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John Brown Escape and Evasion

by David Grosvenor

1 Lt. John W. Brown. Pilot. 0-743172. (b. 28/11/19). Spoke French.
100th Bomb Group – 349th Bomb Squadron
Aircraft type: B-17.
Base: Thorpe Abbotts, England (Station 139)

10th mission.
FTR 04 /02/44.
NE Oolen, Belgium.
UK 09/09/44.

The Crew

P 1st Lt John W. Brown 0-743172 EVA – POW. GT. E&E
CP 2nd Lt Albert F, Fitzpatrick 0-751115 Gheel Hosp, Belgium. Broken leg
NAV 2nd Lt Theodore H. Kleinman 0-795261 St Gilles. GT. Safe in Paris. E&E 2101
BOM 2nd Lt Lawson W. Clements 0-735261 POW.
TTE S/Sgt Lola D. Florida 38279635 POW
ROG S/Sgt George E. Toomey Jr. 16065537 POW
BTG S/Sgt George F. Keen 32472665 KIA
LWG S/Sgt William F. Kemp 34409090 POW
RWG S/Sgt Harold F. Janderup. 32555990 POW.
TG S/Sgt Richard A. Tangradi 13125061 POW

Details of Sortie
Took off 0600 hours. We were hit by flak over Frankfurt, Germany, thus straggling from the group. We were attacked by approximately 3 German fighters, which knocked out three motors. I think all the men jumped. I was immediately taken in by an organization, which treated me very well. After going from place to place in the Brussels underground, I was finally picked up by the Gestapo and taken to St-Gilles prison for war criminals. During my stay there of 11 weeks, I was treated as a war criminal because I had been in civilian clothes. We lived 5 men to a cell about 8×12 feet without enough food and air. We ate criminal rations and received no cigarettes.

Our interrogations usually lasted about 4 hours with its usual tortures of punches to the face. After interrogation we were placed in a dark cell for weeks.

While being transferred to Germany as a POW by train, I along with 42 others escaped. Our escape was made possible by the patriots and their sabotage. After the escape we reported immediately to the nearest high-ranking officer. We were in Brussels at the time of our escape and the British troops had entered the town but had not reached the station.

Special recognition should be shown to the 43 English and American airmen who spent time in St-Gilles prison and escaped from the train with me. Many of these men are ill and in some cases absolutely stark crazy. Special recognition should be shown to 1st Lt William Grosvenor who suffered much torture in the hands of the Germans for not giving information.

On 4 February Brown landed NE of Oolen, Belgium and SW of the town was picked up almost immediately and sheltered for the first night. The next day he walked SE towards Brussels because he had been briefed to go to the large cities. About 1000 hours a man came up on a bicycle, asked whether he was an American, and took him to Oolen to someone who could speak English.

He stayed a day and a night with the three Louiss. He was given civilian clothes and the 2 Louis’s took him to Brussels to an Armée Blanche man at 85 Chaussée de Gand. He stayed there four weeks with Phillip Vossels.

He saw Zeinen (questionable spelling) who spoke good English and talked about his brother in NY.

A man who claimed to be the head of the Belgian Red Cross gave him a tissue sheet on which to write casualty information.

Pedro, whom the Gestapo caught about 10 May, also gave him a tissue sheet.

He was visited by the Comtesse Ethburg-Stirum, a woman about 35, with 5 children, whose husband was supposed to be the head of the Belgian Embassy in London.

With her came a Princess – blond, attractive. Aged about 28. Spent 5 years in Washington DC.

They were sometimes accompanied by a man who claimed to be the head of the Belgian Red Cross, 6’2″, large.

He saw a great many blackmarket people.

The Comtesse and the Princess took him to a second floor apartment where he stayed from 8 days to 2 weeks over a shop with a woman and her husband. The Princess and Comtesse visited.

A man picked him up here and took him to an apartment of Mr Dam – short, stout, receding hairline, Spoke perfect English, crippled from a broken leg, uses cane – who lived with his wife and aged father, and a little girl from Sweden. Brown was here 6 days to 2 weeks.

He went to a café. Stayed about 7 hours, and was picked up by a strange guide from the center of the city.

He went to Chaussée Ceasar Roman (478 Chaussee Romaine), number 4 something (previously he had given the address as 478 rue Romane, Leiken) and stayed 4 weeks with Mme Guyaux. Here he met a chief of the group, Henri (Henri Maca), 23-26, and his sister, Simone (Marie Maca , a. k. a. Germaine, a. k. a. Simone). Their father had been a chief (Paul Maca, # Jan. 23, 1944) in the organization and had been taken by the Gestapo.

