Sergeant Patrick Joseph Desmond Mahoney
Unit : No.15 Flight, "F" Squadron, No.2 Wing, The Glider Pilot Regiment
Army No. : 858565
Awards : Mentioned in Despatches
Sergeant Mahoney was wounded on Tuesday 19th September and taken prisoner on the following day, but escaped on the 15th October. The following is his M.I.9 report:
Captured : Oosterbeek, 20 Sep 44.
Escaped : Hospital at Het Loo, 15 Oct 44.
I landed at Wolfheze (Holland) (N.W. Europe, 1:250,000, Sheet 2a, E 6679) on 18 Sep 44. After unloading the gun and jeep, I rejoined my squadron and proceeded to Oosterbeek (E 67), where we dug in for the night on the edge of a wood. At 1115 hours on 19 Sep a mortar bomb burst in the trees directly above me, and I was struck in the right foot by a splinter. I was taken to the R.A.P. at Oosterbeek, and had my wound dressed. Next day (20 Sep) all patients who could move were put in the cellar, as we were being heavily shelled. After I had been in the cellar for about an hour, the medical orderly came in with a German S.S. sergeant and said that the hospital had been captured.
2. Experiences in German Hands.
We were made to go to a field 200 yards away, those who could not walk being helped by the more lightly wounded. The Germans took away our smocks and helmets, and began to search us. They were taking watches (both civilian and military) and rings. The S.S. man found my escape purse, and put it in his right-hand jacket pocket, after tearing off the waterproof cover. I had hidden my ring in my mouth, and hung my watch on the "dog-tags" round my neck. After searching me the German put his left hand round my waist, and my right arm round his waist to help me over to the other prisoners. While he was doing this, I managed to extract my escape purse from his pocket, and conceal it in my sleeve.
During this period we were being shelled by our own people, but were refused shelter by the Germans who threatened to shoot any man who moved. A Dutch civilian who smiled at us, was shot where he stood.
After about an hour we were moved on foot to a school to the North of Oosterbeek. Those who were unable to walk were carried by the others. I was carried the whole way by S/Sgt Cobbald, of my Squadron. At the school the walking wounded were marched away under heavy escort, and I saw none of them again. The remainder had their wounds dressed by the medical orderlies and a Catholic padre. The German doctor arrived and wanted to shoot us, because, according to him, the British had shot his wounded in Arnhem hospital. The padre talked him out of it. None of us had had any food for two days, except a bar of chocolate which I had with me, and we asked for food. The Germans said they had none, but eventually produced a black loaf and a jar of apple preserve. They said they wanted to take us to Arnhem hospital, but had no petrol. This seemed to be true, as I had seen several German motorcycles being pushed along.
At about 1600 hours, L/Cpl Egan, Parachute Regiment, was brought in, shot through the chest, above the heart. He died in a few minutes. At about 2200 hours a lorry arrived and took two loads of wounded to Arnhem (E 77). Next day (20 Sep) the twenty remaining patients, including six stretcher cases, were taken by lorry, via back roads, to Arnhem. On arrival at St. Elizabeth's Hospital, Arnhem, we were told that there were no food, dressings, or water. However, a young Dutch girl gave us bread, coffee, and peppermints, and brought us a cigarette each.
After about two hours in the hospital, we were moved in captured British 2nd Army trucks to a hospital in Apeldoorn (Z 70). We were guarded by one sentry only, on the journey, but since I was not able to walk, I did not attempt to escape. The hospital was full up, so we were directed to the summer palace of Queen Wilhelmina, at Het Loo (Z 7806) which had been turned into a German hospital. We were taken in and stripped naked. All our clothes were taken away, and only our personal kit left. I managed to hide my compass and map, though the francs were taken away. English money was put into an envelope, with the owner's name on it, and all invasion money was confiscated. Pay books were also collected. We were given a hot shower, and a suit of conspicuous blue and white stripes, and taken to the Queen's Suite on the first floor, where we met other British wounded.
