The men brought back by the Shelburn escape line,
and the people who made it possible
This is an (updated) extract from my 2019 book "Express Delivery"
William Lock and Charlie Mullins were two of the 26 servicemen collected by MGB 503 from the beach at l'Anse-Cochat in the early hours of 24 March 1944 on the fifth and final Operation Bonaparte
1/Lt William B Lock (#531) was the pilot and S/Sgt Charlie H Mullins (#532) one of the waist-gunners of 92BG/326BS B-17 42-31175 Trudy which was returning from Oschersleben on the afternoon of 11 January 1944. They were about fifteen minutes from the Dutch border when they were hit by flak which set the aircraft on fire, and Lock gave the order to bail out.
Lock, who was on his twenty-fourth mission, and had celebrated his twenty-fifth birthday the day before, says he checked that the men in the rear of the aircraft had left before returning to the nose where he found his officers still on board. He signalled for them to jump and his co-pilot (1/Lt Richard H Sperry) indicated that he would follow Lock and so Lock jumped from the nose hatch.
Top-turret gunner T/Sgt Raymond F Pencek (#1892) was the only other man from Trudy to evade successfully – he was taken to Belgium and sheltered in Brussels until the city was liberated in August.
Lock landed hard in a small orchard close to a house, about half a mile from the Ijssel river, some fifteen miles north of Deventer (Overijssel). His parachute was tangled in a fence so he left it and ran to hide in some woods but before he could get there, was stopped by a boy on a bicycle. Lock tried to explain who he was and the boy waved him into the woods and joined him there. Lock used his language card to tell him that he was an American and the boy left. Lock had no idea if the boy was likely to return and so set off walking south by himself - he later learned the boy did return for him that night. Lock walked for the rest of the afternoon until about five o'clock when he approached a farmer ploughing a field. Lock, who was himself a farmer in Colorado, explained that he was a hungry American but on receiving no offer of assistance, continued until dark and spent his first night in Holland sleeping in a wood.
He set off early the following morning and had covered about four miles before the sun rose and he spotted a haystack where he thought he could warm himself up. That afternoon, an elderly woman came to work in the field, and after watching for an hour, Lock approached her. He was still trying to explain who he was when an elderly man arrived in a carriage and that evening, they took Lock back to their home. Their 35-year-old son lived with them and although none of them spoke English, the son managed to get the message across that he would take Lock to someone who could.
The son took Lock to a “well to do” country house where an elderly, crippled woman lived with a friend of about the same age, and a 19-year-old maid. The woman asked Lock if he wanted to go to Belgium and although he said he would rather head for Spain, she explained that she could only get him a train ticket and papers for the Belgian border. The elderly lady gave Lock a civilian leather jacket, sweater and shirt, and Lock's first helpers brought him some trousers.
On 14 January, a young man (aged about 25) took Lock by a roundabout route to another big house where a large family lived. He was shown the name and address of his engineer (Pencek) by a man who spoke a little English, who wanted to know if Lock recognised the name, and Lock confirmed that he did. Lock was also able to have a shave, and his leather jacket was exchanged for a dress overcoat.
That evening, a woman aged about 25, 5 feet 6 inches tall, rather heavy, fairly attractive with dark hair and a dark complexion (Lock was later told she belonged to an organisation) arrived in a nurses uniform (borrowed from her sister) to take Lock to another farmhouse where Lock saw the young man who had stopped him when he first landed. The woman seemed to know the people at the farmhouse and she wrote a note for the young man saying “Follow me, do as I tell you, I am a friend and will help you” in English. From the farmhouse, the woman took Lock by car back to Deventer where she lived in an expensive house near the river with her sister and their mother. That evening (query) a police inspector in civilian clothes (a tall, thin man with light brown hair) took Lock back to his house where he lived with his wife (aged about 28, five feet 7 inches tall, very attractive) and their year-old daughter. On 16 January, because they were expecting a visit from the wife's family to celebrate their daughter's birthday, another policeman (dark-haired, 150 lbs, 5 feet 7 inches tall) took Lock back to his house. An hour later, his waist-gunner, Charlie Mullins arrived and (next day according to Mullins) the two Americans were taken to an artist's house where they stayed for the next four days.
