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The Dog House at 16 Rue Forestière, Ixelles, Brussels
by Keith Janes and Philippe Connart
With the advent of organised escape lines through Occupied Europe, it was inevitable that the Germans would react, sending in their own agents to penetrate and destroy them. Belgian V-Mann Prosper Dezitter worked for the Germans throughout the war and this is a study, based on escape reports, of the culmination of his efforts in 1944 to divert evaders from genuine escape organisations to the false safe house at 16 rue Forestière, the 'Dog House'.
It is difficult to understand the true purpose of the Dog House (and the house with the glassed-in porch) since apart from some half-hearted attempts at gaining military information, none of it very secret or particularly useful to the enemy at this stage of the war, the evaders were soon passed on to uniformed Germans and the pretence of any escape route abandoned. It seems to have been a sort of buffer between the genuine helpers in rural Belgium and the German Frontaufklärungstruppen Fat 362 in Brussels. This study is an attempt to see where enemy agents, led by Prosper Dezitter, intercepted the helper organisations.
It is not known exactly how many evaders passed through the Dog House before going on to Saint-Gilles prison but twenty-six (query) of the later ones subsequently escaped from the so-called 'Ghost Train' at the beginning of September 1944. These are (almost) literal excerpts (with a few notes and occasional additions in [square] brackets) from their MI9, IS9 and MIS-X reports. Note that the British reports tend to be written in the first person, and are quite brief, while some of the generally more detailed American reports are often summations by their interviewer and so written in the third person.
It should perhaps also be noted that during their E&E lectures, evaders had been told to trust their helpers absolutely and to answer all of their questions. This would have been before the news of phoney escape lines reached England.
We (and I emphasise we because there have been several contributors to this article) have tried hard to identify the various people described by the evaders, but some of them are safer bets than others. Details of some of the enemy agents are included at the bottom of the page.
This page updated 11 Jan 2012
F/O W J Elliott (MB/1317) I was second pilot of a Halifax [HX313] which left Skipton at 2345 hrs on 27 May 44. I was shot down in the BOURG-LEOPOLD area on 28 May 44. I hid my parachute, harness and mae west in the bushes. The aircraft crashed in flames. I started to walk in a S.W. direction and hid out next day beside a canal and studied my maps. I found I was near a small town by the name of KWAADMECHELEN. I was approached by a member of the White Brigade. I was housed in various places and eventually joined by Sgt MUIR of our crew. We were taken in a Red Cross civilian automobile to BRUSSELS where we stayed in a house until 3 July 44. We were once asked to fill out a form for identity purposes (already having filled one out at OSSENSTAL for the White Brigade). This form asked for particulars about ourselves, squadron and crew. Later on I learned that some of these details fell into German hands. On the afternoon of 3 July 44 we were supposed to leave for FRANCE but the man who arrived for us in an automobile drove us to another house in Brussels where we met the German Secret Police (not the Gestapo). We still thought we were in good hands. These men asked to see our false Belgian passports and asked for a few particulars about ourselves (age, civil occupation, other members of our crew) with the help of cognac. After being seated in the car, a German soldier in the Luftwaffe came from a concealed position and acted as chauffeur. We were threatened then and told we were P/W and wouldn't be harmed. We were then taken to a Luftwaffe interrogation place in Southern BRUSSELS … (IS9 MB/1317 Elliott account)
Sgt Maurice Muir (2885) (MB/1356) (Navigator of Halifax HX313) … I moved to another house on 30 May, where I met F/O ELLIOTT [MB/1317] of my crew. F/O ELLIOTT remained with me until our arrival in the UK. We stayed in various houses until 22 June, when we were taken on bicycles to the outskirts of VEERLE, where we were met by a car. A car contained two men (names unknown) [V-Leute Robert BOEN & Jean WEERELDS – query] came to the meeting place and we were taken to BRUSSELS. We stayed at 19 (sic) Rue Forestiere, Brussels until the afternoon of 4 July, when we were taken to the outskirts of Brussels where the driver (name unknown) took us to a house (location unknown). On arrival we met five men and we were told that we were to have our photographs taken. Four of the men escorted us to a car outside the house. As I was getting into the car a German soldier appeared. At that moment the four men produced revolvers and we were instructed to get into the car. The German soldier was the car driver. We were taken to the Luftwaffe Secret Police Headquarters on Avenue Louise, Brussels, where we were searched and then taken to St Gilles Prison, Brussels. (Muir MI9 2885 account)
Sgt Maurice Muir (MB/1356) (2885) … I was taken by car to WYNANTS, 153 Ossenstal Eindhout prov cint (sic). There I met my co-pilot [Elliott MB/1317]. We stayed there about eight or nine days and were fixed up by the organisation with false papers, giving them our service equipment etc. From there we were moved to a district of GEEL where we were kept for approximately eight days, staying with a family by the name of WOUTERS. We went down once to AARSCHOT to go into Brussels – that was impossible by reason on bombing and German activity on the roads. We then moved into the village of VEERLE and stayed there for another week with a family the name of JOSEF CERSTREPAN (sic) where we were told that we were going into Brussels the next day. We stayed the night at a farm on the outskirts of the village and at noon we were picked up by a car on the main road and brought into Brussels to 16 Rue Torrestiere (sic) St Gilles. We stayed there for nine days paying one visit in (sic) Brussels. After that we were picked up by car again and driven to the outskirts of Brussels where we met five men who were supposed to take us over to the Swiss border. We stayed there for an hour or so still under the impression that we were with an underground group, giving them proof of identity etc. and were then taken out apparently to have more photos taken for working papers. On entering the car however, all five men produced guns and informed us that they were Luftwaffe Secret Police. We were then taken to their headquarters first of all where we had any Belgian or military material taken away and then we were taken to the prison of Saint Gilles also at Brussels. I don't know at which point of the trip we were in German hands but from meeting with other Allied airmen am of the opinion it was at 16 Rue Torrestiere. Quite a large number of people have passed through their hands ! (Muir IS9 MB/1356 account)
1/Lt William G Ryckman (#1591) (Navigator of B-24 Carpetbagger 42-40550) About 0200 on 29 May 1944, Ryckman was shot down near Ninove (Belgium). He and the B [bombardier] Cozzens [#1916] were soon picked up and taken to the house of REMI DIEPENDAELE, Wolvenhoek 71, GROTENBERGE, Belgium where they stayed 22 days. In 1941 these people helped an RAF man (sic) named William J Clark. ADEMAR DHONT brought ration coupons, I/P, and a casualty questionnaire which Ryckman would not fill out. [Believe this was Pte W J Clark (513) Gordon Highlanders sheltered in 1940.]
About 20 June GEORGE DE VRIESTE (sic) took them to a farm near HERZELE where they stayed about eight days. A young man named ROGER (22, 5ft 8ins, stocky, black curly hair, 175 lbs) boasted of having two American airmen. On 28 June they hid in a grain field anticipating a German search but the Germans went instead to a farm about half a mile away where the people had the same name. Some 50 Germans were supposed to be searching there. GEORGE took them to hide out until late that night then took them to WOUBRECHTEGEM where they stayed about a week with DUBASTERS (sic), some Armee Blanche people. The husband was P/W and the woman and two children were alone. BERTHA, who had been born in Long Beach CA, brought cigarettes. Her father is still supposed to be in Long Beach. They were waiting for GEORGE'S organisation to evacuate them and met a section chief named OMAR. BERTHA said she knew a man in Brussels to whom she had turned over soldiers after Dunkirk. She promised to try and reach him. After a day she returned declaring that she had made contact. BERTHA was 5 feet 4 inches, coal black hair, attractive .
On 4 July they bicycled with her to ASPELARE, a small grocery store where they met her mother. ARSENE PRIEELS, whose father lived in ASPELARE, came. At about 0500 on 5 July they bicycled to NINOVE with him and caught a train to BRUSSELS, arriving about 0645. They walked to ARSENE'S sister's apartment. There the girl who had sheltered them left them. Apparently she had suspicions about the move and wanted to make sure the Americans were in good hands. They later wrote a note to her and had a reply. They stayed in a four room apartment on the fourth or fifth floor. Other apartments were on the same floor. No one was there when they arrived and they were left alone. About three hours later ARSENE'S sister ALVIER [Elvire WILLEMSEN] brought food. They met EMIL [Emiel] (very short, short red curly hair, thick glasses, ran a bar in the nearby marketplace, spoke English very well) who seemed to bring food and liquor. The PRIEELS seemed to be very wealthy. They met a friend of ALVIER'S, GERMAINE [LAHAYE], who also seemed very wealthy. There was something about her working before the fall of France and something else about liberal politicians, none of it very clear. The girls brought up their own barber who declared this was the first time he had worked on men. They met EMIL'S wife. EMIL said that ARSENE had helped about 60 aviators before. They understood that they were supposed to stay with ALVIER until some other place could be found.
Once ARSENE said that there was a possibility for the men to go to Switzerland, a suggestion which made them suspicious because they had been told before that they would have to wait for the invasion of Belgium. There was some talk about GERMAINE knowing some Belgian consul from before the war and somehow this person would fix it up so they could go by car. None of this story seemed to make any sense to them.
A dark haired woman 40-46 who knew GERMAINE and was supposed to have known her in France before France fell came. Then a tall slender elderly gray haired man came. Something went wrong so that the men could not leave as quickly as anticipated. The dark haired woman came, and separately came a tall slender chief about 40 with a small moustache and dark silky hair [DEZITTER]. He said something about not having been able to check the line down which they were going, but that one Bill Sink of Dayton, Ohio [S/Sgt William B Sink from B-24 41-28611 Baby Shoes] had gone a few days earlier. Not enough time had elapsed to hear from Sink but he seemed to think that the line was all right. They all then had a grand party in which the airmen were given jewellery by the PRIEELS. This chief took the silk maps, ALVIER took the hack saws, and the Americans were left with the compasses. The chief warned them that if anything looked suspicious they should go out on their own. He warned them to stay away from any large cities. ARSENE asked for the following BBC message "The sun will not shine tomorrow" and the chief with the silky hair asked for "The two babes are safe". (All of which sounds [in retrospect] like nasty humor.)