An hour later we were taken downstairs to the surgery to see Doctor Hansa (rank between Lieutenant and Captain). He asked for our rank and number, and looked at my wound. He put an aquaflavine dressing on it, and tied it up with a paper bandage. Medical supplies were obviously very scarce, and the only medicaments available were aquaflavine, cod liver oil and ointment, and coal tar ointment. A cod liver oil dressing had to last four days. At 1930 hours we received our first hot meal in Holland. It consisted of a sort of vegetable soup with hawthorn (?) leaves in it, black bread, and acorn coffee. After this meal I was very sick.
During the first week here I saw very little, as I was confined to bed, but a lady from the Dutch Red Cross brought us books, cigarettes, cards, games, metal combs, razors and one toothbrush to every fourth man. I did not get a toothbrush. We were getting the B.B.C. news from a Dutchman in the kitchen. There was in charge of us a German medical orderly who spoke good English, having been a merchant in South Africa for many years. He told us that the British 1st Airborne Division had been annihilated.
About 29 Sep 44 Lieutenant Griffiths, Sgt Mansa, and two other men escaped from the hospital. They were helped by the Dutch underground movement. At 0800 hours next day the orderly came round and told us that these four had escaped and that we would be punished. That day about 40 of the fittest patients were evacuated, and the guard was doubled. A much closer watch was kept over us, we received no news, and when the Dutch lady came again we were only allowed to receive books. Among them was a book called "Wandering in Holland" which contained a map. This map was copied by Major Coke, Kings Own Scottish Borderers.
I was now able to walk fairly well, though not for any distance and I walked with a far worse limp than was necessary. I took charge of the kitchen squad who went to fetch the meals and to peel the potatoes, etc. The system of getting meals was as follows. Six men and I went with a little German orderly to the kitchens and carried up the food in containers. I used every opportunity to steal food from the kitchen. The German officers had white bread, and I often stole loaves, also honey, extra butter, tomatoes, and occasionally cigarettes. Our rations were good in comparison with civilian rations.
About 9 Oct we were given our clothes and told that the remaining British were going to Germany. About 11 Oct we were told that we were moving to a monastery on the German frontier, and all except 13 of our men went that day, with a German advance party. They were sent by rail from Apeldoorn.
On 11 Oct I approached Major Coke, who had agreed to come with me if he could get his boots. Previously, after complaining of lack of exercise, we had been allowed an hour's walk in the park each day, and for this outing we were given our boots. After exercise the boots were taken in again, but we managed to retain some of them, and the difference in numbers had not been detected. Major Coke had acquired a dark green uniform jacket as issued to the Dutch workmen employed at the Palace. I had stolen a complete suit of this uniform from the potato cellar.
On 12 Oct we timed the sentries strolling outside the Palace, and we found that they passed as follows:- 25 mins, 10 mins, 15 mins and 5 mins. It was a dark night and suitable for the attempt, but at 2330 hours firing broke out in the forest, so we cancelled our plans.
Next day (13 Oct) Major Coke met a Dutchman who gave us directions. He told us to cross the 50 yards of lawn, get into the wood, then over a wall into the village of Het Loo and give six taps in groups of two on the door of the first house. We were told to go on 14 Oct. This night proved to be very light. The sentries failed to come at the expected times, and the doctors and nurses were having a party in the room below. At 2330 hours we lowered a fire-hose out of the window and I climbed down. I landed on what I thought was the ground, but I was actually on the window sill of the nurses' dining room. My elbow struck the window, and a nurse screamed and ran from the room. I thought that she had heard me, so I climbed up again. We hid the hose and got into bed.
Next day (13 Oct) we received six Canadian Red Cross parcels between 13 of us, this gave us food for our journey. On the night of 15 Oct at 2245 hours we decided to go. I had asked other men to come with us, but they did not think their wounds would stand it. It was raining hard and blowing. Major Coke, Sgt Freeman, and I lowered the hose and climbed down, landing safely. We gave two tugs on the hose to have it hauled up again, and ran across the lawn to the wood. We found the wall, crossed it, and arrived at the house in Het Loo.
We were taken in, and were given directions to an address on the Amersfoort road. We got completely lost through wrong directions, so decided to ask at a house. The second house proved helpful, and Major Coke was given more directions, which resulted in us finding the house all right. Though there was a light in one window, no one answered the door, so we decided to go along the road and hid if anyone approached. We had to take cover several times when German convoys came along, but we stayed on the main road, and we got lost in the forest once for 1½ hours.
