The Pat O'Leary Line
This is the draft of a chapter from my proposed book about the Pat O'Leary line
Escapes from Saint-Hippolyte-du-Fort - Part 2
This page updated 20 Nov 2023
Click here for Part 1
Saint-Hippolyte-du-Fort is a small town in the Gard, about 50 kilometres miles west of Nimes, and site of the French internment camp (a converted barracks) that was used to house Allied internees – soon to be known to the French authorities as “Détachement W” - from early January 1941 until 17 March 1942. During that time, there were literally scores of escapes (although not all were successful), with more than 130 former detainees from Saint Hippolyte crossing the Pyrenees to Spain.
For more details of conditions at Saint Hippolyte (and other internment camps in France) I thoroughly recommend Derek Richardson's excellent 2004 book “Detachment W”, which I have used to include some additional information in this chapter.
Not all the escapes, or subsequent evasions, can be credited to the Organisation in Marseille but many can, and others presumed to have had the Organisation's assistance to a greater or lesser extent, and certainly some of the Pyrenean crossings were led by guides with links to the Organisation.
By January 1941, most of the British officers who had been in Marseille had left for Spain themselves, and it was agreed amongst those remaining that Lt Winwick Hewit would go with the men to Saint Hippolyte – where he would be Senior British Officer (SBO) - along with Lts Richard Parkinson and John Linklater, while Captains Leslie Wilkins and Charles Murchie would stay in Marseille, with Ian Garrow as their liaison between the camp and the city.
These are some examples from the 133 successful escapes that I have counted from Saint Hippolyte but note that because many of the details below are based solely on the men's MI9 reports, hardly any of the dates given are guaranteed, and it is not unusual for men travelling together to give differing dates (and other details) in their reports.
On 10 June 1941, Sgt S J Houghton (373) (second pilot of 220 Coastal Command Hudson P5146) (Milton) and Sgt N J Ingram (375) (observer of 82 Sqn Blenheim V5997) (Miller) arranged to have themselves sent from Saint Hippolyte to the Mixed Medical Board in Marseille. Also brought from the camp and due before the board, were the four surviving crew of 15 Sqn Wellington R1080 (Walsh), including second pilot Sgt Philip Herbert (629). None of the six men managed to convince the board they should be repatriated on medical grounds but after taking lunch at Fort Sainte-Marthe, Houghton, Ingram and Herbert simply walked out of the gate. The three men went to an address they had been given in Marseille, and three days later, Herbert was taken to stay with Louis Nouveau – Houghton says “to rest until he was strong enough for the journey” - while Ingram and Houghton left Marseille, crossing the Pyrenees to Vilajuiga (16 June), before being taken to the British Consulate in Barcelona that same day. On 4 July, Ingram and Burridge left Gibraltar by sea for Glasgow.
Philip Herbert was sheltered by Louis Nouveau (the first evader recorded there) from 13 to 26 June, when a member of the organisation (Brome says this was Pat O'Leary, who arrived at Saint Hippolyte at the end of May, and so would have to have been out on parole) took him and P/O Marian Rytka (483) to Perpignan, where they joined Sgt W E Whiteman RAF (481) and Spr D T Kemp (539) (see below) , to cross the Pyrenees from Banyuls. They walked to the outskirts of Figueras and took a train for Barcelona but all except Rytka were arrested on the train. Herbert was held in a Barcelona prison until 25 September (he puts his extended detention down to having possession of British currency), when he was moved to Miranda. He was repatriated from Miranda on 28 (or 31) October, leaving for Madrid, and ultimately Gibraltar, in a party which included my father. Herbert (and many others) left Gibraltar by sea for Gourock on 30 December 1941, on board the converted Polish liner, SS Batory.
On 22 June, Sgt W E Whiteman RAF (481) and Spr D T Kemp (539) escaped from Saint Hippolyte.
Whiteman, from south-west London, was the wireless operator/air gunner of 82 Sqn (Coastal Command) Blenheim V5997, on an operation against shipping in the harbour at Saint-Nazaire on the afternoon of 13 May 1941, when they were hit by flak and forced to land near the target area. All three crew, Whiteman, along with observer Sgt N J Ingram (375) (see above) and pilot Sgt F H Miller (482) (see later), were unhurt, and after setting fire to their aircraft, local people gave them them civilian clothes, and put them in touch with a fisherman who rowed them across to the southern bank of the Loire that night.
They spent the next two weeks walking generally south-east by night and sleeping in barns through the day, passing through Paimboeuf, Saint-Père-en-Retz, Saint-Philbert-de-Bouaine, Montaigu, Saint-Maixent-l'Ecole, Saint-Sauvant to Usson-du-Poitou, where they crossed the demarcation line “about nine miles south-east of Gençay on 27 May”. They were twice stopped in Occupied France by gendarmes who, on learning their identities, suggested they try posing as Algerians. Soon after reaching Unoccupied France, they ran into a French military patrol, and were arrested. They were taken to Moussac (28 May) and Montmorillon (29 May), and on to Saint Hipployte.
Kemp, a postal sorter, was serving with the Royal Engineers Postal Section when he was captured at Saint-Valery-en-Caux. He was marched across the country, through Doullens and Saint-Pol-sur-Ternois until escaping about 12 kms north of Saint Pol on 23 June. He walked through Arras, Bapaume and Péronne to Saint-Quentin, where he was sheltered from 21 July to 12 December, when he went to Lille. He left Lille on 16 December, taking the train to Paris via Abbeville and Rouen. He crossed the demarcation line at Vierzon on 18 December, hidden on a goods train by French railwaymen, before going on to Chateauroux and Marseille. On arrival in Marseille on 20 December, Kemp gave himself up the the French authorities “on the advice of the American Consul”, and on 7 January 1941, was transferred to Saint Hippolyte.
Kemp says that he walked out through the main gate of the camp “in a brazen manner under the eys of the guards”, and that Whiteman did the same an hour later. They then walked to Nimes, Whiteman says along the railway line, where they stayed for two nights before taking a train to Perpignan. What neither of them mention in their reports is that they were by joined in Perpignan by two more airmen, Sgt Philip Herbert (629) and evader P/O Marian Rytka (483), who had come from Marseille, although Kemp does say that he was guided over the Pyrenees by the organisation in a party of six. They all went by taxi to Banyuls-sur-Mer, and a guide then took them into Spain on 27 June. At Figueras next day, their guide bought them tickets for Barcelona but they were arrested on the train by a Spanish plain-clothes detective, although Rytka managed to slip away at Barcelona station.
Whiteman goes on to say that after imprisonment at Barcelona, he was sent to Miranda but was released after three or four days “on the strength of a list of deportees which contained the name White”. Whiteman left Gibraltar by sea for Gourock on 8 August. Kemp was released from Miranda on 22 September, and left Gibraltar by sea, also for Gourock, on 1 October 1941.
On 24 June, Sgmn Lewis R MacDonald (479) escaped from Saint Hippolyte. MacDonald, a gardener from Grandtully, Perth and Ross in Scotland, was serving with the Royal Corps of Signals, operating a wireless set in a wireless car at 4 Infantry Brigade HQ at Neuve-Chapelle, north-east of Bethune, when he was captured on 26 May 1940. He was marched through Bethune to Saint-Pol-sur-Ternois, where he and Sgmn George Stubbs escaped on 29 May. They were in uniform for the first five days of their evasion before buying civilian clothes at a farm, and were recaptured at Vignacourt on 6 June. They were sent to Cambrai, and three days later, put on a train bound for Germany. About fifty kms out of Cambrai, MacDonald and Stubbs jumped from the train. They made their way into Belgium, and got as far as Ostend before being recaptured once more on 21 June. MacDonald says that he was being taken to St Nicholas (query) that same day when he made his third escape by “dropping out of the convoy”. He (his post-war memoire says that Stubbs was still with him) made his way to Lille, and spent the next three and a half months at Lecelles (near Saint-Armand-les-Eaux) and Orchies, where he (but not Stubbs, who escaped) was captured once more on 12 October.
