427 Squadron 6 Group
Acheres June 7, 1944 23rd
As written by Gordon M. Waddell
Acheres- an important railway junction, main lines being used by the Germans
to bring up reinforcements to the front lines just after “D” Day.
We were briefed to go in at 6000 ft. with the usual + or – 2 min. T.O.T.
(time on target). There were only a few A/C (aircraft) detailed for
the target, we were to leave the main bomber stream just before Acheres
and would be on our own for night fighters.
We were on our bombing run, the bomb-aimer (Farr) was up in the nose
over the bomb sight when we were hit and the starboard wing caught fire.
I was in the navigator’s position working on a course for the pilot to
fly off the target when the pilot (Foster) said over the intercom “This
is it gang, bail out!” I looked out and the starboard wing was a
mass of flames and the flames spreading down the right side of the A/C.
There was probably only seconds between the hit and the bail out order.
Farr didn’t have his parachute with him in the nose, he always left
it by my table when he went up to bomb. I passed his chute to the
flight engineer and he handed it up to him. I kicked open the escape
hatch below my navigation table, snapped my own chute detonated the “H2S”
and “G” box (navigation aids, supposed to be top secret). They were
fused to blow up. I glanced at my altimeter as I headed for the escape
hatch, it was at 4000 ft. and unwinding fast. The wireless operator
(Carter-Edwards) jumped just before me.
I don’t recall making the regulation count but recall thinking when
I snapped my chute on that “this thing should work” as I had had my chute
repacked a few days before. My chute opened nicely and the burning
A/C seemed to circle slowly off to the left. I could see the Seine
River to my far right, a high tension power line that looked as if it would
be in my line of drift and a F/W 190 (German night fighter) circling the
area. The F/W kept circling the area. I could see some of the
other chutes in the glow of the fire from the A/C. It had hit the
ground a few minutes after we jumped and the flames lit up the countryside
for miles around.
The F/W left us alone and I missed the power line, got lined up to land
facing downwind but at the last few seconds there was a house right in
front of me. I landed on the roof, my chute kept going and dragged
me over the ridge and I was swung off the other side by my chute like a
pendulum and slammed into a brick wall that was built around the house.
There was a slit trench below the wall that I fell into - a great place
to hide my chute, which took a few minutes, then out of the trench and
over the wall and off into the countryside.
I had a small pocket compass and headed off NW (England was in that
direction). I went cross-country, keeping off the main roads.
At daylight I hid out in a small clump of woods in a hayfield and decided
to stay put in case the German patrols were out looking for us. My
right leg had taken the slam into the brick wall and was quite sore and
swollen, black from the hip to the toes, so I decided come evening I would
have to get help. When on Ops we carried a small escape packet that
would fit in the breast pocket of our battle dress jacket. The packet
contained a compass, maps and money of the area you would be flying over,
a razor, soap, needle and thread, a plastic bag to collect water in, chlorine
tablets to treat the water (I had crossed a creek in the night and stopped
to fill the plastic bag) and Horlock tablets which were supposed to give
you enough nourishment to keep going for a few days. The problem
was trying to convince your stomach that a horlock tablet was the equivalent
of a full meal.
When evening came I walked down to a small country road I had been watching
all day - it hadn't had much traffic on it so was well off any of the main
thoroughfares. A young chap came along on a bike and I stopped him
and told him I was a Canadian airman and had been shot down the night before.
He listened and was as scared as I was, jumped on his bike without saying
a word and took off like a bullet. I thought I had better go too,
couldn’t travel very fast on account of my leg, looked back a short time
later to see if I was being followed and sure enough a man was running
after me, and then I noted that further behind him a woman and child were
also following, so I decided it couldn’t be too bad. I was in an
open field so I waited for him to come up to me. He eyed me keenly
for a few seconds and then held out his hand and said "camarade".
That was my contact with the French Underground system.
