Sergeant William Alexander Shannon

 

National Archives catalogue reference - WO 208/3322/112

 

Name: 318464 Sgt. Shannon, William Alexander.

Unit: 'D' Squadron, The Glider Pilot Regt., 6th Airborne Division.

Captured: Normandy Coast, 6th June 1944.

Escaped: From train in France, 30th June 1944.

Date of Birth: 9th September 1919.

Army Service: 5 years.

Peacetime Profession: Wages Clerk.

Private Address: 17, Parkside Drive, Liverpool, 12.

 

While we were heading for CAEN on 6 Jun 44, the tow-rope of our glider parted over CABOURG, Normandy (FRANCE, 1:250,000, Sheet 8, U 27) and we ditched in the sea off-shore. S/Sgt. HOWE, my first pilot, is missing [Note: Staff-Sergeant William Richard Howe died 6th June 1944] and Sgmn. MILNE was definitely seen to drown. After about three hours clinging to the wreckage with four other men of the load, I was washed ashore with them and immediately taken prisoner by a German infantry patrol. We were searched, and all our personal effects were taken from us. During the course of the day we were marched back through the lines for 32 kms, and slept the night in a chateau near PONT L'EVEQUE (N.W. EUROPE, 1:250,000, Sheet 4, L 50). We had nothing to eat or drink all day.

 

On 7 Jun we travelled by truck to PONT L'EVEQUE and thence to Front-Stalag 135 at VERNEUIL (Sheet 7, R 03) with about 50 other Airborne prisoners. We got no food, but were given a drink of water before leaving. After the third day without food we received bread, jam, and water. We stayed at VERNEUIL until 15 Jun when all Glider Pilots were removed to the Luftwaffe's interrogation centre at CHARTRES, (R 30). Food and treatment were quite good.

 

On 24 Jun I was removed to Front Stalag 133, outside CHARTRES. Food and living conditions were very bad. I left CHARTRES early on the morning of 29 Jun 44 by bus in a party of 600 for PARIS. At the GARE DU NORD we left the buses and were forced to march between two lines of civilians who spat, struck, kicked, and shouted at us. This was a special reception party, for the other citizens of PARIS were very friendly, but were kept away by the armed guards. We were marched to the GARE DE L'EST and had many photographs taken of us. Also a radio commentator gave a description of us as we passed. We entrained 40 per wagon, receiving bread and sausage for three days and a drink of water. Towards night time S/Sgt. DOW (S/P.G.(F)2328), Sgt. HELME (S/P.G.(F)2329) and myself broke the window open to escape but the train stopped before dark and guards were placed around the trucks.

 

We were allowed out in the morning of 30 Jun for 15 minutes, given a drink of tea, and once more locked up in the wagons. The train was held up by air raids most of the day. Towards night time we again broke the window open (in a different wagon) and at midnight climbed out on the buffers and jumped. I jumped first, and became separated from DOW and HELME.

 

I walked up and down the railway track, but was fired at by a patrolman and hid in a field. After a wait, I headed South by the stars and entered a wood, but after walking for an hour came out at almost the spot where I entered. I returned to the railway to search for my comrades but was again fired upon. I headed South, and slept on the fringe of the wood.

 

The next morning (1 Jul) I explored the wood and met DOW and HELME. We headed S.E. or South all day, proceeding with great caution, as we had seen one German soldier in the wood. At nightfall we came out at the shrine at NEUVIZY (Sheet 6, O 6919) and slept in a thicket off the road.

 

On 2 Jul we crossed the main road and headed across the fields, roughly South. Our escape compass was useless, as it was full of water. We entered a barn and stripped off our clothes, as we had been in continuous rain for 12 hours. We ate wild fruit and drank rain water. DOW approached a farmer, who was scared, but let us have two litres of milk. We slept in the wood some distance away, as we did not trust the farmer.

 

On 3 Jul we crossed a main road and railway, and DOW approached a cottage for food. We were given chicken, cheese, bread, and cider and told to be careful of German patrols. We crossed the fields all day and at evening approached a hamlet where we were given more food, cider and eau-de-vie; also an old coat. We slept in a hay-rick.

 

Early in the morning of 4 Jul we approached a farm at AUBONCOURT (Sheet 9, O 6511) where we were given food and clothing which had been collected by the farmer's wife from the villagers. We slept the night at the farm. We were visited by members of the Resistance, one of whom, a gendarme conducted us to VILLE-SUR-RETOURNE (T 6294) where we stayed 12 days. Owing to Gestapo activity, we were moved to TAGNON (T 5199) but after nine days the neighbours became too curious, and we were moved to REIMS.

