- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Louisette Beaujard & Madeleine Faley-Godard.
- Location of story:
- Northern France.
- Background to story:
- Royal Air Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 23 April 2005
At the end of June 1944 I joined 57 Squadron, at East Kirkby as a Rear Gunner on Lancasters. We did several training flights before our first op: on the 15th
July to Nevers railway yard in central France. On the 18th July we took part in the 1,000 bomber daylight raid on Caen
which was spectacular but uneventful. On our return we were told that we were 'on' again that night. This was to be our third and last op: the target Revingny railway yard in northern France.
After crossing the French coast we were picked up by searchlights and during our evasive action, we lost the protection of the bomber stream and became vunerable to attack by fighters. Having lost the searchlights we set a new course for the target. Soon after this there was an enormuos explosion in the port wing, we had been hit by cannon fire. Immediately flames were streaming past my turret which had stopped working due to the fact that the hydraulic motor was driven by the port engine. I centralised the turret by hand, opened the doors into the fuselage and climded in. Fred Taylor was already out of his mid-upper turret and was clipping his chute on to his harness. He struggled to open the door and leaped into the night.
By this time the fuselage was a mass of flame and moulten metal, the aircraft was now in asteep dive. My chute, which was stowed on the port side had started to smoulder, I pulled it from the stowage and struggled to clip it to my harness, this was difficult due to the 'G' force. I managed to fix it to one clip only and with every thing burning, I thought "It's now or never" and leaped through the door into the night.
As I fell I pulled thew rip cord and hoped that the chute would open, it did, but I was hanging to one side. I felt something brush my face, it was my intercom lead which was attached to my helmet which had been whipped off when my chute opened and had become entanged in the shrouds. I grabbed it and hung on. This probably saved my life as it helped to take my weight. I looked up and saw that the silk had started to burn an d I hoped that I would get down before it fell apart. As I fell there was a terrific explosion, this was the Lanc: hitting the ground with a full bomb load.
I hit the ground flat on my back, my chute started to burn, I quickly doused the flames, bundled up and pushed it into a hedge and staggered off into the night. I came to a lane and walked for about eight miles before collapsing on the doorstep of a farm house. The farmer must have heard me moaning as I was in great pain from the burns on my face and arm. He took me in and with the help of his wife put me to bed. The next morning I was seen by a doctor and given civilian clothes and moved to another farm in the village of Sablonniere, where I was put ot bed again. To my amazement, I was then interrogated by a member of the resistance to ensure that I was not a German spy. It was very frightening. The next day the Germans came loking for me, but the farmer convinced them that they had not seen me. I view of this it was decide to move me on.
A member of the resistance came for me and we travelled across country to avoid German patrols. At one stage he indicated that he was lost and would have to ask the way at a farm house. He push a Luger pistol into my hand, and told me to shoot if he ran into trouble. He returned shortly with directions and we continued on our way to a small caf'e in the village of La Tretior, which was owned by two ladies Louuisette Beaujard and her mother, neither could speak English, but I was made very welcome and was given a room in their hotel across the courtyard. I was told that should the Germans come I would have to move into their room over the caf'e, as officers used the hotel when in the village. Two young men were also staying at the caf'e, they were on the run from the Germans in Paris who want the for work in Germany. They were Albert bertin and Jacques Gaignard, later another chap appeared, he was Maurice Leterne. From time to time a young lady Madelein Faley-Godard would appear with money and cigaretttes from the Resistance.
I had the run of the orchard behind the hotel but the caf'e was out of bounds, I was also warned not to be around when the Postman came as he was suspected of being a collaborator. There were lots of furtive comings and goings by the Resistance.
One evening a group of Germans came into the caf'e for drinks while we were having our evening meal in the back room. Madam Beaujard came into the room to find some change and one of the Germans followed her in. He stood in the doorway, looked around at the four of us. Madam gave him his change and he left the room without a word.
A few days later we were told that German tanks had been seen comining towards the village,so I was moved into the ladies room over the caf"e. The next morning I looked out of the widow to find that the
courtyard was full for tanks and soldiers strutting about with their automatic weapons and grenades stuck in their belts. This was a worrying time, but fortunately a few days later they moved out and a few days later thinking the the Germans had gone for good I walked in to the caf'e to find several soldiers sitting around drinking, Madam realising the danger shouted at me to get out and get on with my work as though I was a servant, I am pleased to say that it worked. This was the last time that I was the Germans.
A few more weeks went by and some jubilent young Resistance men arrived on a German motorcycle and sidecar that they had taken from the Germans. They said that the Americans had arrive outside the village and had set up a field hospital. I went down and found an office who agreed to take me into Paris the followig day In the mean time he gave me a good supply of coffee and tinned food for my French friends.
That night there was a big party to celebrate their liberation, all the good wines came out of hiding and my charred battle dress appear all darned and pressed.
The next day after three months in France I was drven to the Hotel Maurice where the RAF had set up a receiption centre for evaders. The following day I was flown to Hendon where I was interrogated again to prove my identity, I was then taken the a hotel in Marylebone where I made my report to Bomber intelligence. A telegram was then sent home and I was sent on leave. Living in London I arrived home before the telegram,it was quite a shock for my parents to find me on the step having heard nothing from me for three months.
After several medicals I was given nine month sick leave and medically discharged i in 1945.
Two other members of our crew survived, 152932 F/O E.H.Ruston Navigator and 1896922 Sgt.F.J.D.Taylor Mid-Upper Gunner.
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