All our thanks, once again, to Bernard Ballanger who has very kindly shared with us his research into those who had helped Allied airmen in the Charente and Charente-Maritime.
Roger Ladépêche ran a company based in Saint-Mariens called "Citram" and at great risk to his own life helped eleven American airmen hoping to reach Spain after their planes had crashed in the region.
In January 1944 eleven American airmen were taken to the premises of Doctor Cabanes, a general practitioner based at Saint-Andre de Cubzac in the Charente-Maritime. (Doctor Cabanes would be arrested on 17th April 1944 and deported to Neuengamme concentration camp in Germany). A list of names and addresses had been composed by Roger Ladépêche, a fervent resistant who took it on himself to help transport allied evaders. Amongst them were two American fugitives from a B-17 that had crash landed on 31st December 1943 at Experimont in the Charente-Maritime. They were Lt Coleman Goldstein and Sgt George Jasman who were being sheltered by the Lhermitte family at Polignac. Also helped by Roger Ladépêche were Owen Scott and Shirley Casey, two Americans from the same crew as Goldstein and Jasman. Scott and Casey would be successful in reaching Spain.
Three other American airmen from two bombers that had also come down on 31st December 1943 ; from the crash at Gimeux : Edward Knapp and Daniel Norton who would later be made a prisoners of war ; crash at Marcillac : Richard Wilson, also captured and made prisoner of war. The remaining four would be sheltered after the bombing of the airfield at Bordeaux-Merignac on 5th January 1944. They were Harold Lockwood, Robert Martin, Georges Bertholdt from the B-17F 42-0444, and Meredith Rueff, pilot from the B-17G 42-37708, both planes came down on the edge of a lake near Hourtin in the Gironde.
Beyond Saint-André-de-Cubzac, the evasion network was functioning well. Roger Ladépêche was part of a group of resistants at Saint-Yzan-de-Soudiac, near Saint-Mariens. He was also in charge of the transport business "Citram" at Saint-Mariens. He had at his disposal vehicles which would allow him to transport parachuted arms and clandestine papers.
It would not be until 8th January that he would be able to transfer by coach some of the eleven American airmen that had been collected by doctor Cabanes. It is likely that the résistance at Mussidan had not been able to take into its group all of the new arrivals. The airmen would be dispersed amongst trusted families, as told in the account given by Jacqueline Gaussens, whose parents at Saint-Antoine-de-Breuil in the Dordogne had looked after Coleman Goldstein and Shirley Casey for around a month. Soon, other evasion lines would take charge of all these Americans and either alone or in small groups, they were taken down to the border with Spain.
|Notes added by Sgt Edward Knapp|
George Jasman and Owen Scott were taken to the border with Spain by capitaine Pottier from Tarbes, who would later become a général. Arriving together at Gibraltar, Jasman would get to England on 23 March 1944 with Scott following a day later.
Still in his memories, Coleman Goldstein recalled "that it was thanks to so many people in France that we had been been able to escape". On his false identity card from the time which he had kept, the B-17 pilot had been named Marcel Parcelier and a farmer as his profession.
Other stories concerning mission no. 171 31st December 1943 (link)