Lancaster ND764 OF-B


ND764B P/O B.W.Giddings, Sgt A.Pritchard, W/O W.B.Webb, F/Sgt C.Clement, W/O R.A.Bethel, F/O J.A.D.McGill, F/Sgt W.J.Seale. Up 2154. 9 x 7” flares, 7 x 500lb MC, 2 x 500lb MC (LD), 3 x reco flares. Missing – no message received from this aircraft after take-off.

From Operational Record Book


On the night of 9/10 June 1944. The Crew of lancaster Bomber ND764. OF-B took off from Coningsby for ETAMPES and shot down leaving the target area with the loss of 5 of the 7 crew members on board.


 The following are the recollections of Sgt (later Warrant Officer)Arthur Pritchard of what happened to him from the night of 9th/10th.June 1944.
It is a story of humour, pathos and courage and is also a story of the heroism of the French people who took him under their protection at great cost.

Recollection of his last moments in the Lancaster before baling out.

 We had dropped our flares - T/Is and were coming in on the target the second time round. The last words Charlie Clement spoke over the intercom before it was shot at were "Right on target, bomb doors open" and away we went. It was then as we were leaving the target area, that we were hit by the anti-aircraft guns; they were located on both sides of the chasm. There was only superficial damage to the aircraft at this stage but communications were out. A night fighter then appeared on the scene and hit us from below.
 My last recollection of the conditions in the aircraft before impact was that the inner/outer port side engine was on fire (it could have been either as there wasn't much space between the engines), the suicidal height at which we were flying, the noise, cabin full of smoke and partially lit, communications out, cramped conditions in the cockpit, no place to wear your parachute (it had to be stored on the floor), frantically searching for it; the rush of cold air from the open back door, trying to prise open the escape hatch, every second wasted making survival more improbable. The whole episode could not have lasted for more than a few minutes, and before we realised it was a doomed machine, we would have had even less time to make our getaway. The Lancaster was not aircrew friendly. There was an element of fear of the unknown.
 Bob Bethel's seat and instrument panel were on fire; oxygen bottles and machine gun bullets were stored in that area and the hydraulics were located there. He was not at his post and had bailed out by the back door. Bob Webb and Charlie Clement were checking instruments for bail out. My responsibility on Pathfinders was to release the bombs at the front. I would lie on my belly and, on orders from Bob/Charlie, would release, and on that night all the bombs had been dropped.
 In the event of having to ditch the aircraft, it was I who would open the escape hatch at the front, and Bob Bethel would open the back door and let Johnny Seale and John McGill know what was going on; this was part of our drill. I tapped Bob Webb and Charlie Clement on the shoulder, indicating my intentions, and did the same to Brian Giddings, and he gave me the thumbs up. As I descended the steps to bail out I noticed someone at the top of the stairs - I now believe it to have been Bob Webb, due to the location of where his body was found. I am also of the opinion that Johnny Seale had been hit by the night fighter and was probably fatally injured. When I bailed out, due to the low altitude of the Lanc, I sprained my ankle on hitting the deck.
 His Diary recorded at the Time
 Detailed to attack railway bridge near Etampes, small town about 50km from Paris. After bombing run we were attacked by a fighter; the aircraft was on fire so had to bale out. Don’ t know what happened to the rest of the boys. They must have all got out or that the fire died out and they all got back home to base. About 0130 I hit the deck after a nightmare descent. On the way down a Jerry fighter nearly ran into me but he must have seen me by the light of the flares for he sheared off. On making contact with the ground I sprained my right ankle and was also dragged along by the chute for a few yards before I pressed the release. It was dark when I started to walk. All the flares had died down. I dumped my chute in a corn field but kept my Mae West on in case. After walking for a few minutes I came to a French farm house La Beauvoisiere Farm, belonging to Andre and Georgette Saunier and got as far as the front door when two dogs came out. One was a bit friendly but the other wanted a piece of my trousers so I had to retreat towards the gate keeping the dog at bay with my Mae West. On the road again and this time came to a village I later found to be a place called Avrainville.{ From where he landed the airmen, after passing the farm, took the road that runs to the memorial cross, followed it round, and came back into the centre of Avrainville to carry on along the D26 towards the RN20. He did a complete circle). Not a soul about and no answer to be had at any of the houses. So away I limped still making west. After about an hour of limping I came to the main road. (The main R20 road). Plenty of traffic so I stood on the pavement waving my Mae West but some hope! All the cars went passed in a hell of a hurry. Thinking this was no good for me I laid down beneath a tree and dozed off to sleep. Must have been asleep for a couple of hours for I woke up with a start. My foot was giving me some pain so I decided to cut my flying boots and use them as shoes, and once more I made my way on the road. This time I came to another French village (Boissy-sous-Saint-Yon)\. Everything and everybody was as dead as a doornail, so I fell asleep again, this time on a large heap of sand on the corner of the main street. My Mae West came in handy as a pillow.
