Corporal Serge Vaculik

 

National Archives catalogue reference - WO 208/3322/101

 

Name: 2135061 Cpl. Vaculik, Serge, Croix de Guerre.

Unit: 1st Special Air Service, Army Air Corps.

Left: France, 7th September 1944.

Arrived: Newhaven, 8th September 1944.

Date of Birth: 28th September 1919.

Army Service: Since 17th January 1941.

Peacetime Profession: Law Student (French).

Private Address: Highland Lodge, Prior Road, Camberley, Surrey.

 

I landed near BRETIGNY-SUR-ORGE (N.W. EUROPE, 1:250,000, Sheet 7, R 91) on 5 Jul 44 with a stick of 12 S.A.S. personnel amongst whom was Cpl. JONES (S/P.G.(F) 2340). After three hours I was captured by the Gestapo. Three of our party, Tpr. MORRISON, (? rank) NORMAN, (? rank) CASTELLO, escaped at the dropping zone. Cpl. JONES and I were taken prisoner by the Gestapo together with Capt. GARSTON, Lt. VEEHES, Sgt. VAREY, L/Cpl. LUTTON, and Tprs. BARKER, YOUNG and WALKER, some of whom were wounded. The wounded were taken to the LA PITIE hospital and the remainder of us were taken to the Gestapo Headquarters in the Avenue FOCH, PARIS. I was interrogated on four occasions by a Gestapo officer - a doctor from HAMBURG, name unknown. He wanted to know our plans, our wireless code and my true nationality. I had been dropped with a false paybook under the name of JEAN DUPONTEL, a French Canadian fro QUEBEC. I was beaten up and slapped during my interrogation. After three days of interrogation I and the other members of my party were taken to a private hotel behind CHAMP DE MARS and there put into solitary confinement. I broke up my watch and endeavoured unsuccessfully to cut through the bars with the unravelled spring. I later started to dig through the wall but was discovered by the guard who threatened to shoot me and beat me up. I was then put in the same cell as Cpl. JONES. For five weeks we were handcuffed, never taking them off day or night. One day whilst idly playing with JONES' handcuffs and trying to find a means of opening them I slipped my unravelled watch spring under the catch - they opened easily.

 

On 8 Aug a guard came into the room, took away our uniforms and gave us civilian clothes telling us that we were to be taken to SWITZERLAND. At 0100 hrs (9 Aug) we were put in a truck with Capt. GARSTON, Sgt. VAREY, Cpl. JONES and Tprs. BARKER, YOUNG and WALKER. (Lt. VEEHES and L/Cpl LUTTON, who has since died, were left in hospital). We were accompanied by a convoy of about 20 private cars and after passing through BRESLES (N 00) and NOAILLES (R 99) our truck stopped and turned West. We went North and stopped in a forest between NOAILLES and MOUCHY-LE-CHATEL (S 09). We were taken out of the truck, led into an open space and lined up. here we faced a squad of five men, three Gestapo officers, one civilian and one S.S. sergeant, all armed with sten guns. The sentence was then read out to us; we were found guilty of working with the terrorists and were condemned to be shot to death. When I heard the words "shot to death" I jumped to the cover of some trees. I stumbled and fell whilst the bullets passed overhead. I then ran like mad and after some time came to a farm where I was taken in and sheltered for the night. I was then taken by a cousin of my helper to BRESLES (N 00).

 

I was later interrogated by the Chief of the Resistance for this area and from 10 Aug to 1 Sep I helped the resistance. I taught about 120 men how to use bren guns, bazookas, grenades and other arms. At midday on 1 Sep my section held a position for three hours against a party of 40 German paratroops. I myself killed one German paratrooper and wounded several others. Allied troops arrived in BRESLES about 1500 hrs that day and liberated the town. Because of my knowledge of fire arms and methods of warfare I became temporary chief of the resistance at BRESLES for the next five days. On 6 Sep Cpl. JONES and I left BRESLES by car for ARROMANCHE-LES-BAINS. We returned to the U.K. by boat on 7 Sep.

 

About a week after I had escaped from the firing squad I was taken to a house where Cpl. JONES was sheltering and asked to identify him. Together we went to the Chateau de Parists Fontaine, BERTHECOURT which is about 1 km from where the shooting took place. This Chateau which is empty is in the hands of a caretaker who allowed us into the house. In one of the ground floor rooms we found the boots of Capt. GARSTON and in the grounds nearby we found a pair of civilian shoes belonging to Tpr. WALKER. We made many unsuccessful enquiries trying to ascertain the number of men who had been shot. The grave where the dead are buried is in the grounds of the Chateau de Parists Fontaine.

 

[Note: Captain Patrick Bannister Garstin MC, Sergeant Thomas Varey, and Privates Thomas James Barker, Joseph Walker, and William Pearson Young were all killed. As stated in Vaculik's report, Lance-Corporal Howard Lutton died of his wounds in hospital, however there is no record of the death of Lieutenant Veehes (correct spelling is Weihe) or that he remained a prisoner of war, so he may have survived.]

 

 

Corporal Thomas Jones

 

National Archives catalogue reference - WO 208/3322/100

 

Name: 2989384 Cpl. Jones, Thomas.

Unit: 1st Special Air Service, Army Air Corps.

Left: France, 7th September 1944.

Arrived: Newhaven, 8th September 1944.

Date of Birth: 29th May 1914.

Army Service: Since 20th June 1940.

Peacetime Profession: Miner.

Private Address: 3, Page Field Street, Wigan, Lancs.

 

My story up to the time of the shooting incident near the Chateau de Parists Fontaine, BERTHECOURT (N.W. EUROPE, 1:250,000, Sheet 7, S 0099) is as related by Cpl. VACULIK (S/P.G.(F) 2339).

 

As the death sentence was read out to us I also made a break. After running for a few yards I stumbled and fell and one of the Gestapo ran past me. He must have thought I was dead as he carried on down the slope. When I arose from my position I saw four bodies lying dead around me. I then ran as fast as possible through the woods. After four or five miles I came to some farmhouses where I asked a civilian for help. He put me in touch with the resistance who took me to a nearby forest. I stayed there for one week, during which time I was identified by Cpl. VACULIK. The remainder of my journey is as related in VACULIK's report.

 

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