 

I was separated from my companions owing to lack of accommodation, and stayed alone with a member of the Resistance. DOW and HELME were accommodated elsewhere in REIMS. On the evening of 5 Aug we were warned that the Gestapo were making a raid, and I got away. My shelterer was taken prisoner, but he was released after 15 days detention. I was taken to the same house as HELME, where we stayed until conducted to PARIS by American Intelligence on 3 Sep 44.

 

 

Staff-Sergeant Edward Bryan Medeicott Helme

 

National Archives catalogue reference - WO 208/3322/110

 

Name: 4105593 S/Sgt. Helme, Edward Bryan Medeicott.

Unit: 'D' Squadron, The Glider Pilot Regt., 6th Airborne Division.

Captured: Ranville, 7th June 1944.

Escaped: From train, 30th June 1944.

Date of Birth: 22nd May 1920.

Army Service: 5 years.

Peacetime Profession: Chemist.

Private Address: Brick House, Tillington, Hereford.

 

I left R.A.F. Station, TARRANT RUSHTON at 0130 hrs on 6 Jun 44. I landed near CAEN, but not on the correct landing zone, at 0330 hrs. I tried to make for the Allied lines near RANVILLE (FRANCE 1:250,000, Sheet 8, U 17). I was captured with Lt. PRINGLE (R.A.) and Sgt. N.W. HORNSBY (Glider Pilot Regt.) near RANVILLE on 7 Jun 44. Both these two are still P/W. As P/W we were moved to PONT L'EVEQUE (N.W. EUROPE 1:250,000, Sheet 4, L 50) with our hands tied. We stayed here for three days. Pte. SUTTON (Paratroop Regt) was shot whilst trying to escape. On 10 Jun I was moved to VERNEUIL (Sheet 7, R 03). Food conditions here were bad. On 15 Jun I was moved to the interrogation centre at CHARTRES, where I stayed for nine days. On 24 Jun I was taken to Front Stalag 153 (CHARTRES). We were 683 in one room and were unable to lie down.

 

On 29 Jun we moved to PARIS in buses to entrain for GERMANY. From then on my story is the same as that of Sgt. SHANNON (S/P.G.(F) 2327), and S/Sgt DOW (S/P.G.(F) 2328). We escaped from a train en route for GERMANY on 30 Jun.

 

 

Staff-Sergeant Alexander Rattray Dow

 

National Archives catalogue reference - WO 208/3322/111

 

Name: 1058344 S/Sgt. Dow, Alexander Rattray.

Unit: 'D' Squadron, The Glider Pilot Regt., 6th Airborne Division.

Captured: Beuzeville, 6th June 1944.

Escaped: From train in France, 30th June 1944.

Date of Birth: 19th March 1923.

Army Service: 2 years.

Peacetime Profession: Temporary Bank Clerk.

Private Address: 84 Stanley Street, Aberdeen.

 

I took off from TARRANT RUSHTON aerodrome at 0100 hrs on 6 Jun 44 and, after forming up, proceeded across the CHANNEL. On approaching the French coast, either my tow plane, being in difficulties, released me, or the Flak severed the tow cable, and I found myself in free flight at 1500 ft.

 

I made a forced landed on a small field, and on the approach slightly wounded a British paratrooper who, with two others had been crossing the field. No injuries were sustained by any of the passengers, my co-pilot, or myself. The freight - a jeep and trailer, were undamaged, but, owing to the damage to the glider, it was impossible to extricate them swiftly. We decided to hide up till daylight, return to the plane and unload. I had landed near BEUZEVILLE (N.W. EUROPE 1:250,000, Sheet 4, L 60).

 

During the ensuing two hours, while unloading personal arms and aiding the wounded paratrooper, we were surrounded and captured. My co-pilot (Sgt. Richard CHADWICK) was severely wounded in the stomach [Note: Sergeant Ronald Chadwick died on the 6th June 1944]. The three passengers had left earlier to reconnoitre for a place to spend the night, and they were not included in the skirmish. One of them I met afterwards in a German prison camp (Pte. JONES Anti-Tank Artillery).

 

My term of imprisonment was spent at Frontstalag 153 (VERNEUIL) (8 - 15 Jun) and at Luftstalag (CHARTRES) (15 - 24 Jun). After a further six days at Frontstalag 133 near CHARTRES we were entrained for GERMANY at PARIS. The rest of my story is the same as described by Sgt. SHANNON (S/P.G.(F) 2327) with whom I escaped from a train on 30 Jun.

 

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