Mme. Madge (Margaret) Emily Dubois Rhodes Belgian resistance helper
Formerly of 272, Rue St.Jaques, Dinant, Belgium. Born 1895 Lancashire. Died 10th April 1991 at Profondeville, Belgium.
Page dedicated to the memory of Gerald Goldsbrough who wanted so much to have her story told - now it has been done, but we know there are many more stories from crews she helped - are you able to contribute?
Married Victor Dubois in Matadi, then the Belgian Congo. He was over there when war broke out and remained there. Madge joined him briefly in the Belgian Congo after the war for a short period.
Left: Mme. Madge Dubois Rhodes by her house in Rue St. Jaques - you may just be able to see the round cover over the tank built under her house.
We would very much like to know any further information that could be used within this page. We know that she helped many Americans and others to evade capture during WW2.
Her nephew, Mr. Gerald Goldsbrough, contacted us some years ago requesting further information on this remarkable lady and also enquired where she was buried and if we could find a photo of her grave. We tried for years, following up various leads, all leading nowhere.
Sadly Gerald died before we found anything further. The information within this page is almost all from Gerald and is written in his own words how he sent them to us.
He did relate some stories about her, these go to show just what she must have been like.
We know of only one, that of a Sgt. Stanley Robert J. Ainger 1256129 RAFVR of 49 Squadron. Shot down on the 6th April 1942 in a Hampden I AT156 EA-C
. The pilot Pilot Officer David Christie Kay DFM 742670 RAF was captured and taken PoW. His observer, 22 year old Sergeant Robert Brown 1006781 RAFVR from West Moors, Dorsetshire, England with his wireless operator 22 year old Sergeant James Waddell 985888 RAFVR from Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland were both killed.
Sergeant Ainger evaded capture with the help pf Madge Dubois Rhodes and others returning to England.
The story of his escape by Sgt. Stan Ainger in his own words:
"I came down on top of a tree about 3 km. North of Roly in a big forest. I left my parachute in a tree and got rid of my equipment. I made South West through the forest with my head bunt a little bit, struck a railway and went along it half a mile to a road bridge which I reached about 05.155 hrs. I followed this road South and turned right after a short way in order to avoid a German patrol.
I met a Belgian farmer on the outskirts of a village and asked for a drink, declaring my identity. I was given a good breakfast of eggs and not questioned. This was near Mariembourg, and the Belgians warned me that Germans were in the village.
After only a short interval I continued along a lane in a Westerly direction, but soon out across country South West to avoid an encampment. After about two km. I came to three houses, found straw in a loft which I entered and went to sleep in it. I was woken about 14:00 hrs by a girl who screamed and fetched a friendly farmer and his family. They warned me of their neighbours house. which was friendly to the Germans. They gave me food and bandaged my head.
Left: Irène and Stan Ainger (date unknown)
A priest visited me and proposed that I hide in a hut in the village until the English invaded Belgium. He suggested several homes also. I stayed in this loft for eight days. The priest and a gendarme lieutenant visited me, and the latter put me in contact with san organisation."
Prior to enlisting, Sgt Stanley Robert J. Ainger was a former builder from the village of Pensthorpe, near Fakenham, Norfolk, England. Born in 1921 and we understand died in 2001. Married a Freda P. Moore in Epping, 1951. Not able to verify if they had children.
Gerald Goldsbrough informed us that Madge and Victor had two children, a son, Errol and a daughter Irène Maud. Errol had been a member of the Belgium resistance later worked as a radiologist for a health authority.
Her son joined the resistance as mentioned, but you could not just join them, you were just another mouth to feed, you had to present yourself with your own weapon. But where to get them from? He knew that the Citadel at Dinant was used as a local armoury, and decided to get what he needed from there.
Right: the Citadel in Dinant.
So in the dead of night he climbed the cliff face, as the Germans would not expect anyone from that direction, pinched a rifle and ammo, climbed down again, and joined the force. After the war he served in the Belgian army for a period. Gerald remembers him arriving at his house unexpected, having taken (I suppose), a detour in the army lorry he was driving, with some other Belgian army men. He also worked for a department tracing down war criminals.
Errol was one for travelling, so I am not surprised he is living in Spain. In his younger days, (for example), he would hitch up his caravan to drive and tour the middle east, (Israel and that area). I know he took Madge one time, and travelled to North Africa, we have a picture of her sat outside the caravan, where they were camping in the Atlas Mountains. (Shown left)
To date we have been unable to find Errol or his relatives. We did know that he lived in Spain and had been there since 1998. Further information that we have since found - we think that he was born in Nimy Belgium on 21st August 1922. Died in Dinant on the 28th January 2014 age 91.
