The Heritage Corner, Springhill Record

November 9th, 2011

Escape From France

Nov. 9, 1944 – Springhill Record

P.O. Bert Chapman Escapes from France with Aid from Underground

     It was a happy family reunion when P.O. Bert Chapman, son of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Chapman, returned last week from the war.  Happiest of all was Mrs. Chapman, the former Inez Black of Maccan, who became Bert’s bride only a few days before he went overseas.

     News that he was missing during a raid over Europe last June had brought a great deal of sadness to the home which made his subsequent return a time of thanksgiving and rejoicing.

     P.O. Chapman addressed the Rotary Club at its meeting last Thursday at the Carleton Hotel and outlined some of his experiences in France after he and his mates had been shot down over enemy territory.  Baling out as quickly as possible with their plane losing altitude rapidly, the crew were separated and never came together again until they reached England.  Hungry and thirsty Bert wandered the countryside after he landed with the aid of his chute and was finally forced to approach a home which he did with some misgiving after noting the absence of telephone communication.  To his relief he was taken in, fed and looked after like one of the family.  He realized he was among friends.  They made over an old suit for him and got a lot of enjoyment out of it all.  It was two weeks before his new friends were able to make contact with the underground with which France was honeycombed.  However, they finally passed him into good hands and slowly he began his trek south toward the British and American lines.  With his guide and riding a bicycle built for two, they used the main highway, jostled by German Army transport which crowded the roads.  No one bothered the two peasants as peasants on bicycles were common sight around France.  Ten weeks later his guide landed him in the American lines, none the worse for the thrilling journey.

     “Why didn’t you use the railway or motor vehicles on the long trip?” asked our reporter.  “There are no motor cars in France except those used by French Collaborators,” said Bert “and as for railways, why they don’t operate them, our boys have their marshalling yards smashed flat.” he added.

     “How is the food situation in France?” we asked.  “Out in the country it is very good” said the Pilot Officer “but in the cities it is pretty hard to get good food or any quantity as rations are not large.  The Black Market flourishes and if you have enough money you can get good food but it is beyond the workingman.  There is a great shortage of farm labor” continued Bert “and factories are staffed with forced labor.”

Back in England

     After he had reached the American Lines, P.O. Chapman was turned over to the British and within a few days, Aug. 19, was back in England.  He spent several weeks in London with occasional visits to his squadron and then late in October started on his way back to Canada and home.

     Questioned about trips over enemy territories, P.O. Chapman said he had made 32 trips in his Halifax bomber.  Twenty of these trips were over Germany.  He is now enjoying a month’s leave of absence with his wife and family and is being welcomed home by his large circle of friends.  Bert joined the R.C.A.F. in August 1942 and went overseas in June 1943.

Council meets in Special Session

     A special of the Town Council was held on Wednesday evening November 8th with Deputy Mayor Noiles and Councillors Schurman, Ross, Gilroy, A. McKay and Dewar attending.

     The Mayor was empowered to proclaim a Civic Holiday on Saturday, November 11, 1944.

     Remember to wear a poppy on November 11th in honor of our veterans.