In the afternoon the dark haired woman took the Americans from the house and guided them three or four blocks to a corner where they met a light haired woman of about 30 [Suzanne BERTHERAND]. Two thugs or bodyguards of some sort seemed to have followed them from the apartment. They wandered about for some time and then about 1630 on a main street a car pulled up and they were motioned in. At the wheel was a gray haired man with glasses, about 5ft 9 or 10ins, 185 lbs, rather heavy build, little finger missing from his right hand, coarse shredded black hair flopping in his eye, gray in streaks, a very dark grayish face, moustache covering his whole lip. This man seemed to become quite excited about the two thugs who were following. The Americans climbed into the back of the car, the light haired woman in the front. After about ten or fifteen minutes of the most labored turning they reached the "dog house" with its brick or cement front. They went in the front door and up the marble stairs. To the left were three steps going down to a living room below street level. Beyond, through French doors was the kitchen which opened into a raised patio with a large fence. On the next floor were two rooms separated by a curtain. In them were a lot of chairs and English maps. It was possible to look out of the window and on to the street. Across the street was a laboratory possibly engaged in chemical analysis. Several times the supercharged Graham [a 1939 Graham Page] which the chief drove stopped out in front. The date of arrival for the Americans was 14 July.
The Americans then saw the "Russian" [Nicolas FETISOFF] slender, 5ft 10ins - 6 foot, very heavily bearded, with some skin disease on his cheek, spoke no English, and his wife SUZANNE [Suzanne BERTHERAND] the blonde woman. They had an eight year old son, ALEXIS. The house seemed to be run by a very good looking, dark haired woman named JACQUELINE [Florentina DINGS née GIRALT aka Jacqueline WINTER] with a very high-pitched voice. She had a 14 year old son named SERGE. A cross-eyed servant girl did the cooking.
They saw the chief [DEZITTER] pay off a man in Belgian francs – spoke no English, blond hair, about 40, about 5ft 9ins, about 160 lbs. The chief made some complaint about paying money but they observed that he received itemised receipts. The Russian and his wife were there all night. That night they talked to the chief and he told how he and JACQUELINE went out into the fields for "receptions". There was something about a German plane dropping and he being almost caught. He claimed that Communists stole some of the materials thus dropped and buried them for their own uses. The chief said that he had spent part of his life in India. He had been in El Paso, Texas and up in Canada. He seemed to know Canada well enough to make Canadians believe that he was Canadian. He gave a story about being a British agent. With Britons he would take the line that America and Russia would be the only ones that would come out of the war victoriously, and similarly with other nations, mutatis mutandis.
On Tuesday (after Friday 14 July, day of arrival) about 0300 the men were to go to France and then the Swiss frontier travelling the whole way by automobile. A man about 6ft tall, blond curly thinning hair, who carried Lucky Strike cigarettes, took the two men around the corner to a car and left them. They did not see him again. They climbed into the car and rode to a garage in an alley next to the large back yard of a house. Five or six men in civilian clothes were waiting there. One had a gold pin in his lapel, an indication of the organisation so he declared. A new blond chap, slighter than the previous one, took charge of things, leading the Americans to a group of chairs and tables in the open, asking them what state they came from, and bringing out cognac. Another man talked to Cozzens. These men asked questions about when the war would be over (Christmas was the response) what the Americans thought about Russia, communism in the US etc. An effort seemed to be made to convince the Americans that the Russians would keep going west in Europe and that America would eventually have to go to war with Russia. One man asked Cozzens what kind of plane he was flying. Then they brought out tissue forms for Le Front Independance, written in French. At first the Americans filled in only their name, rank and serial number. Then the men told how the Germans caught organisations and the Americans filled out all the casualty information with the exception of their unit, base and CO. The story of what the Americans were now going to do became a bit confusing. On the one hand there was still some mention of going to Switzerland and on the other hand there was some business about taking a boat from Holland to go to Spain.
The Americans saw a swarthy man, dark hair, medium build whom they later saw at Luftwaffe HQ – he was always dressed in civilian clothes, in contrast to the other men whom they saw there at the garage, for they all turned up later in uniform. The Americans were told they would go to a place for the night and leave the next morning. The two of them climbed into a 1936 Dodge with five "guides". They drove through Brussels to a building which they shortly discovered was Luftwaffe HQ. (MIS-X Ryckman #1591 account)
1/Lt Wallis O Cozzens (#1916) (Bombardier of B-24 Carpetbagger 42-40550) gives no details of his evasion but names his helpers as Remi DIEPPENDAEL at GROTENBERGE; Arsene PRIEELS, 45 rue Joriez (query) Brussels; Germaine LAHAYE, 13 Boulevard d'Anvers, Brussels; Mme Elvire WILLEMSEN, 45 rue Joriez (query) Brussels; and Emile HALTERMAN-HUREZ, Taverne Royale, Bourse, Brussels. [the spelling of some names and addresses have been corrected]
F/O William Cunningham (2621) (Air bomber of Lancaster LL921) I landed at about 0100 hrs 19 July 1944 about 3 miles SE of MONS. My parachute was caught in a tree, and I had to leave it there. After walking a short way I hid in some bushes for 20 hours. During the night I walked west for some hours then during the day. On the evening of 20 Jul I was found by a woman who took me to her home, providing clothes and an identity card. I left my escape kit there. I was put in touch with an organisation which was arranging to take me to BRUSSELS and whence to ENGLAND. I was taken to BRUSSELS to a house where I met my wireless operator, F/Sgt MURPHY (S/P.G.(-)2622). We were well treated and kept here until 25 Jul, when we were turned over to our would-be guides and given a long form to fill in. The details required were: name, rank, number, home address, religion, squadron number, base, target etc. I refused to fill in these details, as I was suspicious. We then discovered that we were in the hands of the Luftwaffe police, and that we had been tricked. (Cunningham MI9 2621 account)
F/Sgt Joseph W Murphy (2622) (Wireless operator of Lancaster LL921) I was a member of the same crew as F/O CUNNINGHAM (S/P.G.(-) 2621) [and Mason 2623] and baled out at about 0100 hrs 19 July 1944, landing on a barbed wire fence south of MONS, near HYON. I hid my parachute etc. in some bushes and walked to a nearby wood where I hid until the afternoon of 20 July. I spoke to a man who told me to follow a woman [Clara NEERDAEL – query] walking past. I went into a field to hide while she fetched her cousins [René NEERDAEL and wife Margaret née CALDOW] who could speak English. When they returned they told me to follow them to their house nearby, where I was given food and civilian clothes. My battle dress was buried in the back yard. I was told the name of the village was HYON. I was given a Belgian identity card and moved to another house. From here a car came to take me to another organisation which would arrange my return to England. Arriving in Brussels I was taken to an address where I met my bomb aimer F/O CUNNINGHAM. We were kept here until 25 July, when a car came to take us to our guides. We later found we were hoaxed and were in the hands of the Luftwaffe police. From now on my story is the same as F/O CUNNINGHAM, up to our return to the U.K. on 6 Sep.
During my imprisonment at St GILLES in Brussels I met the following: a New Zealand Typhoon pilot, F/O MacGREGOR [Typhoon JP915] of NAPIER, New Zealand (who had been two months in prison); a Halifax pilot, Sgt ORMROD [Halifax LW503] R.A.F. of Surrey, England (who had been five months in prison); and a Canadian, S/Ldr BLENKINSOP. I believe that ORMROD and MacGREGOR were sent to Germany. (MI9 2622 Murphy account)
S/Ldr Edward Wyman Blenkinsop RCAF (Lancaster JA976) was sent to Germany, where he died of tuberculosis at Belsen concentration camp in January 1945. (RAF Evaders)
Sgt Roy C Brown RCAF (2286) (Wireless operator of Halifax LK798) 9 May 1944 … I baled out and landed at ESPIERRES. I stayed until 12 May when a man who spoke English came with a bicycle and some civilian clothes and then we went to [the LIETAERT family at 100 rue de la Station] MOUSCRON. … On 16 May a man took me to TEMPLEUVE to a little house where I stayed [with Oscar DENILLE and family] until 15 (sic) August. I was given a Belgian identity card. During my stay a man gave me a Turkish identity card and took the Belgian one away. He said he would try and get us away through Switzerland. 2/Lt Levey USAAF [#1848] was also staying at the house.
On 1 August a man called for us in a car and took us to Brussels with three other evaders. (Note : F/O PANZER S/P.G (-) 2418 was also in this party). We went to a house and stayed there two days. On 3 August we were taken by car to a large house in the town. We were told we were being taken to Switzerland. While at this house we were given a form to fill in by three men who said they were members of a Resistance movement. We filled in our name, number, rank, squadron, station, home address, where we came down, and target. We were told we would be moved to another house for the night and would proceed to Switzerland the next day. We went by open truck to the house and were met by two German guards. They got into our truck and took us to some headquarters in Brussels. We were searched, our money, identity cards etc. – everything in fact except our handkerchiefs and combs – were taken. We were taken to St Gilles prison, Brussels. (Brown MI9 2286 account)
F/O Leon Panzer RCAF (2418) (Navigator of Halifax LW583) We left Eastmoor, Yorks at about 0100 hrs on 9 May 44 in a Halifax III bomber … I baled out, landing in a field near MENIN (N.W. Europe 1:250,000, Sheet 2, H 7554) at about 0345 hrs. My parachute, harness etc, were buried by villagers later. I remained hidden in the fields all day, and left at night, having been given food as well as a raincoat to cover my uniform (which I had stripped of all insignia). I was on the road by night and hiding by day until 16 May, being given food by farmers each day. I arrived at WASQUEHAL where I was hidden for three days. People tried to arrange my return to U.K., but all efforts were unsuccessful. I was given civilian clothes and set off on 19 May for ROUBAIX (H 7843) and BAISIEUX (H 8433) where I was hidden for a night by a Belgian Douanier (customs inspector). He gave me a bicycle, and I set off on 20 May for HERINNES (Belgium) (H 9243). Here the Douanier took me to a convent, where I hid for a week, being fed by neighbouring farmers. A Catholic priest, connected to the Resistance movement, took charge of me, and moved me to the village of TEMPLEUVE (H 8537). Here I went to the house of the Convent's Sister's Superior. I stayed here until 1 Aug, when plans were made for my repatriation to England via SWITZERLAND. With me were three Americans [Muse #1846, Singleton #1847 and Levey #1848] and one Canadian – Sgt Brown (S/P/G (-) 2286) – from the same village [Templeuve] who were supposedly going back to the U.K. We were then taken to Brussels (J 65), where we found that the whole scheme was a trick and we found we were in the hands of the Luftwaffe police. We had been betrayed by someone in the underground movement. None of my helpers was to blame. The trouble lay somewhere further off. We learned later that the Germans paid a reward for each Allied escaper who was delivered into their hands this way. (MI9 2418 Panzer account)
The B-17 42-31116 Cawn't Miss was shot down on 29 April 1944, crashing near Leers, Pas-de-Calais-Nord, close to the Belgian border. 2/Lt J H Singleton (#1847) S/Sgt William R Muse (#1846) 2/Lt James G Levey (#1848) and Sgt Harry J Blair (#1849) baled out ...
