Lancaster JB370

Keith Stevens

“I was the signals leader of the sqdn, my rank was FL/LT  K J Stevens DFM and had so for 2 years on my 3rd tour of opps I think it was my 60th raid. This was not my crew their WO/OP was sick as this was a maxim effort  I volunteered as their WO/OP The crew was  Pilot F/O N Owen F/eng V Moore Nav F/s E Shaw  B/a F/s E Bennett W/op FL/LT K J Stevens DFM RAAF M/U/G H Stevens RCAF R/Gun Sgt K Kirwin RAAF aircraft DX O.  I will tell the right story, we were hit by flak then by a Messerschmitt from  underneath, so the order to bail out was given. Every member succeeded in doing so. The pilot and I escaped the R/ag  Fl/eng Nav M/u/g were all POW s the B/A was captured Tortured by Gestapo Found in a Belgium Hospital but died back in the UK . My story is as follows my shoulder was broken as I hit the tail plane being short of oxygen pulling the ripcord became difficult height was 16000 ft . I landed on the edge of a German drome runway then some days hiding at night walking picked by German army then Gestapo managed to escape days later met Robert Alexander later Georges Morel & Madam Violet  export manager of Coty’s perfumes Georges wanted to cut my throat, the dark blue uniform of the RAAF looked like the German airforce one but Madam Violet Saved me by asking the name of a certain hotel in Melbourne Australia quite a famous place. Later Poppa Morel & Nannette came to take me by Bicycle to Remerangles there I met Momma Morel another daughter Renne  some time later we moved to Giencourt near Clermont. It was at Remerangles that I met Bill and checked him out. Georges right name was Rodger, Mine was Claude as an alias. Paul I only met once and do not remember him. 1983 is when I got to know him. My wife & I went back again 1990. Georges & I were like brothers sadly he passed away a few years later. I hope this clears up some of answers you wanted, there is a lot more knowledge the main thing is the courage of my French helpers the risks they took was amazing & for that I will always be most grateful  

Regards

Keith alias "Claude” 

Sources: Revue Municipale n18 Saint Leu 1984, ANACR, Bomber Command, Aviateurs allies tombes dans l'oise en 1944 by Andre Naudin, Temoignages - Ste Historique de Maignelay-Montigny.

Mr. Keith Stevens, Mr.Paul Morel, Marc Pilot, Mr Boudinel, Mr Jean Francois Bernard, Mr Arnaud Vandellie, Mr. Jacques de Baynast, Mrs. Marie France De Tand-Heim, Mrs Moutonnet, De Tand family. Mr. Dominique Lecomte, Mrs. Bernadette Coffin, Mr Joel Math & Mr. Sylvain Math, Mr Douchet, Mr. P. Owen,Mr. Andre Bordas, Mr. Stephen Darlow, Mr. P. Mercier, Mr. Pierre Ben, Mr. M. Mavre and Fifi

K.Stevens & Mrs Carbon 1984 (R.GALAS)
K.Stevens stands between Mr.Morel & Mrs Leger. (R.GALAS)

PAUL MOREL   

Paul Morel was the Major of Airion, a town north of Clermont (OISE).In his youth, help save the lives of allied aviators shot down over France one of the aviators shot down participated on the raids of Saint-Leu d’Esserent.

During the raid on the night of  7th/8th July 1944, after having dropped their bombs and making their return flight back to base, K.J. Stevens, aircraft was hit by Flak over Montdidier. Orders were given to abandon ‘ship’ during which time the pilot kept the aircraft in formation. Out of the crew of seven, three managed to jump which included a gunner, the pilot and flight-mechanic, lieutenant Stevens. Its believed the four others where killed or did not manage to jump.
           
The three men landed relatively close to one another near Tricot. The gunner broke his legs and was captured by the Germans. His out come is unknown.  The pilot was also picked up and after a brief questioning was shot. Stevens had landed in a rut had heard the gun shots.  He was able to make his was out of the search area which lead him to the village of Pronleroy quite a few miles away. During his run, he drank from ditches and ended up hiding in a haystack.

In the morning a farm worker from Pronleroy, Mr. Robert Alexandre, saw, coming towards him and trying to make sense of his hand gestures the young man. Mr. Robert Alexandre, hid Stevens in his wagon and took him to the village and to his own home.

It was at the same house that Paul Morels brother also worked. He had escaped from the S.T.O. The brother contacted his uncles, craftsmen in the village, who in turn contacted Paul Morel.

Paul Morel, pedalled to Mr. Robert Alexandres to meet with the aviator. With help from a English-French dictionary knows as a ‘Tom Pouce’ which was concelled under the bicycle seat that they managed to explain to Steven that he was now practically safe.