Henri was of medium height, wore horn-rimmed glasses.

Henri had come over to check Brown’s identity, for the organization had some suspicions of him based upon his ignorance of 5 of the men in his crew.

P-47 pilot Bill Grosvenor came along to help check the identity.
(MML note: Anne Brusselman claims to have been involved in this) (Lt. Grosvenor confirmed that Lt. Brown was an Allied pilot. The escape services initially thought that Brown was an Abwehr imposter/infiltrator, as Brown was unable to give the names of all those on his bomber crew. It is my understanding that many of the airmen on Brown’s crew the day of his FTR were replacements that he didn’t know by name)

Grosvenor had previously stayed with Colonel Hubbard (Comète 284. E&E 802). (Grosvenor was never with Lt Col Hubbard but was informed of his presence in Brussels by the escape services)

Henri declared that the line to Spain had been broken because of diplomatic difficulty.

A different Simone (husband Paul, daughter Paulette) (this is Simone Schreyen) took Brown and Grosvenor, who were together from this point, to Marcel Van Buggenhout (Buekenhout), 226 Boulevard Emile Bockstoul, Laeken.

After about 3 hours there, the men went to a street off the Chaussée de Gand and stayed about 2 weeks (10 days) with a man, Leon (Leon Verleysen), his wife and a daughter of 16. Grosvenor seems to have arrive about 3 days after Brown.

They met Leon’s brother, François, who was supposed to be one of the heads of the Armée Blanche.

Marcel took the 2 to Quinard-Legrain (Andre & Magaurite Quintard), 47 rue Edgar Tinel, Anderlecht, where they stayed 3 or 4 weeks.

They met Marcel Nee, 23 rue Edgar Tinel, who had been a POW in Germany.

They met Gaston Waroquier, 45 ave d’Itterbeek, who kept aviators.

Leon, his wife and daughter visited, as did Leon’s brother, François, his father, who owned a brewery.

Mlle Lucienne van der Wall(?) (Van der Walle), who was keeping 2 Sgts named Franky and Jimmy, at 488 Chausée de Gand, Anderbeck St-Jean, visited.

Marcel took the 2 airmen to a place in Laeken near the Exposition grounds there. They stayed 4 to 10 days with a woman and her daughter. A son was supposed to be working for the Germans and did not sleep there. There was no electricity, gas or radio and the Americans were unhappy.

Marcel moved the men to Mme Claes, 147 rue du Cimitiere, where they stayed 4 weeks. or (9-10 days)

John, an Engineer (John Byers), on a Liberator had been there and also some Russians.

On the way the men had met in a café a civilian chief of the police, Marcel Leborgne, 30 rue J. Bollings, Evere, who remarked that Americans had been with Mme Claes before. (E&E Sheenan). (Possibly E&E nfd. Sgt Robert E. Sheehan. F/Plt. —?FG/P-47s. FTR 07/11/43. ∆ Helmond, NL. Comete 262. E-Sp 09/01/44).

They met Angelo Stevenin, 137 Ave Cimitiere, Yvonne de Backer, 138 Ave Cimitiere, Mr & Mme Cammaerts-Jacobs, 912 Chaussée de Louvain.

They met a TTG named Elmore Loveland once at George’s café where he was staying and also in the Chaussée de Gand.

They met some ‘wheel’ at the cemetery, who was later picked up by the Gestapo (ca May 1944).

Marcel then moved them, in a green truck (the truck was driven by Victor Schutters, a garage foreman for the Belgian National Railroad), to a café – once described in Leiken and once in Scharbeek) run by Jean and Midge – presumably Micheline. (This is Jean and Midge Van den Eede)

They stayed about 2 weeks and then returned to Mme Claes about 18 June.

They heard that the Gestapo had captured Henri (Maca – #’d ca 27/05/44), Simone (‘Suzette’ #’d 01/06/44 – Simone Schreyen – there has previously been much confusion between Simone Schreyen and Marie Maca, a. k. a. Simone) and a chief known as Victor ( Victor Schreyen – Simone Schreyen’s brother).

On 19 June the Cammaerts-Jacobs daughter visited.

