MEMORANDUM

28th May, 1945.

 

To: Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, R.C.A.F. Overseas Headquarters.

From: Squadron Leader B.J. Bourchier (C.245)

 

Sir,

        As a liberation prisoner of war, I would like the privilege of drawing to the attention of your Headquarters the excellent work done on behalf of myself and hundreds of other prisoners of war who, to a very large degree, owe their lives to the leadership of Group Captain L.E. Wray of the Royal Canadian Air Force.

        Until Group Captain Wray's arrival I was senior R.C.A.F. P.O.W. in Germany, and as there was no R.C.A.F. officer senior to Group Captain Wray, I feel it my duty to submit the following.

        When Group Captain Wray arrived in Stalag Luft III, he was immediately accepted as "one of the boys", due to his outstanding personality and leadership, and was given the title of "Canada's Ambassador to Allied Kriegydom" (P.O.W. dom).

        He became Senior Administrative Officer and his arrival relieved Group Captain Wilson, the S.B.O., of many of the administrative details. His work in this capacity was a full time job and he was able to make many changes which resulted in our P.O.W. life becoming much more endurable. Every hour of every day he had something planned to keep us occupied whether it was sports, entertainment or education. Further, no matter what hour of the day or night a P.O.W. needed attention or advice, Group Captain Wray was always available with the necessary words of cheer and hope. He exercised his finest influence on morale in Stalag Luft III.

        It was not until the Camp was ordered to march from Sagan to the Bremen area in the latter part of January that his outstanding ability was given full scope. Had the march been carried out at the pace set by the Germans, countless P.O.W. would have dropped out due to exhaustion and fatigue and been left behind at the mercy, if any, of the Germans.

        Conditions on our arrival at the Camp in the Bremen area were far from satisfactory, and again Group Captain Wray, as S.A.O. worked night and day and was able to organize the Camp and the Germans to such an extent that life was not too bad.

        Again, on the march from the Bremen area towards Lubeck, Group Captain Wray, who was now the Senior British Officer, continually countermanded the orders of the German Commandant in order to slow down the march so that those who were in poor physical condition could keep pace. In doing so Group Captain Wray was continually running the risk of being turned over by the Commandant to the Gestapo or S.S., but regardless of this he so successfully slowed down the march and had spread out the column that very few P.O.Ws. had to be left behind. Also, the long straggling column did its bit in tying up the German road traffic.

        On the arrival of the P.O.Ws. in the Lubeck area, Group Captain Wray had them billeted at farms outside the City while he went on ahead to inspect the proposed Camp. Because it was too small and totally unsuitable, he would not allow the column to continue to Lubeck, and was able to have us march back to a big farm estate where the P.O.W. were billeted in barns, cowsheds, etc., in comparative luxury to the proposed Camp in Lubeck. In making these arrangements, Group Captain Wray had to do considerable travelling, and several times was shot up by our Tactical Air Force. He also entered the town of Bad Odersloe twenty-four hours after a daylight R.A.F. raid. Particularly in this town did he run the risk of being mobbed by the remaining angry population.

        These few brief instances will serve to indicate how Group Captain Wray risked his life continually in order that the P.O.W. might receive better treatment from the Germans. It is my firm conviction that most of the P.O.Ws. who got back, owe their lives to Group Captain Wray. Many more specific instances could be given. Every P.O.W. on the march will verify that Group Captain Wray was in continual danger of reprisal by the Gestapo for his delaying action and his absolute indifference to orders or instructions issued by our Captors. Everything he did was with the sole object of saving the lives of Allied P.O.Ws. His success can be judged by the numbers of P.O.Ws. who returned safely. This report is made in the earnest hope that it can be passed on to the highest authority in order that some proper recognition can be given to a gallant leader and a brave officer.

 

I have the honour to be,

Sir,

Your obedient Servant,

 

(sgd) B.J. BOURCHIER, S/L

 

(B.J. BOURCHIER) Squadron Leader R.C.A.F. C.245