Private Archibald Fergus

 

National Archives catalogue reference - WO 208/3322/70

 

Name: 813712 Pte. Fergus, Archibald.

Unit: "A" Company, 1st Battalion The Black Watch, 51st (Highland) Division.

Captured: 1. 12th June 1940.  2. 24th June 1940.

Escaped: 1. 15th June 1940.  2. 17th July 1940.

Left: Bayeux, 10th September 1944.

Arrived: Newhaven, 10th September 1944.

Date of Birth: 18th February 1913.

Army Service: 25th April 1932.

Peacetime Profession: Soldier.

Private Address: 59 Lochend Road South, Lochend, Edinburgh.

 

I was with A Coy of the 1st Black Watch and got cut off by the German advance at ST. VALERY (N.W. EUROPE 1:250,000, Sheet 4, M 6595). I fought in the rear guard action, and at about 1000 hrs on 12 Jun 40 I entered ST. VALERY itself. I was with most of A Coy and a few drivers from H.Q. At about 1300 hrs the Germans arrived and took us prisoner.

 

A great number of us were gathered into a field and that afternoon we were marched off. We continued marching in a long column for three days, passing GAMACHES (M 5872), AUMALE (M 6947) and finally on 15 Jun we reached the village of HORNOY (M 8255). After passing through this village we turned into a road between two hedges. I managed to slip out of the column and hid in the hedge. There were three other soldiers also hiding. We did not stay together however, and after the column had passed I returned to HORNOY. A woman took me into her house and gave me food and civilian clothes. I slept there that night, and the next day I walked towards ST. VALERY.

 

Before I got there I was stopped by an old man who told me the town was occupied by the Germans. I therefore turned back and was advised by an Englishman (Mr. COOK) to try and get to TOURS. I spent the night at MOYENNEVILLE (M 7281) and returned to HORNOY two days later (about 18 Jun). At HORNOY I was told the Germans were asking everybody for passports and I decided to try again to reach ST. VALERY and get a boat. I got to MOYENNEVILLE, but was too tired to go further. I slept in an empty cafe for about four days.

 

On about 24 Jun a German officer and three German soldiers came into the cafe and arrested me. I was taken to ABBEVILLE (M 7784) and from there I went to a camp at DOULLENS (N 1486). Here I was put into a cell and later was accused of being a spy or a parachutist. Finally it was decided that I was an ordinary soldier, and I was put into the main camp, where I found a number of other prisoners. I remained in DOULLENS until 17 Jul.

 

On that date Sgt. PHILIPS, R.A.F., Andrew MILLS, A. and S.H., and two others (names unknown) told me they were going to try to escape and invited me to join them. We escaped over the wall. While I was descending the rope, it broke and I fell about 30 feet, hitting my head on landing. We were not discovered, however, and we managed to hide in a wood until dark. We then split up, and MILLS and I made our way to AMIENS (M 0959), where we arrived about 28 Jul. We went to the small village of SAVEUSE (N 0659). Here we met an old man who offered us food and shelter in return for work on his farm. We stayed for two days, but decided to push on and try to reach PARIS.

 

We started to walk and passed CONTY (M 9642), GRANDVILLIARS (M 8235) and BEAUVAIS (M 0106). Here we found it impossible to get through, and we returned to SAVEUSE. The farmer, however, refused to take us back, and we were forced to sleep in an empty house. I began to feel very ill, and we contacted a Frenchwoman who brought us food and took us into her house.

 

We both remained with her for five months from Aug 40. During this time I continued to be ill, and a doctor came to see me from Sep onwards. We never left the house in the daytime, and remained undiscovered, although the wife of the first farmer suspected our presence and tried to denounce us to the Germans.

 

In Jan 41 an attempt was made to get us to MARSEILLES. We had to travel separately and, as I was not yet well, MILLS made the first attempt. He left on 8 Jan. A few days later the guide returned and, when questioned, appeared very confused, and said that "a difficulty had arisen". I think that MILLS had been taken prisoner. It was found impossible for me to follow him, and the attempt was abandoned.

 

I remained at SAVEUSE for three years, living all the time in the same house. During this time I was continually subject to fainting fits and also had malaria. I lived in the house, only venturing out when it was dark.

 

On 1 Sep 44 British tanks entered the village, and I immediately contacted them. I was sent to the H.Q. on 3 Sep. After interrogation I was sent on and finally arrived at BAYEUX (FRANCE 1:250,000, Sheet 8, T 78). On 10 Sep I crossed by boat to NEWHAVEN.

 

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