June 10th.
 Woke up with a jolt as the village clock (the church of Boissy-sous-Saint-Yon struck six, but sat on the sand as my foot was all in. About 0830 a chap came along wheeling a barrow. I made motion for him to come near me, instead he bolted down the street as if he had seen a ghost, and I don’t think at the rate he was going he would’nt stop until safely behind locked doors. At 10am a farm hand came along, saw me nursing my foot, so away he went without saying a word, and came back later with bandages and lotion. After getting my foot fixed up I started to walk again. Dumped my Mae West and took off my chevrons and brevet, and walking for an hour or so came to another village (Egly) I made for the church thinking that the padre would help but the old boy wasn’t in ..Arthur Pritchard stayed for a moment in the porch of the church waiting for the caf'e to open. So away again fed up to the teeth. On leaving the village came across a small caf'e. (The Town Hall caf'e belonged to Mr Paris. Now called the Caf'e des Sports with several steps at its entrance. The entrance at the time was on the west side near the church. In fact, Arthur was led to the caf'e by two women, Madame Couty from the Town Hall and her daughter Antoinette). Went in for a feed or what I thought at the time. All for sale was a drop of wine. When I put a 100 franc bill on a counter the dame nearly fell through the floor. Thinking that wasn’ t enough I gave her another. This made things worse and all the locals eyed me with suspicion, so I let the cat out of the bag and told them that I was in the RAF or had been. That caused some panic. One old boy ,Guy Clausier made for the door and in no time was back with his son who could speak a little English. Another came back with a civvy suit, Rene Chaumette, son-in-law of the Egly Town Hall secretary, Madame Courty, while all their wives and daughters came in to have a look. I was given bread and jam to eat while waiting for the local underground leader ,Hector Gaillet who had been forewarned by Madame Courty to come in. He was along in no time and with a spare bicycle (one belonging to Rene Chaumette, the school teacher). So away we went to his house. After a wash and brush up I was taken to a nearby wood where they hid me in a small air raid shelter. The son (Jean-Claude Gaillet) came along with dry straw and everything was pink. That evening nearly every Frenchman for miles around came down to see me, all asking questions as to how I came to bale out. How long did I think the war would last? All this was done either in signs or broken English.
 Arthur recollection in November 2004 {quote} When I landed I just went about it totally the wrong way and got away with it! I was approaching people you see. I slept by the roadside say from 2 oclock till I woke up around 6 or 7. I heard a noise, and what it was, was a fella wheeling a wheel barrow with a case in it, a suitcase. So I thought I stop the fella and ask, but he just put the damn thing in top gear and went flying past! Then he put the brakes on and he stopped and he signalled at me. He was pointing at some gates. I’d been through that gate before I went to sleep and the dogs came out, barking and barking. Anyway, I went there again and the two dogs came running up, they were a bit apprehensive you know, smelling me, wagging their tails. So, two little kids came out, about 11/12 years old and they led me to a barn and I sat on a pile of hay and said that my foot was broken. I though at the time it was, but it wasn t it was sprained. The boys went into the house and got his mother out. She spoke to me then she went back in and got some sort of bandage, and she gave me a cup of coffee. She put the rest of the coffee on the bandage and wrapped it round my leg. It helped a lot because it was warm, and then she says,You go now. Anyway I set along the road and I came to a junction with like an angel on the crossroads, something like that. So I took to the fields. There was a kissing gate there and you could see there was a path right along, quite a long way. So I walked along there. It was all growing peas, both sides of it. A kissing gate the other end now must have been about half a mile away, and I went through and came out between two houses, and on this side, the right hand side was a shop, like a corner shop. So I went in there and she wouldn’ t even serve me. lquote Non, non. I think a lot to do with it was the RAF suit looked much like the Germans you know, because I taken everything off, my stripes and put them in my pocket. So, as I was just going out a motorbike passed, and there was a German sitting in the sidecar with a gun. So I went back in and closed the door and she said, You go, quick, quick, go! I went and turned right again and followed this road right down through woodland, trees both sides, so