Sergeant A.G. Cowan

 

National Archives catalogue reference - WO 208/3307/10

 

Name: 2928284 Sgt. Cowan, A.G.

Unit: 4th Cameron Highlanders, 51st (Highland) Division.

Captured: St. Valery-en-Caux, 12th June 1940.

Escaped: Grammont, 4th July 1940.

Left: Gibraltar, 30th December 1941.

Arrived: Gourock, 4th January 1942.

Army Service: 11 years.

Peacetime Profession: Apprentice engineer.

Private Address: 116 Renwick Street, Kinning Park, Glasgow.

 

I was captured at ST VALERY-EN-CAUX on 12 Jun 40. Our treatment after capture was very bad, the sick and wounded being forced to march about 19 miles a day. Food was bad, and the German guards were brutal. Most of our men who fell by the wayside were beaten. Our route was DOULLENS, LILLE, TOURNAI, RENAIX, and GRAMMONT, which we reached on 4 Jul.

 

I made two unsuccessful attempts to escape en route. The first was on 17 Jun near ST POL, and I was recaptured the same day. The second was on 24 Jun with Pte GREIG, D. (S/P.G.(B)657), and we were recaptured on 29 Jun at NEUVILLE, near MONTREULL, and marched the same day to HESDIN. On 30 Jun we were taken by truck to LILLE, and rejoined the column of P/W on the march into BELGIUM. We passed through TOURNAI and COURTRAI, and on 4 Jul while encamped at GRAMMONT we dived into a cornfield with Cpl. BETTLEY, E., and Pte. SLAVIN, S., both of our unit. (BETTLEY and SLAVIN were recaptured in BRUSSELS in Sep 41 and taken to prison in ST GILLES).

 

We lay in the cornfield till the Germans had left, and the village policeman then sent us to PARICKE, West of GRAMMONT. At PARICKE we met a Belgian-Canadian who showed us a dugout in the woods in which we lived for a fortnight. He then took us to an old lady who allowed us to sleep in her house for three months. On 13 Oct we were taken to a farm at the village of LIERDE STE MARIE where we were sheltered till 12 Jan 41.

 

On 12 Jan a Belgian ORGANISATION took us to BRUSSELS, where we lived in various houses under arrangements made for us by this group. On 14 Oct I left BRUSSELS with Pte. CONVILLE B., (S/P.G.(B)658). We crossed the frontier at OUIEVRAIN, and made VALENCIENNES met, by arrangement, a Belgian girl who acted as our guide all the way to BILBAO. Our guide took us out of the Zone Interdite by crossing the SOMME in a small boat near VILLIERS (?) and then on to AMIENS, PARIS and BAYONNE. From BAYONNE we went by motor bus to ST JEAN DE LUZ, and crossed the PYRENEES on foot to SAN SEBASTIAN, which we reached on 16 Oct. On 20 Oct we went by train to BILBAO and reported at the British Consulate. We were accommodated in the Seaman's Hostel till 28 Oct, when we were taken to MADRID in the consul's car. Our guide remained four days in BILBAO, and stayed in the hostel. We left MADRID on 20 Nov for GIBRALTAR.

 

 

Private B. Conville

 

National Archives catalogue reference - WO 208/3307/8

 

Name: 3319526 Pte Conville, B.

Unit: 1st Glasgow Highlanders, 51st (Highland) Division.

Captured: Near Cherbourg, 17th July 1940.

Escaped: Boitsfort, End July 1940.

Left: Gibraltar, 30th December 1941.

Arrived: Gourock, 4th January 1942.

Army Service: 2 years.

Peacetime Profession: Bread salesman.

Private Address: Low Gallowhill, Whitegates, Kirkintilloch, Nr. Glasgow.

 

I was captured on the road near CHERBOURG about 1100 hours on 17 Jul 40. I was driving a truck with ammunition and personal kit, my orders bring to reach the pert. We heard firing in front of us, and shortly afterwards ran into a German tank. About 30 of us were taken prisoner at the same time. We were put along with French P/W in a field and kept there for eight days, when we entrained for BELGIUM en route for GERMANY. I escaped from the train at BOITSFORT, just outside BRUSSELS, with Pte. M'CUBBIN of my unit. This was towards the end of Jul.

