Fl/Lt. John Talbot Lovell Shore's own story about his parachute landing in Holland to his arrival in Amsterdam before becoming a prisoner of war
Parachute Landing to Amsterdam
John Talbot Lovell Shores own story transcribed from his own notes by his son Ian D. L. Shore
John Talbot Lovell Shore of No 9 Squadron. (courtesy of the Shore family) Wellington IC of No 9 Squadron (courtesy Imperial War Museum)
It was a really black night with 4/10 clouds at 4000 feet, deadly quiet, all the more so because of the suddenly silenced engines. That was the night of 27th March 1941. We’d been bombing Cologne and were on our return journey, the job being well done. I was Captain of Wellington R1335 K for Katie. My crew were P/O Long 2 pilot; Sgt Tomkins (Tommy) Observer; Sgt Bewes W/T operator (the best); Sgt Griffiths (Griff) Rear Gunner; Sgt Parkins (Parky) Front Gunner 2nd W/Opp.
I think the petrol tanks were holed, because no matter what I did I couldn’t get the engines going again. So out we had to go. I remember Griff went first at 8000 feet, with a cheery “Goodbye Sir, Happy Landings”. Then the others in quick succession. Poor old Katie was going down like a brick, and I didn’t get out till 1500 feet, least left the seat at that height. So out into the darkness, over and over, trying to find the rip cord which I’d lost as I left the machine. It was the loose type; not attached to one’s harness. I found it and pulled; and sent a thankful prayer up when I looked up and saw the whiteness of the canopy. Only just in time, because I came to earth almost immediately with a terrific bang.
When I got up I found I had damaged an ankle; however, we’d been told that we had to get away from our crashed machine, so off I set. Going was extremely hard. After a few seconds I nearly bumped into an ordinary goal post and thought that perhaps after all I was in England. I claimed steep bank which proved to be the built up bank of a river. On arriving at the top I could see a flashing light which I knew to be in Holland. On climbing under the barbed wire at the top of the dyke I got stuck 10 yards from it and looking round discovered that my parachute was still attached and that I was dragging it behind me. Having completely forgotten about it after (I) landed. No wonder the going was heavy!
The river ran East and West, so I turned West and hobbled along as best I could. I was hoping to make the coast which I thought was about 10 miles away and then pick a boat.
Having landed at 2230 English time I walked as best I could on a damaged ankle for about 3 hours and finally decided to pack in as my ankle was nearly finished.
While I had been walked I had heard a church clock striking the quarters and hours and was quite near it when I had to pack in, so made my way towards it.
We had been told in England that we should get in touch with the Dutch parsons. Hence my attraction for the church.
Having found the village I made my way as best I could to the church. A dog started barking in spite of the fact that I was making no noise. I felt as though it would wake the whole neighbourhood in spite of the fact that I remembered being told by S/Ldr Evans (a Great War escapist) that a barking dog was a common occurance (occurrence) to the locals, though of course most startling when one hears for the first time.
I found the church was locked. I assumed that the Rectory would be near the church as is usual in England and tied various houses, but they all seemed to be barns with animals in. Finally giving up I wandered back to a farm I had passed on entering the village. First I tried waking the inhabitants by throwing gravel at the upstairs windows with no results. By this time I was feeling bit thirsty so got into a barn and in complete darkness felt around for a tap. Feeling along the wall right of the door for about 6 feet I came across one and turned it on – no water-, on feeling around further I discovered a pump and managed to get a drink. There was an animal in the barn, but having read so many escapists stories of cows being bulls I thought it wiser not to try!
On wandering out into the yard I found a straw stack and dug myself into it; making myself as comfortable as possible was soon fast asleep. On waking a while later it was raining but the straw kept me quite dry. So to sleep again till 0630 in the morning.
The farmer coming out of his house woke me and I hobbled over to him best I could, my ankle by this time being exceedingly stiff and painful.
Next came the language difficulty, he only spoke Dutch and I English! However it wasn’t very difficult: and by means of signs I conveyed to him that I was English and hungry. He took me in, his wife gave me some breakfast while he went out. I thought at first to get the Germans or police. However he came back in half an hour with the local padre. He could speak moderate English. I asked him if I could hide up in the straw stack for three weeks until my ankle was fit, and then move on. He said he was sorry, but he didn’t think that the farmer would let me, the risk being too great. When I said that I didn’t see what risk there was he said ‘I am afraid you do not understand conditions in Holland now. This farmer has give breakfast. According to the Nazis a waste of Reich food – imprisonment. He had also fetched me (the padre) instead of the police or Germans. He forfeited a 1000 guilders, the reward for a prisoner when handed over, and if it was found out that I had been there – concentration camp – therefore this man feels he has done as much as he can. If you were found hiding in his straw stack; he’d be shot in his backyard.
