Hermanson and Trinder), along with two Belgians who were posing as British. Two or three days later, they were taken to Sort (where Greenwell, the five Americans and Denis Hurant are recorded as arriving on 22 May). Next day, they went on to Lerida, and on 7 June to Alhama. Greenwell says the Americans left Alhama on 10 June, and that he was taken by Embassy car to Madrid on 14 June.
The five Americans (Ramsey, Montgomery, Meldrich, Bisher and West) arrived at Gibraltar on 12 June 1944, leaving two days later when they were flown overnight to Bristol, arriving there on 15 June.
Greenwell was taken to Gibraltar on 18 June, leaving there on 23 June by overnight flight in a Dakota to Hendon.
My thanks to Jean Michel Dozier for some of the added detail included in the Ramsey and Montgomery accounts, to David Harrison for information (and more) about the Jean-Marie agents, to Franck Signorile for his contributions with helper names and addresses, and to Jean Yves Thoroval for corrected details about Romuald de Ruette.