Sergeant William Alexander Shannon
Unit : "D" Squadron, No.1 Wing, The Glider Pilot Regiment
Army No. : 318464
Sergeant Shannon's glider came down in the English Channel near to the French coast, and was taken prisoner after being washed ashore. The following is his M.I.9 evasion report:
Captured : Normandy Coast, 6 Jun 44.
Escaped : From train in France, 30 Jun 44.
Date of Birth : 9 Sep 19.
Army Service : 5 years.
Peacetime Profession : Wages Clerk.
Private Address : 17, Parkside Drive, Liverpool, 12.
While we were heading for Caen on 6 Jun 44, the tow-rope of our glider parted over Cabourg, Normandy (France, 1:250,000, Sheet 8, U 27) and we ditched in the sea off-shore. S/Sgt Howe, my first pilot, is missing and Sgmn. Milne was definitely seen to drown. After about three hours clinging to the wreckage with four other men of the load, I was washed ashore with them and immediately taken prisoner by a German infantry patrol. We were searched, and all our personal effects were taken from us. During the course of the day we were marched back through the lines for 32 kms, and slept the night in a chateau near Pont L'Eveque (N.W. Europe, 1:250,000, Sheet 4, L 50). We had nothing to eat or drink all day.
On 7 Jun we travelled by truck to Pont L'Eveque and thence to Front-Stalag 153 at Verneuil (Sheet 7, R 03) with about 50 other Airborne prisoners. We got no food, but were given a drink of water before leaving. After the third day without food we received bread, jam, and water. We stayed at Verneuil until 15 Jun when all Glider Pilots were removed to the Luftwaffe interrogation centre at Chartres, (R 30). Food and treatment were quite good.
On 24 Jun I was removed to Front Stalag 133, outside Chartres. Food and living conditions were very bad.
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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