We kept on going until 0530 hours, 16 Oct, and then heard German sentries ahead of us. On going into the wood we found that the Germans were all round us, but we evaded them successfully and came out eventually on a track running East and West. At 0900 hours we met some Dutchmen who told us to go to the village of Uddel (Z 6708). We asked a farm labourer to fetch the man we wanted to see, and while we were waiting a woman came and asked if we were German deserters. When we said we were English, she took us into her cottage and gave us coffee and potatoes, dried our clothes, and kissed Sgt Freeman and me. Presently the wife of the man to whom we had been recommended, arrived. She was very suspicious, and thought we were German spies. When we had finally convinced her, she told us to stay where we were. If Germans came, we were to go into the woods.
On 17 Oct during the evening, the woman helper and a man brought us civilian clothes and took away those we were wearing. On 18 Oct we were taken into the woods and interviewed by another lady. She gave us news, questioned us as to our identity, and told us to leave that night if possible. On 19 Oct we had to hide in the woods as the Germans came to steal all the available bicycles. We helped the man with whom we stayed to dismantle and hide his cycle, also the sewing machine and all the blankets.
Next evening (20 Oct) the woman helper took us to meet our guide. He gave us mackintosh coats, and a piece of string to hold, and by this means he guided us for 7 km. through the forest. At 2115 hours we were met by two other guides who took us for 5km. in a westerly direction. We arrived at a farm, where we met an American officer.
From this point our journey was arranged for us. Freeman and I reached the British lines at 0035 hours on 23 Oct. Major Coke, who was unable to walk, remained behind in enemy-occupied territory.
Major Coke was killed on the 18th November 1944 during the failed Pegasus II operation, which attempted to evacuate a very large party of evaders to the Allied lines. For his escape, Sergeant Mahoney was Mentioned in Despatches. His citation reads:
Mahoney was wounded in the food and captured at the Regimental Aid Post at Oosterbeek on 20th September 1944. He was moved via Arnhem to the Summer Palace at Het Loo, and as soon as he could walk, took charge of the kitchen squad. He managed to obtain boots and clothes and, after the majority of the prisoners had been evacuated, began to plan escape with a British officer. An attempt to get out on 14th October failed, but on the night of 15th October Mahoney and two others lowered a fire-hose out of the window and climbed down. They crossed the wall and immediately found friends from whom they obtained directions. On 20th October Mahoney's journey back to Allied lines was arranged for him and he crossed the Rhine with a large evacuation party.
On the 26th October 1977, Mahoney wrote the following in a letter:
In 1944 I was Sgt, P,J, Mahoney, Glider Pilot, I was wounded in Oosterbeek and captured and taken to the Palace at Het-Loo as a Prisoner, During the night of October 14th, I, in the company of Major Coke, (Later Killed) and Sgt, Freeman, another Glider Pilot, escaped from the then Hospital, we were picked up by the Dutch Underground a few days later and hidden in various houses, during this time I was seen by a Dutch doctor, who lanced my wound and relieved the Puss that had built up in it, we were also helped by a Veterinary surgeon, a church Organist, a Farmer and many other people.
We eventually joined the party who crossed during the night of October, 21st, 1944. I owe a Great Debt of gratitude to the Dutch people and in fact consider every day of the last 33 years has been a bonus to me paid for with the lives of those who died to help us, I still have some mementoes of that time, among them being some "Occupation Currency Notes" signed by many of those who crossed the Rhine that night including some of the young guides.
I have been back to see the Cemetery at Oosterbek but only for one day and the time was unfortunately too short to attempt to contact any of those who helped, however I am coming to Arnham next year with a party of Ex-Paratroops and would be delighted to meet any one connected with that time.
Following on from this letter, Mahoney subsequently wrote the following:
Detail of Capture and Escape
Arnham Sep/Oct 1944.
858565 Sgt, P,J, Mahoney. Glider Pilot Regt, "F" Squadron, 15 Flight.
Arnham was my second main Glider operation, the first being "D" day which was carried out successfully.
I was a regular soldier, having joined the army in August 1937, I was first in the 10th Royal Hussars where I became a Sergeant, after the outbreak of war, I was posted to the 31st Training Regt of the Royal Armoured Corp as a Tank Instructor and during this time my own regt was posted to Africa, because trained instructors were badly needed we were not allowed to obtain postings to field regiments, I was however later posted to Cambridge University as an Instructor at the Officer training unit of the University, here I was in charge (under Capt, K, Watts of the 15th Hussars) of the Armoured training wing.