2/Lt J H Singleton (#1847) (Pilot of B-17 42-31116 Cawn't Miss) landed in LEERS, France. A member of the Belgian White Army called ALBERT picked up Singleton at once and took him to his mother's house in LEERS where he gave him civilian clothing. He then took Singleton to his own house at LEERS NORD (Belgium). After a couple of hours a short man, 24 years old who lives with his wife and baby in LEERS NORD came in and led Singleton to a church in NECHIN where a priest and a doctor took his escape kit and interrogated him. The commandant of police in TEMPLEUVE took him by bicycle to M ANGEL VAN LEUERCK, a policeman in TEMPLEUVE, who lived next door to the commandant. There Singleton found Muse. (MIS-X #1847 Singleton)
S/Sgt William W Muse (#1846) (TTG of B-17 42-31116 Cawn't Miss) had also landed in Leers. There a member of the White Army had taken him home, given him clothing and hidden him in a ditch. An hour later a priest came to him and told him that another man would soon take him away. This other man arrived and led him to the church in NECHIN whence the priest took him to a house in the town where he turned in his escape kit. The commandant of police in TEMPLEUVE then arrived and took him by bicycle to the house of an Englishwoman in TEMPLEUVE but could not leave him there as there happened to be strangers visiting the woman at the time. He then took Muse to VAN LEUERCK'S house, whither a few hours later Singleton was brought.
Singleton and Muse stayed with VAN LEUERCK over night. Next day he and the commandant led them to BLANDAIN to the house of a man named WALTER. They remained here for half an hour and then moved into the house of M EDMOND DE WOLF where they remained for three weeks. Thereafter they went to the house of M DANIEL ____ in BLANDAIN for five days and then were taken back to TEMPLEUVE to the house of M EDGARD GUILBERT-MARCHEZ, 33 Rue Cazeau, TEMPLEUVE. Here they lived from 26 May until 1 August. During this time WALTER in BLANDAIN got I/Cs for them and said plans were being made to send them to Switzerland whence they would return by air to the U.K. He finally told them that someone would come to get them in a car and before they left gave Singleton a message to be delivered to British Intelligence in the U.K. This message Singleton succeeded in swallowing when he was later captured by the Germans.
On 1 August an automobile appeared. In it was a woman in her early thirties, blonde hair and dark eyebrows, well dressed and heavily perfumed, who spoke English fairly well (It was later learned from Mme DENILLE that this woman was Gilberte PICARD, the wife of Dr WATTEAU of Tournai.) and a man between 35 and 40, dark complexioned, wearing a thin greyish black moustache and a goatee (which he had raised to cover a skin rash) [FETISOFF] whom the Americans called "the mad Russian". They gave the password "La cerise est une drogue" and were admitted to the house. They then wanted to take the identity disks from Singleton and Muse but the Americans pretended they only had one apiece and so each succeeded in retaining one. Singleton and Muse were then taken in the automobile to pick up F/O Leon Panzer (RCAF) Sgt Roy Brown (RCAF) and Lt Levey. The whole party then motored to Brussels. (Muse #1846 account in MIS-X 1847 Singleton report)
2/Lt James G Levey (#1848) (Navigator of B-17 42-31116 Cawn't Miss) had also landed at LEERS. The whole town was out to meet him but the Germans were near and he ran away from his admirers and hid in a ditch. Presently a young man named JEAN who wore under the lapel of his jacket a tin badge inscribed "Deputy Sheriff Texas" a souvenir from a "Cracker Jack" box, found him, led him through the woods to another young man who gave Levey a coat, and then took him to a road where two men with bicycles were waiting. Then began a mad ride along roads and paths, dodging Germans and passing from house to house until Levey finally found himself in a house in an unknown village where four members of a Liberator crew were staying : Riddle the pilot, Bryant the bombardier, Varty the radio operator and the navigator whose name Levey does not remember. The house belonged to a spinster and an older man. The five Americans remained here a week and then were moved to another village.
The four airmen were 2/Lt Charles L Riddle, 2/Lt Ray O Hargis, 2/Lt John W Bryant and S/Sgt Robert M Varty from B-24 41-29306 which crashed at Espierres-Helchin on 22 April 44.
They were hidden for some three weeks, and put into the clandestine route to France. Jean Lefebvre conducted them to a safe house in LES BALLONS, in Belgium on the French border, on May 13. They were put in the care of brothers JOSEPH and FORTUNE FOURNIER of LYS-LEZ-LANNOY in France and GEORGES CARRETTE of NECHIN, Belgium. The three conducted the American aviators to the house of FIDÈLE DUBOIS, a greengrocer in MONS-EN-PÉVÈLE, France.
At chez Dubois, a man identifying himself as "MONSIEUR MARCEL", accompanied by an attractive lady, possibly presented himself as a Canadian parachutist with the mission of taking the four further on the escape route. There all surviving witnesses agree that he spoke perfect English. MARCEL and his female secretary picked up the four in a sedan to transport them initially to ARRAS. Outside that town, they were stopped at a German checkpoint. MARCEL left the car with assurances that the Germans wanted only to see his driver's license. The four stayed in the car and had no way out when the Germans came to arrest them.
The four Americans were made prisoners of war. Riddle, Bryant, and Hargis were separated from Varty, on the grounds that the first three were officers, Varty a sergeant. The three officers spent the war in a Stalag, participated in the terrible winter march south as the Russians approached, and were finally liberated in Moosburg, in Bavaria. Varty was shot, in circumstances which will probably never be uncovered. DUBOIS, the FOURNIER brothers and CARRETTE were sent to a concentration camp from which they never emerged. (excerpt from "Who the Hell Was Monsieur Marcel" by George Kelling)
Jean meanwhile had gone to LILLE to make arrangements with an organisation to get them out and while he was gone, another organisation found the Americans and moved them to a gendarme's house. JEAN returned, traced them, and claimed them for his own. He said that he had found an organisation in LILLE which was moving men to Spain in Red Cross cars and would move as many as they could get. A referee was called in to arbitrate the claims of the rivals to the evaders and he awarded the four Liberator men to Jean and Levey to the other organisation. This group then moved Levey to TEMPLEUVE to the house of ANGEL VAN LEUERCK where he stayed two days and then the commandant moved him to the home of M DENILLE on the Rue de Tournai in TEMPLEUVE where he lived from 11 May until 1 August. On 13 or 14 May, Roy Brown [2286] was brought to this house. Singleton [#1847] and Muse [#1846] visited here on 27 June and all the time here the men in TEMPLEUVE were corresponding with Blair [#1849] who was in ROUBAIX. They were visited and helped in TEMPLEUVE by the following people also : Rene de Meyer who was hiding from the Germans in Templeuve; M Marcel de Lannay a doctor about 27 years old; Mme Bernard who had been a nurse in the last war, had two daughters and a Model 38 Dodge (!) and spoke English; and a young priest who was planning to be a missionary in China.
On 1 August a car with Singleton, Muse, Panzer, the mad Russian, and the wife of Doctor WATTEAU (Gilberte PICARD) appeared at the Denille's house. Levey describes the mad Russian [FETISOFF] as between 35 and 40, dark complexioned, with a thin moustache, greyish black, and temporary goatee to cover rash; and Mme WATTEAU as 32 or 33, good looking, blonde hair and dark eyebrows, carried very heavy umbrella, spoke fairly good English, heavily perfumed and well dressed. (MIS-X #1848 page 9)
The password was given. Mme WATTEAU left the party here. Levey and Roy Brown joined it and the mad Russian drove them to Brussels to 16 Rue Forestiere. The inhabitants of this house were : A very attractive woman, a "typical Parisienne", 32 years old, black eyes and hair, clear complexion, false upper teeth, spoke English fluently. She was called JACQUELINE [DINGS/GIRALT aka Jacqueline WINTER]. A 14 year old boy named SERGE, JACQUELINE'S son. A man about 50 years old called GEORGES (also called the chief). He had greyish hair, a sallow complexion, a small moustache and wore thick glasses [DEZITTER aka George WINTER]. He spoke English fluently and many other languages. He said that he had been born in India. He represented himself as JACQUELINE'S husband and SERGE'S father. He was constantly brow-beating the boy who was terribly afraid of him. The boy, who spoke French to GEORGES, was incidentally a kleptomaniac and a "holy terror". A man about 21 years old called THEO, who said he was a fugitive from the Gestapo and that he was going to England with the evaders. A girl of about 21 or 22 years, who had dark eyes and hair, scars on her chin and was terribly ugly. She was the cook for the ménage. A woman [Suzanne BERTHERAND] who was reputably the wife of the mad Russian and the mother of an 8 year boy named ALEX. A big German police dog, two "Scotties" and one cat.