Charlie Mullins had landed between two roads, half a mile apart, about four miles north-west of Deventer, near Terwolde. Like his pilot, the 29-year-old was also a farmer but from the neighbouring state of New Mexico. After hiding in a hedge for an hour, Mullins approached two boys who seemed to be looking for him. The eldest was about 21 years old, spoke good English and said that he had been training to become a pilot when his country was invaded – he was heavily built, about 180 lbs and 6 feet 2 inches tall, with light-coloured hair - the younger boy looked about 19, had dark hair, was 5 feet 9 inches tall and spoke very little English. They offered to help Mullins, brought him some food and told him to hide until they came back that evening. When they returned, they took Mullins to a barn about three miles away where Mullins spent the rest of the night and next day, the boys bringing him more food there. That night (12 January), the older boy took Mullins back to the farmhouse where his father (aged about 55, 5 feet 10 inches tall, about 140 lbs) lived with his wife and their crippled teenage daughter. Mullins was given civilian clothing and the opportunity to shave, and next morning, Mullins and the boy cycled into Deventer.
Mullins was sheltered by an artist (a tall, slender man, about 32 years old) and his attractive, dark-haired wife. The artist's father was an English teacher who also lived at the house but (deliberately) never saw Mullins because he was afraid of the Germans. Mullins learned that the artist was the head of an organisation that provided food for Dutchmen in hiding, Mullins being the first American he had ever helped. There was also a Dutch Jew living in the house who only ever went out at night – he was a dark-haired man, about 37 years old, whose clothing shop had been shut down by the Germans. The artist wanted to see Mullins dog-tags and one day asked for a description of his pilot, Lock, who also being sheltered in Deventer. Visitors to the house included the young man who first helped Mullins, numerous Jewish friends of the man who was hidden there – they also brought clothes for Mullins - and two Dutch policemen (one was dark-haired, about 5 feet 7 inches tall, 32 years old, the other was a large man, about 6 feet 2 inches tall, aged about 30). On the fourth day that Mullins was with the artist, a woman from Deventer (about 25 years old, her sister was a nurse, they were both in their middle twenties, both heavy-set and with dark hair) came with a photograph, and the name and address of his pilot, William Lock. She also took some photographs of Mullins for an identity card. That night Mullins was taken to the home of the smaller of the two policemen where he met Lock, and the following night, the policeman took them both back to the artist's house.
While Lock and Mullins were staying with the artist (neither evader gives his name) one of his men went to try and find an organisation that could help them – the artist telling them on several occasions that he didn't trust the two sisters. He went to Amsterdam and then Eindhoven where he was put in touch with a Catholic priest who was part of the Dutch organisation which later took Lock and Mullins all the way to Paris. They also received a visit from a woman from Amsterdam – she spoke some English, and she told them that her husband had been a pilot who was killed on the first day of the war whilst trying to evacuate Queen Wilhelmina by flying boat.
On 20 January, a man with detective papers that he said he would use if they were questioned, took Lock and Mullins by train to Eindhoven where they were met at the station by a woman (described by Lock as having dark hair, a very long nose, light complexion, and not speaking any English) who took them to a higher-middle-class house where they stayed with a Catholic family who claimed to have helped many pilots before - the last one being Robert Schuen, a Thunderbolt pilot who was still with the organisation but had a sprained knee. The family was made up of the mother (a very large woman, aged about 75 who didn't speak any English), six daughters and two sons, the youngest, aged about 22 and hiding from the Germans, being the only one in the household who spoke any English. Two days later, the woman who had met them at the station, took them to another house where two men who were pretending to be detectives, took them by train to Roermond (Limburg).
At Roermond they were passed on to another man who took them to another Catholic house. They stayed with an elderly man, his wife, their son Peter (aged about 26, he was a teacher at his father's technical school) and a daughter. Lock comments that the family seemed to be rich and very religious, going to church every evening. Lock and Mullins stayed for five days, during which time an English-speaking man came to take their names, serial numbers and aircraft details. They also visited another house nearby where they met an English navigator from a Halifax which had been shot down over Eindhoven on 20 December, and who had stayed at the same house in Eindhoven as they had. Note that Lock says that both he and Mullins deliberately forgot all names and addresses of their helpers.