With the help of Capt Watts I was later able to obtain a posting to a field regiment and went to the Fife and Forfar Yeomanry, this was a Scottish Territorial unit under training for "D" day in this regt I was Troop Sgt for 1st Troop "B" Sqn and later Sgt I/C the "B" Echelon for H,Q, Squadron, I was not however very happy in this Regiment, I was the only Englishman there and frankly couldn't understand a word that half of them said, part of my duty was to study A.C.I.'s and put into operation anything pertaining to our unit and as a result of this I saw an A.C.I. concerning the "Glider Pilot Regt", normally tank crews were not allowed to volunteer for other arms of the service, however on this A.C.I. it said volunteers could be accepted, subject to educational and Physical requirements being met, from all arms of the service and that Commanding Officers had no jurisdiction. I applied for posting and in August 1943 went first to R.A.F. Cardington for Air Crew Selection Board and medical and educational tests and then to the Depot of the Glider Pilot Regt at Tilshead. I remained at Tilshead for one week and was then sent to R.A.F. Booker No 5, Elementary Flying Training School, I enjoyed flying and passed the course with an Above Average Rating, after the completion of the course on powered aircraft I went to R.A.F. Shobden in North Wales for conversion to Gliders, these were the light training Gliders "Hotspurs" and finally to R.A.F. Brize Norton for conversion to "Horsa" Gliders, after the completion of all my flying training I went to R.A.F. Broadwell in Oxfordshire to join 15 Flight, "F" Squadron of the G.P.R. commanded by Major Murray, since we were drawn from all arms of the army it was necessary for us all to be trained to a high standard as infantry soldiers and apart from flying training which continued at a rapid pace we also had to do all the necessary field training,
Since this was January 1944, time was short and training both in the air and on the ground was pushed forward at a rapid pace, so that by the time "D" day came we were not only good pilots but also very well trained infantry soldiers.
After the "D" day operation we were continually being briefed for follow up operations, first the Falaise Gap, then the relief of Paris and so on, I think that between "D" day and Arnham we were briefed, loaded, flight tested and stood down for about six different operations, including the 1st proposed Arnham / Nijmegan / Grave operation in August 1944, on this I was supposed to have gone to Nijmegan with part of the H.Q. staff, in fact I was moved with other parts of the flight to R.A.F. Harwell for this operation which was later abandoned.
Briefing for the ultimate Arnham operation began on about Sept, 14th, when elements of the Air Landing Brigade were moved onto the airfield and the usual security net closed, my load was one six pounder anti tank gun, the gun crew, ammunition and a jeep. The flight was almost uneventful except for some flack over the scheldt estuary and again at Hertagonbosch where we turned for the run into Arnham and again met flack. The fighter cover we had however was superb and as soon as Anti-Aircraft fire began, the fighters went down after it. The L.Z. was well marked at Oosterbek and smoke was being used to give us wind direction, The landing was simple and accomplished without damage to the aircraft, but as we began to drop the tail another glider came in too close and hit the Starboard wing, The wing was smashed for about one and a half metres, and the other glider crashed into the trees at the far end of the L.Z. the crew I believe were killed. After the Gun and Jeep were unload and had gone off to join their battery, we joined the rest of our squadron at some farm buildings near the L.Z. which was our appointed rendezvous, the squadron then being marched to the station at Wolf-Heizen, we remained here for some time and then went on to Oosterbek, we "dug in" along the edge of a wood and were soon engaged in the fighting, nothing very serious transpired that night, but the next morning the fighting became heavier and about midday on Tuesday we came under very heavy and accurate Mortar fire, I was hit by TWO pieces of shrapnel, the first cut away the heel and back of my left boot but without injury to me, The second piece hit me below the Right ankle, it broke the bone at the side of my foot and lodged under my heel, Sgts. Appleton and Hope were also hit at this time and as soon as a lull in the attack came we three were evacuated to the Field hospital, this had been set up in a house on the road to Arnham, it was near to the church but on the opposite side of the road, here we were given attention, (Sulphanalimide and our wounds bandaged) and then conducted to the top floor,