Being in civilian clothes, and in possession of “a number of maps and also a diagram of German aerodromes and ammunition works and dumps”, MacDonald was suspected of being a spy, and held in solitary confinement in a civilian prison in Lille. He says that he was interrogated almost every day at the German GHQ at Lille but “not subjected to any ill-treatment, and was well fed in prison”.
On the evening of 1 February 1941, MacDonald was being returned from the GHQ in Lille when he eluded his escort “after hitting the sentry at the door”, and escaped around the corner. He says that being in civilian clothes, he had no difficulty in getting to an address he had been given in prison by a Frenchman in the cell next to his. He stayed at the address (not given in his report) for a few days before being taken, along with three other (unnamed) British soldiers, a Belgian and a Frenchman, by train to Bordeaux. They crossed the demarcation line at Langon on 6 February, and walked to Bazas where they took a train to Marseille, arriving there on 12 February. MacDonald then went on alone to Pau, but “failing to find the help expected there” returned to Cette (Sète) hoping to find a boat to Spain or North Africa. He was arrested in Cette on 25 March (see also Smith (663) earlier, and Green (517) in Chapter **) and sent to Hippolyte.
MacDonald says in his report that he escaped with Sgt R E Griffiths RAF (480) (see 26 June), Sgt F H Miller RAF (482) (see 29 June), Pte J McLaren (646) and Pte T Williamson (647) (see 27 June) - none of whom mention MacDonald in their reports. He gives no details of their escape apart from saying that they crossed from Perpignan to Figueras, and then went by train to Barcelona, arriving there on 8 July, where McLaren and Williamson were both detained. MacDonald was sent to Madrid on 16 July, and on to Gibraltar on 4 August. MacDonald left Gibraltar by sea for Gourock on 8 August 1941.
In his post-war account (which includes some quite different details to his MI9 report), MacDonald says that when he went to an arranged rendezvous in Nimes, he met Elisabeth Haden-Guest and Ian Garrow, and that they made the arrangements to get him to Perpignan, “where he was to meet up with other escapees, cross the Pyrenees with a Spanish guide and down to Barcelona”.
On 25 June, Cpl W F Gardner (648) escaped from Saint Hippolyte. Gardner, a physical training instructor from Rainham in Essex, with 11 years in the Reguar Army, was serving with 2 Bn The Wilstshire Regiment when he was captured at Arras on the night of 23 May 1940. Next day, he was taken in an ambulance to a main road where he joined other POWs being taken by lorry to the fort at Cambrai, where he says that he joined roughly 500 British and 10,000 French POWs. On 25 May, they were marched towards Germany, and on the evening of 27 May, having just crossed the Luxembourg border, he and Sgt Nichols from his regiment, escaped by dodging through a hedge. They were recaptured by German troops three days later near Reims, and taken by car to Virson (?), where they were interrogated “thoroughly” but not brutally. After three days of fatigues, were sent to a camp at Hirson, where they joined about 500 French POWs and five Englishmen. The French POWs were allowed weekly visits from female relatives, and one of the women agreed to smuggle some women's clothing for him, and on 30 June, Gardner dressed as a woman and walked out of the camp when the women visitors left.
Once outside the camp gate, Gardner left the women and headed for Calais, stopping off to break into an old house along the way to steal some civilian clothing (presumably men's). By about the middle of August, he had reached Isbergues (north of Lillers), where a Frenchwoman sheltered him for two days. He then cycled to Calais but finding it was occupied by the Germans, made his way along the coast. He says that he went all the way to Brest but on finding it impossible to find a boat, returned to Calais, and then Isbergues, where the same (unnamed) woman sheltered him again.
Gardner says that one day in December, “a woman belonging to an organisation” took him to a photgrapher's, and after five days returned with an identity card stamped by the police at Saint-Omer. The woman came several times to visit him, and at the end of January 1941, a middle-aged Frenchman, “who said he came from an organisation”, arrived with a car. Gardner was driven to Auchel, where they stayed overnight before crossing out of the Zone Interdite at Abbeville, his driver having a German pass “which allowed him to take passengers into occupied territory to work for the Germans”. There were two other Frenchmen, and two French women in the car, and they drove on to Paris where the other passengers left them. After two nights in Paris, Gardner was driven to Vierzon, and at a café about two miles out of the town where he met a Frenchman who helped other French people to cross the demarcation line, and who explained how it was done. Gardner then crossed two canals, one by bridge and the other in a rowing boat, continuing alone to the nearest farm where he was given food, and shelter for the night in a barn. Next day, a man from the farm took Gardner by train to Chateauroux, where he reported to the French soldiers at the station. He was taken to their barracks, and escorted next day to Saint Hippolyte.
Gardner escaped from the camp by sawing through a bar in a window. He says that he had arranged to meet Pte J McLaren (646) and Pte T Williamson (647) in Nimes, as they were due to try and get out two days later. Gardner says that five other men escaped with him, including Sgt Griffiths RAF (480) and Sgt Miller RAF (482), and that while he and the two RAF sergeants got away, the other three men were arrested just outside Saint Hippolyte. They walked to Nimes, where they met McLaren and Williamson as arranged at the house of an American whose address they had been given at the camp (assume Louis Nutter at Boulevard Victor Hugo).
On 27 June, Pte J McLaren (646) and Pte T Williamson (647) escaped from Saint Hippolyte through the sawn bars of a window.
McLaren and Williamson, both from Glasgow, and both with 10 years in the Regular Army, were serving with 2 Bn Seaforth Highlanders when they were captured at Saint-Valery-en-Caux. They were marched across the country and into Belgium where they and Pte D Livingston (962) escaped near Renaix (Ronse) on 20 June, by breaking away from the POW column and hiding in a cornfield. They were spotted by a small boy who took them to his mother, who gave them civilian clothes, food and money before they moved on again half an hour later. They decided to head for Calais, and three hours later reached Hallouin, and a café they knew from having being billeted in the village. After a meal, they went on to Comines, where a woman in a café recognised them as British soldiers, and sheltered them overnight. They then continued on through Armentieres to Bailleul, where they had also been billeted, and “friends” put them up for the night. Next day, they were approaching Saint-Omer when a farmer advised them to avoid the town because it was “full of Germans” and there was a nine o'clock curfew. They stayed the night with the farmer before carrying on to Tilques, where an elderly road-worker stopped them and took them back to his house nearby. They stayed in his house for the next five months, joining Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders 2976836 Pte John C Syme and Pte Harry Cowan.
An English-speaking Frenchwoman from Tilques visited them every day, and her sister, who worked with an organisation in Lille, came and took their photographs, returning with identity cards stamped at the mairie in Saint-Omer. Another woman, “important in the organisation”, and with a flat in Saint-Omer, also came to see them each month.
McLaren and Williamson report that one day in October, while they were in Tilques, Cowan, “who was very cocksure and wandered around quite a lot openly”, went to Aire with a French woman. They were arrested in Aire, and the woman was “forced to speak and denounced the man in whose house they were staying. He was later arrested and given ten years”. I'm not sure if this was Georges Pourchaux, who was sentenced to 10 years hard labour at a Tribunal in Arras on 4 September 1941, and died after being deported, or Fernand Louis Mahieu, condemned to be shot, and given 15 years hard labour, who also died after being deported.
Pte Alexander Binnie (2552) and Fusilier J Weightman (2553), who were sheltered in Saint-Omer from October until 25 November when they moved to Merville, say that Cowan, who spoke perfect French, got “mixed up” with a French woman, Mme (Lucie) Stopin, and that one night, having had too much to drink, Mme Stopin approached a German Gestapo agent and asked him if he would like to shake hands with a British Tommy. The German responded by arresting them both, which led to nineteen other local arrests, and the capture of Pte G Frame (Seaforths), who had escaped and evaded with Binnie.
As soon as she heard about the arrests, the organisation lady from Saint-Omer moved the four soldiers, McLaren staying with her in Saint-Omer for three weeks before being moved to Roubaix, staying just outside the town at Croix, Williamson and Livingstone to a Catholic Club in Roubaix, and Syme to stay with a barber in Saint-Omer.