The evaders arrived at this house on the evening of 1 August. The next day they were introduced to a man who looked to be in his late forties, a rather slim, military figure, about 5ft 9ins tall, slightly bald but with blond curly hair still in evidence and a ruddy complexion. He was introduced as an English colonel [Charles JENART - query]. This day Lt George Campbell and Sgt Donald Pierce of a Liberator crew [42-100365, the same aircraft as Swanson (#1861) and Hillis (#1862) see below] were brought into the house by the mad Russian [FETISOFF]. Panzer went out with JACQUELINE [GIRALT/DINGS] to see a doctor and to get petrol. He brought back from the doctor forms which the evaders were supposed to fill up, but this they refused to do. That night JACQUELINE asked them to write a letter to their earlier helpers telling them that all was well. After consultation among themselves they composed a vague letter to this effect, but they did not address it to anyone and gave no hint of the people with whom they had stayed previously. They later saw this letter at Mme GUILBERT'S house where it had been delivered by the wife of Dr WATTEAU. The next day the so-called English colonel drove Panzer, Brown, Singleton, Levey and Muse, in two trips, to a garage where he turned them over to a man about 35 years old, who had a thin face, large ears, and a general appearance of Paul Muni, the cinema actor, and who later said that he was a professor of languages at Cologne University. The "English colonel" then left at once. The five evaders were taken into a house and out into a glassed-in porch. There were two more men, one about 35 years old with sunken eyes and a sallow complexion who spoke English very well and another who was in his forties, had straight hair tinged with grey, wore glasses and had one short arm. The evaders were given cognac and were then asked to fill in some forms. They refused to do this and a violent argument ensued which lasted for two hours and at the end of which they were told that they would have to be turned over to the Gestapo unless they filled up the forms. They finally complied. Then they were told that the car was ready. They were led down to the front of the house and into a lorry. As soon as they were inside two uniformed German soldiers with machine-pistols and the professor climbed into the lorry and they were driven to Luftwaffe Intelligence HQ. It was during this ride that SINGLETON chewed and swallowed the message that WALTER of BLANDAIN had given him. At Luftwaffe headquarters they were stripped and searched. They were then taken to St Gilles prison and put into separate cells. (Levey #1848 account in MIS-X #1847 Singleton report)
Sgt William Mason (2623) (Air gunner of Lancaster LL921) I was a member of the same crew as F/O CUNNINGHAM (S/P.G.(-) 2621) [and Murphy 2622] and baled out on 19 July at about 0100 hrs, landing near a wood south of MONS . Next morning I met a farmer who put me in touch with a schoolteacher who gave me civilian clothes and kept me for a month. He put me in touch with a place in Brussels, whence I was taken with two Americans [Blair #1849 & Wagner #1870]. We stayed at an address for four days, then being transferred to another house in the town where several men asked us many questions about the effects of V.1, and gave us a form to fill in which had several military questions on it. As most people thought the form was alright, I did fill in most of the questions, including the Squadron number. I was then taken to St GILLES prison in Brussels. (MI9 2623 Mason account)
Sgt Harry J Blair (#1849) (Tail gunner of B-17 42-31116 Cawn't Miss) landed in LEERS (29 Apr 44). LUDOVIC ANCEAU sheltered him at 85 Avenue Alfred Motte, Apt 7, ROUBAIX. Then ANCEAU took Blair to the home of GASTON PONZEELES (sic), marchand de legumes, 183 Rue Ingres, ROUBAIX where Blair lived for a week. Here he saw a doctor who had him fill out a form but later brought it back and burnt it because he said the organisation through which he had hoped to get Blair out had been broken up. At the end of the week Blair was moved back to ANCEAU'S place and there he remained until some time in July when ANCEAU was stopped in the street by the Gestapo. Then, since it was clear that ANCEAU was being watched, he was taken back to PONZEELES' and remained there until 8 August. While he'd been at ANCEAU'S he had been told that three of his comrades were safe on the Belgian side of the border, and ANCEAU had once taken him to TOUFFLERS where he met several men who questioned him and had him write a note to Singleton [#1847]. He had in ROUBAIX also met the brother of GASTON PONZEELES and his son, a Belgian, who had given Blair a suit of his own clothes, and a doctor who spoke some English, who appeared to be an important person in the ROUBAIX organisation, and who told him not to move but to remain where he was. On 7 August Blair received a note written in English, signed "Your French friend", and saying "Your friends have already left. You too must get out before August 9th". The next day ANCEAU took him to the gendarmerie in TEMPLEUVE where a gendarme took over and led Blair to the house of M EDGARD GUILBERT-MERCHEZ. There M WALTER took photographs of him for a new I/C. That night Sgt James Wagner [#1870] was brought in and he and Blair were told they were going to Brussels whence they would return to England by plane. They stayed about a week at GUILBERT'S. Then the woman [Mme WATTEAU] and the mad Russian [FETISOFF] (now wearing a black patch over his thumb) arrived with a car to fetch them. The woman left them at TOURNAI. On the outskirts of TOURNAI two German soldiers halted the car, entered it after the mad Russian had spoken to them in German, and rode on to MONS where they left. In MONS the mad Russian stopped to pick up Bill Mason RAF [2623] and a woman who was his guide. They then drove to a house outside of MONS where they stopped for dinner. The inhabitants of this house were a beautiful young woman and her husband, a man whose face had been badly cut and scratched. The mad Russian drove Blair, Wagner and Mason from here to the house in the Rue Forestiere, Brussels where upon entering they found Spence [#1856] Holcombe [#1858] and two Russian escapers, a medical captain and a Cossack lieutenant. The others left almost at once but Blair and Wagner stayed on at this house for about eight days. Then the man who answers the description of the "English colonel" [Charles JENART - query] but was not so represented to Blair, drove them to the house with the glassed-in porch. Blair and Wagner saw here a woman who had an Italian appearance and was almost bald. After they had been given the usual cognac, they were taken down to the front of the house where the Luftwaffe car was waiting and in this they were driven to Luftwaffe Intelligence HQ. They were searched and interrogated and then taken to Saint Gilles where they were again interrogated. Here they met Singleton, Levey and Muse. (Blair account from MIS-X #1847 Singleton report)
Note: ANNIE MARIE GUILBERT daughter of M EDGARD GUILBERT-MERCHEZ, 33 Rue Cazeau, TEMPLEUVE, works in the Post Office in TOURNAI. She was intimate with a man who worked at window number 10 at that Post Office and who was supposedly a member of the White Army. On or about 15 July this man went on what was to have been a two weeks' holiday in LIEGE. Lt Singleton who was in TEMPLEUVE on 7 September was there told that this man had not returned from his holiday, and ANNIE said she did not know what happened to him. He had heard from ANNIE that the evaders were at her parents' house and they suspect that he may have been the person who arranged for them to be picked up by the false organisation. This man is about six feet tall, weighed about 160 lbs, had dark hair, combed straight back, large dark eyes, and a dark complexion. ANNIE MARIE GUILBERT has his picture. (Blair account from MIS-X #1847 Singleton report)
S/Sgt James M Wagner (#1870) (Tail gunner of B-24 42-94773 Our Gal Sal) We crash-landed on 11 July (1944) near FROYENNES (2 miles NW of Tournai). The pilot tried to burn the plane and we all scattered. I ran to a house and a Frenchman there took me to the attic of a convent. He brought me a passport and a bicycle, then rode with me to LEERS-NORD (8 miles NW of Tournai). I stayed a month with ALFRED VAN WHUYS and a lady named THERESE. I worked on the farm of LEON DE CONTE (20) who had been a saboteur in Normandy and was then working as a terrorist. There were regular checks by the Gestapo. Here I filled out a form for the underground. The wife of a gendarme warned me to leave town, so I was taken to TEMPLEUVE where I stayed with the GUILBERT family for five days. The GUILBERTS had a daughter named ANNIE. My helpers gave me a Portuguese passport to replace my first one. Sgt Harry Blair [#1849] was also hiding at this house. We were told we would be evacuated by air. One day a man and a woman came in an automobile [FETISOFF & Mme WATTEAU] to take us to Bruxelles. We went through Mons where we picked up an English evader [Mason 2623]. In Bruxelles we went to 16 Rue de la Foret (sic) where we remained eight days. Here we met Sgt Spence [#1856] Sgt Holcomb [#1858] and two Russians.
When we arrived, we were introduced to several people and taken upstairs. There was no cause for suspicion. The people here were : EMILY – the cook, a homely person who wore horn-rimmed glasses. A very beautiful lady of about thirty-eight [GIRALT/DINGS] possibly GEORGE'S wife. Junior [SERGE] an overgrown kid of about fourteen, dark haired, surly. Called the lady "mother". GEORGE [DEZITTER aka George WINTER] a well travelled man, about 5ft 6ins, with dark grey hair, thick glasses and a dark complexion. He never wore a hat, and was well-dressed although his coats were long and his pants baggy. He spoke English and claimed to be a Belgian. A tall, dark, very handsome man who spoke Russian and supervised our meals [GRISTCHENKO]. Junior said he was George's wife's brother.There were a number of pets here – a police dog, two Scottish terriers, a wire-haired terrier and a black cat. For this reason we later referred to this set-up as the dog house.
Later : The White Army told us that they had rounded up the entire ring that had been betraying Allied evaders. They said that GEORGE was a captain in the Gestapo and that he was in St Gilles prison in Bruxelles. It was our opinion that the original helpers had turned us over to the Gestapo (sic) organization in good faith, thinking that it was a bona-fide proposition and a good chance to get us to Switzerland. (MIS-X #1870 Wagner account)
2/Lt Alfred M L Sanders (#1595) (Pilot of B-24 42-52764 ) Lt Sanders landed on 28 May 1944 near BRAINE-LE-COMTE, Belgium. He was met at once by MELCHIOR DESEAU [sic – RESTEAU] (125 Rue de la Station, Braine-le-Comte) who hid him in a field and returned to him there in a 1940 Ford station wagon driven by a man called ROLAND. There was a girl riding in this station wagon also, and three men armed with Tommy-guns guarded the road while Sanders was put into the automobile and driven away. He was given civilian clothes in the automobile, the while they drove to a farm SW of Brussels. There RESTEAU and ROLAND left Sanders with a man named ALFRED. Arms were brought to them by another man called BERNARD, and the three of them proceeded to a neighbouring farm where Sanders was put to bed. This farm was deserted but presently the man from the adjoining farm, a handsome man of 45 years, square faced with greyish hair and sideburns, brought food and the next day brought a doctor who bandaged Sanders' injured foot. The following day the chief of the organisation, ALEX, a chemical student about 20 years old, came in and told Sanders that he was bringing some comrades to the farm. The day after that two lorries drove up. In them rode 18 Russians who had been forced into the German army and had deserted – they still wore German uniforms. Several days later the man from the adjoining farm [Caban ALBERT of Nederhasselt – query] brought in Lt Henry Wolcott III [#1877] whose home is in Royal Oak, Michigan. The whole group remained here for several days helping Alex make mines and fortifying the place. Then a fifteen year old girl arrived and said the Germans had killed the man at the adjoining farm and were on their way to the evaders' hiding-place. The whole party set out in their lorries at once and went to the farm of GEORGES TONDEUR [at BIERGHES] where Sanders, Wolcott, three Russians and a Belgian, lived until 18 June. That afternoon German troops raided the farm and took TONDEUR and his servants prisoner – but the evaders, deserters and the Belgian refracter (sic) who were hiding in a cachette under the floor, escaped notice. When the Germans had left after tearing up the interior of the house, the whole party was gathered together