We started back in the direction I had come, met up with his wife and
daughter but they stayed away back from us as we started off to the village
of Jambville where they lived, a village which was well treed, almost a
forest on one side of the road. As we came to the village he
stopped, looked me over carefully (I had cut off my insignia the night
before as I had planned to evade capture if at all possible), my hair was
rumpled and I had no cap, so he pulled his cap off, rumpled up his hair
as well, started to whistle a tune and off we went. When we entered
the village and started down the street I thought I was in for it -- there
were Germans everywhere I looked under the trees. It was getting
dark and they were loafing about and paid no attention to us, my escort
was whistling a tune and seemed to be enjoying himself – we were out for
an evening stroll. We arrived at his house where I had something
to eat and drink and a chance to rest up.
Later during the night someone else came for me and I was taken to the
village priest’s home. He was a Swiss. I was there for almost
a month. A male nurse came everyday or so to bathe and massage my
leg. My next stop was with a Polish couple. They had a walled
in garden where I could walk about for exercise to get my leg loosened
up again. I think he was fairly high up in the underground system.
German soldiers, probably with a Polish connection, used to come to their
house some evenings. His wife would come up to my room and warn me
to be quiet as there were Germans downstairs. One evening she came
running up to my room, quite excited and waving a butcher knife.
I couldn’t understand her excited Polish-French but knew she wanted me
to come with her, so we went outside where she had a sheep tied up.
She handed me the knife and being a farm boy, I knew what to do.
We had fresh mutton for the next few days. Food always seemed fairly
plentiful in the country. Paris was a different story though.
My next stop was where they got four of the crew together again: Foster
(pilot), Donnan (tail gunner) and Philliskirk (flight engineer).
We had a chance to talk about our experiences and what had happened to
the A/C. The consensus of the four of us was that it was light flak.
Donnan hadn’t seen any enemy night fighters but Foster said there had been
an explosion in front of us. (History states there were only three
aircraft on the target and one of them reported a hole in the bomb bay
door on return to base.)
In talking with Tommie Farr (bombardier) in later years, he also saw
the F/W 190 cruising the area. It could have been one of their upward
firing cannon that hit us on the starboard wing. If the fighter was
beneath us the gunner wouldn’t be able to see him and would explain the
hole in the other crew’s bomb bay door. (It wasn’t until after the
war that we knew some of the German fighters were equipped with an upward
It was our third night in a row and perhaps we were a bit tired and
not as vigilant and sharp as we should have been.
Our next move was to Paris. I suppose the philosophy was more
people less chance of a stranger being spotted. We were driven there
by a red-headed Irishman who was in the junk business. He had an
old truck that was loaded with junk. There was a tarp over it so
we were out of sight. Part of his load were the crank shafts that
he had salvaged from our Halifax. The chrome on the cranks was valuable.
Our trip into Paris was uneventful, one of the bridges we crossed over
had guards on it, but they waved him through so he must have been a familiar
traveller on the route he took. Our instructions were that if we
were stopped and searched, we would say we had flagged him down on the
road and asked for a ride to the city.
We were delivered to “Henry”, a member of the Paris Underground system,
on our arrival and taken to a hideout. We were at three different
locations while in Paris, generally going out the back door when the Gestapo
were coming in the front one. It was an interesting experience keeping
ahead of them. Shortly after my arrival in Paris I was to get a French
identity card. My escort arrived with two bicycles and off we went
to a photographer. During the journey we pulled up to a stop light
and two German soldiers, also on bikes, pulled up beside me. I glanced
over at my escort and he was laughing his head off. The lights changed
and we proceeded to the photographers and then to the police station where
one of the police officers (a member of the underground group) had procured
an official I.D. card all signed and ready for the photo and seal and my
We remained in Paris until the US Army rolled in. I was at the
“Arc de Triumph” when they pulled up and contacted a U.S. officer who told
us where to report - “The Reynolds Hotel”. Then it was back through
the lines to the coast, an L.C.T. across the channel and the R.T.O. up
to London for interrogation.