March 17, ’44: Gabriel sends me with Raoul by bicycle up to Gabriel’s family home. I don’t know anything except I’m to go with Raoul. Hope I can trust him.
We get to Gabriel’s parents’ house in about 3 hours. My legs are a bit stiff but I don’t have an alternative or a car. We rest for an hour and then bicycle about a mile away to a field.
We hear a Halifax approaching. For about a second the field lights up with candles along 2 sides; then dark.
I’ve always wondered how the Halifax could pinpoint the drop spot so exactly in the dark. That’s some good navigation. I did learn years later from Raoul that the signal was a radio broadcast: “It is raining tonight.”
Gabriel had gotten the broadcast, sent word to Raoul to come visit. At the visit, Gabriel told him the message, and got me out of the house where the Germans might come back to see who was sitting on the lawn. Any young man was usually conscripted for service for work camps so it was unusual to see a young man idle on a lawn.
The Halifax makes only one pass but oh what a pass – lots of canisters presumably full of much needed supplies.
Raoul signals me to help collect the goods, load the wagons and the trucks. The trucks were the same ones supplied by the mysterious Belgian who owned the pencil factory. He did much to help the French Underground and the airmen like me. He disappeared after the war so I never did get to thank him
When we’re finished loading, others drive or take the wagons away. Gabriel and I go back to his parents house, have a little to eat, and sack out for much of the morning and early afternoon.
When I’m finish sleeping, I get on my bicycle and ride around the countryside. Good idea to get familiar and stay in shape. Don’t know what will be my escape route but don’t want being out of shape to be my downfall. I didn’t realize how much I had scared Gabriel when I did that (he told me years later) – he was very worried if something should happen to me while in his care.
When I get back, Gabriel is concerned – we have received plastique explosives but no one knows how to fix the fuses.
Gabriel is surprised, suspicious, and then relieved when I tell him my Dad was a gas well driller.
I show them how. But they won’t take me that night on the mission to blow up the Damazan bridge and canal that is the main connector between Bordeaux and Marseilles, not only for water traffic, car traffic, but also the telephone line goes across that bridge.
Too dangerous, he says.
I learned years later: Raoul’s “day” job was night watchman for the Germans – guarding the bridges!
While they are gone, I make as many fuses as I can in that time. When they return, Raoul and I bicycle quickly back to Nerac.
I found out why later.