About 0600 hours on 20 June Mme Claes wakened the 2 men with the warning that the Gestapo were at the house and that they must get dressed and get out. They tried first to get out a bedroom window, then went on the roof from an attic window. A rifle bead was drawn on them. Two Gestapo men in uniform with GFP on their shoulders came into the house and the men surrendered. The Germans had apparently not come searching for the evaders. Mme Claes thought that her sister-in-law, with whom she did not get along very well, had turned her in for putting flowers on American graves in the cemetery.

The 2 Americans were taken with Mme Claes to Luftwaffe Headquarters. The Americans were asked their name, rank and serial number which they gave, and told them that since they were caught in civilian clothes they would go to regular criminals’ prison until they could tell a story to prove their identity.

They were put separately in small cells, left about 8 hours, and taken to St-Gilles prison with Mme Claes.

The Americans were put in separate cells with Grman prisoners, among them, Belgian SS men.
(3 German SS & 2 Belgian SS)

About 3 weeks later they were interrogated at a large mansion in the center of the city. Most of the men around the place were in grey-green uniforms. The interrogators wore civilian clothes, but Brown saw them later in Army uniform.

There were three interrogators:
1. A very tall, blond, hair combed straight back, strange slanting eyes, about 26, from Cologne.
2. A rather short man.
3. A German stooge in uniform, apparently non-English speaking.

Brown was put in a waiting room for a few minutes before he was interrogated and an Englishman advised him to give nothing but his name, rank and serial number.

The interrogation lasted 4-5 hours and was conducted mostly by 1.

He explained that because Brown was caught in civilian clothes he would have to tell his entire story to prove that he was not a spy and saboteur. . He wanted to know all the places at which Brown had been. Brown replied that he could give only his name, rank and serial number.

He tried to take the line that he was an American officer and wanted to be treated as such.

The Germans had a tissue organization from giving the casualty information on Brown but omitting his base. The interrogators spent a lot of time talking about what they did in the USA. When Brown refused to answer their questions (1) struck Brown in the jaw and so did (3).

He was then taken back to a waiting room. After about 11 hours in total, the group up for interrogation was taken back to prison. Brown was put back in the same cell.

After about 5 days he was re-interrogated at St-Gilles by (1) alone, using the same routine as before. In addition to the threat about shooting as a spy, the threat to put him in the dark cells was made.

By this time the interrogator had information that he claimed to have secured from Mme Claes. She had said something about Brown going one day by tram to Anderlecht, so the interrogator wanted to know where he had gone.

Brown had actually gone to the (Margaret) Quintard-Legrain’s, of whom he was extremely fond, and he would not state where he had been.

The interrogator tried to stress how absurd it was for Brown not to talk when everything was already known from Mme Claes and Grosvenor. The interrogation lasted about an hour and Brown was afterwards put in the dark cells.

About 10 days later he was brought out for re-interrogation again by (1).

For about 1/2 hour (1) tried to find out where Brown had gone that day from Mme Claes. Brown spent most of the time complaining about his treatment, fleas in the dark cells, and requesting a doctor’s attention. The interrogator’s response was to promise Brown better treatment if he would only be sensible and answer all the questions asked of him. (Note: This writer does not report 08 note on margin of original/Section 8-mental case).

Brown was put back in the dark cells for a several more days and then moved to a regular cell.

About 4 weeks later he was again interrogated at St-Gilles. He was shown photographs of the 2 Marcels, Margaret (Quintard-Legrain), and Jean and Midge and told that all of them had been caught, that all had told their complete stories. Brown still declared that he would say nothing.

The interrogator now concentrated on finding out where and how Brown had got his shoes, apparently trying to trace something in the supply picture. Brown still refused to give information and was sent back to regular cells.

2 Louis Olen. 1 day & night
Gp Phillip Vossels
Phillip Vossels Brussels. Cafe. 4 weeks. 85 Chaussée de Gand.
Interrogation. Head Belgian Red Cross. Large man. 6’2″.
Interrogation. Pedro.
met Zenen. Spoke good English
Guide Countess Sterun/Stranan. Husband head of Belgian Embassy, London.
Guide Blond Princess.
Safe House Wife & husband over shop. 8 days or 10 days-14 days.
Guide Countess Ethburg -Stirum. (Sterun/Stranan).
Guide Blond Princess.
Safe House Mr. Dam. large crippled man. 2 weeks. or 6 days.