and went by lorry to REBECQUE [REBECQ-ROGNON]. On a farm near this town the two Americans and five of the Russians lived for four days. Then the mayor of REBECQUE (sic) warned the farmer that the Germans planned to raid this place. Sanders and Wolcott were taken at once to Clabecq to the hill-top mansion of an iron manufacturer. They spent a night and a day there and then were taken by a Belgian to an empty house for one day, and then a party of the White Army took them to the house of Mme JEAN ROWART in REBECQ. After living in this house for several days, Sanders and Wolcott were moved from farm to farm for four nights and were finally taken to the shop of M MAURICE F____ [Wolcott says Maurice VASTESAEGER] on the outskirts of TROP. There they lived until 10 August. On that day (Melchior) RESTEAU and a man named CLAUDE [Walcott says that Claud (sic) was the chief of the partisans in Rebecq] came and told them that they were to leave for Switzerland. The following day RESTEAU returned in his automobile with a young woman about 23 years old, short, thin and flat chested, who spoke both French and German [BERTHERAND]. He left this woman with the Americans after telling them that another car would come to take them and her to Brussels. Shortly afterwards an automobile arrived driven by a very dark, pock-marked man of about 40 years whose jaw was sunken as if he had no teeth and wore a black cloth over the thumb of his right hand [FETISOFF]. In this car the two Americans and the young woman were taken to Brussels, though they were stopped by a German soldier at a barrier and went to a German HQ where they waited some 45 minutes while the driver went inside to argue about his papers. In Brussels the driver and the young woman led Sanders and Wolcott into a house where they were greeted by an elderly man with greyish hair who wore thick, horn-rimmed spectacles and seemed to be about 5ft 8ins tall, though since he never stood straight he may have been taller [DEZITTER]. Sanders had a list of seven evaders whom RESTEAU had helped, and this man took the list "to check against his books". In this house Sanders also saw the following people : A woman about 30 years old with coal-black hair and a “fine figure” who spoke English and German in a high-pitched voice [GIRALT/DINGS]. A maid-servant who wore spectacles. Two boys, one six or seven years old and the other about 14. [ALEXIS and SERGE]
The seven evaders on Resteau's list were :
1/Lt Marshall C Crouch Jnr
B-24 42-7484 Sally Ann
T/Sgt Louis P Rosati (#1888)
B-24 42-7484 Sally Ann
S/Sgt Anthony L Paolantonio (#1875)
B-24 42-7484 Sally Ann
S/Sgt Joe C McCrary (#1889)
B-24 42-7484 Sally Ann
T/Sgt James R Dykes (#1592)
B-24 42-7484 Sally Ann
S/Sgt Howard G Sakarias (#1985)
B-17 42-30412 Mischief Maker II
S/Sgt Glenn E Brenneke (#1681)
B-17 42-30412 Mischief Maker II
Ref : RESTEAU Melchior FO7-061-01
When Sanders and Wolcott arrived there were about four other American evaders in the house. Later six more Americans and two Russians [Kaplinn and Trepesnekowoff] were brought in. Sanders and Wolcott were in this house two nights. On the third morning the driver who had brought them to the house returned to take three Americans "to Switzerland". (Sanders overheard the elderly man coaching the driver to say "Je suis Belge"). That afternoon a short blonde man arrived in an automobile and took Smith (a Thunderbolt pilot) [2/Lt Thomas P Smith #1781] Sanders and Wolcott, having first taken their identification tags away, around the city of Brussels, down an alley and into a courtyard. There he turned them over to several other men who were waiting and left at once. These men led the Americans to a glassed-porch and had them sit down, and gave them drinks. The man in charge, a tall, blonde, blue-eyed chap, gave them some forms to fill up and looked at their I/Cs. These he said were no good and he would have to take them away and get different ones. He led them through the house and into a waiting lorry in which they were driven to a large building. The blonde man led them up into this building and up into an office where there sat a man in a German officer [uniform]. The blonde man then laid a pistol on the desk and said "I suppose you now know that you are prisoners of German Intelligence". (MIS-X #1595 Sanders account)
1/Lt Henry W Wolcott (#1877) (Pilot of B-24 Carpetbagger 42-40550) doesn't give any details of his evasion but names his helpers as : Maurice VASTESAEGER of 5 Hameau de TROP, SAINTES, Belgium; Jules TONDEUR of BIERGES; Caban ALBERT of Nederhasselt, LEERBECK, and says the chief of the partisans in REBECQ has the first name of CLAUD (sic).
S/Sgt Cecil D Spence (#1856) (Top turret gunner of B-24 42-95117 You Can't Take It With You) I bailed out 20 July (1944) and landed in a wheatfield between DIEST (33 miles NE of Brussels) and TESSENDERLO (6 miles N of Diest). I hid immediately and an English speaking man brought me civilian clothes. He guided me to a Russian camp where I met Sgt Holcomb [#1858]. We both remained at the camp overnight, then were taken to a farmhouse. Here we were joined by Lt Bear [their navigator 1/Lt William G Baer]. We then spent five or six days on another farm. Two priests visited us and we filled out forms for the underground organization. We all were taken on bicycles to different farms. I stayed three or four weeks with two brothers and a sister – JEFF, ARMAND and LEA BURGESS. I do not know their address. Then we rode bicycles back to pick up Holcombe. Bear (sic) had left and there were two other evaders there in his place. Holcombe and I went to pick up a car which was to take us to Bruxelles. (MIS-X #1856 Spence account)
T/Sgt Kenneth C Holcomb (#1858) (Radio operator of B-24 42-95117 You Can't Take It With You) only reports being sheltered in TESSENDERLO and GEETBETS and being taken prisoner on 17 August (MIS-X #1858 Holcomb) Note that Spence gives 17 August as the date they left the Dog House and were driven to Gestapo (sic) Headquarters. (MIS-X #1856 Spence)
Sgt Hugh C Bomar (#1593) (Top turret gunner of B-24 44-40460 Won Long Hop) I bailed out on 14 June and landed at OGY, Belgium (5 kms west of LESSINES). A number of people gathered immediately and asked if I were English or American. One handed me a civilian suit and I gave him my heated suit and flying equipment. I put the suit over my summer flying suit then walked down the road with a Dutch girl. We went into a house and I blacked my shoes. Then I went into the garden to wait while she went to contact the White Army. Here I emptied the contents of my escape kit into my pockets and buried the container. About 15 minutes later, Germans began searching the immediate vicinity, so I moved into a field where I hid for 2 hours. A lady on a bicycle came and told me to follow her. We met JULES COMBIER (22) and his father (also named JULES). I took the lady's bicycle and rode with the two men to the home of COMBIER'S mother-in-law, Mme LEPOIRE. Her daughter, COMBIER'S wife, was named RENE (sic) LEPOIRE COMBIER. M LEPOIRE was blind. Their other daughter, NELLIE, was about 14. RENE and her son JULES were hiding from work in Germany.
Their home was close to EVERBECQ (6 kms NW of LESSINES) in a small village of farmers. The elder COMBIER was very active in sabotage. I stayed with the LEPOIRE family for 4 days, hiding in the woods with RENE and JULES whenever they thought it necessary. An English speaking man took me to a farm near the hiding place of Lt Hooth, Lt Wright, Lt Donahue and Sgt Cupp. These men had gone to COMBIER'S home to eat.
2/Lt Douglas Hooth (#1863) 2/Lt Richard Wright (#2030) 2/Lt Robert G Donahue and Sgt William L Cupp, all from Bomar's aircraft. Hooth was sheltered by EMILE DELTENRE at WANNEBECQ, and Wright with ANTOINE HUBIN at LAHAMAIDE, until the area was liberated.
I was taken in a buggy to the grocery store of LUC and YVONNE EVRARD at 27 Grand Place, LESSINES. LUC was the White Army chief and a former captain in the Belgian army. His wife was English and had been educated at Cambridge. I gave them my maps, compass and flying suit. [Compare LUC EVRARD with CAPTAIN FERNAND BARBAIX – see Kleinman #2101 below]
Gestapo raids were the cause of my being moved to the home of JULES BOUCHER at Rue Grand Marias (query), ISIERÈS, province of Hainaut. He was an old farmer with 2 sons, Rene and Robert, prisoners in Germany. He had 2 daughters, MARIELLE and MARIE-THERESE. His son-in-law HENRI KELDERMANS was very active in the organisation for helping evaders. He drove a truck for an electrical company in LESSINES. His wife's name was GABRIELLE. We were told that HENRI was also active in sabotage work.
After I had been there about 2 weeks, S/Sgt Ray Smith [#1594] arrived to stay at the home of KELDERMANS' uncle, DESIRE. We exchanged notes and visited each other on Sundays. We spent 6 weeks thus. Once I went to visit an aunt Mlle BOUCHER, the 3 girls, Smith, HENRI, DESIRE and I went to her home in PAPIGNIES (4 kms south of LESSINES). Here I was shown photos of her and the 4 members of my crew Hooth, Wright, Donahue and Cupp. She said they were hidden at various places around the vicinity.
A woman who claimed to be an espionage agent [see Ray Smith below] came to see me at BOUCHER'S home. I gave her the number of my base but refused to tell her the name. She had a questionnaire regarding where and why my plane was downed. She was supposed to transmit this information to London by radio.
I was given an identity card as a Voyageur de Commerce and a Swedish passport for Belgium. They used my own photo on it and had it stamped from Tournai.
A chief of a resistance group to whom arms were being parachuted by the Allies stayed at the BOUCHER home also. He was a school teacher and very small with a nervous twitch on the right side of his face. He asked me to go with them as interpreter to the pilots who were to drop supplies to his organisation. We went to the GHISLENGHIEN area to pick up some arms but a woman came to tell us that the supplies would be dropped the following week. This lady told us that 2 strange men would come in a car. They were to deliver a certain message or I was not to go with them. I told LUC and YVONNE goodbye and waited for the car. The idea was called off due to shortage of petrol and the chief of the White Army organization said that no parachutists would be returning and for me to stay where I was.
On 24 August 2 men [JENART & NOOTENS – query] came in a car to HENRI KELDERMAN'S house. There was no one home so they walked over to the BOUCHER home where they talked to the youngest girl. They told they had come from TOURNAI to pick up a box brought in by LUC and his gang. This girl did not know anything about it and they left but MARIE-THERESE came back and she went to stop them. The 3 of them came back to the house in the car and she told me I was to go with them. I asked her if they had given her the message and she said "Yes". She said they had also given her HENRI'S name and that of the lady contact who had arranged our papers etc. I told them that I understood it was all called off but they said they had received a later message. They asked where Smith was staying and we went to DESIRE'S house in the car. We picked up Smith then returned to the BOUCHER home to get some food and say goodbye to the girls. There was no rush, and they said they only wanted to get to Bruxelles before dark. Nevertheless I was suspicious of the situation, so warned the girls to be careful in case this should be the Gestapo.
On the way to Bruxelles we had 2 flat tires. The first one occurred in the country and we were not allowed to get out of the car even though it was very stuffy. The second one we had fixed at a garage in ENGHIEN [EDINGEN]. Here 2 SS men and an officer came in and asked to see our papers. There was no excitement and they never asked about the 2 of us sitting in the car. One of the men with us came over to the car and winked. Nodding his head in the direction of the larger fellow he said "A chief of the Gestapo". He indicated that the papers had been stolen. The SS men left immediately. As soon as the flat was fixed we continued on our way. I noticed that we drove very fast and many people stared at us but we were never stopped. I asked the driver why we were being taken into Bruxelles if we were being evacuated by plane and he told me that the latest message had directed that we be sent through to Switzerland in a diplomatic car.
The driver [Jean Marcel NOOTENS - query] was a gray-haired, heavy-set man who wore horn-rimmed glasses. He was very neat and wore an expensive looking gray checked suit and good shoes. I noticed that he did not help fix the puncture. The other man looked like a Mexican. He was tall and thin, about 5ft 10ins with a hungry look. He had a small, well-trimmed moustache, and wore cheaper clothes than the other man. He never talked much.