Livingstone gives the date when he, McLaren and Williamson were given 500 francs each and taken out of the Zone Interdite as a week after being taken to Roubaix on 20 November, although that doesn't seem to agree with the other two men's joint report. McLaren and Williamson say the party included eight Frenchmen who wanted to join the Free French Forces, and that they went by train to Lille, where they took another train for Paris. At the only stop along the way, they got off the train and went to a crowded café where a woman who was obviously expecting them, greeted the eleven men with “Toujours le Football”. About an hour later, they returned to the waiting train and continued their journey to the capital. On arrival at the Gare du Nord, they went a nearby hotel for the night before leaving early next morning from the gare d'Austerlitz for Tours. After a meal in a café, they walked about 20 kms to the demarcation line, on the river “opposite Loches”. They paid a Frenchman 100 francs each (said to be half for the Frenchman and the other half for the German sentry guarding the bridge near where they crossed the river by boat) and walked to Loches (8 Jan) where they took a train to Toulouse, and after a five-hour wait, another train to Marseille. Their guide and the other eight Frenchmen left the three soldiers with an Englishman (probably either Charles Murchie or Harry Clayton) who took them to the Seamen's Mission on rue Forbin, from where they “had to go to Saint Hippolyte”.
Following their escape from the camp, McLaren and Williamson walked to Nimes, where they joined Cpl Gardner (648), and “from this point our account corresponds to his”.
Gardner says that he spent two days with the American (presumably while he waited for McLaren and Williamson), who bought them tickets to Perpignan, where it had been arranged that a guide and a car would be waiting for them at a garage. They left that evening, their Spanish guide taking them by car right to the frontier, which they then crossed on foot to Figueras. Next day, they walked to Gerona, and jumped a goods train to Barcelona, where their Spanish guide left them at the Consulate.
The British Consul gave them tickets for Madrid and an emergency identification certificate. The latter proved to be valueless, and they were arrested in Barcelona on 11 July. They were transferred via Lerida (10 Aug), Saragossa (11 Aug), San Sebastian (14 Aug) and Irun (16 Aug) to Miranda (19 Aug). They were released from Miranda on 31 October (along with my father) and taken to Madrid for repatriation. All three men left Gibraltar by sea for Gourock on 30 December 1941.

On 26 June, Sgt Ron E Griffiths RAF (480) escaped from Saint Hippolyte. Griffiths, a fish caterer from Gosport in Hampshire, was the wireless operator of 220 Sqn (Coastal Command) Hudson P5146 (Milton). Second pilot Sgt S J Houghton (373) (mentioned earlier) describes how they were patrolling off Brest in the early hours of 2 April 1941 when they ran into an electrical storm, which put out all their instruments, including the compass and wireless, and stopped the starboard engine. They made landfall but with no distinctive landmark, were unable establish their position. Heading inland, they were “subjected to intense flak”, and at about 0720 hrs, ran into a sleet storm, and with both engines stopped, made a forced landing at Maille, near Poitiers.

The four crew, P/O R A E Milton (1039), Sgt J Burridge (562) (see later), Houghton and Griffiths were unhurt in the landing, and although they managed to destroy their IFF and secret documents, lack of petrol prevented them from burning the aircraft properly. Houghton says they obtained civilian clothes at Maille, and walked that night to Villiers, where they slept in a shed. They then walked across country to Poitiers, arriving there on 6 April, and where they were sheltered for the next three days.
Griffiths says that after three days at Poitiers, they (without specifying who) went by bus to Civray, near where they crossed the demarcation line, before continuing on to Saint-Georges, where they stayed until 11 April. They were then taken by car to Lussac where they took a train to Marseille - he says they were accompanied by a guide but doesn't specify where he (or she) joined them. They were arrested at the station on arrival in Marseille, and sent to Saint Hippolyte.
Houghton gives a few more details, saying that on 9 April, he and Burridge were taken (south) by car to a farm near Civray (Poitou-Charentes) and crossed the demarcation line that evening at Joussé, guided by a farmer. They went to a shop in St Martin (assume Saint-Martin-l'Ars), and the following morning, were taken by car to Le Vigeant, where they rejoined Griffiths and Milton. Next day, they were taken by car (north) to Lussac-les-Chateau, from where they took a train to Marseille. Burridge defers to Houghton for details as far as Saint Hippolyte, and Milton only says that they travelled to Marseille via Limoges.
Following his escape from the camp, Griffiths walked to Nimes where he met Sgt F H Miller RAF (482) (see below) , and a guide took them to Perpignan (4 July) and across the Pyrenees that same day. They reached Figueras the following day, and continued on through Gerona (7 July) to Barcelona (8 July), from where they were sent to the British Embassy in Madrid on 13 July “for repatriation through Gibraltar”. Griffiths left Gibraltar by sea for Gourock on 8 August 1941.
On 29 June, Sgt F H Miller RAF (482) made his second escape from Saint Hippolyte. His first attempt, on 26 June, saw him arrested by gendarmes four hours later but this time, he joined Sgt Griffiths (480) at Nimes. Miller, a commercial representative from London WC1, was the pilot of 82 Sqn (Coastal Command) Blenheim V5997, which was forced to land near Saint-Nazaire on 13 May 1941. His very economical report says that his narrative “is identical to Sgt Ingram's until our internment in St Hippolyte on 27 May” (see Whiteman (481) earlier), and of his escape on 29 June, that his “subsequent narrative corresponds to Sgt Griffiths”. Miller also left Gibraltar by sea for Gourock on 8 August 1941.
Note that the dates of these last six men do not quite agree, that MacDonald doesn't mention Gardner, that none of the other three soldiers mention MacDonald, and that neither of the RAF sergeants mention any of the soldiers.
On 4 July Pat O'Leary escaped from Saint Hippolyte.
O'Leary was arrested at Port Vendres on 26 April 1941. It is not known when he arrived at Saint Hippolyte (he says end of May) - nor do we have confirmation of when he escaped. The only source is O'Leary's own report (dated 26 May 1945) - which says that after helping his crewmates to get away, he escaped on 4 July (a date that he would surely remember) and went to Marseille, where he contacted a member of an escape organisation. Vincent Brome, who obviously had O'Leary as the source for his 1957 book “The Way Back”, and which other writers have used as their source, only says that it was a Friday.
None of the MI9 reports mention O'Leary (or any other Fidelity crewman) as ever being at Saint Hippolyte, not even the officers (Hewit and Parkinson) who were said to have helped them escape. One explanation might be that SIS (and so MI9) wanted any reference to the men from Fidelity being at Saint Hippolyte omitted from the records. The only mention of O'Leary by name is in the Appendix C of Parkinson's MI9 report where he says that in September, O'Leary (who was by then based in Marseille) agreed that he (Parkinson) and Bob Milton should escape “at the earliest opportunity” - see later.
Maurice Henri Dufour (who worked at Saint Hippolyte) says in his RVPS interview of 4 April 1942 that he became friendly at the camp with “Wing Commander Patrick O'Leary”, who was already in contact with Garrow in Marseille. I am guessing the two men probably met in either Nimes or Marseille while O'Leary was out on parole, and that the message from Garrow to London requesting that he stay in France, was sent some time before O'Leary's actual escape.
On 18 July, Sgt Ronald H P Humphris (566) and Sgt L McLean (567) escaped from Saint Hippolyte. Humphris, a cost accountant from Highbury in North London, and McLean, a compositer from Glasgow, were the observer and the wireless operator respectively of 15 Sqn Wellington R1080 (Walsh), which ran out of fuel on 27 April 1941 and ditched in the Mediterranean about 50 miles east of Gibraltar. All six of the crew exited the aircraft but rear gunner 1257745 Sgt James Golding drowned, and front gunner 902268 Sgt Richard William Channer drowned trying to save him. The remaining four crew were afloat in their dinghy until 6 May, when they were picked up the French ship “Menhir-Braz”, and landed at Marseille on 10 May.