The “English navigator” was 36-year-old F/Lt Sydney Smith (LIB/1522) who gives his home address as Sao Paulo in Brazil. Smith was an observer on board 78 Sqn Halifax JN974 (F/Lt James G Smith) (2603) which was returning from Frankfurt on the evening of 20 December 1943 when they were shot down near Eindhoven. Smith landed in a small wood inside the perimeter of a German airfield, where he stayed until the evening of 22 December when he made his way to the village of Oerle. He was sheltered by a farmer at Oerle while one of his sons contacted an organisation, and that same evening, a young schoolteacher and his fiancée took Smith through Eindhoven to Nuren where he spent the night with another farmer. Two nights later, Smith was taken into Eindhoven where he spent the evening with Mr van Bruggen (the Ceramics Master of the Phillips factory) and his family, and the night with their in-laws, Mr and Mrs Oomens at 13 Hugo Verrieststraat. On 27 December, a Catholic priest gave him instructions on how to exchange passwords with a young Dutch CID officer who then took Smith to a tailor's shop near the station where he was passed on to another guide who was supposed to take him to Roermond. However, they missed their train and Smith was returned to the Bruggen household. On 30 December, the CID man took Smith to Roermond, where he passed him over to a Catholic priest who led Smith to Kapellerlaan 233, home of architect Henri Lemmens, his wife and their teenage son.
At the beginning of February, Smith was taken to Maastricht, where he stayed for about a week with a Dutch ex-army officer and his wife in an apartment near the station, during which time he met Liberator pilot 2/Lt Donald Schumann, who was severely burned in one eye and both hands. On about 7 February, Smith and Schumann were taken across the Maas bridge to a small house about five miles across the Belgian border (assume Vlijtingen), where they spent the night. Next morning they were taken to a small railway station where Smith says they met seven Americans and the two Dutch girls who were their guides, and because he spoke good French, Smith was asked to buy their railway tickets for Brussels. Note that Lock (below) says Smith and the Americans joined him and Mullins in Brussels on 6 February.
On 27 January, the English-speaking man who had asked for their details, took Lock and Mullins by car to Maastricht, leaving them on a street in the middle of town where another man collected them and took them to a house near the canal. They were visited by another man who spoke a little English and he asked them to fill in a questionnaire with their family history, group and airfield details. They refused to give any details of their unit, and Mullins had his photograph taken again.
On 2 February, another man brought them identity cards and took them to another house in the town where they met their two guides (a dark, heavy-set fellow aged about 27 and a young woman who was introduced as his girl-friend – Lock describes her as being aged about 25, an attractive blonde who wore lipstick and jewellery) who would take them to Belgium. The guides took their money, leaving them with just their watches, and then walked with them about five kilometres down the main road out of Maastricht. They crossed the border through a barbed wire fence behind a guard-house, then walked south-west for another five kilometres to Vlijtingen, where they stayed overnight (2-3 February) in a café. Next day, their guides took them by train to Brussels.
Lock and Mullins spent their first night in Brussels at the Old Antwerp Hotel, where the owner (a small, grey-haired woman aged about 50 – her husband had a crippled foot) spoke good English, before going on to a boarding house at number 17 on a street they couldn't remember the name of, and where the owner (another small woman, this one thin, with a red face and red hair) was used to sheltering Dutch escapers but was (understandably) nervous of keeping Americans. Two days later (on 6 February) they were joined by the English navigator, Sidney Smith, and five Americans - Donald Schumann, Clayton David, William Koenig, Kenneth Shaver and John Buckner.
2/Lt Donald C G Schumann was the pilot of 448BG/712BS B-24 41-28593 The Prodigal Son which was shot down on 11 January. 2/Lt Clayton C David (#674) was the co-pilot of 303BG/358BS B-17 42-29524 Meat Hound (Watson), from which the crew were ordered to bail out on 11 January before pilot Captain John W Watson returned the aircraft to the UK. 2/Lt William J Koenig, T/Sgt Kenneth D Shaver (#675) and Sgt John R Buckner, were the co-pilot, engineer and tail-gunner of 384BG/560BS B-17 42-30142 Pistol Packin' Mama (Walker), which was shot down and crash-landed in Holland on 5 November 1943 – all three were captured on landing but made a brilliant escape from a train near Rotterdam a few days later (along with their pilot 2/Lt Roy M Walker, navigator 2/Lt Kenneth L Haines, bombardier 2/Lt Donald G Naughton and an unidentified B-24 waist-gunner).