From this point onwards the Paul Morels family link continued to work. One of his aunts, who held a cafe at Remeranles, had been sheltering American aviators since 1943 which had then been handed over to the Spanish network. One of his aunts, daughters Madame Madeleine Florencon, know as ‘Renee’ was a liaisons agent for the local Resistance group.

She took Stevens into her care and again by bicycle pedalled 10 kilometres from Pronleroy to Remerangles. Once there Stevens was linked up with another English aviator, Robinson, who had bailed out over Laversines. Also an Amercian fighter pilot who had been shot down after a dog fight with 6 enemy fighters during the D-Day landings.

The English aviators had another bicycle ride to Paul Morels parents house at Giencourt. The American stayed at Remerangles. Again at another café. During the ride a heart stopping moment near Clermont, the Germans had installed a check point. Luckily for the escapees this did not include bicycles.

It’s now August and the Allies are pushing further in land. The two aviator were to be hidden and more efficiently and finally the town is liberated on 1st September 1944.

A few days later, Paul Morel’, aunt and cousin handed over the their two hero’s to the allied authorities at the airfield at Beauvais. This was now under Canadian control. Paul Morel’s aunt and cousin told him that Steven had got through the ordeal relatively well, but Robinson did not fancy getting on board another aeroplane. Later, Stevens contacted Paul Morel, and told him that they had been sent to Normandy for further questioning. Apparently for security reasons.

Robinson contacted Paul Morel and came to see him a couple of times but since then there has been nothing. Paul Morel does not know what came of Robinson nor does the R.A.F.E.S.

Stevens on the other hand, on his return to England got married. Having completed 65 missions, was repatriated back to Australia. They and visited Paul Morel in 1983.

PAUL MOREL    

57 Squadron Lancaster JB370 DX-O crashed SE of Montdidier. Three of the crew were captured (POW) whilst four evaded capture.

P/O N.T.Owen (evd)

Sgt J.A.Gains (evd)

F/S G.Bennett (POW)

F/S G.M.Shaw (POW)

F/L K.J.Stephens (RAAF) (evd)

Sgt H.L.J.Stephen (RCAF) (evd)

F/S K.P.J.Kirwan (RAAF) (POW) 

Local map showing crash site
Crash site (Photo G.TAYLOR 2008)

H.L.J.Stephen

Herb Stephen, gunner, jumped by parachute from his Lancaster which had been hit by the Flak at Creil. It was his 10th Mission and his target for that night had been Saint Leu d'Esserent. It was 01H00, when touching the hard ground, Herb broke his right foot and stayed put without moving. They were seven of them in the craft three were captured by the Germans the rest hidden by the local population. Herb was one of the fortunate ones despite his injury. The Lancaster crashed near Remaugies, that morning the first few people came to his resuce and saw to his injuries. Herb changed cloths but his personel items were stolen.

Having heard of the events, Mr. George Dessart, aged 25 whos parents were farmers at Godenvillers went to help Herb. At first George transported Herb via bicycle towards Coivrel however Herbs injuries were too painful so George hid Herb in a pile of colza and returned that night to pick him up again and went to Ployron to Mr. Levasseurs house. George contacted Dr. Warme from Maignelay who saw to Herbs wounds. He would then rest for 5 days at Mr. Levasseurs house tended to also by Georges sisters Clara & Laure. Herb was moved again, this time to Goerges parents farm at Godenviller where he stayed two months until the town was liberated by the British army.

Thirty years later, Herb returned to meet George Dessart and inturn the Canadian government invited George to Canada via a RAF aeroplane sent specially

The few

Not having being able to find out more, the following events concern some of the crew:

English airmen were, by instructions from the local Resistance, taken to the town of Mesnil Saint Firmin, here they were hidden by a teacher. A Parisien Hairdress told the Germans of this and the airmen and the family were captured and sent to camps. The husband of the family died in the camp and the wife upon returning home also died.

P/O N.T.Owen (evd)

Often is the case of chance events, searching a web site for something else, I came across a set of photos posted by Peter Owen. Contact made, I was able to trace the family who saved his father. I visited the De Tand family and they shared with me the events which took place during the war.

Having seen a parachute land, George De Tand went in search of the airmen. He finally met N. Owen, who was pointing his gun at him. George De Tand managed to explain that he was there to help and N. Owen was taken into hidding at the Chateau de Ayancourt le Moncel. Over the coming months numerous adventures were had by all.

 

Local Resistance group with N. Owen (supplied by J. De Tand)
Possible crew of JB370 (supplied by P. Owen)
Cylinder rod taken from on of the engines of JB370 (Mr. A. Bordas kept this all these years)