I was going down the hill there and I heard this motorbike again. So I thought, what shall I do? Stop him or what? So I thought, well ,I’ll take a chance, and I went between two poles and I hid in the woods, and he came sailing past and didn t bother. I listened until they were out of hearing, got out and walked, and I came to this village. I saw the church there so I went in and saw a fella doing some work at the altar, getting it ready for mass I suppose. I sat at the back seat and he saw me and he came over. I said “I RAF” He said “Oh yes, what do you want?” He spoke good English. “ Drink of water” I said. He got me a drink of water from the font or whatever and down it went. He said “This way my son” and opened the church and said “ Over there” pointing at the cafe. So I went to the cafe, walked in, got my escape kit out and a big Franc bill and I said Champagne!-No champagne, no champagne . So, I said “ RAF” . There were curtains dividing the place, like the kitchen. There was a chair in the middle of the room where I sat down and one of the fellas went away and came back with two tough looking fellas and two young lads. One was in a college in Paris, taking English. So, there was a big conference. They were interrogating me and I was saying ‘Yeah” and they wanted to know “ Why you say ya?” I explained I was Welsh. So they said someone would come along in a minute. Anyway , M.Gautier came and this young lad said ‘You have to go with M.Gautier now and we let you know in the morning whats going to happen to you. So I went to his garden and he had a little sink, a corrugated sink. He shifted it to one side . “In you go” a big hole in the ground. So I was kept in there while they checked me out. About midnight a jam pot came down from the top full of soup. That was quite welcome, that went down. Then I got soup again in the morning. I don’t think they had anything else to give you.
June 11th.
 Woke up about dinner time, Robert Dantan and Jean Gaillet came down and took me back to a house where I learned that I was to move to a place near Paris (Antony). After a wash, shave and dinner, was on the way. My guide riding about a hundred yards in front. Passed a few German soldiers on the way but no one stopped me. Arrived at the place about 3.30 in the afternoon. The chap is a very nice person; the freedom of the house is mine so he said but not to go near any windows or open the front door for no one. He is working in Paris all day so I am her by myself.
 Arthur quote s recollection in November 2004.
 Two boys came down and they said “ We have been in touch with London, you are okay, so M.Gautier will show you what to do from now on. You can come out now. So I came out and they gave me trousers and a shirt, and they took away my uniform. M.Dantan appeared then. He was getting on a bit then, typical Frenchman, thin moustache. He had a bicycle, and another bike came from across the road that old lady died not long ago, she’d taken it or pinched it from somewhere. She gave me the bike and she said “ You follow M.Dantan to Paris but you don’ t follow him, you follow the parcel tied on the back of the bicycle”. So away we went, and passed two or three sentry boxes on the bridges across the Seine and we turned inside off the main road. Just behind the rail road there was a row of houses and I stayed there for two weeks.
June 12th.
 Stayed late in bed, foot is getting better but still swollen. Dantan tells me that I am to stay until British troops reach Paris. God knows when that will be.
June 13th.
 Nothing to report. Found an old English book this morning and read that all afternoon. My foot is coming on great.
June 14th
 Had a good day. Feed today of steak and onions followed by strawberries and cream. God knows where Dantan gets the stuff. Wish he could get me some fags.
 Nothing much to report. I’ m worried stiff over them at home. Would like to know what happened to the rest of the boys. Dantan said they found a flying suit not far from there yesterday. Wondered if it belongs to any of the boys. Haven’ t any fags. It s driving me crazy. Not allowed any fresh air but worse, still no fags.
 Arthur quotes recollection in November 2004.I stayed there for two weeks. I’d been gasping for a cigarette because I had a 200 pack when I baled out but I had given them away because I suppose I was glad to give them something back. They didn’t want my money. From my bedroom window I could see a cigarette in the gutter, so I went downstairs and this old fella was making toy boats up, model boats and there was stacks of wires there, so I took the wire and harpooned the cigarette, and I passed it up and it was great!
June 16 th Went out today with Dantan. Saw a few houses that were pranged last Friday night by our boys. 24 people killed altogether. Have raids here, sometimes up to five times daily.