Then I realised how tough things were I said to the padre. What can you do with me, and he offered to take me to a friend of his.
So we left the farm, and walked into the village at about 0800 hrs. A milkman passed us, taking the milk into the local village, and the padre called our. “Good morning, see here I have a English Airman”.
During the walk I discussed with him the local situation: and started to tell him the English news thinking that he wouldn’t be allowed to hear it. I believe it was about the time when we were pushing the Italians out of Abyssinia. He said that he knew all about that. On asking him how he knew he just turned and smiled saying “Oh it gets around”.
On arriving at his house, he got his bicycle and we set off to this friend of his, we went very slowly on account of my foot and finally the padre stopped a market cart and I got a lift in that.
The friend of the padre’s turned out to be a Dutch Caverly (Cavalry) Officer. I believe his name is Major Gombert. I was introduced as the Major could speak English the padre left. I explained that I wanted to get away if possible: and he said he would see what could be done. I had breakfast of bacon and eggs. On my shewing surprise at this he smilled (smiled) and said we feed much better than the Germans know. If you ever see a civilian not smoking a cigar in Holland he will be a German. For we Dutch can still get them; but the sold (shops) have sold out years ago if a German tries to get any.
Breakfast over a friend of the Majors came to see me, a Dutch Doctor. He was in close connexion with the Underground, because he said that there wasn’t much he could do for me; as it had already been reported, that the milkman who had seen me earlier on, had been talking unwisely in the village about seeing me; and the doctor said he though (thought) that it had already got to the ears of the Gestapo. Therefore they’d know I was in the district. And so it was too difficult to do anything to help me. The only suggestion being that I should go onto the road and make my way as best I could.
I was then asked if I’d like a wash, and went up to the Bathroom. There hanging on pegs seat were civilian suits and laid out of the window seat the normal contents of ones pockets, penknife, watch, pocket book, full of money. An obvious invitation. If my ankle had been O.K. I should have gone without hesitation. But I know that there was little chance of getting far and didn’t want the clothes to be retraced as they would have been. Though looking back now I would have taken the chance if I know (knew) what was ahead.
So back down stairs I went. Major Gombert rung up the local police. While waiting for them he got out his local maps and shewed (showed) me where we were and where the goons were situated. He also showed me round his house and while in the attic showed me the view from the windows pointing out various land marks. Also he demonstrated how to enter his house thru a side door while (which) wouldn’t open normally but would if pulled in a certain way. Very soon afterwards the Goons arrived and took me off to the local police station or perhaps Gestapo HQ. Where I met 4 other members of my crew ‘Parky’, ‘Timber’, Bews and Griff; Tommy had disappeared and was never found, we felt fairly confident that he had got help. I was asked various questions but refused to answer anything. I merely stated that there were only five of us in the crew. Unfortunately they had found 6 parachutes which upset things a bit. I tried to explain that away by saying I always wore two myself!
From Heusden we went by motor coach to Hertogenbosh, where the dynamo broke down and had to be mended. The officer in charge of us swearing away all the time. While waiting outside the Dutch people lined the opposite pavement and waved, in spite of threats from the Goons. Finally we got going again and travelled on to Utrecht and at last arrived in Amsterdam.
The journey we (was) quite interesting we saw all the damage done during Holland’s battle, bridges down and bullet scared walls.
We were taken to the barracks in Amsterdam and put in separate cells. By the time I got settled in I suppose it was about 1700 hrs.
I asked for a book to read and was given The City of Beautiful Nonsense.
I had all my personnel (personal) belongings taken away. But was asked to empty my pockets and was not searched. For supper our first meal.
Page created by Aircrew Remembered on behalf of John Talbot Lovell Shores family and sons Rex, Mark and Ian Shore ©
Also read: Loss of Wellington IC R1335
. Escape from Bath 1941
. A Journey of discovery
. Meeting Jimmy James, a friend of John Shore, after the war
. The loss of Avro Lincoln RF511
. John TL Shore MC AFC record of service with the RAF
. Acknowledgements from Mark and Ian Shore