Flight Lieutenant William Alexander Switzer


National Archives catalogue reference - WO 208/3324/84


Name: J.21618 F/Lt. William Alexander Switzer.

Unit: R.C.A.F., 193 Squadron, 2nd Tactical Air Force, R.A.F.

Captured: Near Falaise, 16th August 1944.

Escaped: Near Falaise, 16th August 1944.

Left: France, 20th August 1944.

Arrived: U.K., 20th August 1944.

Date of Birth: 21st September 1920.

R.A.F. Service: Since 11th July 1941.

Post in crew: Pilot.

Peacetime Profession: Pharmacy apprentice.

Private Address: Edson, Alberta, Canada.


On 15 Aug 44 I left in a Typhoon aircraft from airstrip B 3 (FRANCE) at about 0630 hrs to attack German transport near FALAISE (FRANCE: 1:250,000, Sheet 8, U 13). Near the target I was shot down by light Flak. My machine burst into flames and got completely out of control. I was thrown out of the aircraft, breaking my leg and when I reached the ground I was unconscious.


I woke up about two hours later in a wood about 15 miles S.E. of FALAISE. My face and neck were badly burned and I could hardly move, but I was able to fix a splint on my leg. Heavy shelling was going on all around me.


At about noon the wood in which I was hiding was dive-bombed by American aircraft and was set on fire. I was forced to crawl out of the wood on to a road nearby where I remained all day and all night. On the morning of 16 Aug I was picked up by 25 German soldiers. They searched me and asked me some questions concerning the battle that was going on.


Shortly afterwards the Germans were engaged by the Americans, and while they were returning the American fire I was left lying on the road. I was able to crawl into a ditch nearby. The battle continued all day. During the afternoon I crawled away from my hiding place towards our lines without the Germans noticing me.


I used some of the food from my escape kit and ate apples from an orchard. I crawled nearly all night and part of 17 Aug. I was picked up by American soldiers at about 1700 hrs. They took me by jeep to a forward dressing station and from there to CHERBOURG. I was flown to U.K. on 20 Aug 44.


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