Gp Henri Maca District
Brown and Grosvenor meet 1st time.
Safe House Mme Guyaux. 4 weeks
Identification. Henri Maca? Henri Nys (Henri Nys is doubtful as a participant in this questioning of Brown) Leader. Grosvenor in tow.
Helper Simone, sister of Henri.
Guide Simonne # 2. (Schreyen?)

Gp Marcel of Group Henri Maca
Safe House Marcel van ‘Buggenhout’-Buekenhout. 3 hrs.
226 Boulevard Emile Bockstoul, Laeken.
Note: Brown and Grosvenor together from this point on.
Safe House Mom & ‘Leon’ father at road off Chausse de Gand. 10 days. met Leon’s brother, François. Head of White Army.
Guide Marcel van Buggenhout
Safe House Margarite Quintard-Legrain/Quinard-Legrain. – 4 weeks/or 3 weeks.
47 rue Edgard Tintel.
met Marcel Nee. ex-POW. 23 rue Edgard Tintel.
met Gaston Waroquier/Wawquier. Safe house for other airmen. 45 ave d’Itterbeek.
met man and wife with another American airman.
met Mme Simonne & husband Paul, daughter Paulette.
met Mme Lucianne van de Wall. Safe house for Sgts Frankie & Jimmy. 448 Chaussee de Gand, Anderbeek St-Jean.
met Francois (Leon’s brother) & his father.

Guide Marcel Buekenhout. Guide to Laeken Exposition grounds. Safe
House Woman in Laeken near Exposition grounds. 4-10 days.
Had daughter. No gas electricity. Son worked for Germans.
Unhappy stay.

Guide Marcel Buekenhout. Guide to Mme Claes. Stayed four weeks.
147 rue du Cimitière. John Beyers had previously stayed there. As had
en route met Marcel Leborgue. Police chief.
en route met Angelo/Angele Stevenin. 137 rue du Cimitière.
en route met Yvonne de Backer. 138 rue du Cimitière.
en route met M & Mme A. Cammaerts-Jacobs. 912 Chaussée de Louvain.
en route met Met Elmore Loveland once at at George’s Cafe and once at Chaussée du Gand.
en route met some ‘Wheel’ at cemetery who was later arrested. (Henri Maca?)

Safe House Mme Claes. 4 weeks. safe house for (John Sheenan, etc)
Safe House Marcel Jan ‘Marcus’ Buggenhout-Buekenhout. # 01/08/44 friend of H. Maca.
Safe House M. Marcel
Safe House Jean & Midge. (Micheline) cafe in Luken. Stayed 2 weeks.
Henri Maca # 27/05/44.
his fiancee Andrée # 04/06/44.
Victor Schreyen # 04?/06/44.
Simonne Schreyen # 04?/06/44.
William POWell # 04?/06/44.

Safe House Mme Claes.
# 20/06/44. Mme Jeanne Claes, John W. Brown, Wm. Grovesnor.

Some members of the organization that I think deserve high recognition are:
Marcel van ‘Buggenhout’-Buekenhout. 3 hrs.
226 Boulevard Emile Bockstoul, Laeken.
Brussels, Belgium.

Margarite Quintard-Legrain/Quinard-Legrain. 4 weeks/or 3 weeks.
47 rue Edgard Tintel.
Cine (Anderleckt), Brussels, Belgium.

Mme Claes. Stayed four weeks.
147 rue du Cimitière.
Evere, Brussels, Belgium

Mme Lucianne van de Wall. Safe house for Sgts Frankie & Jimmy.
448 Chaussee de Gand
Anderbeek St-Jean, Brussels, Belgium.

Marcell Leborgne (Police)
30 rue J. Ballings.
Evere, Brussels, Belgium.

Phillip Vossells
85 Chaussée de Gand
Brussels, Belgium.

Marcel Nee
23 rue Edgard Cinel
Brussels, Belgium.

Note: No mention of Ann Brusselmans.

