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Escape report T/Sgt Frank Garland Coon (serial number 34267235)
 

T/Sgt Frank Garland Coon landed near Jouy Le Moutier (Val d'Oise, previously Seine & Oise)  on June 11, 1944. His aircraft was shot down while bombing a railway bridge at the confluence of the Oise and Seine rivers.

 

 

 

 

"I was Radio gunner in a Marauder and our target was to bomb the railroad bridge at the junction of the OISE and SEINE at R8658.

We made our bomb run through flak which was both heavy and accurate. There was too much smoke over the target area to observe the results of our bombs and we were just turning off our bomb run at about 12,000 ft when the a/c was hit four times by flak.

One 88 mm burst in the tail wrecking the tail guns and wounding the tail gunner slightly, one burst between the tail gunner and myself and the third burst near the forward bomb bay and made a hole and set the port engine on fire. The shell which burst near me blew up the right leg off my flak suit and numbed my leg. There was a hole on either side of me in the plane about 1 ft diameter.

The tail gunner called to me that he was hit but when he turned round, I told him that his face had been only cut a little by glass. His guns however had been knocked out, so he came forward ready to abandon ship.

However the pilot called to us that he had the plane under control and that we were to sit tight. I cleared the port window, dragging the gun inboard as the dumping mechanism had jammed. The engineer then reported on intercom that the port engine was on fire, and I could see the flames through the bomb bay.

When I heard this report, I told the engineer to put on his parachute and to pass mine which I put on. The a/c had slipped violently to starboard on being hit but the pilot had regained control at about 8,500 ft. Now, however, he must have seen the fire himself and he ordered “abandon ship”

The tail gunner went out first, out of the starboard window. Being the only one on intercom I told the pilot that we were all ready to go and wished him “Good Luck”.

I went out of the port window and was followed immediately by the Engineer. I made a delayed drop and landed in a clearing in a wood for which I had steered. My engineer landed close by.

We rolled up our chutes and made for the edge of the wood where we were met by 5 or 6 French people who helped us hide our equipment under some leaves.
One man took us through the wood for about 15 mins to his house nearby, while the others kept watch. Here we were fed, given map and compass and civilian clothes, which we put on over our uniform with our revolvers in our belts outside. Here we stayed until about 1800 hrs during which time, the enemy had been hunting for us and some of the neighbouring houses had been searched.

In the evening, we moved off on our own intending to circle Paris and the East and thence to Spain. At dusk that night, we came to outskirts of Pointoise (R8866) where I approached a Frenchman and asked him for details of curfew and movements of troops by night.

He took us to his home and after giving us certain information told us that it was hopeless to try for Spain and that we should head for Caen. So we set off again, this time W and after stumbling about a good deal in the dark, we slept the night in a wood west of Pontoise.

The following morning, we decided that we would travel by day along secondary roads and across the country rather than travel by night. About noon, I approached a farmer who took us into his house and fed us. He told us that our plane had fallen close by and after identifying it myself he said that three of the crew had escaped, one with a damaged leg, but we never had any more details of them. We moved off in the afternoon and slept in a field N of Mantes (R 6262) that night.

From here we set out next morning and reached St Martin La Garenne (R6067). We went N along the river to Vetheuil (M6960) looking for somewhere to cross. As there were a lot of Germans about, we retraced our steps and came to a farm near Sandrancourt ( R6566). The farmer indicated a house in the village and told us of a woman who would row us across which she did.

We continued on our way and landed up that night at Croisy (R3468) where we went into a café and after having had some cider we approached the proprietor to whom we declared ourselves. He gave us some food and we stayed for the night.

The next morning, he put us on our way telling us to make for Conches and after travelling all day, we arrived at Conches (R0463). Here we slept the night in a farm N of Conches, and also we were told to contact someone in Beau Mesnil.

We continued travelling the following day and at night arrived at a farm near Beau Mesnil (Q8670) where we rested until the following noon. From here our journey was arranged, until we were captured about 1 km E of Troarn on 23 June (Sheet 7 F/2 FRANCE 50,000 165679)

On that day, we had been guided to within about 5 or 6 miles from the lines where we were left to complete the journey alone. When we were within 1,000 yards from allied lines, we ran straight into an enemy ammunition convoy, camouflaged on the road. We had no alternative but to face it out.

We successfully got by about 250 troops when we were called back by a Caporal of the advance guard, but as our papers showed us to be deaf mutes we paid no attention until the third call when I casually looked round and allowed my attention to be attracted by his motions.

He asked for our papers an as I had no photographs of myself, my identity card had one of my Engineer’s. The Caporal was not satisfied so we were taken before an officer (the Unit was Signals).

He did not seem particularly interested in us and seemed at a loss as to why the Caporal had brought us before him. However, he ordered us to be searched and then put on our way.

Immediately prior to the search I had seen one of the N.C.Os reach for his revolver and realizing that they had nothing on us till now I managed to warn Hartman that we were probably going to be tricked to see if we were actually deaf and dumb. This conjecture proved correct as the N.C.O. came round behind us and let off a round. However we didn’t jump, and the rest of the guard laughed at him.

One of the guards searched my right coat pocket missing my escape map but when he looked in my left coat pocket, I knew the game was up and he produced my pistol, which incidentally was German. The guards immediately put their riffles to their shoulders and I thought that we had had it.

The officer thereupon accused us of being spies but simultaneously I pulled open my shirt and showed him my uniform underneath and produced my identity discs from my pocket.

He spoke some English and asked me what I expected to find behind the lines. I replied that the only interest we had in the lines was how to get through them. This seems to ease the tension somewhat and by my manner I indicated that I was unimpressed by his spy story and successfully attempted to pass the matter of in a jocular fashion until at last he really was convinced.