June 17th (Saturday)
 Fed up to the tooth with this place. Have counted nearly every nail in my room. Dantan went away for the weekend (getting supplies). No fags makes things worse. It is now nine o’clock on a Saturday night. Have just finished supper of chips I made myself. The all-clear has just gone after a few Spits had been clearing up a drome nearby. What would I give to be in the dance at Port now, or driving the old van. Would even go round the street and Pen Rallt and Bush for G.Jones, and he knows how much I hated that round on a Saturday night. Tonight I think I would do it for a packet of Woodbines. But, as Kipling said, I quote The Hexygon of youth is the manhood of tomorrow and where there is no such word as fail . Will be home in August if everything holds good. Wish I could let them know at home. Will be some surprise for them all when I turn up but I make a vow here never to fly on ops again if the rest of the crew “ went for a burton” {KIA}
June 18th
 Stayed in bed till 1 o’ clock today to save myself the agony of no cigarettes. Have just finished cleaning out my room waiting for Monsieur Dantan to come home from Arpajon. Notice that the Hun has started to repair the railway line outside this house, (the strategic railway line Palaiseau to Wissous) also that a large convoy went through last night. Wish our boys would take Paris then it would be “Home sweet home” for me. Went out walking with Georges this afternoon, saw the anti-aircraft defence of the nearby drome. Also saw troop trains passing full of supplies for the Normandy front. Guess it will take a hell of a time for our boys to come this far. Georges brought my uniform down from his other place today, also plenty of food to last us a week. No worry about grub, fags seem to be my main worry.
 Arthur quote s recollection in November 2004 Georges Dantan, he was a real excited fella you know, and he had some petrol from somewhere and put it in his motorbike and he said “ You come with me”. So we went up the road a bit, and on the railway there was a siding there with five guns on there. We had to crawl through the peas to have a look. I wasn’ t keen at all. He wanted me to draw it and then take it back to London.
 Georges Dantan on days this week. He promised to take me down to his garden this afternoon when he comes home. He has also promised to get me a packet of fags. It will cost me 100 francs, well on 35 for 20 cigs, but I had 2000 francs when I hit the deck so its not so bad. Cost of living is very high here a pair of shoes cost 1200 francs, 1lb of butter (if obtainable) would cost 500 francs. No tea but plenty of wine and coffee. Bread is rationed to one loaf per 4 persons for 2 days. We bake our own so its not so bad.
 Georges told me yesterday 17 people were shot and 70 taken prisoner in the next town from here for looting a train full of foodstuff going to the Boche on the Western Front. Georges got away with a tin of ham and some other stuff.
 2pm M.Dantan came home from work today and brought with him one cigarette which he managed to buy in Paris for 6 francs. Also said that a body of an Australian airman was found not far from where I came down. His chute had failed to open. Wonder if it can be one of the boys, hope to God it s not. I saw two Lances go down a bit before we got hit so there might be a chance; will know his name before the week is out and again I hope it s not one of the boys.
June 20th.
 Woke up early this morning and had a feed of ham for breakfast. Have just finished making a cigarette out of some old cigar leaf. Georges brought me some cigarette paper from Paris yesterday. Making these cigarettes reminds me of Price of Old Menai (name of baker in Arthurs home village of Port Dinorwic near Bangor North Wales) . Trains went through here very frequent last night, packed with lorries, tanks and so on. Jerry soon repaired the line after we pranged it. Seems that my journey here was in vain. Will commence on sewing on my chevrons after I finish writing. All ready for the great liberation which will mean a hell of a lot to me.
 6.45 I have just finished cooking the tea. M.Dantan should be home any minute now. After tea it s straight to bed as there is nothing else to do. To bed to worry about home.
June 21st
 Nothing of interest to write about. I’m cheesed off to the whole world, would give myself up, only that the Jerry might trace my movements back to this place. That would mean a few people shot on my account. Tuned in to the Forces programme. Good dance music on. Would be better if I had a fag to go with it. Expecting their grandmother (Madame Berthe Fasiant) down from Arpajon. She s got nothing to say to me as she was at Juvisy when we pranged the place.
 2 o’clock
 M.Dantan came home from work with the news that they would radio London tomorrow with the gen about me. Seems that Mam will know by Saturday. The old boy was also telling me that eleven Frenchmen were shot in Paris yesterday and 16 today. Some because they carried arms and others for shouting “ Vive la England “. Wonder if he realises that him and all his family would be shot for keeping me here. Still, we’e re going out walking this afternoon under the very nose of the Boche anti-aircraf t defence (at Wissous)\. Had an eyeful while there and saw how the Jerry do it . “ worse than a bunch of Yanks” Also saw a French girl walking out with a Jerry, the first I’ ve seen yet. It was easy to see that the locals took a dim view of her. N.B. some lovely dames here. Will do ok when our boys come along.