Although they became separated on jumping from the train, on 12 November, Koenig and Buckner were brought from the farm where they were being sheltered, to join Shaver. All three were then taken to stay with a Dutch naval captain, and a week later to stay for two weeks with Joke Folmer (awarded the George Medal, and one of the nicest people I have ever met) who supplied them with identity cards. They were moved again several times over the next few weeks before finally crossing the border into Belgium at Maastricht and being taken to Brussels, where they met Clayton David. David had also been helped, and taken to Maastricht, by 21-year-old Johanna (Joke) Folmer, but it was another young girl who took him across the border in much the same way as Lock and Mullins, and then having delivered David to a nearby house, immediately returned to bring Donald Schumann and Sidney Smith across to join him.
Note that the route used via Maastricht and the Old Antwerp Hotel in Brussels is “classic” Dutch-Paris (see Emerson post-war comments in MIS Memo to Col Holt dd 30 July 1944, and a report by Major John H White Jnr dd 31 May 1946), with Lock and Mullins (along with Schumann, David, Koenig, Buckner and Shaver) being among roughly half the airmen claimed by that organisation who were actually brought from Holland. Many of the others (like Sherman (#608), Miller (#636) and Shaffer (#637) – all mentioned earlier in the book) were passed to D-P in Paris. In July 1945, John Weidner of Dutch-Paris listed a total of 51 airmen as being helped by them - including 12 who were captured. The list includes three names (Pansy Johnson, Jacob Wallinga and Simon Cohen - so far unidentified) who were presumably also captured.
On 9 February, Mullins, Sydney Smith and Donald Schumann left for Paris, and on 11 February, two guides, the man who had brought them to the hotel and a Dutchman, took Lock, William Koenig, Kenneth Shaver, John Buckner, Clayton David and a Dutch escaper called Jack, presumably following the same route, by overnight train to the capital (note that Clayton David gives slightly different groups and dates). From the gare du Nord, they were taken for a long Metro ride to somewhere south of the Eiffel Tower, near a Catholic church, and down into the basement of an Electric Technical School in the Latin Quarter (this was l'Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS) on rue d'Ulm, Paris V) where they rejoined Mullins, Smith and Schumann. The concierge (Emile Prilliez) was a man aged about 42, about 5 feet 5 inches tall with a dark complexion and curly black hair. He had a wife (Julia) aged about 40, a daughter aged about 17 and a son aged about 15. That afternoon, French police and Gestapo came in and searched the building looking for young Frenchmen avoiding STO, because (according to Lock) the concierge explained to Smith, they had arrested two professors and three students from the school earlier that morning.
Following the raid, a Dutch priest (Brother Robo) in a black ecclesiastical robe (he was aged about 43, with a long nose and light reddish hair), moved the evaders that night to a condemned part of the church next to the school, where they stayed from 14 to 26 February, looked after by the concierge from the school, his daughter (described by Lock as being a small, attractive, 17-year-old girl with red hair) and the priest. They were visited by a member of a Dutch organisation who came to get their sizes for clothing for them to wear in the mountains but on 26 February, the priest disappeared with the Dutch boy Jack. That afternoon, another priest, who had heard that the first priest had been arrested while trying to take Jack to the station, came to the church and was startled to find Allied airmen there, rather than the Dutch or French civilians that he expected. He explained to Sydney Smith that the first priest was the only one who was a member of the organisation, and that with his arrest, they would have to leave. David says they were very reluctant to leave but when Smith went to check the building next door he found that it had been searched - he also saw the concierge's daughter through the window, who told him that her father had been arrested.
That afternoon, they were joined by two more priests and taken to the chapel where they posed as members of the congregation. After the service, the eight airmen left the church, walking in pairs (Lock with Mullins, Smith with Schuman, David with Shaver, Buckner with Koenig) trying not to look too obvious and generally heading south and out of Paris. Lock says they left at five-thirty and walked south, using the stars, until about eight o'clock when they came to an airfield (presumably Orly). They turned off the road and into a field where they decided to split into groups, and that night Lock and Mullins lost contact with the other six airmen.