One instance I have not mentioned, although I know of its existence, is how Madge fooled the Germans into thinking that Irène was younger than she was, when they came for her, when she, (I believe was eighteen). We know what the Germans had in mind for nubile young, good looking blonde women. They did not take her, as she had her dress in her school uniform, and look of course younger. This might be something that could be obtained, which I believe would be of interest, and was of course Irene was directly involved. She may be able to give a better idea as to how many aircrew passed through her hands, for as we know, the records were lost. Then there is her time with the War Crimes Commission, or whatever department it was.
To date we have been unable to find Irène or her relatives. We understand she lived at Romiee 7, Profondeville, Belgium. We have written but no reply was received.
Madge was English. Just after the First World War, she and the family were living in North Shields, England and the Belgian who became her husband, had done some detective work to find her, whilst being stationed over here. In her younger days, she was a very attractive girl, and won a competition to be the picture on a chocolate box. He saw this picture, fell in love with it, and tracked her down. How about that for a fairy story!
Gerald did visit her in the early 50’s. She was very well known, as there was only one English woman in Dinant. There was a resistance 'cell' in Dinant, but she preferred not to be part of it and draw any attention to herself. He recalls that the citations from Eisenhower, Winston Churchill and King George 6th were up on her bedroom wall. Each measuring about 12” x 8”.
In 1952, if you went into a bank to change sterling into local currency, you had to provide a passport and the address where you were living. On this occasion we went into the first convenient bank, to the teller with the shortest queue and waited our turn. On stating where we were staying, he said, "So you are the English who are staying with the English woman".
Gerald mentioned to Madge about ”That's how you treat Germans", and saw it in action. I have to say that she is a small woman, I don't think taller than 5ft. On the occasion when my brother and I were over there in 1952, she took us to see our cousin, (the partisan), who lived across town. She said it was only a short walk, but seemed longer to me. Anyhow, we were going through town, and the pavement was only wide enough for one, so she was leading with quite a brisk pace, and we were following on behind. Looking ahead, I could see two large men coming the opposite way on our side of the street, as we got nearer, she never broke step, but strode quickly on. The distance between us got short quite quickly, but she made no move to give ground, but went straight on. At full pace she went straight up to them, (6ft 3ins at least both, and built like a tank), put out her arm, swept them into the road, with, "Out of my way", and carried on. "That's how you treat Germans", she said.
After the war, she was part of the war commission. I am not sure what she did, but she qualified for a Ford V8 pilot as her own car. (Type shown left)
Another story, during the war; She became aware, that a plane had come down and that all the crew had been killed, and had been buried in a graveyard that was just across the road from where she lived. (Note: We have identified these aircraft and crews - see below)
She decided that she would visit these graves and place flowers there. However, on arriving at the gates, she was confronted by two German guards with their rifles crossed barring entry. When asked what she wanted, she replied, 'that she wished to place flowers on the graves of the aircrew'. They answered that 'no one was allowed in'. At this reply, she stated "Those are graves of Englishmen, and I am English, and no one is going to stop me tending those graves'. At this point, she took a rifle in each hand and threw them apart and walked in, and thereupon placed the flowers. Her comments to us when relating this small piece of action, was, '"The way to treat Germans is to give them orders, but had they been English, they would probably have shot me'.
Right: Geralds mother, Emily, Madge and Geralds Uncle Arthur.
On another occasion: the incident was the Battle of the Bulge, and in her own words, "It stopped at my front door". Records will show that they nearly got to the Meuse, and as this was a matter of maybe half a mile down the hill, they were close. However, she noticed a tank out in the road, and to use her own words, "They were fussing over it'.
She went out to ask them what they were doing. She was informed that they had no further fuel, and had orders to blow it up. "Blow up as many as you like, and the more the better, but not outside my front door, as it will damage my house, so move it".
Above left: Madge with her daughter Irène. Right: Madge with her brother.
In 1952 when my brother and I were making this visit, the rotting hulk of this tank was way up at the top of a field well away from any house, where she had made them take it!
Gerald also said, she was part of the escape route for downed airmen, and had the whole crew of a Lancaster on her property. The Germans knew they had to be somewhere, and in the course of events searched her house, whilst they were there, but did not find them. Just as side issue, whilst she had all these aircrew passing through her hands, and I understand that over the course of the war it could amount to maybe a hundred, she had three German officers billeted with her. Anyhow, as I say they were not found, and it was on this same visit, that she showed us where they were hidden. Just outside the back door, she had a large tank buried, the only thing showing was a round cast iron cover about 18" or so round, and they were all in there. No one thought to look!