 P.S. Garden at the outskirts of Antony at a place called Wissous. Anti-aircraft defence at Wissous station and siding.
June 22nd.
 Finished cleaning my suit this morning, all set for the great day. Have even had the old whistle put in her place. Haven’t had a smoke now for 2 days. Made one myself out of dried leaves and salt last night. Nearly knocked me for six. Forgot to mention that I have now an identity card of my own under the name of Arthur Bovier (cuisinier . cook). I am also a deaf and dumb merchant. Guess thats not far from wrong for when Dantan and myself have a chat its with a piece of chalk and a blackboard. Don’t want to be here long enough to learn the language. Grandmother came down from Arpajon this afternoon with some eats and M.Dantan bought me a pipe in Paris, but no tobacco. Things are grim as far as the latter is concerned. Four Yanks baled out over Arpajon yesterday, only one was captured, the others are still on the run. The old woman passed through Jivisy today and said it is still in a “hell of a mess” or some such words.
June 23rd
 Late last night two chaps came here. One was from Arpajon, the chap who took me in after I left Egley (Hector Gaillet)\ . Their orders were that I was to leave tomorrow morning for England, everything is ready. Seems that I also have a pal to voyage with, baled out on the same night as myself. Wonder if it would be one of the boys. Grandmother left for Paris this morning after cooking the dinner for us. Last words were ‘ bon voyage” and I hope so too. Roll on England and cigarettes.
 On or about the 23rd.June a guide arrived and we cycled the 22km back to his house just outside Arpajon. I stayed there for 2 days. The local Resistance were expecting a Lysander aircraft to land on their landing strip. We left that evening for the strip after waiting for sometime in a nearby wood, news came through that the aircraft would not be coming that evening; after some deliberation amongst themselves they decided to hide me in a dugout which was situated in some wood by the Montlhery Water Tower. I was there for the rest of the night, and the following day the local Resistance leader, M.Paul Gautier took me to his house but explained that it would be too risky for me to stay too long. He had a canning factory and the Germans visited him at least once a week to arrange delivery to the airfield nearby.


 Arthurs recollection in November 2004 Had three different places after that. One place he was supplying peas for the Germans , he was Paul Gautier . He was playing a double game with the Germans you see. As far as food was concerned, it was no bother at all. We only stayed a day and a half there, then I joined up with an Australian in Gautier s house. We went to the other end of the village and then down a steep slope from the road. A little gate to a little cottage at the bottom and we went in there, and his wife was there and a little baby. He was a tough guy. Anyway, on the third day he said “I am going away early, I’ve got business to do in Paris and you’ll read about in the paper” . They assassinated the French equivalent of the chancellor. He said a car would call for us and it took us up to the top.
After a brief stay with M.Paul I was taken to his brother-in-law Louis and Colette Gautier who lived at 11 Rue Alexandre Prou, overlooking Montlhery. I was soon joined by two more fliers, an Australian called Roly, and a Londoner called Peter. Peter had been in France for sometime and could converse in French which made life easier for us all. He insisted on after-dark PT every night in the garden with a cold water shower from the garden hose to follow.
Arthur s recollection in November 2004 continued.
there was one incident when a lorry came to take an Englishman from London, myself, a yank, and an Australian. There were four of us staying in this house, like sardines. So, we went in the back of the lorry, off we went. One of the fellas taking us, I think it was wood he had underneath his shoes. I had my flying shoes on that I had cut down from my flying boots. Anyway, I gave him my shoes and he gave me his and I said I’ll be in England no time now. News came through that the transport was not coming, they cancelled it. Back we went in the lorry and I was left with those shoes!
We stayed with Louis and Collette until Montlhery was liberated on 23rd. August. That evening a party was arranged at the Cheval Blance. Later the same evening some war correspondents came to the Cheval. One introduced himself as Rex North of the Sunday Pictorial. We were offered a lift into Paris the next day.
August 24 , official liberation day for Paris we arrived in the afternoon and Mr North got in touch with the British Military delegation there. A British major organised a lift with an American convoy of lorries taking German POWs to the coast. That evening we stayed at the King George IV Hotel in Paris and the next day started our journey home, the last stage by Dakota from the French coast to Hendon.


Arthur s recollection in November 2004, They took me to Ad Astra House, which is the RAF headquarters, or was, I don’t know if it still is. I was debriefed there and fitted out, and sent on 3 weeks leave. They gave me three weeks money and I came back home here and they made a party in the church house.