Sidney Smith says that he led the Americans out of Paris, past the Porte d'Italie before the curfew and on to Etamps about 40 kms south of Paris (which seems unlikely and does not agree with Lock or David at all) where the party split up (David agrees leaving via the Porte d'Italie and passing close to an airport but then meeting up at a haystack where they said their final adieus – he and Shaver being the first to leave). Donald Schumann and William Koenig went with Smith, continuing south through the night until they stumbled into an Organisation Todt (OT) camp where they were challenged by the guards. Smith managed to get away but Schumann and Koenig were captured. Smith says that he hid up for the rest of the night in the snow before walking to Dooray (query) where he caught a train back to Paris. He went to see what had happened to the concierge at the school but the daughter spotted Smith through the window and waved him away, making him understand that there were police in the house.
That night, Smith went to the police station at Porte d'Italie where he bluffed the officer in charge into letting him spend the night next to the stove. Next morning, Smith went to the gare d'Austerlitz where he bought a railway ticket for Limoges, the furthest south he could get on the money he had. By the time he got to Limoges, his feet were badly blistered and partly frost-bitten, forcing him to go to the General Hospital, where he was admitted for treatment. On 28 February, Smith was arrested by French police and on 1 March, he was taken to a German prison in Limoges. Three days later, he was sent to Fresnes (where he shared a cell with Donald Schumann) and in May, to Stalag Luft III (Sagan).
Clayton David (#674) and Kenneth Shaver (#675) walked to the village of Sainte-Genevieve-des-Bois and approached the first house they saw with lights on. They chose well, being given a meal by the family and shelter for the rest of the night before they set off again early next morning ... After several detours, they were finally taken to Pau and crossed the Pyrenees together in April.
John Buckner was captured but I don't know the circumstances.
Lock and Mullins spent the night in a haystack and next morning walked to the outskirts of a village about ten kilometres south of Paris that may have been Longjumeau where they went to a house and explained they were hungry Americans. The occupants gave them some food but did not seem prepared to help further so they carried on through the next village, Champlan (in which case they're heading north) and on to towards another village, possibly Cassaux-les-Charbreux (like previous suggestions, this is from their interviewing officer – but I think more likely south towards Saulx-les-Chartreux, where IS9 lists Mme Juliette Detry of 321 Allée de Chasse as a helper), stopping half-way to approach a farmhouse. The farmer was understandably reluctant to help but did give them some bread and half a dozen eggs before they continued on their way. About half a mile past the village, they approached another farmer (a little short fellow, bald headed, dark complexion, aged about 40) who hid them in a hut. He brought food and two friends, neither of whom spoke English but that afternoon, an English-speaking man came from Paris. He was about 45 years old, 6 feet tall, 200 lbs with black curly hair, and he quizzed them carefully about the US and England. That evening, one of first two Frenchmen, an ex-marine, took Lock and Mullins to stay overnight at his house. Next day (28 February), they were taken to another farmhouse where they stayed with a tall man, aged about 65 with a large, tobacco-stained moustache and a crippled foot. During their stay, the nephew of the man from Paris came to see them - aged about 20, he had dark unruly hair, and like his uncle, he also spoke good English.
On 3 March, the farmer they had approached in the field, and another man, took Lock and Mullins to a Metro station where they were passed on two other men, one of whom was a French spy. The spy - who spoke good English, having been to the United States, was about 30 years old, tall and thin, with straight, dark hair - took Lock and Mullins into Paris and an apartment on the top floor of an old building, ten minutes walk from the gare Montparnasse, where a large woman (aged about 45 with greying hair) and her husband (aged about 39, with dark Italian features and a small moustache – he was a wine merchant) lived with her daughter (aged about 24, her husband was a POW). The spy explained that the daughter's father was the woman's first husband. There was also a son named Louis, who visited and brought them food, and who seemed to manage the wine store.
On 21 March, the night before they left Paris, a blond man (aged about 30, average size with a light moustache) and a woman (small, dark, heavy-set, aged about 36) came to take their photographs and the following morning, Louis, the wine merchant's son, and the blond man from the night before, took Lock and Mullins to gare Montparnasse. They waited while somebody bought their tickets and were then passed on to their guide (aged about 30, 5 feet 10 inches tall with thick brown curly hair and jovial features), and he and another Frenchman took them – along with 2/Lt Alfred Coffman (#533), T/Sgt Robert Rujawitz (#534), S/Sgt Keith Sutor (#536) and F/O Graham Brickwood (1854) - on the 0840 train to Saint-Brieuc, where they changed for Guingamp ...