Sergeant David Basil McMillan


National Archives catalogue reference - WO 208/3315/19


Name: R84436 Sgt. McMillan, David Basil, R.C.A.F.

Unit: 9 Squadron, Bomber Command, R.A.F.

Captured and Escaped: Le Cateau, 10th July 1943.

Left: Gibraltar, 10th October 1943.

Arrived: Chivenor, 11th October 1943.

R.A.F. Service: since 30th January 1941.

O.T.U. : No.19 O.T.U. (Kinloss)

Post in crew: Air gunner.

Peacetime Profession: Salesman.

Private Address: 48 Homewood Ave., Ontario, Canada.




Sgt. DUNCAN J.D. (Captain) (S/P.G.(-)1388).

F/Sgt. BROWN H.T. (Navigator) (S/P.G.(-)1423).

Sgt. BARTLEY, J. (Bomb aimer) S/P.G.(-)1386).

Sgt. HUGHES S. (Wireless Operator) (S/P.G.(-)1387).

Sgt. WARNER L. (Mid-upper gunner) - (Baled out over BELGIUM).

Sgt. BLUNDEN S. (Flight Engineer) - (Wounded and believed captured).


I was a member of the crew of a Lancaster Bomber which left BARDNEY near LINCOLN, at 2230 hrs. on 9 July 43 to bomb GELSENKIRCHEN. After bombing the target we were hit by flak, and so much petrol was lost that the captain decided to head for FRANCE and the order was given to bale out. I was the last one to leave the aircraft.


I landed at 0300 hrs. on 10 July in a large grass field about a mile S.W. of LE CATEAU (N.W. Europe, 1:250,000, Sheet 5), spraining both ankles in doing so. I hid my flying clothing and equipment under brushwood in a clump of trees. My legs for a while were quite inert from the shock sustained on landing, but when I could move them freely, I started off in the direction of a clock chime which I heard some distance off. I thought that if, as was likely, the chime came from a church, I would try for help there. I knew the crashed aircraft was not far away and thinking that if I walked too far, I should come up against the cordon which would be drawn round it by the Germans, I decided to hide somewhere quite near.


Passing through the town, I heard whistling and scaled a low wall. In doing so I made a noise and found myself covered by a young armed German, who took me to a guardroom on the outskirts of the town, where I was searched by a sergeant, with my hands above my head. He handed me back my escape box, purse and pencil (with pencil clip), but removed my cigarettes, watch, a box of matches and a 10/- note. He did not find my round compass in my battle blouse. I wrote down my name, rank and number on a piece of paper. The sergeant telephoned, I think, for transport, but apparently none was available, and after a consultation between the two Germans I was marched off by the private.


My ankles were paining me considerably, and after going a little way I sat down on a low stone wall, took off my flying boots, showed my swollen ankles to the German and started rubbing them. After a time he showed signs of impatience. In slewing round on the low wall to reach one of my boots I knocked it off. Feeling for it in the darkness, my hand came in contact with a large stone. I put my boot on, but reached back for the stone. I pretended by gestures and grunting to be in considerable pain and held out my left hand for the German to pull me, which he did, offering me his left hand. As he did so, I pulled him down towards me, and then crashed the stone, which I had kept all the time in my right hand, against the left side of his head. He dropped with a clatter. I tried to get the bayonet off his rifle, but failed. I searched him hurriedly and recovered my cigarettes and watch, but found nothing else of use on him. He was quite senseless, bleeding a little from the nose, and I put him over the wall.

I was feeling shaken, and left the town at once. I nearly went back to get the German's boots but decided against it. I got on to the main road which took my roughly south. I avoided one motor cyclist by getting hurriedly into a ditch. I started walking at 0430 hrs. and at 0900 hrs. I reached BUSIGNY on the LE CATEAU - CAMBRAI road, and went to the station. There was an elderly Frenchman in the booking-office. I said "Un, Paris", and put down four of the 50 franc notes from my purse. He gave me the ticket without comment and handed me back two of the notes with some small change. I then asked "Train, quelle heure?", and he wrote "4.30" on the back of the ticket.


I then left the station with the intention of passing the intervening time somewhere in hiding, but just outside the station I passed a farm cart with three young Frenchmen on it. They spoke to me first in French, but when I did not reply, one hailed me in English, and I then declared myself. They took me to a field outside the village and then returned accompanied by a middle-aged Frenchman who spoke English. This man advised against providing me with civilian clothes, on the ground that I should be shot, if caught. I was left in hiding the rest of that day, and towards the evening was taken in a closed conveyance to CATILLON. From that stage my journey was arranged.


During my journey into Spain I and F/Sgt. LEE (S/P.G.(-)1464) travelled alone for some part of the way. My experiences are the same as those described in his report.


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