Pilot Officer Keith Bruce Chisholm

 

National Archives catalogue reference - WO 208/3322/69

 

Name: 402150 P/O. Keith Bruce Chisholm.

Unit: 452 Squadron, Fighter Command, R.A.F.

Captured: 11th October 1941.

Escaped: 11th August 1942.

Left: Normandy, 29th August 1944.

Arrived: U.K., 29th August 1944.

Date of Birth: 22nd December 1918.

R.A.F. Service: Since June 1940.

O.T.U.: Chester.

Post in crew: Pilot.

Peacetime Profession: University Student.

Private Address: Santiago, Boyle St. Manly, Sydney, N.S.W. Australia.

 

1. CAPTURE:

 

I was pilot of a Spitfire aircraft and took off from KENLEY on 11 Oct 41, on a fighter sweep over the coast of FRANCE.

 

On the return journey, when approximately over BERCK-SUR-MER (N.W. EUROPE 1:250,000, Sheet 4, G 61) I was shot down and compelled to bale out. I came down in the sea about half a mile off BERCK. The Germans came out in a sea-rescue launch, picked me up, and took me into BERCK. They took all my escape kit from me and sent me to ST. OMER (Sheet 1, H 15). I was moved by car to LILLE and from there by train to Dulag Luft (near FRANKFURT-AM-MAIN). Here I was put through the usual procedure of solitary confinement, Red Cross form, etc. Towards the end of Oct I was sent to Stalag VIII B (LAMSDORF) (now Stalag 344).

 

2. ATTEMPT AT ESCAPE:

 

(a) Preparations.

 

During the winter Sgt/Pilot A.R. STEWART, of my Squadron, and I began formulating a plan of escape.

 

In April 42 we changed identities with two soldiers, in order to be allowed to join a working party. I changed with Cpl. MICHELSON, A.I.F., and STEWART changed with a Maori named WAETFORD. We joined a working party, but on the way I was stopped at the gate and taken back to the camp and made to do three days' cells, because it had been discovered that MICHELSON had stolen potatoes. STEWART was able to wait for me, but the incident caused a delay of a fortnight.

 

A fortnight later we joined a working party detailed for FREUDENTAL (GERMANY 1:100,000, Sheet 105, 9762). We were employed here on repairing railway lines.

 

(b) Escape.

 

We took up some floorboards of the old mill in which we were billeted, removed the ventilator, replaced it, and all was ready for the word "Go"! Fourteen people were interested in getting away and had helped with these preparations.

 

On a night early in Jun 42 we removed the ventilator and crawled out along a small stream and were to meet at a bridge. Arrangements we had made about meeting went wrong, however, and I did not see STEWART again. I moved with a Canadian in the Grenadier Guards and another British soldier (name not remembered).

 

We had planned to get to an address of some Jews at PRAGUE, and were told first to get to BRNO in Czechoslovakia. We did the journey on foot. We had taken enough Red Cross food for ten days, a luminous compass and a survey map.

 

At that time HEYDRICH had just been killed, and we had great difficulty in getting help, people being very nervous, as the Gestapo had been taking a number of hostages. We therefore had to travel in British battledress. We moved by night and slept during the day, taking the route STERNBERG - OLMÜTZ.

 

We reached the outer suburbs of BRNO and approached a house to ask for hot water and bread in exchange for cigarettes. The owner, who pretended to be friendly, gave us a meal, but we soon discovered that he had sent for the police, who walked in and arrested us.

 

We were taken to the Gestapo prison in BRNO, where we were interrogated and finally sent back to the Stalag.

 

3. ESCAPE:

 

(a) Preparations.

 

On returning to the Stalag I was first put into a "Straf" barracks to await my sentence. In the hospital here I found that Capt. ROSE, whom I knew in Australia, was the M.O., and he had me moved to the hospital on the grounds that I had stomach trouble.

 

In the hospital I met W/Cdr. BADER, F/Lt. John PALMER, and a Sgt/Pilot HICKMAN. These had been sent to this particular hospital for electrical treatment. Together we planned an escape. We were to join a working party to GLEIWITZ (Sheet 118, 4474) for work on an aerodrome and try to steal an aeroplane. We had to form somewhat elaborate plans for change of identities, as I was normally due to go back to the "Straf" Barracks after my treatment. I arranged to join a de-lousing party in order to meet at the de-louser a Pte. TIMMS, N.Z.E.F., with whom I was to change identities. The scheme came off. TIMMS became MICHELSON, and I became TIMMS. I returned to the working barrack and TIMMS returned to the "Straf" barrack.

 

In the working barrack I arranged for two men to impersonate W/Cdr. BADER and F/Lt. PALMER, and also arranged for a Jew called Edwin CARTER to join us because of his useful knowledge of languages. The two men accompanied the working party for the search and interrogation to which every working party was submitted. On leaving the interrogation room they left the ranks, and their places were taken by W/Cdr. BADER and F/Lt. PALMER.

 

After a very heroic effort on the part of BADER, who marched 3 kms. to the station and 6 kms. from GLEIWITZ, the party reached the aerodrome.

 

As it would have been impossible for BADER to undertake normal work, we got him a job as a cleaner of lavatories and general orderly.

 

Owing to a letter which BADER had previously written to a German general, his absence from the hospital was discovered. It was suspected that he was on a working party, and every working party in the area received an order for personnel to take down their pants for investigation.

 

Our working party refused to do this, and the suspicions of the under-officer, who gave given BADER permission to act as orderly owing to his bad legs, were aroused. He immediately accused him with the words "You are BADER", and BADER had to confess to his identity. In order not to spoil our chances of escape, F/Lt. PALMER then also gave himself up.

 

(b) Escape.