In Bruxelles we parked the car on a hill leading into the street on which we were to stay. We walked into what looked like a former apartment house of 3 stories. Went down a few stairs into rooms whose windows were level with the sidewalk. There was a living room and a kitchen. A very pretty brunette girl of about 23 met us. She looked as though she had never worked. She wore nail polish and quite a bit of make-up. She spoke very little English [GIRALT/DINGS] but the older man there with her had learned the language in America. This man walked with a cane and had a very slight limp. He wore horn-rimmed glasses and had a long hair-cut like a violin player. His hair was almost completely gray and he was of medium build. He told us he had been in America, Canada and South America [DEZITTER]. We were told later that this man was the boss or "doctor". There was also a thin-faced man of about 25. He was very handsome and about 6ft tall. He was thin and his face was rather sharp [GRISTCHENKO]. He always set the table and served the other two at meal time.
We had a pleasant general conversation and they did not ask us any questions that would arouse suspicion. There were 5 dogs and a cat. We evaders later named this place the "dog house". We went through the glass doors into the kitchen where we met a stocky, overgrown boy of about 15. He spoke a little English. There was also a girl who seemed to be the maid. She wore glasses and was not dressed as well as the other people there. She was an unattractive brunette. These two prepared all the meals.
We were told we would be kept there 3 or 4 days and then taken to another helper's house. There seemed to be no hurry about anything and we were given the same forms to fill in as we had filled out previously for the organisation. I wrote down my name, rank, ASN, home address and the number of my station.
One day we had a conversation at the dinner table about prisoners of war. The pretty brunette girl [GIRALT/DINGS] told us that it was not too bad. She said it was just that other people never thought anything the Germans did was right. I became suspicious of the set-up after that and searched through the drawers and rooms on the 2nd floor where we lived. I found itineraries for Italy, Switzerland and new German road guides in one of the drawers. There were about 12 rooms in the house which had 3 stories in addition to the low-level rooms. We spent the days in the living room on the first floor. There were American magazines and Penguin books (especially cowboy and detective stories) as well as a few French books. We were given tooth-brushes and cigarettes which came in very large, plain boxes. We later guessed these were made for distribution to the German forces.
There was a veranda, and we were told we could take sun baths if we did not talk too loudly. We were never permitted to go out on the street, but were allowed to listen to the London broadcasts. The people there however listened only to the Bruxelles broadcasts. We were never permitted to go back into the living room, but did eat our meals in the adjoining kitchen.
A woman with a small boy [Suzanne BERTHERAND and Alexis - query] often came to visit the pretty brunette. They would always close the doors and talk very low.
After we had been there 2 days, we were joined by an American, an Australian and an Irishman. The American was a navigator named Ted [Kleinman #2101] who had been evading for six months. The other 2 were members of the crew on a Halifax [Bodey (2361) and Beamish (MB/2037)] which had been shot down a fortnight before. We told them of our suspicions.
Smith and I were called downstairs and told we were leaving. There was no time for us to go upstairs as the driver, a different man, was waiting. He was a short, nicely dressed man. He had light brown hair and looked about thirty. He did not speak to any of us. We left at about noon and drove to a garage in the rear of another home. Here there was a 38 Dodge with a coal-burner on the side. Two men met us and walked with us to the house. We went through a narrow yard where 2 small girls were playing beside a man of about 30 or 35. They stared at us and we thought they were probably another family sharing the house. One of these men was a tall blonde (sic) who spoke very good English. He was in civilian clothes and said he had worked for a sugar firm in South America. We later learned that he was called JOHNNY and that he was a corporal in the German army. The other man was short, very dark, and hungry looking.
We went on the back porch where there were lawn chairs and an ashtray with a model of a four-engined bomber. Here we were given another questionnaire. This one asked many questions such as how we were shot down, where we flew from and when we took off, our squadron, group, target, home base etc. Some were in French and some were in English. I was suspicious, so put down whatever they suggested. I gave them my squadron and group, and they told me I was from Ipswich. Our IO had briefed us to answer any questions the White Army should ask us, and stated we could rely on our 7th sense as to whether or not it was a genuine organization asking the questions. This was not much help. There were no questions about any military secrets, though in the conversation we were asked about the new super Thunderbolts and Fortresses.
They told us they planned to take us out through Switzerland in a diplomatic car. They asked for pictures and we told them the only ones we had were on our Swedish passports. They told us we would have new photos made. A closed-in truck drove up front and we got in the back. There were stools and a few tires. JOHNNY got in with us and sat next to the door. After a very short ride, the truck was backed up to the door of a building. I saw a camouflaged German staff car by the curb, and an armed guard by the door. (MIS-X #1593 Bomar account)
S/Sgt Ray Smith (#1594) (Ball turret gunner of B-17 42-38123 To Hell Or Glory) Sgt Smith came down on 24 June 1944 near NINOVE, Belgium. A farmer here gave him civilian clothing, bandaged his injured foot and gave him a stick. The next day Smith left but he was soon recognized on the road by a man who took him back to his house in NINOVE. This man's first name was DESIRÉ, his wife's name was IDA, and her maiden name was VAN WAYENBERG. With them Smith stayed three weeks. They got him an I/C and then they took him to GRAMMONT where he stayed two days with a family in which there was one daughter and four sons ranging in age from 20 to 35 years. He was then taken to LESSINES where he waited in a café [see mention again below] for two hours, after which he was moved to a house in the country outside ISIÈRES, the home of DESIRÉ SCUTTENAIRE, his wife, daughter and son-in-law. There Smith remained for six or seven weeks.
Then two men [JENART & NOOTENS - query] came in an automobile from Brussels. One of them was heavy-set, about 5ft 7ins, had a full face and wore glasses; the other was slightly taller, had sharp features, dark hair and a dark complexion. These two men picked up Smith and Bomar [#1593] who had been living elsewhere in ISIÈRES, and drove them to Brussels, to a house in which they lived for three days. In this house there was a man about 5ft 6ins tall, about 45 or 50 years old, who had grey hair, wore thick glasses, spoke English well, said that he had lived in the U.S. [DEZITTER], another man who was a doctor [GRISTCHENKO], and a woman who was about 22 years old, who had black hair, a prominent nose, a very good figure and who also spoke English fluently [GIRALT/DINGS]. Smith and Bomar were suspicious of these people because the woman told them it would not be so very bad for them to be prisoners of war; and when three other evaders, one American [Kleinman #2101] and two Englishmen [Bodey & Beamish] were brought into the house the next day, the first two told them of their suspicions. On the third day another man appeared at the house and took Smith and Bomar in an automobile to the other end of Brussels where he turned them over to two other English-speaking men. One of these was 5ft 10ins tall, had grey hair, and lacked the little finger of his right hand; the other was about 6ft 2ins tall, slender, with greying hair and cross-eyed. These two had the Americans fill in some forms which asked for name, rank, serial number, home address, station in the U.K., and a message to be sent to England. The two men then told the Americans that they would have to get new I/Cs and took them away in a car, ostensibly to get some photographs taken. The car backed up to the Gestapo (sic) HQ in Brussels. As soon as Smith and Bomar were inside the building they knew they were prisoners. They were taken into a room where there were three German officers who gave the Hitler salute and appeared to be very angry that Smith and Bomar were not surprised or frightened. The Americans were stripped, searched and interrogated, and then were taken to St Gilles prison. After they had been in cells here for a week, one of the Gestapo men who had taken them to the prison came to interrogate them again. At this time they observed a woman talking to a Gestapo agent, a woman whom they had seen before at LESSINES. She ran the café in LESSINES where Smith had waited for two hours before being taken to Scuttenaire's house and she had once come to SCUTTENAIRE'S with cigarettes for Smith. She is about 35 years old, 5ft 8ins tall, full bodied and has dark hair; she had purported to be working in "the Belgian Intelligence". (MIS-X #1594 Smith account)
2/Lt Theodore H Kleinman (#2101) (Navigator of B-17 42-39799 Dobie lost 4 Feb 1944) I was wounded by fragments of a 20mm shell in the right forearm just before bailing out. I pulled a delayed jump from 9,000 feet. I opened the parachute at about 1,000 feet and was 5 or 6 minutes descending. I walked 6 kms to KASTERLEE and made contact with an organisation at 15.15 same day.
I was taken to TURNHOUT the same night and stayed with Mme F VERSTRAETEN, 80 Kwakkelstraat, TURNHOUT until 27 Mar 44. I was taken to Brussels and stayed at 164 rue d'Anderlecht, Brussels [with Edmond DE BRUYN]. I was then taken to another place, MAX VARLEZ (sic) 73 rue Van Meyel, Molenbeeck, Brussels. I left Brussels 1 May 44.
I stayed at the following places in LEUZE : EDGARD DELBECQ, 55 Chaussée de Péruwelz, Leuze [and] ANDRE MORTIER, 137 Rue de Condé, Leuze.
I left LEUZE 16 June 44 to work a wireless set at BASÈCLES. I stayed with CARLOS BERNARD, 73 Rue de Blaton, BASÈCLES. I acted as telegraphist and liaison officer with Belgian army CAPTAIN [FERNAND] BARBAIX, who was killed later on 3 Sept 44. In this position I acted as disseminator of intelligence and contact between the organisation know as W.O. Leader's name was ACHILLE BATISTE of BASÈCLES – other address unknown. I prepared explosives for sabotage on railway line between BLATON and BASÈCLES.
I left under supposedly definite orders to come out on 25 Aug 44, arriving in Brussels same day at 16 Rue de Foret (sic) Ixelles, Brussels. This turned out to be a trap of counter espionage unit of the Gestapo. I was taken to Gestapo HQ when we were supposedly en route to Switzerland. (MIS-X #2101 Kleinman account page 6)
Kleinman, N [navigator] of J W Brown's crew, landed NW of KASTERLEE, S of TURNHOUT, on 4 Feb 44. Within two hours Belgians hid him until that night and he went then to a house in TURNHOUT where he stayed from 4 Feb until 27 March with FRANZ VERSTRAETEN, 80 Kwakkelstraat. He met the family of JOSEPH from TONGERLOO. JACQUES from TURNHOUT (35, tall, bald headed) took casualty information and was taken to prison two days later.