We remained here until the next morning, there had been fairly heavy fighting going on through the night, but during the next morning this became very much heavier and the hospital came under shell fire and all who could be moved were taken down to the cellar, we had been down there for about an hour when a corporal of the Medical Corps came down and said "Sorry chaps, the hospital has been captured" he was followed by a Feld Webbel of the Waffen SS with a machine pistol and we were marshalled out of the building, once outside we were all searched and then taken to an open space just near to the church, there was a Mark V, Panther tank in the road and while we were there it was hit by A/T fire, There were many unwounded prisoners also at this space, some of whom I knew, when we were to be taken away, a Waffen SS Officer told a Sgt, Walsh, also of my flight to "Carry your comrade" and I was carried on his back, we were all taken to a School on the North side of Oosterbek and here all those who were not wounded were segregated and taken away, the wounded were taken into the school, a little later all the wounded prisoners who were capable of walking were also taken away, this left about Fifty men at the school some of whom were very badly wounded, I saw about Six men die at this time, but none were given medical attention nor food or water, we who were more lightly wounded did what we could but this wasn't very much, Father Egan, the Roman Catholic Padre was a great help at this time, A Waffen SS Officer came to the school and wanted to have us all shot, he said his men had been shot in St, Elizabeth's hospital, but after much argument with Father Egan he went away again. About mid morning that day the most seriously wounded were taken away and about an hour later another Fifteen including myself were loaded into a lorry and taken to St, Elizabeth's, This was like a Butchers shop, wounded were every where and operations were taking place in almost any clear space. The Stench of Blood and anaesthetic and the quiet ways the Nuns and other staff were moving among the men remain my most vivid memory of this place, I remained here about 2 hours and then with some others was again loaded into a lorry and taken first to the barracks at Appeldoorn, this place was full and we were then taken to the Palace at Het-Loo, here we were admitted and after being made to strip and again being searched we were given a shower and "De-lousing" treatment and then taken to the Royal Apartments, There were two very large rooms here each with its own Bathroom and between these two rooms was a large hall, in this hall there were Oil Paintings which had been damaged during the Napoleonic Wars, if you looked closely you could see where this damage had been repaired.
There were about One Hundred and Fifty wounded here, some in Two Tier bunks and some on the floor, here we were given clothing which consisted of the same type of Blue and White striped jacket and trousers as that worn by people in concentration camps, we were also given our first food, this was soup (Made I think from the Hedgerows) and Ertsatz coffee and one slice of Black Bread, I had eaten nothing since a breakfast of Eggs and bacons, cereals, toast and tea at Broadwell on Monday, so this food was very welcome.
The next day the German doctor came round and looked at our wounds, they also took details of us, Name, Rank, Number, etc. The next day the bandage on my foot was removed and replaced by a German "Paper" bandage. After we had been here for about a week Sgt, Manser and I think four men of the Independent Parachute Regt escaped and as a direct result of this all the men who could walk were taken off the Germany, it was shortly after this that I began to move about and so took over the Kitchen Detail, this was a small party of men (usually four) who went to the kitchens to collect the food and also to peel potatoes, we were usually guarded by one or two German Orderlies, One of these was an elderly man whose family had been killed in Hamburg in the bombing, he spoke english and was not unkind, the other man was a mean little fellow, we called him "The Weasel" He was always giving the Nazi Salute and shouting "Heil Hitler" but if he was in charge it was normally possible to so confuse him that we were able to speak to the Dutch workers in the kitchen, they would give us news and sometimes extra bread or honey, after some time I was able to ask if they could help me to escape, they told me however that they were too closely watched, but that if I could get out on my own there were many who would help me, it was during one of those kitchen journeys that I was able to steal a German Hospital suit, this was of a dark green colour and I hid it under my bed, I had at this time been going to try to escape with a Lt, Carter of the Air Landing Brigade, However at about this time, more men were taken to Germany, he being one of them, about October 7th some of us were taken into the grounds of the Palace for exercise and for this we were given footwear, I had no boots so was given a pair of British Army P.T. shoes and these also I hid when we were suppose to return them, I asked Sgt, Freeman, another Glider Pilot if he would escape with me, he wasn't physically wounded but was in his own words "Bomb Happy", he agreed to come and so we began to save from our Bread ration, we then learn't that Major Cote [Coke], 7th, K.O.S.B. had some Dutch Occupation Money and decided to ask him to give us some, we then learned that he also spoke German and decided to ask him if he would come with us, he was at that time the Senior British Officer in the palace.