After an interrogation by German officers from the Armistice Commission, whose questions they describe as “absurd”, the four men spent a month in the prison section of the Hôpital Militaire Michel-Lévy. They had already applied to appear before the Mixed Medical Board on 10 June in the hope of being found medically unfit but had been sent to Saint Hippolyte the day before. On arrival at the camp however, they aproached Richard Parkinson, and he arranged for them to be returned to Marseille the following day. The MMB (unsurprisingly) found them all to be fit, and refused them repatriation but following a meal at Fort Sainte-Marthe, second pilot Sgt Philip Herbert (629) walked out of the gates, along with RAF Sgts Houghton (373) and Ingram (375) - see earlier.
For their own escape, Humphris and McLean hid in the kitchen until eleven o'clock at night before climbing a nine-foot barbed wire fence, six feet of barbed wire entanglements, another nine-foot fence and then a ten-foot wall with barbed wire along the top, after which they walked along the railway line to Vic-le-Fesq, and then overnight to Nimes, arriving there on 20 July. A French guide took them by bus to Beaucaire, and then across the river Rhône to Tarascon, where they met three (query) British soldiers - Ptes Deas (570) and Barnes (571), who had also escaped from Saint Hippolyte, Barnes says on 8 June - and a second guide, who took them to Perpignan. A Spanish guide took them, a Russian and a Czech (both French officers), across the Pyrenees but they were caught by the Guardia Civil whilst walking along the railway line south of Figueras. Their guide got away but Humphris and McLean were held for two days at Figueras, and then taken via Barcelona (3 days) and Saragossa (8 days) to Miranda, where they spent a further 47 days. Humphris and McLean left Gibraltar by sea for Scapa Flow on 1 October 1941.
On 25 July, Dvr David Ower (589) escaped from Saint Hippolyte. Ower, a jute spinner from Dundee, was serving with the RASC, 153 F.A.D. (Field Ambulance Detail) when he was captured at Saint-Valery-en-Caux. He was marched across the country until escaping near Bethune on 27 June, along with Dvr Francis McFarlane (970), by hiding in a cornfield. They made their way to Beuvry, where they were sheltered for over four months by Mme Marie Boulant who eventually put them in touch with the Organisation which arranged their escape. They were passed to other families in Bethune, Lille (with Mme Paule Tetelain at 44 rue des Meuniers, and following Mme Tetelain's arrest, with her mother, Mme Helene Soileme on Rue Jeanne d'Arc), a cafe at rue Henri Barbusse, Loos-a-Lille, and Roubaix before leaving for the south with identity cards and 800 francs each. They were taken by a guide to cross from the Zone Interdite at Amiens on about 12 January 1941, and across the demarcation line into Unoccupied France at Bourges on the night of 13-14 January, before taking a train to Marseille, where they were arrested and sent to Saint Hippolyte.
Ower's report says that he escaped from the camp alone, having sawn through an iron bar in the dining room window. He then spent three weeks at Montpellier and Canet Plage, “acting under instructions” before joining another six soldiers (Dunbar, Badman, Monaghan, Winslade, Warnett and Dolan) (see later) who escaped after him. They were guided across the Pyrenees on 24 August but then arrested at Figueras, and sent to Miranda. Ower left Gibraltar by sea for Greenock on 21 October 1941.
On 16 August 1941, there was a riot at Saint Hippolyte.
On 17 (sic) August, Pte R Dunbar (581) made his third escape from Saint Hippolyte, this time with Gnr Badman (586) “by sawing through the bars of a room near the dining hall”. Dunbar, a labourer from Aberdeen with 5 years in the Regular Army, was serving with 1 Bn Gordon Highlanders when he was captured at Saint-Valery-en-Caux. He was marched across the country, and reached Bethune on 20 June where he, his cousin, Pte A F D Harper (302) and Pte S Westland (429) escaped from a POW column and hid behind some houses until the column was past. Some people in the houses gave them civilian clothes before they made their way to Auchel, where they separated although kept in touch, and where my father records meeting them on 9 July (and Harper and Westland again throughout August) when they were being sheltered by Mme Lea Bouillez on Chemin de Nedon.
Dunbar says that he spent three months in Auchel as a guest of a café proprietor but a Polish girl told a German officer that he was British, and Dunbar was arrested on about 20 September. He was taken to Lille and tried for attempted sabotage, and although acquitted of that charge, sentenced to four months solitary confinemnt for having escaped. He was taken to Stuttgart in a cattle truck, and a camp outside the city, where he served his time, and on release found the only other Englishman in the camp was Pte R Herring (RCS) (no record), who was married to a French school-teacher living near Lille, who had been arrested by the Germans.
Because the camp was so well guarded, with wire and machine-gun posts, Dunbar and Herring decided to escape from one of the work parties. On 14 February, while they employed shovelling coal at a railway siding, they escaped into a tunnel and hid in an air-raid shelter until dark. That night, they boarded a goods train, having no idea of its destination, and the following morning found themselves somewhere in Holland. They spent the next month “wandering across” Holland and Belgium until reaching Lille on 12 April, and Herring left to look for his wife.
Dunbar returned to Auchel, where he found that his previous host and hostess had been sent to prison for harbouring him. He then went to Bethune, where another café proprietress, although knowing about the previous arrests, gave him clothes and shelter, and acquired an identity card for him. Dunbar stayed for several days at the café in Bethune before leaving on 20 April, a French guide taking him by train to Paris. After twelve days in the capital (no details given) Dunbar went to Dompierre (Dompierre-en-Graçay - query) where a butcher's assistant helped him to cross the demarcation line on 2 May. He was then “directed” to Montluçon, where he was arrested and sent to Saint Hippolyte.
Following his escape with Badman, Dunbar says they were “directed” to Nimes, Perpignan and Banyuls, and crossed the Pyrenees in “a party of seven, not including a Spanish guide”. He lists the other five men as Cpl Monaghan (583), Pte Winslade (584), L/Cpl Warnett (585), Dvr Ower (589) and Dvr Dolan (591). They were arrested at Figueras on 27 August and sent to Miranda. Dunbar was released on 14 October, and left Gibraltar by sea for Greenock on 20 October 1941.
On 17 (sic) August, Gnr A V Badman (586) escaped from Saint Hippolyte “by sawing through the bars of a room near the dining hall”. Badman, an electrical engineer from Nailsea, near Bristol, was serving with 53 A.A. & C.D. (query), Royal Artillery when he was captured at Saint-Omer on 27 May 1940. His extremely brief report simply says that he escaped two days later whilst marching towards Hazebrouck, and stayed near Saint-Omer for “more than 11 months” before leaving the Zone Interdite via Calais with the aid of a guide. He crossed the demarcation line, taken over a canal near Vierzon in a small boat, only to be arrested and sent to Saint Hippolyte, arriving there on 16 May 1941.
Badman's MI9 report (which mirrors Dunbar's) says they were shepherded across the Pyrenees in a party of seven, not counting the guide, and crossed on 24 August. Badman was arrested on 27 August and sent to Figueras before being taken to Miranda, via Barcelona and Saragossa. Badman was released on 14 October, and (like Dunbar) left Gibraltar by sea for Greenock on 20 October 1941.
Victor Badman wrote a very detailed account of his adventures in France called “My Life on the Line, Escape from France”, in which he describes how he, Dunbar and 3598937 Cpl Harry Stamper (Border Regt) sawed through the bar in the dining hall with a hacksaw blade and escaped together in the early hours of the morning (helped by having the flood-lights temporarily put out of action by Sprs Cook (540) and James (541) who were awaiting repatriation by the MMB). Badman says that they chose the night of Saturday 17 August, and that their contact was due to meet them in the early evening of 18 August.
