October 1998 Le Petit Journal de Sagy
“Gaillon/Seraincourt: L’avateur canadien revient 54
Canadian Airman Returns 54 Years Later!
She found the Canadian aviator wounded in June 1944
at Gaillon-sur-Montcient. 53 years later, Colette falls into the arms of
Gordon. They hadn’t seen each other since. Colette Camus was
14 years old at the time when at the turn of a road, she came upon the
wounded Canadian navigator, who her parents hid.
On June 8, 1944, a Halifax III bomber was struck
by flak from DCA over Magny-en-Vexin and the fire of a pursuing German,
crashed in a field at Gaillon-sur-Montcient. The pane and equipment
were useless and they ejected from the plane, hoping to be rescued by the
54 years later, Josselyne Pichon, passionate
aviation historian, went in quest of the identity of the seven Canadian
airmen, retracing their steps and events of the time. “Le Courier”
gave her his name on 21 May last year.
On Saturday, Gordon Waddell, navigator of the
Halifax, returned to Gaillon to be reunited with Colette Camus. She
was 14 years old at the time and he had not seen her since. “It was
me who found Gordon, one evening as I was returning from the garden” she
recalls. “He was on a wall between Jambville and Fremainville.
He had a broken foot. I was most frightened above all that this was
a German soldier. I did up my coat and ran away to find my father.”
“I think that I was also afraid of you” answered
Gordon, who had spent part of the day hidden in the bushes. He thought
that he had been discovered by a boy, and for more than 50 years, until
this reunion, he still believed it!
“It is true that I looked like a boy! I
had the coat (haircut?) of a boy”, says Colette. “At that time it
was hard to tell.”
Amidst the tears, they hugged one another in
front of the mayor of Gaillon, Claude Durand, and many others in attendance.
Stories circulated, information was compared and research was shared.
Robert Balleux also remembers that his father had hid Canadian airmen.
He proposed taking Gordon to the site of the crash and then to a church
in Jambville where the first placement was made. Everyone went together.
as a Gardener
“Gordon remained hidden in the house, then in the
vicarage for nearly three weeks”, recalls Colette, who also remembers that
her grandmother was forced to hide. “She was being watched.
Someone had told the Germans that a Canadian parachutist was being sheltered
by a lady who wore a blue dress and white sweater.”
She also remembers “Gordon getting into a cart,
disguised as a gardener and wearing a big apron. I still dream of
that cart being pulled by a nice big horse. He is gone, but don’t
ask where. They told me as little as possible.”
A network operated under the noses of the Germans
who occupied the chateau, close to the vicarage and in the neighbourhood
of the Camus home. Indeed, Gordon was placed in the care of the leader
Henri Glogonsky, chief of the local maquis, who hid him. He retrieved
some equipment from the bomber and after many attempts, regained paris
where he saw the liberation and arrival of the American troops. He
lives in the province of Manitoba today.
Airman Returns 54 Years Later!
During the night of June 7, 8, 1944 a Halifax III
LV 987 ZL “K” for King crashed over the area of the township of Gaillon-sur-Montcient.
Leaving from the Leeming Royal Air Force Base in Yorkshire (Great Britain),
the crew’s mission was to bomb the Acheres Station as part of Bomber Command’s
plan to destroy selected stations in the Paris region.
The Halifax was flying over Magny-en-Vexin.
It wasn’t possible to avoid flak fired from enemy soldiers. The seven
crew members, six Canadian and oneEnglish, quickly prepared to leave the
fire (burning plane) and parachuted over Vexen while the plane crashed
in a field north of Gaillon-sur-Montcient, at the place called “Les Sablons”
near the chalk pit.
Fifty-four years later, the Canadian Gordon Waddell,
28 years of age at the time, returned to the site and remembered the episode.
Wounded in the ankle upon hitting the ground near Jambville, he hid himself
in a thicket and made his presence known to Colette Camus, then aged 14
years, who was riding her bicycle. The adolescent immediately warned
her father, Pierre Camus, a maquis resistant from Jambville, who took Gordon
to his home before going to the Priest Grenard’s home. But the coming
and going of Germans, who requisitioned the house opposite, made the situation
dangerous. Gordon was put in a new place, this time by the captain,
Henri Glogonsky, commander of the maquis, who sheltered him in his home.
The Clerisseau family who owned the village café were taken into
confidence in order to bring food to the aviator.
Later when Gordon arrived at the “watercress
house” (La Maison des Cressonniers) occupied by M. & Mme. Lebon, he
was happily reunited with three other crew members of King: Dave Foster,
the pilot, who spent the summer recuperating with Raoul Balleux; Martin
Donnan, the rear gunner with Gilbert Drouard; and George Philliskirk, flight
engineer stayed at the home of Marie-Therese Charriere, instructor at Seraincourt.
So, with Tom Farr, they hid five members of the crew of the Halifax until
their return to Great Britain in September 1944; the two others did not
have the same luck. Mickey Ford was captured and was not freed from
Stalag Banku- Kruelberg until May 1945, and Ed Carter-Edwards was betrayed
to the Gestapo in Paris and deported to Buchenwald on the last train Aug.
15, 1944. Today he is vice president of the International Committee
of Buchenwald Dora.
It is thanks to the research of area people in
September 1997 that Josselyne Lejeune-Pichon, of Orgerus (Yvelines) was
able to identify and contact Gordon Waddell, who has returned to the area
Saturday September 26, 1998.
After being welcomed at 9:30 by Claude Durand,
mayor of Gaillon and several interested family members, Gordon, today age
82, was taken to the precise spot where the plane crashed 54 years ago.
From the wreckage, retrieved pieces were given to him, notably the tachometer
disc (instrument which measures aircraft speed). The elderly aviator
surveyed the land which had been struck by the bombs before crashing.
Then the group returned to the Cressoniere Inn
in Rueil-Seraincourt where a dinner, gathering about thirty guests, for
whom the mayors of Seraincourt and Condecourt had organized in honour of
Gordon Waddell. At the end of the meal, Jean Claude Triguenard, president
of the Society of Veterans of Seraincourt, gave a talk retracing this event
of local history.