K for King

Worldwar II: B-24 crew in Belgium

The first escape attempt

The crash of a B-24 was for many people a big event in Spiere. They saw daily large formations coming over to go to Germany, but they never thought one would end up in their village.

Jean Lefebvre, only 26 years old, and very active in the resistance found the first flyer. It was the co-pilot, Charles Riddle who was found near Moen-Otegem.

The next morning, Monday 24 April 1944 at four o’clock in the morning, somebody knocked on the door of the Vercruysse residence. Germaine opened the door, scared it would be German soldiers. She saw a man in flyer clothes and sometimes Germans would disguise themselves to catch members of the resistance. The man told her he was the navigator, Ray Hargis, from the bomber that crashed earlier. Hargis slept tat night in a wheat field and crossed a frozen river to go to the house. At arrival he was half frozen. Henri, the brother, went straight to Jean Lefebvre to warn him about the flyer. It was save to stay there for only one day, because the Germans were checking out the area.They asked Hargis to write a note that they could give to the other flyer that stayed one village further. Riddle had identified Hargis by the crooked thumb on his left hand.

Ray Hargis asked Germaine were he was. He still had his map from the aircraft. It was not easy to pinpoint his location because civilians were not used to work with maps, but they finally found Spiere on it. After a while the resistance centralized the flyers and without knowing it they brought together 4 crewmembers of the same K+! Their names were Riddle, Hargis, Varty and Bryant.

Because of the risk being spotted by unfriendly civilians, they were moved again. A new plan came up to use the escape line into France. For this the crew needed a new identity and civilian clothes to walk safely to the border (see pictures above). At that time, the Americans did not speak when they were outside, because of their foreign accent.

                                      

                 Charles L. Riddle          Ray O. Hargis           John W. Bryant           Robert M. Varty

 

Mission 311     -     Crew     -     First Prisoners     -     Escape     -     Trust     -     Resistance