Driver J. Strachan

 

National Archives catalogue reference - WO 208/3307/6

 

Name: T/110158 Dvr. Strachan, J.

Unit: No.9 Sub-Park Ammunition Column, R.A.S.C., 51st (Highland) Division.

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

Escaped: Fournes, 29th June 1940.

Left: Gibraltar, 30th December 1941.

Arrived: Gourock, 4th January 1942.

Army Service: 2 years, 2 months.

Peacetime Profession: Fish merchant.

Private Address: 12 Loaning, Maybole, Ayrshire.

 

At 1100 hrs. on 12 Jun 40 we were told by our officers that further resistance was useless and ordered to destroy all arms and all personal documents. About 200 men from my unit and other units were rounded up and taken to a field south of ST. VALERY-EN-CAUX by the Germans, other French and British troops being already there. At this place we were ordered to turn out our pockets and were "frisked" by a sentry but not interrogated. We first marched South towards FECAMP and then were take in lorries to the outskirts of ROUEN. From there we marched by stages to DOULLENS via FORGES LES EAUX and AIRAINES. We stayed in DOULLENS several days and then went on to BETHUNE, reaching there on 28 Jun.

 

About midday on 29 Jun in the vicinity of FOURNES, L/Bdr. DIMES (S/P.G.(F.)662), Gnr. CLAPHAM (in BARCELONA) and I got away from the column of prisoners. We had discussed this possibility earlier in the day, as I was now in country I knew well, having been stationed in the district for about six months. Our escape was unobserved, and no search was made for us. We hid in a barn until the column had passed, when a farmer who had seen us take cover came over to us with friends. They gave us civilian clothes and money. We went to an estaminet nearby, where we were given food and shelter for the night. On the morning of 30 Jun we were taken by a stranger to WIDRES, where we again found food and shelter for the night and were also given food for our journey and a map and itinerary to follow to reach GRAVELINES by secondary roads. At GRAVELINES we hoped to find some transport across the channel.

 

On 1 Jul we went on to LAVENTIE and stayed there about three weeks, hiding in an old pillbox. Food was brought us daily by a farmer. We had been told that it was not possible to continue on our way, as a bridge had been destroyed. On 24 Jul, however, we went on via ESTAIRES and CASSEL, and got to within a few miles of the coast near BOURBOURG on 28 Jul. Here we were warned by a Frenchman not to go any further, as no boats were available and German patrols were very active along the coast.

 

We started to retrace our steps to LAVENTIE, where we hoped that our friend would give us further help, but lost our road and found ourselves in ST. OMER, on 29 Jul. We had had no difficulty in getting into the town, but it was impossible to get out again, as guards had become more active, while we were there; so we hid in a hut. That evening a woman brought us food to the hut; an errand boy had seen us hide and told her where we were. We stayed in the hut for a week, and this woman brought us food daily. Her husband then took us to their house on 5 Aug and hid all three of us in the attic. I stayed there until 25 Jul 41. While we were there several friends of this family helped to feed us, and early in 1941 one of them tried to find different accommodation for us, but nothing was done at that time.

 

On 25 Jul this friend called for me and took me to a farm near NORTBECOURT. Dimes and Clapham stayed on in ST. OMER. This friend told me later that he had got into touch with the ORGANISATION, and on 15 Aug I was taken by the farmer to an estaminet at ZAUDAUSQUES where I was joined by Dimes and Clapham. At 1230 hrs. we were called for by a member of the Organisation, who provided all of us with Identity Cards and took us by van to LILLERS. I was taken to a woman's house, and the other two went elsewhere.