17 August 1941 was the Sunday and as it seems more likely that he got the date wrong rather than the day, it suggests they escaped on the night of Saturday 16 August. However, that was the night that a riot broke out in the camp after the guards spotted two soldiers trying to escape through the barbed wire entanglements. They quickly gave up the attempt but an over-excited guard fired at them, fortunately missing, and they were captured. Then a completely innocent man (Pte Joseph Lynch), who was making for the latrines, was shot in the thigh, and S/Ldr Gibbs (501) (as SBO) had to intervene to prevent the internees from attacking the guards, and to calm the camp down again. Badman makes no mention of the riot in his account which suggests that they escaped before it took place, and so puts the date of their escape as probably Friday 15 August. Note that this revision then agrees more closely with the time-scale given in Badman's post-war account.
Their contact turned out to be S/Ldr Whitney Straight (787) (who had arrived at the camp on 9 August) , who gave them instructions for the next stage of their journey, and to whom they passed the details of their escape from the camp so that it might be used again. Straight told them to make their way that night to Artous, where their next contact would be whistling “Tipperary”. Their route took them to Quissac, which they had been warned to avoid, and after disturbing a local dog, Badman and Dunbar went one way and Stamper the other, and they lost contact with him (Stamper was later recaptured). They missed their contact at Artous, and had to wait for his planned return two days later. They duly found one another on the Wednesday (sic) [20 Aug] morning, and he took them to a large first-floor flat in Nimes, where they joined two RAF airmen (assume Roberts (561) and Burridge (562) - see below), who had arrived the previous day.
Badman says that the airmen had escaped through the same window as he and Dunbar, but the following night (perhaps following the confusion of the riot), as had several other internees, all but five of whom were soon recaptured.
They were told that they had to wait for some more men, and two days later [22 Aug], Monaghan (583) and Dee (query) arrived. Two days after that [24 Aug], the six (query) escapers were taken by train to Perpignan, arriving there in the early afternoon. After stopping off at a café while their guide (Badman says this was Pat O'Leary) checked to see they weren't being followed, they were taken by tram to Canet Plage, and a chalet where they found a man who had been a guard at Saint Hippolyte (this was Maurice Dufour), and two British soldiers, Warnett (585) and Dolan (591). Two days later [26 Aug] , they took an early evening tram back to Perpignan, where they were introduced to their Spanish guide, and then set off at about ten-thirty, walking through the night.
Sgt Frederick Charles Hillyard (LIB/577) says that he evaded with “Pte J Badman, R.A.” and (3190975) Pte L Asquith KOSB, and although the evasion details he gives in his August 1945 Liberation report are different, the dates given by Hillyard fit with Badman's MI9 report. Hillyard and Asquith also seem to fit with two of the men (Fred and Lawrence) that Badman says in his post-war account evaded and travelled south with him. In the few details that I have concerning his evasion, Badman mentions “Gabrielle” and her family, including a sister-in-law at Bayenghem. Hillyard names his helper as Mme Gabrielle Duquesne of Muncq-Nierlet (now at Saint-Omer), and IS9 list Mme Georgina Duquesne of Bayenghem-lès-Eperlecques.
Of his journey south, Badman says there were five of them, the other two men being Scottish soldiers that he refers to as Jim and Jock (who I have not been able to identify), that they crossed out of the Zone Interdite at Corbie (not Calais), hidden in a railway wagon to Paris, and that their guide as far as the demarcation line was named René.
Unfortunately I lost the record of how I came into possession of Badman's account, (from which most of the earlier chapters were already missing) following a computer crash in 2012, and can only apologise to his family.
The various accounts agree that Badman and Dunbar crossed the Pyrenees into Spain with Cpl Monaghan (583), Pte Winslade (584), L/Cpl Warnett (585), Dvr Ower (589) and Dvr Dolan (591), and that they were all arrested near Figueras on about 27 August.
On 16 (sic) [probably correct] August, Cpl H Monaghan (583) escaped from Saint Hippolyte. Monaghan, a bus conductor from Dundee, was serving with 1 Bn Black Watch when he was captured at Saint-Valery-en-Caux. He says that he made his first escape that night but was suffering from a chest wound and too exhausted to get far before being recaptured. He was then marched through Rouen and Abbeville to Doullens, where on 21 June, he was admitted to hospital. He says that his wound was not treated but the rest made him well enough to be discharged three days later and sent to a prison camp in the former French artillery barracks at Senlis, joining just two other Englishmen, a father and son whose names he didn't recall.
On 10 July, whilst employed pulling dead cattle out of the river Seine, Monaghan escaped, hiding in a wood until nightfall, and setting off for Paris on foot. He reached the capital on 14 July, continued on through Chartres (17 Jul), Le Mans (20 Jul) to Blois (24 Jul) by which time his boots had given out and he was walking barefoot. He was befriended by a family of refugee Poles in Blois who showed where he could cross the river Loire if necessary. Having first tried to bluff his way across a bridge at Salles (query) (and being turned back by a German sentry) he swam across the river where he had been shown, saying that he nearly drowned in the process, on 27 July. He then walked on through Chateaurault (3 Aug), Limoges, Tulle and Millau to Gignac, near Montpellier, where he was arrested in late August. He was held in a “common jail” until escaping two days later, making his way to Montpellier (27 Aug) and then Marseille. He went to see the American Consul but was arrested and sent to Fort Saint-Jean on 1 September. He says that he escaped from Marseille in December and went to Cerbere but the guide he had paid 500 francs to in Perpignan deserted him, and he was recaptured and returned to the Fort, and on 7 January 1941, transferred to Saint Hippolyte.

Monaghan escaped from the camp “by crawling through the sawn bars of a window in the dining hall”. He says that he was “taken in hand at this stage by the organisation and guided across the Pyrenees in a party of seven” with Dunbar (581), Winslade (584), Warnett (585), Badman (586), Ower (589) and Dolan (591). He was arrested “near Gerona” and wound up at Miranda until the middle of October. Monaghan left Gibraltar by sea for Greenock on 20 October 1941.

On 6 (sic) [probably 16] August, Pte W Winslade (584) escaped from Saint Hippolyte. Winslade, a labourer from Sheffield in Yorkshire, was serving with the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry when he was captured by German tanks near Rouen on 9 June 1940. He was marched through Saint-Pol-sur-Ternois to Auchel where on about 16 June, Winslade escaped. As there seemed no chance of crossing the Channel, Winslade headed towards Spain, walking to Tours, and crossing the demarcation line (unaided) at Blere sometime in August. He was arrested a few hours later by a gendarme and taken to Chateauroux. From there he was sent to Fort Saint-Jean in Marseille, and later transferred to Saint Hippolyte.
Winslade says that he escaped “through the window of the dining hall in which a bar had been sawn”, and was accompanied by Sgt Roberts (561), Sgt Burridge (562), Gnr Liddle (524) and Cpl Monaghan (583). He was “taken in hand by the organisation and directed first to Nimes, then to Banyuls”. They were “guided across the mountains in a party of seven” - see Dunbar (581) for names - and Winslade was arrested at Gerona, where “lack of food” made him give up. He was held at Figueras and Miranda until being released in the middle of October, and left Gibraltar by sea for Greenock on 20 October 1941. At the end of his report, Winslade pays tribute to the “helpfulness” of S/Ldr Whitney Straight at Saint Hippolyte.
Dvr D Ower (589), who had escaped from Saint Hippolyte on 25 July (see earlier), was sheltered at Canet Plage, “acting under instructions” until joining Dunbar (581), Monaghan (583), Winslade (584), Warnett (585), Badman (586) and Dolan (591) to cross the Pyrenees on 24 August, with the aid of a guide. He reports being arrested at Figueras and interned for five weeks. Ower left Gibraltar by sea for Greenock on 21 (sic) October 1941.
L/Cpl H J Warnett (585) was never at Saint Hippolyte. Warnett, an AA patrolman from Burgess Hill near Brighton, was serving with the Corps of Military Police, attached to II Army HQ, when he was captured (no details given) on 22 May 1940 near Hardinghen (about 20 kms south of Calais). He was being searched by a German soldier, when “a comrade” fired at the German, and Warnett was able to make his escape, bolting through hedges and running across fields to the village. On the way, he met the man who had fired the shot, a Pte Anderson who Warnett thought was from the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, who was wounded in the chest. The two men were given shelter at a farm, Anderson being put to bed, and next morning, Warnett was given civilian clothes and set off for the coast.