He was not at first willing to join us and said that he felt his duty was to remain, however he finally said he would come, subject to two conditions, 1/ we must have help from the Dutch workers inside the hospital, 2/ we must steal his boots. I told him the first condition was definitely out but that the second might be possible and he then agreed to come, we were taken out for exercise the next day and when we returned we were able with the help of the other men to steal boots, not only for the major but also for Godfrey Freeman and since it was becoming more and more obvious that we would not be kept at the Palace for very much longer decided that we must go at the first opportunity, I had been keeping watch at night on the German sentries and had logged their times for passing the windows outside our quarters and by saving part of our bread ration each day Godfrey and I now had a whole black loaf, these were all date stamped underneath and ours was about three weeks old, also at this time we were given one Red Cross Parcel between every two men so we swapped things like jam and sugar coffee and cigarettes for the more useful items like spam and corned beef. October 12th was the first suitable night to go and at about 2300 hrs we lowered the fire hose out of the bathroom window and I went down, we had an arrangement with the other men there that they would watch out for us for 15 minutes and if we had to return they would again let down the hose so that we could climb in, it was a very dark night and when I thought I was down I turned to go and banged the window on the ground floor, I was standing on the window sill. The room below was occupied by german staff and a woman called out, so I went back up the hose pretty quickly and we all dived into bed, no other action took place that night and no Germans came either. The next night we were just about to go when shots were fired, so we again cancelled the operation, it transpired that the shots had been fired by a sentry at a drunken German soldier who was trying to climb into the palace.
Friday 14th October, was my Father's Birthday, it was also a very dark night and raining very heavily, so again at about 2300 hrs the hose was lowered out of the window and I went down, this time I made to the ground and then held out the hose, clear of the building for the others, Major Cote came next and ran off into the woods, Godfrey Freeman came last and slipped, he fell on top of me and in so doing broke his Toe, However we ran to the woods and later found the Major. We had brought with us one of the Heavy Curtain Cords from the palace to use as a rope if needs be, we made our way to the wall at the edge of the Palace grounds and the other two hoisted me to the top, we couldn't see how far down it was on the other side so they held the rope and I slid down, but it was only about three metres.
There was a road running along the side of the palace grounds and we set off along this and after about one hundred metres we cane to a guard post, but this we got past quite easily and went on until we came to a junction of (I think) three roads, we took the road going in the direction of Amersfoort and after about two km we approached a house and knocked, our intention was to ask for help, but the lady who answered the door was very frightened and would only say, "please go away". We continued along the Amersfoort rd for some distance and since the sides of the road had many Weapon Pits dug into them, (we kept falling into them in the darkness) we walked down the middle of the road, it must have been about 0400 hrs when we came to a line of German lorries parked at the side of this road and to avoid them we entered the woods, but we then found we were walking into a Tank Lager, this was on the North side of the road and we were trying to head due West, so we went almost due North and about 0700 hrs we came to an Unmade Road running through the woods, I don't think we had covered many kilometres because the journey through the woods had been difficult, the rain had continued all night and we were all thoroughly soaked and very cold, we were standing at the edge of the road eating some bread when two men came along on Bicycles, there was no chance of hiding from them, but they totally ignored us and went on, This track or unmade road went East/West so we again turned west and continued, at about 0830 hrs we met two Dutch Ladies, They gave us some apples and told us that there was a village about 1 kilometre ahead which was occupied by the Germans, they said there was another village farther on where we MIGHT get help, they also said we should try to find the Veterinary Surgeon, we went on until we came to the second village and were standing in the forest near to a cottage when some children saw us, they went into the cottage and presently a young woman came out to us, she thought we were German Deserters, but when we said we were Tommies she invited us into the cottage where we were given a meal of cold shredded cabbage and hot potatoes, this was most welcome, we also dried our clothes, the man from the house went away and later in the same day we were taken into the woods again and told to wait, presently we were visited by a lady, who asked us many questions, she told us in good english that, Germans often tried to infiltrate the Resistance and she must be sure who we were. We had to tell her where in England our homes were, where we had escaped from and how and many other things, But what really convinced her was the fact that on my Left Arm I had an old Tattoo Mark with the word "MOTHER" under-neath it, this had been done shortly after I entered the Army and was obviously not new, she then said we should return to the cottage and that we would be helped.
