Corporal F. Wilkinson

 

Although Corporal Wilkinson was not taken prisoner, his account has been included as those who are associated with it were. They all reference the account of Flight Lieutenant D. Crowley-Milling, which contains further details of the final leg of their journey, but I have yet to trace this.

 

National Archives catalogue reference - WO 208/3307/15

 

Name: 1866982 Cpl. Wilkinson, F.

Unit: Royal Engineers, attached 4th Searchlight Battery, Royal Artillery, G.H.Q. Troops

Left: Gibraltar, 30th December 1941.

Arrived: Gourock, 4th January 1942.

Army Service: 6 years, 4 months Colours, 7 years 7 months Reserve.

Peacetime Profession: Store Manager.

Private Address: 45 Lonsdale Road, Bolton, Lancashire.

 

My unit went into action against the Germans at LES ATTAQUES, near CALAIS, about 1400 hrs on 23 May. We were greatly outnumbered, about three searchlight detachments (30 men) trying to hold up about a dozen tanks. We were forced off the road where we had erected a barricade, and the next thing I knew was that we were behind the enemy, who were advancing towards CALAIS. There were then only five or six of us left.

 

I crawled through a field and hid in a wood for about an hour, waiting for a chance to get to CALAIS. The Germans, however, brought up their artillery and began to shell the town. After nightfall I tried to reach CALAIS, but, as this was impossible, I headed for DUNKIRK, the searchlights of which I could see. I had got as far as MARCK, a village East of CALAIS, when I fell into a ditch and got wet through and completely covered with mud. I went to the village and, after knocking at several doors, was taken in by a family about 0200 hrs (24 May). They gave me food, shelter and dried my uniform. I left them the next night, and again made for DUNKIRK, which I was not able to reach. Several times I almost walked into the midst of German troops.

 

I then decided to try to get to BOULOGNE, where I had friends. I wandered about for nearly a month, hiding in woods and getting food at houses. Eventually I was given shelter and civilian clothes in the village of CAMPAGNE LES GUINES, South of CALAIS. I arrived in the village on 24 Jun. Almost immediately afterwards the Germans arrived in the village, and I was moved to another billet in the same place. I remained there till 1 Sep 41. I stayed on the advice of French friends who were discouraged by reports of the detention of British soldiers in ST. HIPPOLYTE.

 

I left AUCHEL on 1 Sep with Pte JAMES, P.S., 2/6 East Surrey Regt. (S/P.G.(F)652), Pte FRASER, A.C., 4 Cameron Hrs (S/P.G.(F)653), and three R.A.F. personnel, including F/Lt. CROWLEY-MILLING, D., (S/P.G.(-)604). My journey to SPAIN was made as described in F/Lt. CROWLEY-MILLING's report, our route being AUCHEL - BETHUNE - ABBEVILLE - ST. MARTIN-LE-BEAU, near TOURS (where we crossed the Line of Demarcation on 2 Sep) - LOUCHES - CHATEAUROUX - TOULOUSE (3 Sep) - MARSEILLES (4 Sep) - PERPIGNAN (5 Sep) - FIGUERAS (9 Sep). We were arrested near FIGUERAS by Frontier Guards, having been advised in PERPIGNAN to give ourselves up to them. (Our guide had left us in the foothills of the PYRENEES after bringing us into SPAIN. We were in prison in BARCELONA for 3-4 days and in SARAGOSA for two days. We were then removed to MIRANDA camp (15 Sep) from which I was liberated on 13 Nov for repatriation. My entire journey was AUCHEL to SPAIN was arranged by the ORGANISATION.

 

 

Private A. C. Fraser

 

National Archives catalogue reference - WO 208/3307/13

 

Name: 2931262 Pte Fraser, A.C.

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

Left: Gibraltar, 30th December 1941.

Arrived: Gourock, 4th January 1942.

Army Service: 2 years, 9 months.

Peacetime Profession: Road Surveyor.

Private Address: 44 Lochalsh Road, Inverness.

 

I was captured at ST VALERY-EN-CAUX on 12 Jun 40 when my unit surrendered. Our route after capture was:- ROUEN, FORGES-LES-EAUX, DOULLENS, and ST. POL. I escaped on 23 Jun at DIVION, between ST POL and BETHUNE. As the column was passing through DIVION a Frenchman approached me on the pretence of giving me food. He indicated that he had civilian clothes in his basket, and when the guards were at the rear of the column he tossed the clothes into some bushes. I immediately dived into the bushes. I escaped alone.

 

When the column had passed I rejoined the Frenchman who took me to his home in AUCHEL. Next day a contingent of Germans entered the town, and it was thought best I should move. Fortunately, I was able to get in touch with a native of CAITHNESS, who is now a naturalised Frenchman and works as a miner at AUCHEL. He sheltered me in his home for the next 15 months.

 

In May 41 I was one of a party of 10 British and Belgians who attempted to get out of the Zone Interdite. We were disturbed by the Germans when getting into a goods train at CORBIE. I escaped and returned to AUCHEL.

 

Through a group working in BURBURE I eventually succeeded in contacting the ORGANISATION, and left AUCHEL on 1 Sep in a conducted party for MARSEILLES. From this point my account corresponds with those of F/Lt. CROWLEY-MILLING (S/P.G.(-)604) and Cpl. WILKINSON (S/P.G.(F)651).

 

 

Private P.S. Janes

 

National Archives catalogue reference - WO 208/3307/14

 

Name: 6145479 Pte Janes, P.S.

Unit: 2/6th East Surrey Regiment, attached 51st (Highland) Division.

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

Escaped: Divion, 23rd June 1940.

Left: Gibraltar, 30th December 1941.

Arrived: Gourock, 4th January 1942.

Army Service: 2 years.

Peacetime Profession: Grocer's salesman.

Private Address: 50 Vale Road, Claygate, Surrey.

 

I was taken prisoner when 51 (H) Div. surrendered at ST. VALERY-EN-CAUX on 12 Jun 40. We were ordered to cease fire about 0800 hrs by a Major of the Seaforth Hrs. From ST. VALERY-EN-CAUX we were marched to ROUEN, AUMALE, POIX, and ST. POL. I escaped twice in one day (about 17 Jun), but was recaptured. On 23 Jun, however, I managed to get away at DIVION, between ST. POL and BETHUNE, by dropping out of the column. A young Frenchwoman provided me with civilian clothes and took me to her parents' house in CALONNE-RICOURT nearby. I remained there for eight weeks, being taken then to AUCHEL, where I was harboured for about 15 months. I left AUCHEL on 1 Sep 41 in a conducted party arranged by the ORGANISATION. F/Lt. CROWLEY-MILLING, D., (S/P.G.(-)604) and Cpl. WILKINSON, F., (S/P.G.(F)651) were in the party and my account is identical with theirs.

 

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