Letter from Emile Witmeur to Roy Langlois



Letter from Emile Witmeur to Roy Langlois


Writes of his investigation into Belgian people involved in trying to help his crew escape after they had crashed in Belgium. He gives names and locations of those involved and notes that many had been arrested by the Germans. Gives detailed chronology of events starting with the crews escape after their Wellington crash landed and then links in the escape line. Notes that Jack Newton got home but two crew who had been with him were arrested.




Temporal Coverage



Two page handwritten letter


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6, Pall Mall
London S.W.1
27th September 1945.
My dear Roy,
May be you did not receive my two last letters and I am sending this one to London. I am no more at the airfield since the capitulation of Japan and it is doubtful that the new outfit occupying the strip will send over the letters to me. My civilian address is 195 rue de Campine Liège.
I am afraid to bother you with all these things belonging to the past, but I have been doing my best to clear the situation of my men and I want to show to their families that I do not drop them. It is very difficult to find out the chain as we nearly all have been arrested during the occupation and many have died, leaving their relatives without the names of the people they contacted.
Since you wrote to me in your first and last letter I immediately tried to ask your questions and it is only yesterday that I had an answer from the home of Jean Vandenhove who was sheltering you 66 rue Washington, Brussels and was arrested on 2nd October 1941. He remained till July 1942 in the prison of St Gilles, cell 174. From there he was transferred to the prison of Essen (Germany) where he was to be sentenced. Somebody said he got eight years of hard labor [sic] but his two comrades sentenced at the same time were obliged to carry him out of the court as he had been tortured and he died two days later. I got this information from his father, Mr Vandenhove, 23 rue GRISAR, Bruxelles. (Anderlecht).
The brother of Jean Vanderhove and his wife had a narrow escape. His name is Freddy. He hid himself for some time and escaped with his wife in 1942. He arrived later in Belgian Congo and is still there. So that I do not know yet how you arrived there.
Jean Vandehove’s father, to whom I gave your address, will probably send to you a friend of his living in England, in order to get a statement from you that his son actually helped you because up to now, nobody seems to know that he was arrested for a patriotic deed.
So many people have been arrested by the Germans and claim now that they belonged to the service, that the “Suete de l’Etat” has been obliged to make thorough inquiries because they realised that many gangsters, working for their own, and attacking for instance post offices to get money, were trying to pass as victims of their patriotism.
In the case of Vanderhove, there is no doubt he was a “pure” as we say, but I have not been able up to now to link him to our crew as I need the name and address of the man who contact him. The agents had friends who were not [indecipherable word] and who were helping. If the agent died, nobody knew what the others had done. So that I should like that you notify officially that he actually helped you.
Here is now a summary of what I know. Copley helped me a lot because he recalled some names but he did not spell them properly. However he gave me the address of Vanderhove. The house was closed and that is why it took so much time.
You landed with a Wellington W. 5423 G, on the 6th of August 1941 at 2.10 A.m. on the aerodrome of DEURNE (outskirts of Antwerp), after a mission in the neighbourhood of Achen.
You set fire to the aircraft and climbed the fence surrounding the airfield. There was a tremendous panic among the Germans and that is why you escaped. You will hear about that another day. The crew of six was split into two parties. Yourself, Newton and Copley walked all night in circles and the three others went in the direction of Ostende where they were contacted by an officer of the navy Ct. Commander W. Grison, Royal Navy, Quai Ortéliuse, Antwerp. Next morning you were contacted by a man on the road. You hid in a wheat field all day and were supplied with food and cigarettes. In the evening taken to a farm, given civilian clothes and taken by a lady to the house of Mr. DUQUENNE, 146 Avenue de Belgique Antwerp. Slept night there and travelled to Liège under the guidance of Miss Raymonda TROQUET 32, QUAI ORBAN LIÈGE. She delivered you to the old Doctor DEBIE, Rue de la Station, CHENEE Liège He has died since. You stayed some days in that house from which parcels were dispatched to P.W. in Germany