When they found my revolver they simultaneously discovered Hartman’s. This contretemps stopped the search until the parleying was over, into which Hartman had not entered.

At his point we were ordered to remove everything from our pockets, a job we did most thoroughly.

One NCO admired my cut away knife and so I told him to keep it for himself. He seemed very sympathetic and advised me to let him have my sheaf as well. I considered it a good idea to have at least one friend at court and he promised that nothing else would be taken from my effects.

We were then taken to an Arty HQ where we were interrogated together. We were asked what kind of a plane we had been flying, when and where we came down, and how many in the crew. To this we only replied with our name, rank and number. He seemed more disappointed than annoyed at our attitude and soon gave up. He was a Major Arty.

About 22.00, we were taken to Bozule to a Div HQ and about midnight while en route we stopped at a Lufwaffe HQ and we were locked in a smoke house while it was being decided whose prisoner we were – Luftwaffe or artillery.

During our search previously, I had deliberately omitted to disclose a map and some papers which would have implicated friends and which I carried in the leg pocket of my flight suit.

I had crumpled this map into a ball and removed it to my civilian jacket pocket in the darkness of the German Jeep and I now gave the map to HARTMAN to hide it in the caves while I kept guard.

He had no sooner finished hiding it when I lit two cigarettes, on for each of us. The flare of the match attracted the attention of the officers who were just outside the door, which suddenly flung open and we were ordered to come out. They thought we were trying to destroy some papers but the cigarettes convinced them. However, we were now thoroughly searched, but they did not search the building and after a while, we continued our journey.

About 0100 hrs, we arrived at DOZULE where we were put in a barn until about 1000 hrs when we were again interrogated.

Our interrogator was an intelligence Lieut att to the Div and we went in separately. He was very courteous and was apparently impressed by my salute and attitude and invited me to sit down. He was filling up a form with my particulars, the name, rank and number had been taken from my tags. His tone was quite conversational and he read these details out to me and asked if they were correct. I replied that they were and he said “Thank you”. Then he hesitated a little and very disinterestedly asked me how old I was. I replied that I could give him no more details. He said “Oh it’s all right, I just wondered, it’s nothing to do with the report”. Then he went on. “You will naturally want to let know your next of kin that you are safe, whom shall we notify?”. I replied “The Red Cross”. He said “Yes I know. But that takes such a long time”. “We can notify your people by radio”. I still said nothing.

He asked me no more questions and putting aside my personal effects, he gave me a receipt for the £30 sterling I had. He closed up his file, offered me a cigarette and said “I was going to ask you how long you had been in England, but of course I can’t expect you to answer that. I only wondered because I used to work there myself”. He then went on to tell me how he worked for a Jewellery firm in SHEFFIELD and did his best to get me into general conversation. In this he failed.

In the evening, I was taken by truck to BONNEBOSQ together with a S/Sgt, RN Commando, who had been a bombardment liaison officer and a British paratrooper. The former was about 20 yrs, sandy curly, 5’9”, about 11 stone. He had been dropped on one side of the DIVES and his radio on the other and he was therefore unable to check in by radio.

The paratrooper was from 6th airborne Div aged about 21, 6 feet tall, 12 stone in weight, light brown hair. At BONNEBOSQ, we were placed in a temporary prison camp numbering about 30.

Here I was kept until 3 july when at about 1400 hrs I escaped details of which are as follows.

As I spoke some German, the guards who were mostly of a rather dumb type gradually became to place more and more confidence in me until such a time that I was allowed to go on outside details under guard.

While I was at the camp, Sgt Major Edwards, 3rd commando, 1st Bde S.S. was bought in and as we were the senior, we discussed withal the others ways and means of escape.

General opinion was for escape but as agreement could not be reached as to the method, S.M. Edwards and myself decided to make a break for it.

Accordingly I wheedled the guard into selecting he and I to fetch some straw from a nearby farm. We had previously loosened the bars of our window intending to escape that night but this had been discovered, without, however, any suspicion being aroused.

On arriving at the farm, the guard suggested we should stay for lunch, as he was not on duty until 1500 hrs. We readily agreed and when the meal was over, it was about 1400 hrs, I suggested that we should return to the camp. He was rather reluctant but EDWARDS and I had arranged that we would overpower him while going through the door and disarm him.

This we accomplished and after warning the farmer to tell anyone enquiring for us that we had just gone a little way away, we marched off to a wood nearby.
We were unfortunately without a compass and as the day was cloudy, had no means of telling our direction. At 1800 hrs, we finished up almost in the same spot, having gone in a circle.

When we found that we were that close to the camp, we decided to get under cover for the night as the alarm would have been given by this time.

Edwards covered the German in a hedgerow while I went in a farm on the edge of bornebosq and asked for food and shelter. Those people readily agreed to hide us and give us food, clothing, maps and compasses.

They sent for a girl who could speak English and we now knew that our erstwhile guard would have to be disposed of.

He was sitting at the table with his head on his arms, when Edwards hit him a terrific crack on the head with his revolver. The German far from being knocked out, leaped to his feet and closed with Edwards. After a short scuffle, he (the German) indicated that he wanted to go to the latrine. He was obviously stalling for time.

We took him out to a thicket, where the struggle was resumed and we killed him with a bayonet. We then buried him but had to take cover in a barn as there were search parties all around. Fortunately, they did not discover us and we remained in the same place hidden until the morning of the 5th.

On the evening of the 5th of July, we arrived at St Pierre des Ifs in company with a friendly refugee and we stayed in a barn for the night.

From here our journey was arranged."

 

 

 

 

Source:

 

Escape report: http://media.nara.gov/nw/305270/EE-1126.pdf

 

Additional information:

 

http://www.francecrashes39-45.net/page_fiche_av.php?id=2457  

 

 
     

 

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