He says that he trekked through Boulogne, Saint Valery, Etaples and Saint-Omer before reaching the Somme, which he crossed at Amiens before going to Paris, and then to the demarcation line, which he crossed at Saint-Aignan on 12 August. He continued on through Chateauroux to Montauban (20 Aug) where he worked as a “porter and kitchen hand” at the Hotel du Midi for a year.
No date is given for Warnett travelling via Narbonne to Perpignan, where he was “helped by the organisation” to cross the Pyrenees on 27 August “in a party of seven, not including the guide” - see Dunbar (581) for details. He was arrested near Figueras and sent (via Barcelona and Saragossa) to Miranda until being released and sent to Gibraltar in the middle of October. Warnett left Gibraltar by sea for Greenock on 20 October 1941.
Dvr J D Dolan (591) was never at Saint Hippolyte either. Dolan, a chauffeur from Edinburgh with 5 years in the Regular Army, was serving with 38 Field Company, Royal Engineers when he was captured by a German motorcycle patrol at Alençon in July 1940. He says that he was marched six miles to a village but escaped that night. He was given a lift in a car by two priests who took him to Alençon, where he “got rid of” his uniform, took a bicycle and made for Rouen. He was recaptured at Lisieux and held at the caserne, along with 2,000 French soldiers. Exchanging his civilian clothes for a French uniform, he escaped two nights later, climbing over the barrack wall. He was making for Evreux when he was captured once more, joining a group of French POWs, with whom he was marched to Caen, and placed in the Caserne Hamelin. He says that he was there for three weeks until escaping sometime in August, hiding in the district until November when he set off with a guide to La Rochelle. After failing to get away in a fishing boat, Dolan made his way to Tours, from where he was “taken to Blere and guided across the line of demarcation”. He arrived in Montauban on 8 January 1941, and was directed to a “refugee camp for Spaniards and Alsations”, where he stayed for some time, along with L/Cpl Warnett (585).
Dolan says “the organisation” helped him (and Warnett) to escape, and that he was conducted through Perpignan and Canet Plage, and across the Pyrenees to Gerona (sic), where he was “arrested and spent 7 weeks in Spanish prisons before release and repatriation”. Dolan left Gibraltar by sea for the UK on 18 (sic) October 1941.
On 18 August, S/Ldr E P P Gibbs (501) escaped from Saint Hippolyte. Patrick Gibbs, with seven years of regular service with the RAF, was flying 616 Sqn Spitfire P8070 on a bomber escort mission (Circus 41) over northern France on 9 June 1941, when he was shot down by enemy fighters. He crash-landed his aircraft near Sarfaucry, a few miles west of Fruges (Nord-Pas-de-Calais).
Gibbs recalled the escape lecture that he had been given a few weeks earlier by A J (Johnny) Evans, an escaper from the First War, and author of “The Escaping Club”, who was then working with MI9, who advised getting away from the crash-site “as far and as fast as you can. Burn your aircraft and run like hell. And head south”. Gibbs duly set fire to his wrecked Spitfire, and after waiting in some trees until the two circling Messerschmitts that had shot him down disappeared, set off running across country.
The first people he met were an elderly couple and their daughter who were resting in a field. Gibbs asked (in not very good French) if there were any Germans in the area and was told they were all in Russia. He was then advised to go to a farmhouse, la ferme du Moulin à Créquy, about a kilometre further along where a Frenchwoman, Valentine Lefebvre-Ducrocq, whose husband Maurice was a POW in Germany, would surely help him. This proved to be the case, and Gibbs was supplied with civilian clothes, his various wounds were dressed, and he stayed there overnight before leaving after lunch the following day.
Gibbs walked around the Forest of Hesdin, having been advised that the Germans had a large ammunition dump there, and reached the tiny village of Fontaine l'Etalon at about noon of the following day (11 June). He was spotted by two young boys, Felix and Michel Lecocq, who took him to the farm where they lived with their parents Claude Lecocq, the local maire, and his wife Gisèle. On 15 June, by which time his wounds had healed, an English-speaking Frenchman, Dr André Boutin, arrived by car and took Gibbs back to his home in Auxi-le-Chateau. They left again early the following morning, crossing out of the Zone Interdite on the Doullens-Amiens road just north of Amiens where his driver showed the German sentry a medical form saying that he was taking Gibbs to Amiens hospital, and they were passed through the barrier without incident.
Some fairly complex plans were made to get Gibbs to Paris but these seem to have fallen through, and at the last moment (there only being one train a day that civilians could take to Paris), his hostess in Amiens (wife of another doctor) decided to take him to Paris herself, and lodge him with her mother. On arrival at the Gare du Nord, the doctor's wife led Gibbs onto the Metro and address he doesn't give where her mother lived. Two days later (20 Jul), Gibbs was moved to another apartment where a medical student and his wife lived, and that evening, Gibbs met another medical student, a girl aged about 22, who had agreed to take him to Perpignan.
The girl was instructed to take Gibbs to Salies-de-Béarn, east of Biarritz and on the demarcation line. That evening, Gibbs wento the gare d'Austerlitz, where he joined the girl on an overnight train to Salies-de-Béarn, arriving there at nine o'clock the following morning (22 Jul), and going to a café, probably the café Henri (Mme Labonnet), where they stayed for the rest of the day and overnight. At six o'clock the following morning, two young girls arrived to take them across the demarcation line, simply walking out of the town and across some fields, the line being marked by red and green striped poles with small red wooden arrows pointing south. They went to a house where they were told to wait until a taxi arrived to take them to a station, from where they took a slow train to Toulouse. After a five hour wait, they took another train to Perpignan, arriving there shortly before midnight. They walked to the address of the cousin of his first hostess in Paris, at which point Gibbs' guide returned to the station to catch a train back to Paris, Gibbs giving her enough money to pay for her fares and other expenses incurred in bringing him that far.
Next day, Gibbs was introduced to a Frenchman who told him to take a train to Banyuls-sur-Mer, and drew him a rough map of the path he was to take out of the town and across the mountains. Gibbs got to Banyuls station easily enough but was arrested by a gendarme as he left the town. The gendarme could see that Gibbs had a forged identity card, and despite Gibbs trying to appeal to his better nature as a patriotic Frenchman, he took Gibbs to the Prefect of Police. Gibbs was locked in a dungeon for the night, and next day, taken to Saint Hippolyte.
Gibbs arrived at Saint Hippolyte on 25 July, where he took over from Winwick Hewit as Senior British Officer. During his stay at the camp, he went with Richard Parkinson (on 12 August - query) to conduct a batch of men to the MMB in Marseille, and used the opportunity to meet the heads of the “escaping organisation”, and on 17 August, Gibbs withdrew his parole.
He says that the commandant (Captain Leblon) asked him for two hours grace before any escape attempt was made so he could inform the guards that Gibbs was no longer allowed to leave the camp - he also used the time to carry out a complete inspection of the fortifications, and doubled the guard. Meanwhile, Whitney Straight and Bob Milton also withdrew their paroles - Richard Parkinson having agreed to stay behind as the link between the internees and the escape organisation outside.
The following evening, with Parkinson staging a minor diversion by waving a piece of paper and asking the guard to open the main gate, and with Straight right behind him, Gibbs dashed through the opened gate in a well rehearsed manoeuvre, ran to the bottom of the road and a bicycle that Hewit had left for him earlier, and pedalled straight down to the river (Vidourle). Rather than try to cross using the bridge (as would have been expected), Gibbs hid the bicycle, moved along the bank, and crossed the river using stepping stones. He made his way out of town and across the main road and railway line to a spot in the hills where he hidden some food whilst still allowed out on parole. After waiting for half an hour to see if Straight had managed to follow him, Gibbs set off along the railway line towards Nimes.