 

I remained in LILLERS until 22 Sep, when I was taken to BETHUNE with F/Lt. WINSKILL (S/P.G.(-)600) and Sgt. Pilot McKEE (S/P.G.(-)608). Here we were joined by Gnr. FRYER (S/P.G.(-)660) and L/Bdr. HEATHER (S/P.G.(-)659) and all of us went on by train to ABBEVILLE. In ABBEVILLE we were given passes and corresponding identity cards to cross out of the Zone Interdite, which we did by walking across the bridge separately. There was only one sentry, and passes were not carefully checked. The passes and identity cards were collected and returned by our guide. We went on by train to PARIS and spent the night in a small hotel in the Chatelet district. On 23 Sep we went on by train to TOURS, changed there to a local train, went four or five stations on Eastward, walked five or six kilometres South East, and took cover in a ditch near a bridge that was under repair. After dark another guide joined the party and conducted all except F/Lt. WINSKILL (who went by boat) across the bridges and then across fields to a station, where we took a train to MARSEILLE, via CHATEAUROUX and TOULOUSE. We reached MARSEILLES on 24 Sep, HEATHER and FRYER leaving us here and the rest of the party continuing to CANET-PLAGE, where we stayed from 25 Sep until 5 Oct.

 

We were then taken by train to AX-LES-THERMES and on foot across the PYRENEES. This journey took us six days. We went first into ANDORRA, then back into FRANCE before crossing into SPAIN, eventually arriving at BERGA on 11 Oct. We then went on to BARCELONA on 13 Oct, to MADRID on 19 Oct, and to GIBRALTAR 6 Nov.

 

 

Lance-Bombardier E. W. Dimes

 

National Archives catalogue reference - WO 208/3307/5

 

Name: 798626 L/Bdr. Dimes, E.W.

Unit: B/O Battery, 1 Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery, 51st (Highland) Division.

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

Escaped: Fournes, 29th June 1940.

Left: Gibraltar, 30th December 1941.

Arrived: Gourock, 4th January 1942.

Army Service: 12 years.

Peacetime Profession: Civil servant.

Private Address: 131 Euston Road, Histon, Cambs.

 

From 12 Jun 40 until 25 Jul 41 my story is identical with that of Dvr. STRACHAN (S/P.G.(-)661). After Dvr. STRACHAN left ST. OMER on the latter date, Gnr. CLAPHAM and I remained with our friends there until 15 Aug, when a member of the ORGANISATION called for us and took us on to LILLERS via ZAUDAUSQUES. We met STRACHAN during this journey. At LILLERS CLAPHAM and I were taken to a house where we stayed until 29 Sep when we were taken on to BURBURE, remaining there until 27 Oct. We were then taken with three R.A.F. Sergeants by lorry to the station and met a further eight R.A.F. personnel there. The entire party then travelled by train to ABBEVILLE. Here we were issued with passes and identity cards to enable us to leave the Zone Interdite and crossed the bridges in small parties without interference. We went on by train to PARIS, the party increasing to 18 en route, 4 more soldiers (whose names I do not know) having joined us.

 

In PARIS we spent the night, soldiers at one hotel, R.A.F. men and the guide at another and the following day (28 Oct) went on by train to TOURS, changed trains, and went a few stations further on. After dark we crossed the river CHER by boat, as the bridge was under repair. The boatman acted as guide across country, and put us on the road to LOCHES, where we took the train on to MARSEILLES, arriving there 30 Oct.

 

In MARSEILLES the party split up and after a few hours CLAPHAM, the other four soldiers and I went on to NIMES, remaining there until 8 Nov. While there we were joined by Sgt. GREY and Sgt. PAIGNTON, R.A.F.

 

On 8 Nov we all went on to PERPIGNAN, where we stayed the night, and the continued our journey to CANET-PLAGE, staying there until 11 Nov. when Sgt. GREY, Sgt. PAIGNTON and I were taken on to AX-LES-THERMES. There we were joined by about ten Belgians and Frenchmen, and the entire party set out on foot across the PYRENEES, reaching SPAIN on 13 Nov at a small village from which we took a train to BARCELONA. We stayed for a week in BARCELONA, and three weeks in MADRID, and then were taken on to GIBRALTAR.

 

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