November 29, 2021

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June 1944: Incredible voyage of five English paratroopers rescued by anti-government fighters from the Drook area

This episode of World War II, which took place just days before the D-Day landing on the Normandy coast, would have been somewhat secretive without the stubbornness of a man interested in history.

Retired from the industry, the former deputy mayor of Nonangord, Jean-Pierre Curato, reconstructed the random itinerary of 7 English paratroopers, who returned from the bombing of the Halifax MZ 630 ZA-S on the night of June 2 to 3, 1944. Troops station, attacked by a German militant near Marseille-la-Campein.

A cellar in Saint-Rmy-sur-Avre used as a prison for a German soldier

Five survivors were welcomed and hid by French families between Illiers-El Evic, Saint-Georges-Motel and Muse before they were condemned and sent to extermination camps. Escaping the worst, they were released by the Russian military and finally found their homes after serving as a bargaining chip.

Jean-Pierre Curato, the only survivor, is in constant contact with Chief Stanley Booker (“Squadron Leader”).

“My wife’s grandparents took one of these pilots, which justifies my interest. I’m so grateful to these men from elsewhere who fill our graves. Dying for others, shall we do today?”

Jean-Pierre Guret

Did you feel like you were conducting a real investigation?
Jean-Pierre Curato: “Taking this step, I opened a door and went down an endless path, from which it is now hard to get me out. Everywhere I go, memories come back, people tell me about their parents’ experience, they remembered the time they thought, some spontaneously me. Communicate because they are happy to talk about what their parents went through.

Were you able to reconstruct the conditions of the plane crash?
During the Halifax attack above St Andre-de-L’Ore, 18 people were shot dead that night, on top of 105 bombers. In the MZ 630, the pilot was instantly killed by hunter missiles. The radio then took control and was replaced, but the plane, so badly damaged and on fire, was unable to continue its flight and crashed after exploding in its final fall. Died in the radio explosion, but gave the other five time to jump. Of the five, one pilot, a bomb hole assistant, was seriously injured in the impact on the ground. He was rescued by an Iliers resident who could not provide the necessary medical facilities or, moreover, inappropriate resistance to severe medical interventions. So he decided to warn the Germans to take care of this wounded soldier.

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Thanks to the Druise resistance, aided by residents in the area, Lieutenant Booker benefited from false documents in an attempt to escape from the Gestapo and his allies.

“The fugitive did not stay at the same address for long”

What is the role of residents in the area, especially the opposition?
They all showed incredible courage when the Allied pilot was sentenced to death with torture, at least in the labor camp or above. Opposition networks arranged to rescue themselves Air Force soldiers and cover up with known contacts. Thus the fugitive never stayed at the same address for long. It moved from place to place, buying more food in stores to feed more people than the family could expect, to attract the attention of collaborators or Germans, and everything was justified.

The Michael Leklerk film was directly inspired by the story of the righteous who saved the Jewish children

How was the care of the soldier taken care of?
The pilot who was rescued from the ground had to immediately cover his parachute, then he hid for a few hours to monitor nearby movements, calling a citizen for help and food. Once placed in the hands of the opposition, the latter provided public clothing (often too short) and burned the uniform. Through a secret network of fake documents, each of the escapees received an identity card and fake ration tickets. Closing the ports and monitoring any movement at sea prevented escape from the shore. So this opposition created an extraction field through the Brinjal and Francoist Spain. From there to Barcelona or Gibraltar. The sector was so dangerous that many kidnappers were required to pass through the Pyrenees in the winter with the risk of treason or death. Many airmen were rescued this way.

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After a reception in the Drew region, what happened to Chef Booker, who stayed at the Saint-Georges-Motel and then Musi with his colleague John Oselton?
It is necessary to leave the networks of smugglers, its starting point is Paris. It was during this part of the voyage that German intelligence (Aber) or Gestapo’s paid traitors replaced local anti-government fighters by car, but once handed over to the Gestapo in Paris. These betrayals were beautifully paid for by the Gestapo. Thus two or three individuals made more than a thousand deliveries each to the Gestapo.

“They walked for almost two weeks without cold, snow and food …”

They were interrogated and tortured in Paris, and they ended their journey at the Buchenwald camp …
They escaped the firing as Luftwaffe officials were notified of the detention conditions by the Red Cross. These intervened to transfer them to the Sagan camp for prisoners of war, and Goring is said to have intervened to expel them from Buchenwald. As the Russians approached, they were transferred to a new camp near Berlin. They walked for almost two weeks without cold, snow and food. Their camp was liberated by the Russians on May 45, and they were handed over to British and American authorities after blackmailing allied Russian prisoners who had served in Vermach to be handed over to them.

Unpublished photo of Satyajit’s release

Did they maintain contact with the people they stayed with after liberation?
Some returned after the war, others thanked them, and sometimes locals researched to find the pilot they were carrying. This is the case of Jack Osselton, an aeronautical engineer, who discovered the young Louis Codin of Boise-en-Droise in 1974 after much research. 77 years have passed since this affair, and some English families still remember their father’s past, but as these fighting sons and daughters grow older, we are now in the second or third generation. But I notice that even the slightest effort taken to raise the curtain of the years immediately leads to the sticking of the friendly side of the French.

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Only Stanley Booker survived: Do you have any contact with him?
I write a lot to Stanley through his daughter. I see his old contacts or the descendants of his old contacts. I send him pictures of the places he went to. Our relations have become friendly, he is very pleased with our endeavor in France and he is greatly disturbed by these two teams resting in the tomb of St. Andre-de-El’ire. He will be honored by his nephew on October 23rd. Stanley does not consider himself a hero, he has done his duty. His struggle today is to recognize that prisoners of war in camps other than those of British soldiers in uniform are not civilians in striped jackets but prisoners of war.

Ceremony. On Saturday, October 23, at the Iliers-Lewick Memorial, a memorial service will be held from 9 a.m. to commemorate the rescue of the English pilots from their plane crash.

Oliver Bohin