At about six the following morning, Gibbs laid up for the day, spending part of the time shaving off his moustache, before setting off once more at nine-thirty that evening for Nimes, and a house “by pre-arrangement of the escaping organisation”.
Early on the morning of 25 August, Gibbs was taken to Perpignan by a “Greek flight-lieutenant” (this was Georges Zarifi, nephew of Georges and Fanny Rodocanachi), along with Pte (sic) Roberts (561), Sgt Burridge (562), Dvr McLelland (512) and one other - Gnr Liddle (524). I think they stayed overnight in Perpignan before being taken in ones and twos to a garage. They were given food, and at two o'clock that afternoon, taken in a large car, with a Spanish guide, part of the way into the Pyrenees. They set off on foot, and at nine o'clock on the evening of 26 August, having crossed the frontier, reached an isolated farmhouse owned by either friends or relatives of their guide. They set off again at two the following morning, a new guide leading them to a railway station, where they caught a train to Barcelona. Their guide then took them by tram and pointed out the British Consulate, which they entered “unobtrusively”.
Gibbs and party stayed for three days with members of the Barcelona Consulate before being driven to Madrid, arriving there on Saturday 30 August. On 12 September, they left Madrid by train to La Linea, where they reported to the Consul at midday on 13 September. There was a two-day delay over their paper-work before they were able to enter Gibraltar, which they finally did at midnight on 15 September. The following evening, Gibbs left Gibraltar, hitching a ride in the Sunderland flying-boat taking the Inspector-General of the RAF back to the UK, and landing at Mount Batten at eight o'clock next morning.
Patrick Gibbs wrote a book called “It's Further via Gibraltar”, published by Faber and Faber in 1961, about his adventures in France, and some details are taken from there. Most of the names however, even those of British personnel, are changed - Bob Milton becomes “Newman”, Richard Parkinson is “Peter Foster” and “Howard” is obviously Winwick Hewit - Whitney Straight becomes “Whitby” and Roberts and Burridge (see below) become Sgts Wilkinson and Jones. Additional details and corrected names of the some of the French people who helped Gibbs in the north come from work done by veteran researcher René Lesage as published in the 2016 “Bulletin Historique du Haut-Pays” No 82.
On 21 [probably 16] August, Sgt Alexander C Roberts RAAF (561) escaped from Saint Hippolyte. Roberts was the pilot of 452 Sqn Spitfire P7562, on “an offensive sweep over Northern France” on the afternoon of 10 July 1941, when he was shot down and baled out over Saint-Omer. He walked to Calais (11 July), and stayed on a farm from 15 to 19 July (where he listened to the BBC) before leaving by bicycle with a guide. They stopped off a café in Aire-sur-la-Lys, where he was joined by P/O Josef Zulikowski (641) (see later), and they and the guide cycled together to Marles-les-Mines.
Roberts' report suggests that he travelled alone but Zulikowski's report gives more detail, saying that on 19 July, the Frenchman who had looked after them at Marles-les-Mines took them both by train to Lille, along with a Belgian civilian wanted for killing two Germans in Brussels. They spent most of the day at a house in Lille before leaving by train for Meziers, Metz, Nancy, Epinal and Vesoul to Besançon, arriving there at about two o'clock the following afternoon. At about five, they left by bus for Mouchard, arriving there at seven o'clock that evening, and spending the night in a hotel while their guide made enquiries about the district. The following evening (21 July), a local guide took them (and about seven others) across the demarcation line.
From a village just across the line, they took a bus to Poligny (Jura) but whilst waiting at the railway station for a train to Lyon and Marseille, they and their French friend were arrested. They were taken to the local police station, and next morning (23 July), taken by train to Bourg, and what Zulikowski describes as the Deuxième Bureau of the 7th French Army. Next day, while Zulikowski believes that their guide was sent back to his home in Marles-les-Mines, he and Roberts were taken to Saint Hippolyte.
Roberts says that he escaped from the camp along with Sgt Burridge (562) and seven soldiers (including McLelland and Liddle), “by cutting through a bar in the men's dining hall window”. He gives no further details apart from saying that he crossed the Pyrenees with Burridge, McLelland and Liddle, along with S/Ldr Gibbs (501) and a guide, and surmising that the other five soldiers (one of whom was Pte Winslade) were probably at Miranda. Roberts reached Gibraltar with Gibbs, and left by sea for Gourock on 1 October 1941.
On 21 (sic) [probably 16] August, Sgt John Burridge (562) escaped from Saint Hippolyte. Burridge, a peace-time RAF apprentice, was the air-gunner of 220 Sqn (Coastal Command) Hudson P5146 (Milton), which was force-landed at Maille on 2 April 1941, and says that his story as far as Saint Hippolyte is the same as his second pilot Sgt S J Houghton (373) - see Griffiths (480) earlier. Burridge then says that he escaped from the camp with Sgt A C Roberts (561), and that the rest of his story is the same as Roberts.
On 17 (sic) [probably 16] August, Pte Robert McLelland (512) escaped from Saint Hippolyte. McLelland, a cleaner with the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, was serving with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders when he was captured near Abbeville on 13 June 1940 by two German airmen in a car. They took him to an aerodrome at Le Havre before he was sent to a prison camp at Amiens. On 26 June, “some 5,000” of them were sent to Doullens, and just outside Amiens, McLelland escaped from the POW column by jumping over a hedge, along with Seaforth Highlanders, 3058396 Pte Daniel J Gibbons and 3058455 L/Cpl George Welch. They made their way to a place he names as Abbacourt (possibly Ablaincourt-Pressoir) where they met a man who put them in touch with a woman (no name given) who sheltered them for the next four months. In October, they went to an address they had been given in Arras, where they stayed for three weeks until a French padre took them to Paris. Next day, they went by train to Moulins, where they crossed the demarcation line by boat, and on by train to Marseille. McLelland says that they were arrested in Marseille and sent to Saint Hippolyte, although I think perhaps only after a spell at Fort Saint-Jean.
McLelland says that he escaped from the camp with Sgt Roberts (561), Sgt Burridge (562) and Gnr Liddle (524), and was with them for the rest of the time. McLelland left Gibraltar by sea for Gourock on 1 October 1941.
On 6 (sic) [probably 16] August, Gnr W Liddle (524) escaped from Saint Hippolyte. Liddle was serving with 2 Search-Light Regiment, Royal Artillery when he was captured at Calais on 26 May 1940. He was marched through Lille to Tournai in Belgium where, on 9 June, he and Pte Mackay (2 Seaforths) escaped. He says that he lost sight of Mackay (now at Saint Hippolyte) soon afterwards, and made his way through Lille back to Calais, and then on finding no means of crossing the Channel, started off for the south. He reached the demarcation line at Vierzon on 10 July, and swam across the river Cher before going on to Chateauroux and Marseille. He was arrested on 17 July and sent to Fort Saint-Jean, and in February (sic) transferred to Saint Hipployte.
Note that the only Mackay (sic) at Saint Hippolyte was Pte Thomas M'Kay (961), 2 Bn Seaforths but he was captured at Saint Valery on 12 June, and escaped from a first-aid post in Lille on 28 June.
Liddle's report says that having escaped from the camp, he made for Perpignan, and from there, with a guide, S/Ldr Gibbs (501), an RAF sergeant (Burridge) and two others (Roberts and McLelland), crossed the Pyrenees, got to Barcelona, and was subsequently repatriated. Liddle left Gibraltar by sea for Gourock on 1 October 1941.
Note that Gibbs, who escaped on 18 August (2 days after the riot), met up in Nimes with four others who he says had escaped during the confusion of the riot - which suggests the night of 16 August. This also fits in with Badman saying that when he and Dunbar were taken to a flat in Nimes, they joined two airmen who had escaped the night after them but arrived in Nimes the previous day.
