- Contributed by
- BBC Southern Counties Radio
- People in story:
- Alfred Beazley-Long
- Location of story:
- RAF Waterbeach
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 07 July 2005
“This story was submitted to the people’s war site by Lyn Wedge from Littlehampton Learning School and has been added to the website on behalf of Alfred Beazley -Long with her permission and they fully understand the sites terms and conditions”
ALFRED BEAZLEY-LONG. D of b 24.06.1923
I was called up for Military Service when I became 18 years of age, and as I had been in the Air Training Corps I enlisted for the Royal Air Force, hoping to become a Wireless Operator, but as there were already too many applicants, I was prevailed upon to become a Ground Engineer. I did all the necessary training for this, and when fully qualified, they then asked for volunteers to become Flight Engineers as the Allies were losing a lot of these men. I said ‘yes’ and eventually became one, after taking the shortened course. This was in August 1943, two years after joining up.
I was first posted to RAF Waterbeach and flew on Stirling Aircraft on1651 Conversion Unit, with P/O Woodley, until being posted to Mildenhall Suffolk, still on Stirlings, but now in X5 Squadron.I did this, from August 1943 until January 1944, still with Woodley, but now on the Lancaster Bomber. Unfortunately, during this time P/O Woodley had several times aborted the bombing missions and was eventually taken off flying for reasons of Lack of Moral Fibre. I then joined the crew of P/o Leonard Miller and continued flying with him until the night of 27/28 April 1944 when we were shot down over Alsace.
The plane was on fire, and the bomb aimer was told to open up the bomb hatch and jump out. P/O Miller called out to the other 4 crew members further back in the a/c to do the same, but as nothing was heard from them, he had to take a hurried look, found them already dead, and came to the hatch, now open with me sitting on the edge. He gave me a quick boot out and also jumped himself. I do not recall opening my parachute but landed in the middle of a forest, near to a village called Schoenau, near to Marckolsheim in Alsace. I then proceeded to fold up and bury my parachute, and followed the Alsace Canal for several nights, hiding in bushes during the day. As it was such a remote area, I thought I’d be safe walking to Basle in Switzerland during the daytime, but in Kunheim, walking across a shingle area at a boat-building yard, out came a sentry and I was then a prisoner.
They treated me very kindly and I was taken into Friberg and put into a civilian prison, where I passed my bomb-aimer, George Mead, who, according to instructions, did not acknowledge me as a former member of the Lancaster LL 801. From here I was taken, by ‘cattle truck’ to 3 POW Camps, Thorne, Heydercrug, and finally Fallingbostel, Stalag Luft 357. I was there for 1 year, joining the Music Dept: playing in the Military Band, singing in a Triple Quartet choir, and writing out copies of music for various instruments, which had been transcribed from single copies of music, sent by the Red Cross. One clever musician did this by the name of Walter Bradley. These occupations kept me sane, but I was badly nourished, fed by boiled vegetable peelings and millet, my weight falling to 6 stone.
On 6th April, 1945 we had to leave Fallingbostel at 18.00 hrs, destination unknown, and marched until 03.15 hours, 18.20 km, arriving at Bleckmar, slept in a barn on straw. 8 April, marched to Wietzendorf, slept in the Open, 9.April marched to Hortzingen, 18 km. food very short, and 1 tin of meat between 2, 10.4.45. Day of rest. 11.4.45. Marched 16 km to Bispingen, along heavy cart tracks, slept in the open again. 12.4.45 Marched 14 km to Soderstall , all feeling pretty weak. 13.4.45 Day of Rest. 2cows killed, meat dished out fresh. 14.4.45 Another 10 kms covered, the effect of marching showing in the column. Stopped at Wetzman. 15.4.45 Marched 25 km. 16.4.45 Issued with some rye flour, somehow made something to resemble bread, as we had been out of it for 3 or 4 days. And marched to a place near to the Elbe in readiness for a crossing at dawn. 17.4.45 Crossed at Launberg, went on to Beckhausen, sleeping in the open again. Fish Roes given to us from tug men on the river. 19.4.45 Left Bickhusen, marched 8 km to Cresse. Issued with Red Cross parcels. One of our columns shot up by rocket-firing typhoons, 33 British and 6 German guards killed, 45 wounded. We got the typhoons to stop by laying bails of straw out in the field in the shape of POWS and they went off, wagging their tails. Very upsetting for us, and Dixie Dean, our leader, had to try and get the wounded seen to. 21.4.45 Rain, marched to Zarrentine, wet & miserable, move on toZechin, fortunately slept inside. Many pals of mine, are quite ill. 22.4.45 Day of showers, no marching, rain making cooking difficult. 23.4.45 Weather about the same, on the go again to Knesse, slept inside a wagon. 24.4.45 Medical Orderly joins the Combine, the only official sanitator. 25.4.45 Still at Knesse, stayed there until 30.4.45, feeling poorly, and celebrated 1 year as a Krugie, no bread issued since leaving Fallinbostel. Marched to Salam, to a large farm at Kogel, 15 km. Stayed there until 4.5.45 and found we’d lost the convoy so walked to Ratzeburg, found the British Army, and eventually one of our group, John Murray, a New Zealander, acquired a second car, (the first one, we realised that we’d put paraffin in, instead of petrol) and we drove to Luneberg, and flew back to England.
After being seen to by the Authorities, including a thorough de-lousing, we were given extended leave. We were told to only eat small amounts of food to start with, and when I told my Mother that I had some nice food, called Millett whilst a POW, she said “why that’s what I feed the canary with” !! I then did a series of duties on farms, picking up potatoes, then was posted as a Warrant Officer (by now) until my demob papers came through, which I gladly took, a fact that I regretted pretty quickly, as there was no work to go to.
Since the war ended, I joined up with the Mildenhall Register, which had its re-union yearly at the Base, met up with the other 2 survivors of the Lancaster, every year on the 27th April in London. The members of the Woodley crew thought that I had perished when the plane crashed in Alsace, so I gave them a big shock when meeting them at the re-union. Through this association, many years later and lots of research, two Alsace brothers, aircraft buffs, brought together all surviving pilots from the raids on 27.4.44, both RAF and German Night Fighters. This was held in the village of Schoenau where we came down. From this meeting, I was invited to a re-union of the German Night Fighters Association and met the pilot, Martin Becker, who was credited with shooting us down and who is a very nice gent.
Signed Alfred Beazley-Long 1805067
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