In March Kleinman went by tram to ANTWERP with Mme VERSTRAETEN and the brother-in-law of the man who was sent after JACQUES, an intelligence man presumably. Some civilian German stopped him in ANTWERP. They went on to BRUSSELS where Kleinman passed through a number of hands and still with Mme went to 358 or 388 Rue de Jette, Jette St Pierre. Both the addresses are stores and the latter is a radio repair shop. At a café on this street Kleinman met the chief, tall, gray haired, distinguished looking, about 50. He stayed at the above addresses three days and then one day at the house of the chief. A Front de l'Independance courier, an old chap who had served in the last war, took him around. He rendezvoused at a café near the Gare du Midi with a gendarme or inspector, picked up M JANSSENS, and went to 164 Rue d'Anderlecht, M EDMOND DE BRUYN. After a week there, he went to another place for the night, in the St Josse section N of Gare du Nord. He was, it seemed, to go to Liege and then to Spain. He seemed to be staying at a rooming house with VICTOR who was, on 7 April, the next day, taken on a minor charge. VICTOR was short, stocky, sandy haired, blue eyes, 45-50 and much decorated in the last war. A local agent, ROLAND, who seems to be an SOE man, was a friend of his. VICTOR'S wife knew where Kleinman was and feared that the Germans might come after him. Then occurred a somewhat confusing incident. VICTOR'S wife went to a café for a contact and seemed to stumble into it apparently because a M VICTOR from another organization was captured and she was mistaken for his wife. Thus, so it seems, she met MAX VARLEZ who then took over Kleinman and moved him to 73 Rue Van Meyel in MOLENBEEK. This place seemed to be Armee Blanche. Kleinman remained until 1 May. He was told that a British major (tall, slim, well built, big bones, slightly bald) had given orders that airmen could not go out.
He went then to LIEGE in a truck with four men, one of whom was ANDRE MORTIER, to 137 Rue de Conde. He stayed three days with Mme BRISMEE across the street and went to 53 Chausee de Peruwelz, EDGARD DELBECQ, who seemed to be engaged in sabotage work. Kleinman wanted to do sabotage work also but was not permitted to; instead he had to help out as best he could. News came then that the RO of the group had been taken while engaged in sabotage work. On 16 June he was moved to BAZULQ (???) [BASÈCLES] where at the pharmacy of Mlle BORDEAUX he saw the local chief, M ACHILLES BATTISTE; Mlle was his courier. He stayed with CARLOS BERNARD, 73 Rue de Blaton [in BASÈCLES]. This house was near the wireless for the group, which was located on top of a kiln in a nearby quarry. Kleinman offered to serve as RO and was accepted. The radio seemed to be A2G (sic) in the net which operated 0600, 1200, 1800, 0000. After about three days operation Kleinman became a little uneasy about the job for two reasons. The timing required that he go out regularly and such regularity was likely to be noticed. Furthermore the tapping of the electric line was not well done. He advised moving the set and his advice was accepted. About three days later a German patrol came to the spot where the radio had been.
Kleinman was told there were some 11 Americans in the vicinity but he saw none of them.
He made contact with CAPTAIN FERNAND BARBAIX, a powder merchant for the quarry, who was actually engaged in delivering military information. He seemed also to be the local chief at LESSINES. M BARBAIX seemed to take a liking to Kleinman, so the latter declares, and came frequently to discuss his operations. Kleinman would remark what information he considered important and BARBAIX seemed to take his advice. For instance, BARBAIX once stated he had details about a night-fighter station; because Kleinman considered these important, BARBAIX saw to it that they were sent in. BARBAIX had a son who seemed to work for quite another organization. Kleinman did not speak of his RO operations at all boastfully and gave the impression that he would not have raised the subject at all except for the compiler's proddings. Instructions came through from some source that he should leave. He was to go to Brussels and on to Switzerland using a Belgian passport somehow secured for a Swedish alien. [Compare CAPTAIN FERNAND BARBAIX with LUC EVRARD – see Bomar #1593]
An Australian Leonard (sic) Bodey [2361] and an RAF Irishman, N R Beamish [MB/2037] were in the section. Kleinman saw them later.
About 25 August he went to Brussels with a man and woman from BASÈCLES: NICK [Nicolas FETISOFF] dark, 35 and MICHELINE [Micheline CYPRÈS – query] 25-30, good figure, dark complexion, eyes and hair. They drove in a car that might have been a Dodge and went directly to 16 Rue Forestiere, the "dog house". Kleinman saw a woman, about 32, dark hair, [GIRALT/DINGS] and a boy about 14 [SERGE] who was supposed to be her son; he had dark eyes and was large for his age. There was also a boy, Monique (sic), about nine. There was a large, slim German type man, 42-45, dirty blond hair [GRISTCHENKO] who spoke in some language with Nick, Russian possibly. There was an ugly domestique with glasses. Finally there was a short man, 50-53, glasses, iron gray hair, moustache, spoke French with an accent, claimed to born in India, a chief [DEZITTER].
At BASÈCLES, Mme BORDEAUX had given a story about an organization evacuating ten men at a time then at one point letting one or two men continue and turning the others over to the Germans. For some reason Kleinman was suspicious of his company and told this story to the chief [DEZITTER] who gave the most reassuring reaction of incredulousness at such a tale.
Bomar [#1593] and Smith [#1594] were at the "dog house" when Kleinman arrived. They left on 26 August. On 30 August Kleinman, and apparently Bodey and Beamish, got into a car with a well dressed, good looking, fair haired young man of about 33. They drove to a house which seemed to be on Avenue Louise opposite a park. The car drove to the back of the house while two men from the street jumped onto the running board: one a tall dirty blond with hair combed straight back, blue green eyes set close together, a gray suit, later claimed to be a sergeant flier in the Luftwaffe, generally called CHARLIE, spoke French and English; The other, small, hair not so curly, slim, white complexion, Semitic nose, blue eyes, spoke little English. These two men gave instructions to go around to the front of the house to enter. Inside two men were in another room. They went to a sitting room opening on a garden and left the door open. They gave the evaders tissue forms to fill out with casualty information. When CHARLIE saw Kleinman's sheet he remarked that J W Brown (the P) [#1841] had been here in June [see note below]. They then asked for photos and because Bodey had none, they went out to get them. Kleinman went also. They got into a Ford V-8 with a driver apparently short with reddish hair. CHARLIE rode on the outside, which seemed to the passengers rather curious. They went straight down Avenue Louise at the most a ride of three to five minutes to Luftwaffe HQ at which Germans were going in and out. The evaders were told to come in. Kleinman realised at last exactly what the situation was but he decided to play the game. They entered the building and went to the top floor to a major and a captain. A couple of men in civilian clothes were there also. They went to an office with an oldish gray haired chap who wore glasses. They were searched and put into a general waiting room where Kleinman saw MARCEL Van BUGGENHOUT, 226 Boulevard Emile, Bockstael, Laeken, Brussels, whom he saw later at the Hotel Metropole. This man had been tortured. In the room also were Singleton [#1847] and Levey [#1848] a Canadian named Leon [Panzer 2418] and two or three other evaders.
When CHARLIE said that Brown (and Grosvenor) had been there, he meant at St Gilles prison where Brown says that a man answering CHARLIE'S description was one of his three interrogators. (MIS-X #1841 Brown)
After an hour and a half Kleinman was interrogated by CHARLIE, the first of his three. He was told that he must tell his complete story, that he was considered a spy and would treated and punished as such unless he could prove he was not in sabotage work. To give such proof he naturally had to declare all the places at which he had been. Kleinman mentioned TURNHOUT, LIEGE, BRUSSELS but refused to give the names of any people with whom he had been with. The interrogator reiterated that he must have been doing sabotage or espionage. The interrogator, who said that he had been in South America before the war, saw that he was making no headway, declared that he could not afford to waste time, and requested him to send Beamish [MB/2037] in. Kleinman went back to the waiting room. He saw there a man whom he had earlier seen upstairs and suspected that this man was just sitting in as a stool pigeon. Soon MARCEL [Van BUGGENHOUT] came downstairs, nearly fainting. Kleinman soon discovered that a number of Belgians in the waiting room had been part of the line on which Lts Brown [#1841] and Grosvenor [#1881] had been. These people seemed to be talking too much of their activities, so he tried to pass the word around not to talk so much, trying to indicate there were special listeners in the room. Kleinman was taken by truck to St Giles (sic) where he was put in the regular cells. For the first 27 hours he received no food.
He was never reinterrogated. In the prison he saw MAX VARLEY (sic). (MIS-X #2101 Kleinman account)
Sgt Nigel R Beamish (MB/2037) (Air bomber of Halifax LW383) I left BURN in a Halifax III at 1930 hrs on 11 Aug 44. I baled out at LEUZE (N.W. Europe, 1:250,000, Sheet 2, J 03). I hid my parachute, harness and mae west in a ditch. The next day a young woman contacted me and I was fed and sheltered for the night. I moved next morning to a farm (at WILLAUPUIS) where I spent a week. I was contacted by the head of the local organisation and taken to BRUSSELS en route to SWITZERLAND. After 4 days I was sold to the Gestapo and thrown into the civil prison of St Giles (sic) in Brussels. (IS9 MB/2037 Beamish account) NB. Chorley (Bomber Command Losses) has this sortie on the night of 12/13 August 1944.
F/Sgt Lancelot R Bodey (2361) (Wireless operator of Halifax LW383) We took off from BURN in a Halifax aircraft at 2130 hrs on 11 Aug 44. I baled out at 0130 hrs on 12 Aug and landed near CHAPELLE-A-OIE (N.W. Europe, 1:250,000, Sheet 2, J 1230). I hid my parachute, harness and mae west and walked across country to WADELINCOURT (J 1123), where I contacted a member of the Resistance movement. I was taken to BASECLES (J 1022). I stayed at various houses until 29 Aug. On 25 Aug I met Sgt BEAMISH of my crew at one of the houses where I stayed, and we remained together until 2 Sept. On 29 Aug the Gestapo raided the house where we were staying and Sgt BEAMISH and I were taken to St Giles (sic) prison in Brussels. (MI9 2361 Bodey account)
2/Lt Thomas P Smith (#1781) (P-47 42-74737) only reports being sheltered in MONS (at 27 Chemin de Bavay) [home of Léon DEVIELMAISON] when he was approached by a girl (name unknown) who said she had orders to take him to Brussels. (MIS-X #1781 Smith account)
S/Sgt Charles C Hillis (#1862) (Waist gunner of B-24 42-10036) lists CAMILLE MOREAU at 10 Rue des Fripiers, MONS and JEAN DELVIESMAISON at 27 Chemin de Bavay as his helpers. Says "same as Lt Smith's report" (MIS-X #1862 Hillis account)
T/Sgt Donald H Swanson (#1861) (Ball turret gunner of B-24 42-10036) with Hillis (#1862) …
 
Other men believed to have passed through the Dog House include :
2/Lt George A Campbell
B-24 42-100365
S/Sgt Donald W Pierce
B-24 42-100365
S/Sgt Thomas J McQueen
B-24 42-100365
1/Lt Charles W Quirk
B-24 42-100365
Capt Richard M Scott (#2981)
P-38 42-68062
1/Lt Rexford H Dettre Jnr
P-38 42-67192
F/O Thomas W Dowbiggen RCAF
Spitfire MH483
F/O L L Anderson
Halifax MZ529
P/O John J Lyng
Halifax MZ529
S/Sgt William B Sink
B-24 41-28611 Baby Shoes
2/Lt William G Baer III
B-24 42-95117 You Can't Take It With You
1/Lt James Monahan
B-24 42-95117 You Can't Take It With You
 
From National Archive file KV/2/1733 – Report on Prosper Dezitter - prepared by Major Delaforce
of S.O.E. in May 1945 using Belgian Sûreté and police records, S.O.E. and other interrogations.
