Flight Sergeant Stephen Brian Harris

 

National Archives catalogue reference - WO 208/3322/22

 

Name: 1380154 F/Sgt. Harris, Stephen Brian.

Unit: 74 Squadron, 2nd Tactical Air Force, R.A.F.

Left: Brussels, 11th September 1944.

Arrived: U.K., 11th September 1944.

Date of Birth: 29th May 1920.

R.A.F. Service: Since 9th October 1940.

Post in crew: Pilot.

Peacetime Profession: Student.

Private Address: 25, High Street, Droitwich, Worcs.

 

I left LYMPNE in a Spitfire IX at 1515 hrs on 22 May 44 and crash-landed near MESLIN L'EVEQUE (N.W. EUROPE, 1:250,000, Sheet 2, J 23) at 1545 hrs. As my aircraft was already burning, I left it immediately and made for some trees about half a mile away. Here I buried my mae west and other kit.

 

As there seemed to be no Germans about, I went towards some houses, and a woman from one of them gave me bread and coffee and directed me to a wood.

 

In this wood I met a man and his wife, who told me to remain hidden there. The man left me and after a short time returned with food and directions for finding a house where I would be able to stay the night. I stayed in the wood until it was almost dark and then went to the house. An old woman let me in and I stayed with her until the next morning, when another man arrived with civilian clothes and a bicycle for me.

 

After I had changed my clothes I left with him for a house in MESLIN L'EVEQUE where I stayed for four or five days. From here I was moved to a farm at GONDREGNIES (J 23), where I stayed until 4 Jun, when I was taken back to my previous billet in MESLIN L'EVEQUE. After two days I went to another house in the village, where I stayed until 10 Aug 44.

 

On this day the Germans came to the house looking for an American airman they believed to be hiding there. It appeared that this airman had stayed at the farm in GONDREGNIES where I had stayed in Jun and the Germans had traced him down to that address. They arrested the farmer's daughter and forced her to say that the American had been moved to the house in which I was staying. The Gestapo immediately came round and caught me before anyone had time to warn me.

 

I was taken that day to the ST. GILLES prison, BRUSSELS, where I was put in a cell that was already full of criminals of all nationalities. There were also some German deserters. I stayed here until 3 Sep 44, living in disgusting conditions with very little food.

 

On the morning of 3 Sep 44 a trainload of prisoners left for Germany. Owing to the work of the patriots, the train was continually held up and eventually one carriage was derailed. In the confusion that followed this 39 of us managed to escape and returned to BRUSSELS, where we reported to the British Authorities. (NOTE: Other men who got away from this train made it clear that the German Guards deserted the prisoners.)

 

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