 

In BOITSFORT we were given civilian clothing and for six weeks hid in the woods, being regularly supplied with food in the village. When it got too cold for sleeping out M'CUBBIN and I were taken to BRUSSELS and were sheltered in a house in the suburbs of IXELLES from Sep to 20 Aug 41. I then moved to another address and M'CUBBIN stayed on. During the first week of Oct the Gestapo called at the house where M'CUBBIN was living. He tried to get away and received three bullet wounds - one in each shoulder and one in the back of the hand. He was taken to hospital by the Germans, and I believe he is now in German hands. I heard his wounded were not serious. The woman who had sheltered him was arrested at the same time with her daughter, and were taken to ST GILLES prison, BRUSSELS.

 

On 14 Oct, shortly after M'CUBBIN's arrest, I left BRUSSELS with Sgt. COWAN, A.G. (S/P.G.(B)656) under arrangements made for us by a Belgians ORGANISATION, and we were guided from VALENCIENNES to BILBAO by a Belgian girl. This part of my narrative is identical with Sgt. COWAN's report.

 

 

Private D. Greig

 

National Archives catalogue reference - WO 208/3307/9

 

Name: 2930402 Pte Greig, D.

Unit: 4th Cameron Highlanders, 51st (Highland) Division.

Captured: St. Valery-en-Caux, 12th June 1940.

Escaped: Grammont, 4th July 1940.

Left: Gibraltar, 30th December 1941.

Arrived: Gourock, 4th January 1942.

Army Service: 3 years.

Peacetime Profession: Motor driver.

Private Address: [?] Edinburgh.

 

I was captured with my unit at ST. VALERY-EX-CAUX on 12 Jun 40. I made my first attempt to escape while we were encamped in a field at DOULLENS on 23 Jun, but was recaptured immediately. Next day, again at DOULLENS, I escaped with Sgt. COWAN, A.G. (S/P.G.(B)656), and we were at liberty till 29 Jun when we were recaptured at NEUVILLE, near MONTREUIL. On 4 Jul I escaped at GRAMMONT (BELGIUM) with Sgt. COWAN and two others belonging to our unit.

 

My experiences are as described in Sgt. COWAN's report until 14 Jul 41, when I was provided with false papers and two guides by an ORGANISATION in BRUSSELS. One of the guides got lost and the other did not know the way, so I decided to undertake the journey alone. I took the train to CHARLEVILLE (FRANCE) and went from there, still be train, along the Swiss frontier, to BESANÇON and the small station of ARBOIS, on the Line of Demarcation. There I got out of the station and followed a crowd of people to a cafe, where I found myself a guide who took me across the boundary, (15 Jul). We made the crossing, which took about 20 minutes through some woods, by day, I paid the guide 150 frs. Immediately after crossing into Unoccupied France I got a bus to POLIGNY, and from there went by train to LYONS, TOULOUSE, and LOURDES, when I reached on 17 Jul. During my journey I slept at night in station waiting rooms. There was no French control of identity, although I was one questioned by a German officer in the waiting room of a small station just past BESANÇON. The route I followed was approximately the one which had been mapped out for me in BRUSSELS.

 

I remained at LOURDES from 17 Jul to 31 Aug waiting for Sgt. COWAN and Pte CONVILLE, B. (S/P.G.(B)658), whom I had left in BRUSSELS. As they did not arrive, I consulted a British civilian whom I had met in LOURDES as to the best way of getting to SPAIN. He put me in touch with two Belgians, with whom I went by train to CLORON and TARDETS, and to LICQ by autobus. There we found a guide who took us over the PIC DES ESCALIERS, through the FORET D'IRATY, and across the frontier. At a cafe just over the frontier we got another guide who took us to AOIZ, but we were caught there on 12 Sep by the Civil Guard, who imprisoned me for six days. I was then detained in PAMPLONA for 15 days (till 1 Oct), in IPIN for about a fortnight (till 14 Oct), and in MIRANDA DEL EBRO from 15 Oct to 30 Oct. I was then released and taken to MADRID, where I remained till 20 Nov, when I was sent to GIBRALTAR.

 

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