16.08.1941 No. 306 Squadron (P) Spitfire II P8524 UZ-A Sgt. Alexander Franczak
Operation: Fighter Sweep - No. 74
Date: 16th August 1941 (Saturday)
Unit: No. 306 Squadron (Polish)
Type: Spitfire IIb
Base: RAF Northolt
Location: Beussent, France
Pilot: Sgt. Alexander Franczak 783443 PAF Age 25. PoW Stalag Luft IV (note)
A special memorial page placed in dedication to the courageous French citizens who paid with their lives to save this pilot.
REASON FOR LOSS:
Taking off from RAF Northolt at about 16:30 hrs on a fighter sweep between St.Omer and Boulogne. During the flight the pilot experienced engine problems and was forced to crash land near Buessent, about 25 miles east of Boulogne. (Some publications describe him as being shot down)
During the landing the pilot injured a leg and whilst trying to extricate from the aircraft two French workers arrived to hep him. They took him to a farm house, burned his papers and provided him with civilian clothing. The Germans arrived at the farm and Sgt. Franczak made off to the woods and hid. He remained there for about 16 days, recovering from his injuries. During that time the French brought him food and water every third day.
Spitfires in a yard for dismantling - UZ-B in the foreground - thought that to be of P/O. Kazimierz Rutkowski DFC. Spitfire Z3065 - shot down on the 19th May 1941.
After this period a priest arrived with a boy - then, on the bicycle they brought with them they cycled into Buessent - met with the boys sister and went into Boulogne-sur mer where he remained, sheltered by the mother for some four months. He made a statement on his release that he did try various unsuccessful escapes though Spain with various organisations.
Finally in January 1942 the helpers took him to a Frenchman at Wimereux where they planned to take him by boat back to England. The pilot then returned to Bolougne to wait for news of this plan. Two weeks later, three armed Germans came and arrested him.
He was finally liberated during the “march’ on the 2nd May 1945 by British troops near Lavenburg - flown back to the UK on the 14th May 1945.
The Germans announced the death penalty and that the sentence had been carried out on a poster - to try and prevent others assisting RAF crews evade capture.
In April 1942 two of the helpers were arrested for assisting Sgt. Alexander Franczak. Georges Haudiquet and Irenee Chevalier were executed on the 28th April 1942. Others were sent to prison, Mme. Duval-Rosa and Chevalier's son, Rene, died in the Nazi concentration camps. Four people known to have died to assist Sgt. Franczak.
Note: It seems that he died on the 30th March 1999 and buried at Green Hills Memorial Park, California, USA.
None - survived the war as a PoW. Liberated by British troops from Stalag Luft IV on the 2nd May 1945 - returning to the UK on the 12th May 1945. At the time he was living at Rose Farm, Acton Bridge, Nr. Northwick, Cheshire, England. Born on the 22nd January 1917.
Researched by Jean Pierre Duriez, and dedicated to the relatives of the French people who paid with their lives to assist this pilot. With thanks also to some of the sources quoted below.