I was held for a few days alone in a cell in Amsterdam jail.
I had time to take stock of my situation which was one which
I, and I think most of us in Bomber Command had never envisaged
- the realisation that we might be killed was always with us
as familiar faces frequently disappeared in the Squadron, but
becoming a POW had never entered my head.
No serious interrogation was attempted in Amsterdam but I was
told that Jack, our pilot, had been killed and this was a sad
blow; almost certainly he sacrificed his life by remaining at
the controls to enable his crew to escape. After a few days a
group of RAF aircrew left Amsterdam by train for Frankfurt where
the main interrogation centre was situated at Dulag Luft outside
While there I met two of my crew and much later I learned that
the remainder had been able to contact the Dutch underground
movement; with their guidance our crew mates reached a hotel
in Brussels but a leak in the organisation resulted in the capture
there of about 20 aircrew by the Gestapo.
The period of ten days or so at Dulag Luft seemed to be an attempt
to lower the prisoners morale by solitary confinement but I am
sure that this failed completely. The questioning itself lasted
only 15 or 20 minutes and was aimed apparently at impressing
prisoners with the German's knowledge of RAF affairs rather than
a serious attempt to gain information. And so ended my brief
and undistinguished operational career.
About a month after Bill was shot down, Stirling bombers were
withdrawn to be replaced by the superior Lancasters and Halifaxes;
whereas Lancasters flew at over 20,000 feet, the Stirlings with
a full bomb load had to struggle to reach 12,000 feet and losses
were consequently greater. 620 Squadron was transferred to glider
training duties and in this role suffered heavy casualties in
the big Arnhem battle of 1944.
Bill returned to Chedburgh in 1972, and took the opportunity
to look at the site. The airfield had reverted to farming land
and most of the wartime buildings had disappeared but he was
able to find a derelict Nissen hut which had been his billet
30 years previously - an eerie moment.
1943 to December 1943.
By mid-August I was in the Centre Camp of Stalag Luft III at
Sagan which lies between Berlin and Breslau (now Wroclaw) in
Poland; this was an officers camp and therefore I did not meet
my crew again until the end of the war. Stalag Luft III consisted
of several compounds, notably East Camp from which the Wooden
Horse escape took place, and North Camp from which 76 prisoners
escaped by tunnel in March 1944. Tragically 50 of these were
shot in cold blood after recapture but three (all fluent German
speakers) succeeded in returning to Britain.
1944 to Summer 1944.
In January 1944 I was among about 200 officers who were moved
to a new camp called Belaria some miles away and these included
prominent members of the escape organisation in North Camp; this
move almost certainly saved them from being shot following the
great escape from North Camp. No tunnelling was possible at Belaria
due to the nature of the soil and only one officer succeeded
in breaking camp during our stay of a year.