On 1 September, Pte J Farrell (654) and 2929828 Pte A McRae (Camerons) escaped from Saint Hippolyte. Farrell, from Coatbridge in Lanarkshire, with 9 years in the Regular Army, was serving with 2 Bn Seaforth Highlanders when he captured at Saint-Valery-sur-Somme on 12 June 1940. He was marched across the country, through Rouen, Doullens, Sant-Pol-sur-Ternois, Bethune and Seclin to Renaix (Ronse) in Belgium. On 28 June, Farrell, Pte Frank Butters (414) (see earlier) and Pte I Temperley (209) escaped from a POW column by running into a cornfield. They went to a small farm where they got civilian clothes, food, cigarettes and a small map, and then made their way to Wattrelos (his report says Waterloo), where they decided it was too dangerous to stay together, and Farrell made his way across the frontier to the Doullens area, where he spent the next two months working on various farms.
No date given when Farrell decided to head south, walking to Amiens, where he crossed out of the Zone Interdite by swimming “the canal” at night, and on to Paris, Chateaudun and Blois, to cross the demarcation line on 21 October by swimming across the river Cher at a small village near Blere, his clothes carried in a sack. He went to a farmhouse, where he was given shelter for the night, and the address of another farmer near the village of Clere (Cléré-du Bois - query). The farmer at Clere gave Farrell food and 500 francs, and sent him to Chateauroux (22 Oct), from where he took a train to Lyon. Farrell went to the US Consul, who sent him “with 23 others” to Marseille, where Farrell was arrested and sent to Fort Saint-Jean, and in early January 1941, transferred to Saint Hipplyte.
Farrell says this was his fourth escape attempt, the first being in April, when he got as far as Lourdes before being recaptured. The second was at the end of May when he escaped through a dining hall window but was caught almost immediately, and the third in June, when a horse broke loose and the guard left his post to try and catch it. Farrell jumped over a wall and went to a farm near the camp but was given away by the farmer whose barn he was hiding in.
He gives no details of this fourth escape, simply reporting that he and McRae went to a small house 5 kms outside Nimes, “the address of which we had been given in camp”. Pte J T Clarke (655) (see below) joined them there next day, and a guide took them into Nimes. They were then taken by train to Perpignan but McRae was captured at Narbonne station as they were changing trains. From Perpignan, Farrell and Clarke were taken to Canet Plage, where they stayed for eight days before being returned to Nimes, and taken by bus to Prats-de-Mollo. A Spanish guide took them into the mountains until they were “within sight of Spain”, and then left them after pointing out their route. Farrell and Clarke walked to Barcelona, using signposts on the road for guidance, and feeding on fruit they picked up on the way. They reached Barcelona on 18 September, where they reported to the British Consulate, and on 5 October, were taken by car to Madrid. Farrell was taken to Gibraltar on 5 November, and left by sea for Gourock on 30 December 1941.
On 2 September, Pte J T Clarke (655) escaped from Saint Hippolyte. Clarke, a miner from Methil in Fife, was serving with 1 Bn Black Watch when he was captured at Saint-Valery-en-Caux. He was marched through Rouen (14 Jun) and Doullens (23 Jun), and was about seven kilometres from Saint-Pol-sur-Ternois when he and two other (unnamed) privates from his unit escaped. They hid in a belfry until the POW column had passed, and then made their way to a farm, where they were given some food, and then to a house where they were given civilian clothing. They set off for the coast but met two Cameron Highlanders who told them there was no hope of getting away from there. At this point, Clarke went on alone “on a stolen bicycle” to Wavrin (a few miles SW of Lille), where he stayed with friends he had made whilst being billeted there. He stayed from the middle of July until early September, spending his last week in the area at another house after being warned that it was too dangerous for him to stay in the town. He was then taken to a house in Lille where Captain Charles Murchie (681) was living, staying there for a week, during which time he met Lt James Langley (213) (who had escaped from the British General Hospital in Lille on 5 October. Clarke is presumably the “bloody minded, stocky little private in a famous Scottish regiment” that Langley refers to in his book “Fight Another Day” as meeting briefly while he was sheltered with Mme Vve Anastasie Samiez at 4 rue des Noires in Fives).
Clarke left Lille for Paris, travelling with Murchie and Sgt Harry Clayton (701), who gives the date of their journey as 15 October. From the capital, Clarke says that a French officer took him alone by train to Castillon (Castillon-la-Bataille), east of Bordeaux (Murchie and Clayton followed the same route on 28 October), and then took a bus to the demarcation line where they crossed the river (Dordogne) by boat. They went on to Perigueux, where Clarke was arrested by gendarmes and taken to Fort Saint-Jean in Marseille. He says that he made two unsuccessful attempts in January to get out of France, getting as far as the Spanish border, before being transferred to Saint Hippolyte.
Clarke gives no details of his escape from the camp, only saying that he joined Pte J Farrell (654) at Nimes, and that his “narrative corresponds with his”. While Farrell left Madrid for Gibraltar on 5 November, Clarke was kept at the Embassy until 8 December “due to some confusion on the part of the Spanish authorities about my name”. Clarke caught up with them later, and also left Gibraltar by sea for Gourock on 30 December 1941.
On 27 September, P/O Jozef Zulikowski (641) escaped from Saint Hippolyte. Zulikowski was the pilot of 306 (Polish) Sqn Hurricane AP516, on an escort operation (Circus 26) for bombers attacking the French Channel ports, when he was shot down on 28 June 1941. He had “great difficulty” in opening the cockpit cover and was down to about 500 feet when he finally managed to bale out, dislocating his left arm as he landed a few miles north of Nortkerque, south-east of Calais. He says that his aircraft landed in a garden in Nortkerque, completely destroying itself, and that he had no difficulty in getting asssistance there, being hidden in another garden, and supplied with civilian clothes by the owner of the house. Later that afternoon, the owner and another young Frenchman took Zulikowski, partly on foot and partly by bicycle, to Calais where he was sheltered with the house-owner's brother (no names given).
Zulikowski stayed for eight days in Calais, his arm being treated by two doctors, until he was moved to another house in the town, where he stayed for another nine days while his new host made enquiries about getting him to Unoccupied France. Eventually, British soldiers living in Calais put him in touch with a Frenchman belonging to an organisation that helped airmen get away from the Pas-de-Calais, and on 15 July, a local merchant took Zulikowski in his lorry to Aire, his host in front with the driver while Zulikowski was hidden inside. At Aire, Zulikowski was taken to a café where he met Sgt A C Roberts (561), and a member of the organisation took the two airmen by bicycle to Marles-les-Mines (see earlier).
Zulikowski made his escape from Saint Hippolyte after a visit to the town cinema, where he slipped away “unnoticed”. He walked to Lasalle, where he stayed for two nights with a Polish family that he knew of, and then on 30 September, to Alès, where “a representative of the Polish Red Cross” looked after him for five days. On 6 October, he contacted a Polish artillery officer who worked with the Red Cross, and he took Zulikowski to a camp for foreign workers at La Grande-Combe, where Zulikowski presented himself to the French captain as a Polish corporal who had escaped from Germany. Having obtained a French identity card, Zulikowski asked the French captain (who knew full well that Zulikowski was a pilot from Britain trying to get to Spain) if he could go to Perpignan to “look for his family”, and on 10 October, took a train to Perpignan. Next day, he went to Canet Plage where he knew there was a Frenchwoman who worked with the organisation, and where he met P/O Frank Allen (599) (pilot of 101 Sqn Wellington R1699) and three members of his crew - Sgt John Christenson (635), Sgt Robert Saxton (893) and Sgt Henry Hickton (894).
On 18 October, the five airmen took a train for Sainte-Léocardie. Saxton and Hickton were arrested on the train [see Article] but Zulikowski, Allen and Christenson met their guide who took them across the frontier, and after a night spent on a farm with friends of their guide, the farmer took them to Barcelona on 21 October. Two days later, Zulikowski arrived in Madrid, and on 30 December 1941, left Gibraltar by sea for Gourock.
On 10 October 1941, 2/Lt Richard E H Parkinson (611) made tha last successful escape from Saint Hippolyte [see Article].
On 17 March 1942, the internees at Saint Hippolyte were transferred to Fort de la Rivère, in the hills above Monaco.