Flying Officer William Cunningham


National Archives catalogue reference - WO 208/3324/3


Name: J.28238 F/O William Cunningham.

Unit: 75th (New Zealand) Squadron, Bomber Command, R.A.F.

Left: Amiens, 6th September 1944.

Arrived: U.K., 6th September 1944.

Date of Birth: 8th July 1922.

R.A.F. Service: 6th April 1942.

O.T.U.: No.11.

Post in crew: Bomb aimer.

Peacetime Profession: Accountant.

Private Address: 37 MacNaughton Road, Toronto, Canada.


Other members of crew:


F/Lt. MYERS, R.N.Z.A.F. (pilot) (missing)

F/O. CORMACK, R.N.Z.A.F. (navigator) (believed baled out)

Sgt. ANDREWS, R.A.F. (engineer) (baled out)

Sgt. BURN, R.A.F. (mid upper gunner) (baled out)

Sgt. MASON, R.A.F. (rear gunner) (S/P.G.(-)2623)

F/Sgt. MURPHY, R.N.Z.A.F. (wireless operator) (S/P.G.(-)2622)


We left MEPAL (Cambs) in a Lancaster bomber at 2300 hrs on 18 Jul 44 for a raid on railway yards S.E. of VALENCIENNES. After leaving the target we were attacked by a fighter and had to abandon aircraft. I landed at about 0100 hrs 19 Jul 44 about three miles S.E. of MONS (N.W. EUROPE, 1:250,000, Sheet 5, J 31).


My parachute was caught in a tree, and I had to leave it there. After walking a short way I hid in some bushes for 20 hours. During the night I walked west for some hours then hid during the day. On the evening of 20 Jul I was found by a woman who took me to her home, providing clothes and an identity card. I left my escape kit there. I was put in touch with an organisation which was arranging to take me to BRUSSELS and thence to ENGLAND.


I was taken to BRUSSELS to a house where I met my wireless operator, F/Sgt. MURPHY (S/P.G.(-)2622). We were well treated and kept here until 25 Jul, when we were turned over to our would-be guides and given a long form to fill in. The details required were:- name, rank, number, home address, religion, squadron number, base, target, etc. I refused to fill in these details, as I was suspicious. We then discovered that we were in the hands of the Luftwaffe police, and that we had been tricked.


We were sent to ST GILLES prison in BRUSSELS, where after 31 days we were again interrogated by the same man. I was told that out of the large number of men who had been taken, I was the only man who had refused to give full details. Anyway, they now had our Squadron number and names of our crew. Forty-two of us were put on a train for GERMANY. After trying to get through the White Army for two days, the Germans gave up and left us, derailing the train. We contacted the British forces and were brought back to the U.K.



Flight Sergeant Joseph William Murphy


National Archives catalogue reference - WO 208/3324/2


Name: NZ.424993 F/Sgt. Murphy, Joseph William.

Unit: 75th (New Zealand) Squadron, Bomber Command, R.A.F.

Left: Amiens, 6th September 1944.

Arrived: U.K., 6th September 1944.

Date of Birth: 5th November 1922.

R.A.F. Service: Since 15th May 1942.

O.T.U.: No.11 (Westcott).

Post in crew: Wireless operator.

Peacetime Profession: Farmer.

Private Address: Mangaweka, North Island, New Zealand.


I was a member of the same crew as F/O CUNNINGHAM (S/P.G.(-)2621), and baled out at about 0100 hrs 19 Jul 44, landing on a barbed wire fence south of MONS, near HYON (N.W. EUROPE, 1:250,000, Sheet 5, J 3311). I hid my parachute etc., in some bushes and walked to a nearby wood where I hid till the afternoon of 20 Jul.


I spoke to a man who told me to follow a woman walking past. I went into a field to hide while she fetched her cousins who could speak English. When they returned they told me to follow them to their house nearby, where I was given food and civilian clothes. My battle dress was buried in the back yard.


I was told the name of the village was HYON. I was given a Belgian identity card and moved to another house. From here a car came to take me to an organisation which would arrange my return to ENGLAND. Arriving in BRUSSELS I was taken to an address, where I met my bomb aimer F/O CUNNINGHAM. We were kept here until 25 Jul, when a car came to take us to meet our guides. We later found we were hoaxed and were in the hands of the Luftwaffe police. From now on my story is the same as that of F/O CUNNINGHAM, up to our return to the U.K. on 6 Sep.


During my imprisonment at ST GILLES prison in BRUSSELS I met the following:- A New Zealand Typhoon Polite, F/O MacGREGOR of NAPIER, New Zealand, (who had been two months in prison); a Halifax pilot, Sgt. ORMEROD, R.A.F., of SURREY, England (who had been five months in prison)' and a Canadian, S/Ldr. BLENKINSON. I believe that MacGREGOR and ORMEROD were sent to GERMANY.


S/Ldr. BLENKINSON, whom I met about 1 Sep 44, said that while evading capture in BELGIUM he was helping the White Army. One day he was with a group of them on the way to blow up a house occupied by the Germans, when they ran into 200 Gestapo men armed with machine guns. He fled into a wood, being unarmed, and was captured by the Germans. He had not done any sabotage. He was threatened with torture, but refused to speak. Three of the Belgians, after torture, did reveal their plans and said BLENKINSON had been implicated. On this evidence the Germans said they would shoot him. Whether this was done or not I could not say, but he was not evacuated from ST GILLES prison with the 40 odd British and Americans at the beginning of Sep 44. At the time of our meeting S/Ldr. BLENKINSON asked me to relate this part of his story to our Intelligence if I got back safely to the U.K.


[Note: Squadron Leader Teddy Blenkinsop died of heart failure, as a result of his treatment, at Neuengamme Concentration Camp on the 23rd January 1945.]


Return to Escape Menu