- Contributed by
- Fred Maryon
- People in story:
- Gerrard Frazer McMahon DFM RAF
- Location of story:
- Background to story:
- Royal Air Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 04 August 2004
Gerry McMahon, was serving as a flying officer rear-gunner when his four engine Short Stirling bomber was shot down inland from the Normandy beaches on D Day. After being taken prisoner by the Germans McMahon reversed the situation, capturing 62 German soldiers and marching them to the Allied lines.
On the night of June 5 1944, McMahon's Canadian skipper, Flt Lt Gordon Thring, was briefed to drop paratroopers, amongst them Lieut. Richard Todd near a canal crossing, later famous as Pegasus bridge. He was then to return to RAF Fairford, and the next afternoon to tow a glider and release it in the invasion zone. On the way to the dropping zone McMahon noticed some very accurate gunfire from a wood, it had already shot down a number of aircraft and gliders. He gave the pilot the position of this battery with the intention of putting it out of action after dropping the glider.
After releasing the glider they headed for the wood at low level. Unfortunately the battery saw them coming and in the subsequent firing the aircraft sustained heavy damage. The petrol tank in the port wing blew up and the plane rolled upside down, McMahon's ammunition fell out of the magazines, hitting him in the face. At the last moment the pilot managed to right the bomber and it made a beautiful belly - landing in a ploughed field. All the crew escaped moments before the Stirling burst into flames.
As the German soldiers hunted them, the crew hid themselves in a wheat field. At nightfall they began to make their way to the Normandy coast. They hailed two passing German soldiers they mistook for Americans, and were taken prisoner and held in a barn adjacent to a chateau. The chateau was attacked by rocket firing Hawker Typhoons and after a number of attacks was soon reduced to rubble. The Germans and the RAF crew took shelter in a slit trench; McMahon was still carrying his revolver which the Germans had not discovered.
The German captain believed that he and his men were surrounded. He sent for McMahon offered him champagne and told him he wished to surrender with his 40 men. The captain assumed that McMahon was the senior officer as he was the only member of the crew wearing a medal ribbon. This was a DFM he had been awarded for a previous operation when he was a sergeant.
McMahon and the crew said they would accept the surrender of the German troops, only if they marched to the Allied forces and gave themselves up. Four days after his own capture, McMahon marched his prisoners now numbering 62, to the Allied lines and handed them over to the Canadian Army, he requested and received a receipt for the prisoners.
McMahon and his crew returned to England courtesy of the Royal Navy, he was given leave and went to his home. As he arrived home he met his parents who having been told that he was ’killed in action’ were on their way to his requiem mass, his poor mother promptly fainted.
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