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There you had the visit of CHEVALIER A.G. PASTEGER, living in “LE BERCAIL” Embourg LIÈGE May be you recall him well. He belonged to the Royal Flying Corp during the war 14 – 18 and was manager of the rubber and tyre factory Englebert in Achen before the war. You had just bombed that factory during your mission and it is one of the funny angles of the story. He talked with you something like two hours and as my friend Pierre HACHA, Inginieus OUGREE-MARIHAYE, (Prov. De LIÈGE) was there also, they decided to find another shelter. HACHA took you to the home of his sister, married to Professeur à l’Universtie HENRY DE RYCKER, EMBOURG par CHENEE LIÈGE. You went there with HACHA and DE RYCKE took Newton and Copley. You stayed three days there and listened so a speech of H.M the Queen of England at the B.B.C. on the first night there. As they were afraid that their children notice something and speak, you went to the house of Mr. FRANÇOIS, BOIS LE COMTE, GOMZÉ ANDOUMONT (Prov de LIÈGE).
In the meantime Hacha was trying to contact a crew for your evacuation. One of my indicators, Mrs. HENRY MASSON, 34 Quai Mativa, LIÈGE came to see me and I told her that I would do the necessary. I was belonging to the service known at the War Office under the name of “BEAVOR-BATON”. I contacted my chief and went to see you.
Doctor Genges Gilles, rue des Guillemins Liège, who has been shot since, looked for a shelter for you, together with FERNANCE CARLIER, 48 rue Albert DE CUYCK, Liège (he died in the concentration camp of SONNENBURG, June 1944) and found a house at Mr. and Mrs VANDEWEERDT, rue Albert de Cuyck, Liège. Both of them have been killed in 1944.
We came down town together, crossed the bridge on the river Meuse on 14th August 1941 6.30 P.M. and contacted PAUL DONEUX, 30 rue Louis JAMME, LIÈGE (He died in October 1944 for the service). At that time we were on the Boulevard along the river. I was walking under the rain in front of you and was bothered to see that Doneux was not alone. I passed by him and the other man, who was Vanderweerdt, told me to stop and said: “what have you done [missing words] that the Germans had [missing words] papers of the three airmen who crashed and killed the [indecipherable word] at the harbor [sic] of Liège and may try to find out the service of evacuation. I will not take them at home. Everything will collapse. Where are the men now?” Twenty yards behind us I said, but I am sure they are British. I cannot trust you he said and I go away. Doneaux, who was his brother in law, trusted me but was at a loss because we had not shelter available at that very moment. Let them come at my home, I said. Doneux refused, specially when having walked a little in the direct of my home we saw two German Officers waiting at the corner of the street. It is not safe there. [indecipherable word] luck and go to a hotel. So you were taken at the Hotel de Provence owned at that time by EUGENE DEMEURE, presently living RU ROSLEAU, 12 Liège. Then you were asked a lot of questions and they realised that I had not been wrong by telling you were British. From there you were split again You went to Mr. Jean HUFKENS home Place St. Paul in Liège, Newton was sheltered at Mr RENÉ DEBAITS, rue du Coq, 82 Liège and COPLEY at Mr. Arnaud LOVENFOSSE RUE DU LAVEU 732 Liège. All three were arrested later. Hufkens came back from Buchenwalde Lovenfosse passed two years in Orianburg and Debacts died there.
You stayed about a fourtnight [sic] in Liège and were visited by the chief of the service Beaver-Baton, Mr. Nicolas MONAMI (nickname Gilbe), he conferred to another member of our crew, Commissaire LOUIS RADEMECKER, rue Auguste DONNAY 47 Liège, who sent you three to Brussels. Louis RADEMECKER has been shot also and from here, I am in the dark because nobody up to now can give me the further link. Where did you stay during the month of September I do not know. Newton separated from you arrived and had a lot of difficulties at his arrival. You two with Copley and the three others who had come back from Ostende were arrested. Monami, living presently rue de Campine 232 Liège went to England, was parachuted in June 1942, betrayed, arrested at his landing and sent to Dachau. He came back but cannot explain. As to me I was also arrested, so that if I know something more in the future, I shall let you know.
I shall end by asking you if you can send a photo of you as a souvenir.
I am very much hoping to see you one of these days.
And remain your sincerely
95 rue de Campine


E V Witmeur, “Letter from Emile Witmeur to Roy Langlois,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 25, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/27325.

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