Angelo/Angele Stevenin.
137 rue du Cimitière
Evere, Brussels, Belgium
E&E 1841. J. W. Brown met the following airmen.
E&E 1781. 2nd Lt. Thomas P. Smith. GT. Allied control 09/09/44.
E&E 1789. 1 Lt Jack Terzain. GT.
E&E 1861. Donald H. Swanson. GT.
E&E 1862. Charles C. Hillis. GT.
E&E 1858. Kenneth C. Holcomb. GT.
E&E 1874. S/Sgt William McGinley.
E&E 1875. S/Sgt Anthony Palantoino. GT?
E&E 1877. Lt Henry W. Wolcott. GT.
E&E 1881. 1 Lt William Grovesnor. GT.
E&E 1887. S/Sgt Elmore Loveland.
E&E 1896. S/Sgt Harry Shoffner. GT?
E&E 1916. 1 Lt Wallis O. Couzzens. GT.
E&E 1918. T/Sgt Dale S. Loucks. Allied control 10/09/44.
E&E 2101. 2 Lt T. H. Kleinman. GT. (Kleinman was Brown’s navigator)
Bill White. US. (Lonnie E. White?) (Bill White was an AP stringer for Time Magazine and had been covering the British advance toward Brussels. White drove Brown and Grosvenor to Paris in his Jeep after their escape. AP articles appeared back in the States concerning their imprisonment and escape)

Eugene Bowken. US.
James Cox. US.
Lane Siminay. US.
Sgt L. Don Vike. US.
Keith Slaughter. US.
Maurice Shear. US.
Alton Rews. US.
R. E. McGriffin. US.
Richard F. Brady. US.
Francis McDermott. US.
Len G. Hanister??? US.
Stephen B. Harris. US.

E&E 3323 (B) 2410. F/Sgt Clayton D. MacLachlan. RCAF. B/A. 408 Sqdn. FTR 20-21/12/43. Tessenderlo (Limburg) 23 kms NW Hasselt, Belgium. Helped by people of Wavre. Gaston Matthys. Liberated MM. or GT. # POW. ( Clayton MacLachlan & Tommy Reynolds evaded arrest until Brussels’ liberation. He originally met Brown at the Quintard-Legrain home prior to Brown and Grosvenor’s arrest, and again at the Metropole Hotel, Brussels, after their escape)

E&E 3323 (B) 2409. Sgt T. J. Reynolds. RAF. F/Eng. 408 Sqdn. FTR 20-21/12/43. ∆ Tessenderlo (Limburg) 23 kms NW Hasselt, Belgium. GT? (Reynolds was with Clayton MacLachlan for much of his evasion. They were from the same RAF crew. See above)

N. R. Beamish. (Irish). —?—. RAF. FTR —?—. # ??/06/44. G-Train. —?—. Pipaix, Bel. Senepart.
(Beamish, Brown, Grosvenor, Kleinman, and one other airman escaped from the train as a group. They spent the night of Sept 3/4 in a bombed out building in Schaerbeek (suburb of Brussels) marshalling yard, and entered the downtown area after sunrise, Sept. 4. As they made their way into the central city, an armed resistant challenged them. The Belgian was convinced that they were German deserters and was prepared to line them up against a wall and shoot them. Some of the group of airmen – including Brown – spoke a smattering of French and were able to convince the young resistant that they were, in fact, escaped allied airmen.

Email note from David Grosvenor to Paul West (28 Feb 2005):
Date:Mon, 28Feb2005
To:PaulWest<wcs31@swbell. net>
From:David Grosvenor<dgrosvenor@mail. utexas. edu>

Hello Paul,
Thanks for the quick response. Coordinates for Mr. Gillespie would be greatly appreciated. I have quite a bit of information concerning Lt. Brown’s evasion, arrest, and escape in 1944. I have copies of his post liberation debriefing by MIS-X concerning his evasion and time with the Belgian escape services, I have filmed interviews with my father concerning their time together in Brussels, and I have one post-war letter from Brown to my father. Brown’s evasion debriefing is an incredible document in that the detail by which he describes his time with the underground surpasses virtually every other document of downed airmen I have seen – and I’ve seen many. It was the key to my understanding of my own father’s evasion experience. What I don’t have concerning Lt. Brown is any information pertaining to his wife and children. I know from dad’s letter that Brown had at least one child, and that Brown and his family were living in Southern California where Brown was serving as a flight instructor. My main interest is Mr Gillespie’s mention of the possibility of surviving photos of Brown with some of his Belgian resistance helpers. I have two photos of my father and Lt Brown taken a couple of days after their escape from the Germans.

They escaped from what has become known as “The Phantom Train”, or “Ghost Train”, on September 4, 1944 as the British Guards Armor was entering Brussels. There’s much more to the story, as you might well imagine. I’ll pass on any information concerning Brown as time allows. Production on the documentary film is in full swing at this point – I look forward to making contact with Mr Gillespie.

Thanks for your assistance,
David Grosvenor