Above: Madge in front of her house in Dinant, understood to have been taken in 1960.
Errol her son, was approaching 18. It was known that when that age was reached, the Germans came for them to work in Germany or wherever, and so before this happened she had him spirited away to safe house in Brussels. Eventually, they came for him, but of course he was gone, and when asked where, she replied "He is a man now, and I have no control over him". It was pointed out to that this was an offence, and that she was in effect arrested, and to present herself in the town centre on the Monday morning where there would be a bus to take her of to prison in Brussels.
She presented herself there at the appropriate time, where there were quite a few others, some French, mostly Belgian. The bus arrived, and everyone got on, but then she got off again. When asked why, she said, "There are no seats left". Their answer was "That this is the only bus", her reply to that was, "Don't tell me your problems, I have enough of my own". At this, one of the guards went to one of the offices that borders the area and came back with a chair, which they placed in the aisle. She said "Right, I will go now".
On arriving at the prison, the following day, all the 'inmates' were given a mop and bucket. She asked what it was for and they replied to clean the prison. At this point she handed them back and pointed out that she was no skivvy, and that if they wanted it doing, to do it themselves. This apparently went on for a few days, when she noticed that the other women seeing the stand she had taken were getting restless. In her words, "They sent me home rather than have a riot on their hands".
Above L-R: Madge, with her sister and the mother of Gerald, Emily.
Crews buried within the Citadel Military Cemetery, Dinant, Belgium - We welcome contact from any relatives of these crews in order to expand/create a page of remembrance to them.
15 Squadron Stirling I N6047 - Lost on the night of Sunday 12th / Monday 13th October 1941. Crew:
P/O. Victor Charles Henry Colbourne 45444 RAF, P/O. Harold Mohr-Bell 101582 RAFVR, Sgt. Sidney Bentley 568024 RAF, P/O. Thomas Edward Wootton 61024 RAFVR, Sgt. Ivor Llewellyn Evans 918268 RAFVR, Sgt. Bernard William Wareham1164194 RAFVR, Sgt. George Joseph Goodwin R/1961 RCAF, Sgt. Frederick Alexander Lamb 1171689 RAFVR.
40 Squadron Wellington Ic X9619 - Lost on the night of Sunday 12th / Monday 13th October 1941. Crew:
P/O. Ian Murray Vass Field NZ/401757 RNZAF, Sgt. Paul Fraser Collis 745249 RAFVR, F/O. Eric John Sugg AUS/407141 RAAF, Sgt. Richard Anthony Dundon 995903 RAFVR, Fl/Sgt. Thomas Lincoln Duxbury R/59125 RCAF, Sgt. Henry Raymond Gordon Chapman 1377560 RAFVR.
75 Squadron Wellington Ic X9981 - Lost on the night of Sunday 12th / Monday 13th October 1941. Crew:
Sq/Ldr. Paul Burton Chamberlain 33229 RAF, Sgt. Douglas Cecil Holley 1190121 RAFVR, P/O. Joseph Allan Robinson J/5684 RCAF, Sgt. Raymond George Butt 930644 RAFVR, Sgt. Francis Edward Austin 1262243 RAFVR, Sgt. John Richard Ashley 908768 RAFVR.
77 Squadron Whitley V Z6801 - Lost on the night of Sunday 12th / Monday 13th October 1941. Crew:
P/O. Roger Llewellyn Lloyd 64266 RAFVR, Sgt. William Edward Mortimer 911889 RAFVR, Sgt. John Alterson R/70612 RCAF, Sgt. Cyril Garfield Taylor R/69562 RCAF, Sgt. David Gordon Robb 1070180 RAFVR.
There are many people who have tried with various degrees of success to find further information including, of course Gerald Goldsbrough, Kate Tame, Linda Ibrom, Frank En Bianca (email no longer working), Virginia Caldwell, Edouard Renière, Brigitte d’Oultremont, Marjorie Allison Boyes, Marijke Taffein.
To the person who finally located, visited and photographed her grave on April 14th 2015, our thanks to Raphaël De Snerck.
Thank you all, if we have missed anyone who have assisted in this page please advise and we will update the information.
Brigitte d'Oultremont of the Comet Line organisation for their assistance.
With thanks also to Edouard Renière of the 'Comet Network' for his great assistance to us in finding the grave.