This lady had also been shown my escape map, (the usual cloth type issued to air crews) it was quite clean and she said I should make it dirty, to look like a "Dirty Handkerchief", when we got back to the cottage I began rubbing this with dirt, The Lady of the house saw me doing this and took it away saying she would help me, but she had misunderstood my intentions and began to scrub it in some water and in so doing removed part of the printing. Later that same day after we had all shared the contents of our Red Cross Food, (This the Family very much appreciated, especially the children who had some of the Glucose sweets) The Lady who had interrogated us returned and brought civilian clothes, she took away our German issue gear and had it burned, she told us that we should have to remain in the cottage that night and would be moved on the following night, It rained very heavily that night and at about 1900 hrs someone came to the cottage with a message that the Germans were coming into the village and we were quickly moved out into the forest, we remained there until about midnight when we were taken inside again, we spent the rest of that night sleeping on the floor of the cottage, the next day we were again very hurriedly moved into the forest when the Germans came back, we spent most of that day there, during which time Major Cote and I had quite a heated argument about the merits of Cavalry Troops in Modern warfare, he argued in favour of them and cited the use of Cossack Troops by the Russians, I remember I told him of a mental picture I had "Of a Glider Landing at a place like Oosterbek and the Cavalry galloping out" I remember I said at the time "We should certainly win,- the Germans would die of laughter".
We were taken back to the cottage in the later after noon and at about 1930 we were taken to the edge of the village where we met our first guide, The interrogating lady was with us and translated what this man said, We were told we were going in the Dark Places and must hold on to a special piece of rope and be led by him. He said "I do not stop" - "We shall pass close to the Deutz" - "You must be very quiet - If you are not - I shall leave you". In this manner we set off, we went along small paths and across fields and also crossed two main roads, at the second of these, He impressed upon us that the Germans were very close, we had to cross one at a time, Shortly after this he stopped and pointed to a glow in the sky to the South West and said "Arnham". We were led by this man to a house after about 2 hrs, He went in and shortly after he came back and took us in, he then shook each of us by the hand and left, The room we were taken to was small but in it were six men including a Dutch Policeman and one Woman, all were armed, and I believe one of the men was an American, we were given a hot drink and some Schnapps and some cigarettes and rested for a short time.
We were then given a Pistol each and a Grenade and told exactly what we must do if we ran into the Germans, we were also told that we must run and hold on to the bicycles of our guides, We set off in this manner, but after some time my foot which had been giving me some trouble and was very swollen began to slow me down so our guides stopped and took us onto their bicycles, we went quite a long way in this manner and at one time came to a railway crossing, Here we dismounted and each pair crossed, one pair at a time, and covered by the other. I don't know at what time we reached our destination that night but it was very late when we arrived in the area of Barneveldt. Here we were to split up. Godfrey Freeman and I went to the house of the man who played the Church Organ, Major Cote was taken to the house of the Schoolmaster, we were welcomed by the family and given hot drinks and went to bed, The next day Jan who was the son of the house came to us and said that the Escape routes had been cut and the boats burned, he asked if we would be prepared to work with them until another route could be organized, we both said we would, at this time he saw my foot, and said he would fetch a doctor, we were allowed to go down stairs and sit with the family, I was sitting in the living room when I saw a man in Uniform coming up the Garden, The family assured me he was a friend, he was another Dutch Policeman, he was a big jovial man who came and shook our hands and wished us luck, later that day Jan came back with a Doctor, He cut open by foot and relieved all the Suppuration which made it much better, at this time Jan came and said "If you are prepared to march and fight, there is a chance to get back to the British Army" We of course said it was alright with us, we then asked if the Major would be coming with us, Jan said, the Major has been asked, but he says he cannot as he has some trouble with his leg, he asked me if I would go and see him and I agreed, I was taken to the house of the Schoolmaster, The Major was in bed, I told him we were going, but he declined to come with us and we left him there. Our next guides led us through the night to a farmhouse somewhere near Ede, There were many people at this place, we were given food and drink and Dutch Gin and a "Fifty Tin" of Craven A cigarettes, the old Dutch Farmer tried to teach me to say things in "Dutch" but without very much success, he was a nice man, There were so many people coming and going at this place that I asked about security, I was told "Not to worry - the place is well guarded and we shall have a good warning." at this farm there was a young Dutch Nurse, her name I believe was Margrette who rebandaged my foot.
