THE BIG ESCAPE…Continued...

Email account of James (Jim) Thomson told through Sandy Thomson October 2005

My dad's name is James Thomson and at the time he was a flight engineer with Bomber Command and had the rank of Flight Sergeant. He is still alive (2005) but like many 82 year olds his memory is not all that it should be and he cannot remember exactly where his area of search was. All he can remember was that it was along the road from St. Athans to Bridgend.

Here is his story: Towards the end of the war many RAF aircrew found themselves surplus to requirements and the RAF sent many on courses to update their skills. As a flight engineer Jim was sent to RAF St. Athans in Wales for a course on engine management; getting the best out of engines with regard to fuel-mix and rev. settings etc. Whilst at R.A.F. St. Athans Jim took part in the hunt for escaped German prisoners of war (POW). This was the famous escape from the Island Farm POW Camp 198 near Bridgend in South Wales.

He recalls that when news of the escape reached RAF St Athans every spare man was sent to hunt down the Germans. Jim jumped into a RAF 'Queen Mary' recovery vehicle and drove of at speed with various 'bods' hanging on in the trailer at the back for dear life. He remembers taking a bend on a country road at speed and forcing a Post Office van into a ditch to the loud cheers of all those on the back.

He also remembers stopping at a checkpoint where an RAF guard was standing guard outside a pillbox. Whilst in conversation with the guard something glinted through the gun slit of the pillbox - on investigation, it was found to be the sun catching the glasses of an escaped POW. The guard, unbeknown to him, had been guarding not only the road but the POW who could not leave the pillbox for fear of being spotted and possibly shot at.

Later, with an officer and some other men Jim was sent to search an abandoned farmhouse. All rooms were checked and found to be clear but the officer wanted the attic searched and didnít fancy the idea of doing so himself so he gave Jim his revolver and told him to search it. After climbing into the attic Jim found some old, empty food cans and some tattered blankets. They were obviously older than the time of the escape and he decided that some tramp was using the loft to sleep in. He did not report the find to the officer in case the tramp got 'evicted'.

Bridgend's week drew to a close and at 5pm on the Friday afternoon the two prisoners who had travelled the furthest were brought into Bridgend Police Station. They were tired, but smiling and were not shy about telling their escape story:

They had travelled to Brynna and climbed on to a goods train which left the sidings before the escape alarm had been sounded. The train eventually arrived at Eastleigh, Hampshire, near Southampton. Here the two prisoners, an officer and a sergeant, decided they would make for the port in Southampton, where they hoped to stow aboard a ship.  But living for five days in a truck had made them stiff and awkward and they were spotted climbing out of the wagon.

They were one hundred and twenty miles from Bridgend and had travelled ten miles further than the four prisoners who had stolen Dr Milne's car.

Prisoners captured in Southampton being returned to Bridgend