Letter to Montague Maizels from Charles Hourriez



Letter to Montague Maizels from Charles Hourriez


The letter is a copy of the original and contains detail about the death of his cousin, Norman Gorfunkle. He attended the crash site but after the Germans had removed the crew survivors. His cousin had died in the crash. He was buried with consideration by the Germans and his grave was looked after by the French villagers.



Two typewritten sheets


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EHourriezCMaizelsM[Date]-010001, EHourriezCMaizelsM[Date]-010002



Monsieur HOURRIEZ Charles,
Chef de Bureau des
Hospices Civils.

à Monsieur Montague MAIZELS
M.D., F.R.C.P.,
University College Hospital,


Please forgive me for replying in place of the medical superintendent of the Chaumont hospital, who has passed to me your letter of 8th August. I feel that I am fulfilling an obligation, since I am the only person – other than the Germans, who has it in his power to give you some information about the death of your cousin, Norman Gorfunkle.

As head of the French resistance movement (local branch) during the German occupation, and member of the French secret military committees, I was notified on the morning of 9th November that an R.A.F. machine had crashed in the forest of L’Etoile, in the parish of Marbeville, in the Department of Haute-Marne. I went to the spot but the Germans had already made a thorough
search of the R.A.F. machine. At the place where the crash occurred, I obtained the number of the plane and its markings, which I transmitted to the French resistance forces who were in touch with the Free French forces in London.

Since the equipment of the plane had been partly removed by the Germans, I was anxious about the airmen of the crew. I learned from the civil population that the Germans had come and had taken the aircrew prisoners, all of whom were wounded, to remove them to the hospital at Chaumont. On my return here, I tried to find out the identity of the airmen, to pass the details to my own forces, and in this I was helped by the French civilians employed at the German military hospital. I was, however, unable to obtain this information. Half an hour after my arrival I learned that one of the English airmen had died; it was your cousin, Norman Gorfunkle, born in 1920 at Liverpool. This information was passed on to the representative of the Intelligence Service under the occupation.

Here are the details which I can give you, both from personal knowledge and confidential information. After his death, your cousin Norman was taken to the mortuary of the German hospital. The “boches” took everything from him – air force uniform, identity card, various papers. On the mortuary table he was wearing only his air force shirt, with the collar of his shirt fastened by a button, doing duty for a stud, and his sleeve links joined by a chain on one side only. I ventured to remove these in order to restore them to his family after the end of the war. But some time later I was arrested by the Gestapo, and had to hide these momentoes [sic] until the liberation.

[page break]

(Here follow medical details).

With regard to these two momentoes [sic], I handed them to an English captain in the war graves service to be returned to the family. (Would you please let me know whether these momentoes have been given back to the family). Please forgive my writing at such length, but I consider it essential to furnish you with all details.

There is, however, one consolation perhaps that can be appreciated by Norman’s mother and all his family, that he, who died for liberty and for world democracy had last rites worthy of a hero, even though they took place under German escort. From the time of his death, he was adopted as a son of the French people, and collections were made, first at the hospital, and then in a factory at Chaumont (The Tréfousse Glove Works) to offer flowers and wreaths for him. In spite of all the Germans did to prevent it, his funeral had a great effect upon the morale of the people of Chaumont; only three French civilians were allowed to attend, two comrades and myself.

The Grave has always been decorated with flowers by the inhabitants of the town, and at each victory celebration, there was a veritable procession to pay our respects to the hero of the R.A.F.

I was visited by Norman’s mother and sister on 19th August 1948, but was unable to give them all these details, since I do not speak English and the only interpreter present was not very profficient [sic]. I regret this, not for my sake but for theirs. The boy lies in the cemetary [sic] of Saint Aignan at Chaumont, in the American portion, against the wall separating the French from the German cemetary [sic], the first grave on the right.

Here is a résumé of all the information I can give you. I think that you will not mind the length of my account. Please believe me when I assure you that I am entirely at your service to help you in anything which may arise, and beg you, Sir, to accept the deep sympathy of a humble member of the French resistance.

(signed) Hourriez.

Ch. Chourriez,
Chef de Bureau
Hospices Civils de Chaumont



Charles Hourriez, “Letter to Montague Maizels from Charles Hourriez,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 22, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/39123.

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