Prosper DEZITTER was born at Passchendaele 19 Sep 1893, Belgian subject. Another report says born at Ramskapelle, and to be aged between 55/58. Height about 1m.70 [5ft 7ins]. Slight build. Blue or blue/grey eyes. Dark brown hair, going grey, brushed back and oiled down with white streak in middle. Also reported to have scanty hair. Thin, thin face, bright eyes. Right little finger missing, often wears gloves. Small black moustache. Used to wear green or brown sports coat. Has slightly receding chin. Wears badge of GOFAC or GOPAC. Plenty of energy. Speaks French with difficulty, with strong South American accent. Also said to speak English, German and Flemish. Limps slightly when he thinks he is not being watched. Once wounded in left thigh. Sometimes wears tortoiseshell glasses.
The early history of Dezitter (hereafter referred to as DZ) is rather vague, but he seems to have lived in Antwerp before the war, where he has been described as having been a car salesman, and also as having worked in a garage. From his police record he was plainly an unsavoury character, and he was in prison on several occasions for such crimes as forgery, embezzlement and "marriage swindles". He was clearly working for the Germans before the war, but for how long is uncertain. One report puts it at 20 years but there is no evidence to support this. However, he was in prison at the time of the occupation and was then released by the Germans, so it looks certain that they had an interest in him right from the start. The various reports current that DZ travelled extensively in the U.S.A., Canada, South America etc. may be true, but are more likely to be part of his own cover story. As will be seen, one of his favourite poses was that of a Canadian pilot, and he was an adept at providing, for the benefit of his victims, a good background to support the pose.
DEZITTER lived in Canada for thirteen years, fleeing there in 1913 following a conviction for rape in Ypres, living in Winnipeg and returning to Belgium in 1926. (John Clinch)
Witnesses in Belgium are emphatic that he was a remarkable organiser and wonderfully convincing. According to the available evidence and on the testimony of an enemy agent now under arrest, DZ worked for Abteilung III C2 in the Abwehrstelle in Brussels. In July 1944 the German organisation underwent a change and the Abwehrstellen were replaced by Abwehrtruppen under a central Abwehrkommando. The Abwehrtruppen were numbered according to the type of work they were engaged on; thus those dealing with C.I. and C.E. work formerly carried out by Gruppe III of the Abwehrstelle, were numbered 300 and over. III C2 for which DZ worked was responsible for the arrest of allied pilots in occupied territory, frontier patrol, and the penetration and discovery of allied agents, clandestine W/T operators and resistance groups by way of fake escape lines. The work touched very closely with that of III F which was the section engaged in C.E. It was in pursuance of this work that he became a fake-escape line specialist.
DZ started his activities very soon after the Occupation, and as early as July 1940, he was instrumental in the arrest of some British soldiers in hiding. At first sight it seems almost incredible that he should have been able to carry on for four years and still remain at large, especially as he had become a legendary figure in Belgium, and was being traced by resistance groups everywhere. But when one considers closely what his work implied and the technique he adopted, it all appears remarkably simple.
DZ was a very plausible man; he was able to speak English fluently, at any rate with a Canadian accent, and, most important of all, his work was mainly directed against men who had no training in clandestine work. He gathered around him gradually a collection of low grade agents. Some of these agents genuinely believed for some time that they were working for an allied agent and by the time they discovered the truth, it was too late to back out. Others were of such low grade that they probably would have worked for anyone who paid well.
DZ's original associate was a woman called Florentine DINGS whose acquaintance he made in 1938. From the evidence of her husband, now under arrest, she also was deceived at first as to the exact nature of DZ's work, but eventually became too deeply involved, and on learning what he was she was forced to continue with him to save her life. She left Belgium with DZ on the day of the liberation in September 1944.
The method of working by DZ was briefly this : Using one of his various poses and aliases, he would get into contact with allied airmen who had been shot down, and with, in the early days, British soldiers in hiding and looking for an opportunity to escape from Belgium into France, and eventually to Spain and the U.K. His gang, also, were constantly on the lookout for agents and members of the various resistance organisations who were "blown" and wanted to leave the country. In this way it was inevitable they should learn of agents and their W/T operators who were in contact with the Secret Army, M.N.B., Group B, etc. and they no doubt also obtained information and even perhaps penetrated genuine allied escape lines, although on this latter point I have no evidence.
The victims and the persons sheltering them were easily taken in by DZ and his accomplices, the former were in strange surroundings, and could usually speak no French, and being ready to clutch at any straw, were readily convinced by DZ's plausible manner, whilst the latter were deceived by DZ's gang, who in their turn, often really believed that they were working for an allied escape line. DZ made full use on many occasions of the story that he was in touch with London by W/T, and receiving messages over the B.B.C.
It was inevitable, however, that after this had been going on for some time, the resistance organisations should begin to hear about him, but he was constantly changing his name and his cover story, and created confusion by circulating false stories of his own arrest and death. He was in fact arrested in April, 1941, but released almost at once from St Gilles when an officer of the G.F.P. came and got him out. The multiplicity of his aliases added to the confusion and created the inevitable rumours that there were several false Dezitters. Also the remarkable number of men reported to have a finger missing was a great help to DZ. (KV/2/1733)
Florentina Leonarda Maria Louisa GIRALT is the wife of Paul Stephen DINGS, a Flemish (sic) wine and liquor merchant, resident in Brussels. She was born in Barcelona c.1910 and is the niece of the former Spanish Republican Minister Giralt, now in South America. The Dings have a son, Serge, born at Etterbeek on 19.3.30 (KV/2/1733)
Physical description of Mme DINGS is as follows : height about 5ft 6ins, very slim, smart appearance. Jet black hair, lively eyes, dark complexion, pointed chin, very white teeth; speaks Spanish, excellent Flemish and English, some German, rolls her r's when speaking French. Has a restless disposition. (KV/2/1733 this entry dtd 15 Feb 1946)
Alternatively : Born Barcelona 20 June 1904, height 5ft 4ins, very slim, dark hair (later reported dyed platinum blonde), olive complexion, large ugly vaccination marks on arm, pointed nose, receding chin, attractive, smart, speaks Spanish-Flemish-English-French and a little German, said never to wear a hat. (KV/2/1733)
Jean Marcel NOOTENS : born Uccle, Brussels 12 Sept 1899. Height 1m.70 [5ft 8ins]. Ginger hair and small moustache – later dyed black but now going grey. High colour, rather fat. Wears a pinze-nez and carries himself well. Was passeur together with JENART on DZ fake escape line Brussels-Paris-Bordeaux. Worked very closely with JENART and these two were DZ's principal assistants. (KV/2/1733)
Charles JENART : born Arquennes, Belgium 26 July 1897. Going grey, medium height, 1m.74 and figure, huge square signet ring on right hand. Suffered from conjuncitivitis end September 43. Bloated face, bloodshot eyes, broad nose. Said to have part of 3rd finger left hand missing (not confirmed). Poses as English captain and has British uniform. Speaks perfect English. Has also posed as French colonel. (KV/2/1733)
Nicolas FETISOFF … Russian, aged 38-40, Slav type, clean shaven, black hair (or very dark) fairly large build. Had a wife Suzanne (aka Claire) aged 30, Belgian, blonde; one son aged 7/8 years. (KV/2/1733)
Nicolas FETISOFF and Suzanne BERTHERAND. Fetisoff was born in Novotcherkask (Russia) on 27 July 1906. Probably a White Russian who fled after the communist revolution. Agricultural engineer at the UCL (Université catholique de Louvain) and assistant at the university in the agronomy department. Bertherand was born at Croix (France) on 24 October 1910 of Belgian parents and worked in insurance. Married Fetisoff in 1935 and lived in Kessel-Lo and Evere. Had a son Alexis in 1936. The couple were in contact with Vania GRISTCHENKO, known at the university and among the White Russian community. Recruited directly by DEZITTER in April 1944 (and not recorded as an Abwehr agent) when Fetisoff lost his job through asthma, and replaced NOOTENS. (Philippe Connart)
Vania GRISTCHENKO (aka Jean) … Russian, aged about 40, tall, thin and clean shaven. Large face, fair. (KV/2/1733)
Vania 'Jean' GRISTCHENKO. Born 27 Mar 1904 in Kharkow (Russia) and spent six years at college there. Exiled in 1920 after the October revolution and went to Gallipoli (Turkey) and Sofia (Bulgaria) for eight years of studies. Worked for one year with Wiltz (Germany) to finance his studies. In Belgium in October 1929 working at the UCL, and member of the association of White Russians of Votsjekohvski. Singer musician in Russian orchestras in Brussels. Met the DEZITTER-GIRALT couple during a presentation. In 1933 he stopped singing and found employment with the Pax Dairy until 1944 thanks to GIRALT (Giralt/Dings was friendly with the director, Mme Knopfs) who was his lover from 1939 to 1941. He became friendly with the DINGS and Serge, and helped the latter with his studies. Underwent surgical operations in 1943 to the spinal column. Was helped financially by GIRALT. When he left hospital at the end of December 1943, he was recruited by DEZITTER, but is not recorded as an Abwehr agent. He then rented the house on rue Forestière in his own name. He attracted some resistants, including the FETISOFFS, and was interpreter for the Russian prisoners at the Dog House. (Philippe Connart)
Some details included have been taken from, or confirmed by "De Duitse militaire contraspionage in bezet België tijdens de Tweede Wereldoorlog : V-man Prosper Dezitter en zijn groep", a research work by Sandra Maes at UCL.
Thanks to John Clinch at http://home.clara.net/clinchy/index.htm for confirming much about, and providing additional information on, Prosper Dezitter.
Thanks also to Edouard Renière (as ever) Michael Moores LeBlanc and Philippe Save for their continued hard work, and to George Kelling for allowing the use of an extract from his private research into the fate of the four crewmen from the B-24 Liberator 41-29306.