At First Sight
At Second Sight
BEF Al Faw Video '05
At First Sight
The Hard Way Back To Base - Peter Walker
the night of 2 December 1943 Mosquito DZ479 'F' of 627 Squadron crewed
by Leslie (Doggie) Simpson, pilot and myself, navigator, took off
from RAF Oakington at 18.38hrs bound for Berlin. After flying with 139
Squadron this was our first operation with 627.
Before leaving the English coast it was found that the GEE set was
unserviceable but it was decided to carry on using Dead Reckoning
navigation with forecast winds. This proved to be highly dangerous as,
instead of Southerly winds, it was later reported that the winds had
veered to the North and strengthened.
Apart from the occasional burst of flak nothing amiss happened until,
some one hundred miles from Berlin, in the region of Magdeburg, a
predicted burst of flak took out the starboard engine. Doggie Simpson
decided to carry on to the target on one engine.
At a much reduced height and twenty minutes late on target Berlin was
bombed and the aircraft turned for the journey home. Unfortunately
there was no way of obtaining a visual pinpoint and those unreliable
winds were used.
At approximately 23.59hrs a terrific barrage of flak was encountered
during which time the aircraft was continuously hit. The aircraft was
then at a very low altitude with a considerable number of pieces
missing from the airframe.
After passing through this area, later presumed to be the Ruhr, we
continued for a further fifty minutes when at 00.50hrs the aircraft was
'F' Freddie had flown 2hrs 10mins with both engines functioning and
4hrs 02mins single engine, a total of 6hrs 12mins, The approximate fuel
consumption was 70 gallons per hour.
After a rough parachute descent I landed in a tree, smoked a cigarette.
climbed down, buried my parachute and started to walk. During the next
hour I continually had to jump into the ditch to avoid German cars and
motor cycles rushing to the scene of the burning aircraft.
I eventually came across a small farmhouse and, taking a risk, I
knocked at the door. The farmer and his wife confronted me and seeing
my Mae West heavily stained. with blood, quickly ushered me in. I was
handed a large pitcher of cider and some bread and cheese and, using my
schoolboy French, I learned that I had landed near le Beny Bocage in
the Calvados region of France.
This couple, knowing the risks they were taking, hurriedly saw me to
the door and directed me to the road to the coast. I had not walked far
when I saw in a layby, a large van. Without thinking, I jumped into the
back and within minutes, probably due to the cider, I was asleep.
Before dawn I awoke and climbed out only to see that on the side of the
vehicle was the German insignia. Probably one of my very few mistakes
whilst on the run. Within a mile I came across another small farm but
this time I was greeted at the door by a middle aged lady who, seeing
my state, did all she could to help. I lived in her barn for five days,
being fed and watered at regular intervals.
Resistance workers from the area had been contacted and at the end of
my stay in the barn I was taken by them to Caen where false documents
were produced. My name was Pierre Andre and I was a hairdresser by
trade. Of course, by this time, I was suitably attired in civilian
>From Caen I travelled by train to Paris, where I had my first
encounter with the SS. From Paris I was escorted on a train to Lyons
where the local Resistance arranged for my transfer to the Maquis in
the mountainous district of Savoie. Life with the Maquis was very rough
and I had many frightening experiences including my involvement in
preparing "plastique’, for blowing up a party of Germans.
During January an SOE agent paid a visit to the barn in which we were
domiciled and said that there was no possibility of crossing into
Spain. That decision left only one choice: Switzerland, which was only
50 miles away. To walk to the frontier took nearly a fortnight and was
crossed on the night of 24 February.
On being interviewed by the British Consul in Berne it was made clear
that evaders entering in civilian clothes were not interned and, having
possession of emergency passports, were allowed freedom of travel
within the Swiss borders. Until April 1 stayed at an hotel in Arosa and
then went to Montreux.
Shortly after “D” Day I spent a short holiday in Zurich where, with the
aid of a very attractive young woman, I made arrangements with members
of the French Resistance to return to France. In July l attempted to
cross the Franco-Swiss frontier at Annemasse but, unfortunately, I was
caught climbing the wire. I was committed to Geneva prison for trying
to leave the country illegally.
On the day following my release, however, I planned my second attempt,
this time in a much more uninhabited area in the mountains and
successfully crossed the frontier at 2235metres. I rejoined the Maquis
at Abondance and with them went via Annecy and Chambery to cross
through the fighting lines just north of Grenoble, where I met the
United States forces.
Although in civilian clothes, I was allowed by the Americans to travel
reasonably freely and was able to make plans to complete my return to
the UK, which was done quickly, by going to St. Maxime in Provence from
whence I obtained a passage aboard a Liberty ship to Naples, then a
flight to Casablanca via Tunis and finally another trip by US aircraft
to St. Mawgan, Cornwall.
I returned to 627 Squadron, still in civilian clothes and wearing a
very nice line in brogue shoes, courtesy of the Swiss.
Copyright © 1943-2012 627 Squadron in Retirement or as