Staff-Sergeant Alexander Rattray Dow

 

Unit : "D" Squadron, No.1 Wing, The Glider Pilot Regiment

Army No. : 1058344

 

Staff-Sergeant Dow's glider landed near Beuzeville, 20 miles to the East of the River Dives, and was taken prisoner several hours later. The following is his M.I.9 evasion report:

 

Captured : Beuzeville, 6 Jun 44.

Escaped : From train in France, 30 Jun 44.

 

Date of Birth : 19 Mar 23.

Army Service : 2 years.

Peacetime Profession : Temporary Bank Clerk.

Private Address : 84 Stanley Street, Aberdeen.

 

I took off from Tarrant Rushton aerodrome at 0100 hrs on 6 Jun 44 and, after forming up, proceeded across the Channel. On approaching the French coast, either my tow plane, being in difficulties, released me, or the Flak severed the tow cable, and I found myself in free flight at 1500 ft.

 

I made a forced landing on a small field, and on the approach slightly wounded a British paratrooper who, with two others had been crossing the field. No injuries were sustained by any of the passengers, my co-pilot, or myself. The freight - a jeep and trailer, were undamaged, but, owing to the damage to the glider, it was impossible to extricate them swiftly. We decided to hide up till daylight, return to the plane and unload. I had landed near Beuzeville (N.W. Europe, 1:250,000, Sheet 4, L 60).

 

During the ensuing two hours, while unloading personal arms and aiding the wounded paratrooper, we were surrounded and captured. My co-pilot (Sgt. Richard Chadwick) was severely wounded in the stomach. The three passengers had left earlier to reconnoitre for a place to spend the night, and they were not included in the skirmish. One of them I met afterwards in a German prison camp (Pte. Jones Anti-Tank Artillery).

 

My term of imprisonment was spent at Frontstalag 153 (Verneuil) (8-15 Jun) and at Luftstalag (Chartres) (15-24 Jun). After a further six days at Frontstalag 133 near Chartres we were entrained for Germany at Paris. The rest of my story is the same as described by Sgt. Shannon (S/P.G.(F) 2327) with whom I escaped from a train on 30 Jun.

 

 

Sergeant Shannon continues:

 

I left Chartres early on the morning of 29 Jun 44 by bus in a party of 600 for Paris. At the Gare du Nord we left the buses and were forced to march between two lines of civilians who spat, struck, kicked, and shouted at us. This was a special reception party, for the other citizens of Paris were very friendly, but were kept away by the armed guards. We were marched to the Gare de L'Est and had many photographs taken of us. Also a radio commentator gave a description of us as we passed. We entrained 40 per wagon, receiving bread and sausage for three days and a drink of water. Towards night time S/Sgt Dow (S/P.G.(F)2328), Sgt. Helme (S/P.G.(F)2329) and myself broke the window open to escape but the train stopped before dark and guards were placed around the trucks.

 

We were allowed out in the morning of 30 Jun for 15 minutes, given a drink of tea, and once more locked up in the wagons. The train was held up by air raids most of the day. Towards night time we again broke the window open (in a different wagon) and at midnight climbed out on to the buffers and jumped. I jumped first, and became separated from Dow and Helme.

 

I walked up and down the railway track, but was fired at by a patrolman and hid in a field. After a wait, I headed South by the stars and entered a wood, but after walking for an hour came out at almost the spot where I entered. I returned to the railway to search for my comrades but was again fired upon. I headed South, and slept on the fringe of the wood.

 

The next morning (1 Jul) I explored the wood and met Dow and Helme. We headed S.E. or South all day, proceeding with great caution, as we had seen one German soldier in the wood. At nightfall we came out at the shrine at Neuvizy (Sheet 6, O 6919) and slept in a thicket off the road.

 

On 2 Jul we crossed the main road and headed across the fields, roughly South. Our escape compass was useless, as it was full of water. We entered a barn and stripped off our clothes, as we had been in continuous rain for 12 hours. We ate wild fruit and drank rain water. Dow approached a farmer, who was scared, but let us have two litres of milk. We slept in the wood some distance away, as we did not trust the farmer.

 

On 3 Jul we crossed a main road and railway, and Dow approached a cottage for food. We were given chicken, cheese, bread, and cider and told to be careful of German patrols. We crossed the fields all day and at evening approached a hamlet where we were given more food, cider, and eau-de-vie; also an old coat. We slept in a hay-rick.

 

Early in the morning of 4 Jul we approached a farm at Auboncourt (Sheet 9, O 6511) where we were given food and clothing which had been collected by the farmer's wife from the villagers. We slept the night at the farm. We were visited by members of the Resistance, one of whom, a gendarme conducted us to Ville-sur-Retourne (T 6294) where we stayed 12 days. Owing to Gestapo activity, we were moved to Tagnon (T 5199) but after nine days the neighbours became too curious, and we were moved to Reims.

 

I was separated from my companions owing to lack of accommodation, and stayed alone with a member of the Resistance. Dow and Helme were accommodated elsewhere in Reims. On the evening of 5 Aug we were warned that the Gestapo were making a raid, and I got away. My shelterer was taken prisoner, but was released after 15 days detention. I was taken to the same house as Helme, where we stayed until conducted to Paris by American Intelligence on 3 Sep 44.

 

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