We slept that night - "or rather what was left of it" in the barn, (Here I must mention that when we were given the cigarettes I had offered them round, I was told "they are for Tommies only" This was despite the fact that these people were risking their lives for us, and had NO cigarettes themselves. I had insisted that they share them and we smoked the lot that night.) The next morning, this was Sunday 21st October, we were given instructions about the next part of our journey. We were told we would be guided by two young boys, these were about 14 years old, that we must follow on bicycles and keep about fifty metres behind, that if either party were stopped the others must go on. We were given a sandwich to take with us and set off, We both made the very silly mistake of riding on the left of the road when we started off, but one of the boys came and made us go to the other side, we rode for a long distance and came to a town "I think this must have been Ede" where our guides turned into a small road with us following, in this road a Company of German soldiers was forming up, we were not stopped, but one soldier said Gut en Tag, I answered but until we turned out of this road I could almost feel the bullet hole in my back. We eventually arrived at some woods at Renkum and here our young guides took away the bicycles and said goodbye, they told us some one else would come for us, we waited in these woods for about an hour when another man came along and indicated that we should follow him, he led us to where a road cut through the woods and having made sure that the way was clear he said "you are here" Run across", we ran over the road and into the trees on the other side where we were Challenged, "HALT WHO GOES THERE", it seemed that half the British Army were in the woods, we were taken the Officer I/C who took our Names, Rank, and Number and asked if we were ESCAPERS or EVADERS, we were told to rest up and that the attempt at crossing would be made that night, Here I met Dick Pollman and I also met Sgt Manser again who told me he had been in Appeldoorn for most of the time. The crossing took place that night and apart from running into a German Patrol at the Rivers edge, from which encounter I gained a Luger Pistol, it went very well, we were expertly led by Dick Pollman and his men who crossed over with us and after being given food by the American 101st Airborne division we were taken to Nijmegan Hospital, it was here the following day that Dick Pollman and his men signed for me the Dutch Occupation Bank Note and I and some others signed for him our names on a piece of paper. We were interrogated that day by the Security Forces and my Interrogator turned out to be a Captain Clarke who had served with me at Cambridge.
We remained in the hospital until Wednesday when we were taken to Eindhoven to be flown home, The Aircraft for this were Dakota's (C47s) from my home airfield, 512 Sqn, the very people who had towed us out to Arnham in the first place, We were taken to an airfield in Lincoln-shire where Godfrey and I spent the night, I was able to telephone my wife from here, she then worked for the Collector of Taxes, I phoned her at her office, The Collector, closed the office for the rest of the day and gave the staff the day off.
The following morning Godfrey and I were taken by Jeep to Broadwell, On the way we stopped for food, I was dressed in Battledress without Insignia, no rank badges, I had on Dutch Civilian Shoes and had a piece of Parachute silk round my neck. When we went back to the jeep I was stopped by the Military Police, They demanded to know who I was, I told them and where we had come from, I was asked for my Pay Book and when I told them this was in Germany, the young L/Corporal asked me "If I had a receipt for it". I explained to him as gently as my temper would permit, that it was not the accepted practice for the "SS" to issue receipts when they searched prisoners and that I hoped he would soon have the opportunity of finding this out for himself.
When I arrived back at Broadwell and reported to Major Murray, I found that most of my Flight were Dead or Missing, I was able to give a few names of people I knew to be prisoners, I was De-briefed the next day and kitted out and given leave, when I returned from leave I went into the Hospital on the airfield and the Shrapnel was removed from my foot.
After the war, Mahoney worked as a Plumbing Contractor in Westgate-on-Sea, Kent.
Back to The Glider Pilot Regiment
Back to Biographies Menu