 

At GLEIWITZ we had met an American in the R.C.A.F. Sgt. MCDONALD (S/P.G.(G) 1316) and he joined us (HICKMAN, the Jew CARTER and myself) in our escape plan. This was to cross the Polish border and make contact with Poles to assist our further movement.

 

On 11 Aug 42, one or two days after the discovery of BADER and PALMER, we escaped in the following manner:-

 

Two Australians had already thought of a way of escape via a boiler room, to which they had made a key. The sentries in the camp had their beat outside the first barbed-wire fence, and it was planned that when the sentry was leaving the corner of the wire, the men above the boiler room would stamp, warning us of his approach to the boiler room door. The all-clear signal was to be a knocking noise.

 

All this came off according to plan. Leaving the boiler room in the guard's absence, we were able to climb over the outside barbed wire. We went along the road to STROPPENDORF (Sheet 118, 4272) and then struck S.E. to avoid the industrial area, which lay due East of GLEIWITZ. We reached NIKOLAI (Sheet 128, 6359) on the fourth night. We passed through it and spent the night in a forest. On the fifth night we continued in an Easterly direction, and on the sixth day we made contact with some Poles about 3 kms. from OSWIECIM (Sheet 128, 8845).

 

They took us after quite a long stay at various farms and country houses, extending over two months, to KRAKOW. At KRAKOW we were taken to the house of a Polish Major (name not known). This Major had planned that we should get by train to the Polish-Slovakian border. Here we were to make contact wit a Polish doctor, who had the means of taking patients into HUNGARY. From here we were to find our way to TURKEY, the plan to be formulated later.

 

Before this could materialise, L/Cpl. JEFFERY, of the Royal West Kent Regt., turned up and said that he had orders to take us, with two Polish women, to WARSAW. On arrival at WARSAW the two women took charge of the Jew, and we did not see him again.

 

Our association with JEFFERY covered the period from early Oct 42 to Dec 42 and I can fully corroborate the accuracy of his account in relation to this period. I met JEFFERY later from time to time, but there is no connection between my eventual escape from POLAND and any of his activities.

 

A Polish underground organisation was formulating a scheme to get us away, and whilst waiting for this to materialise, I lived with a private family, employing my time in learning Polish. Later MCDONALD also lived here.

 

On 23 Mar 43 MCDONALD and two soldiers, NEWTON and GRANT, left WARSAW for PARIS. I would have been next to go two weeks later, but, owing to arrests in the organisation between WARSAW and PARIS, this became impossible.

 

I was finally informed (in about Jul 43) that the Polish organisation could do nothing to get me away, but that if I could make my own arrangements, they would help me with papers, money etc.

 

In Oct 43 HICKMAN met two Belgian workmen, who had escaped from MINSK and who were trying to get back to BELGIUM. They said that they would take us to BELGIUM with them if we could promise a "Kriegsurlaubsschein" for the four of us. To obtain the Kriegsurlaubsschein would cause us no difficulty and would only cause a delay of a couple of days, but the difficulties encountered in obtaining a carte d'identite took so long that the Belgians became impatient. One went to work in WARSAW for the Luftwaffe, and the other, having acquired from us the Urlaubsschein, went to BELGIUM and never returned.

 

Whilst waiting for the carte d'identite, HICKMAN was arrested on 10 Dec 43. Some little time later the Polish organisation told me that he had been shot by the Gestapo. I received information from German sources that he had been handed over to the WEHRMACHT authorities, after being badly beaten up for ten days. HICKMAN gave no information, and no arrests were made as a result of his capture.

 

Still waiting for the Belgian carte d'identite, I met two Dutchmen who were interested in a plan to steal an aircraft. One was Lt. KRUIMINK and the other Charles VAN DE KRAPP (?). The aircraft plan did not materialise, so the two Dutchmen began to co-operate with me on the Belgian scheme.

 

When I was out walking with DE KRAPP, I threw an officer of the water police (who had acquired DE KRAPP's papers and was about to arrest him) into the VISTULA. DE KRAPP decided that it would be too dangerous for him to escape with KRUIMINK and myself, but said that he would follow us if our scheme to reach BELGIUM proved successful.

 

By 23 Mar 44, arrangements were complete and we left WARSAW on the military train for BRUSSELS via BERLIN. There was one Gestapo control between WARSAW and KUTNO, but our papers passed muster. At KUTNO the papers were stamped and we reached BERLIN, with no further check, at 0700 hrs on 24 Mar, deciding to leave that night at 2000 hrs by military train. We spent the day in BERLIN visiting cinemas, viewing bomb damage, and dining in restaurants.

 

Owing to train delays, we left BERLIN at 2300 hrs. We had various difficulties with our papers, first at VENLÖ in Holland, which caused us to return to AACHEN, and then at AACHEN itself, where we finally received a frontier pass to travel through to BRUSSELS.

 

At BRUSSELS we made contact with the Belgian whom we had met in WARSAW. We stayed at his house, and met a Pole, who arranged to give us a guide to the Franco-Belgian frontier.

 

On about 3 May we left BRUSSELS with this guide and moved via the outskirts of ROUBAIX (N.W. EUROPE, Sheet 2, H 74) to the French frontier. We were held up on the frontier for a week, but then received French papers and travelled to PARIS, which we reached on 10 May.

 

In PARIS we were introduced by our guide to an inspector of the French police force. We stayed with his family, 15 kms. outside PARIS, until the outbreak of hostilities in PARIS between the F.F.I. and the Germans. We joined the F.F.I. Forces and fought in the streets until the Americans arrived.

 

We met General QUESADA (commanding the 9th American Air Force) who arranged for our conveyance to BAYEUX, where we were briefly interrogated and despatched to this country.

 

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