"The beginning of 1943 was not too chilly in the regions of Bordeaux, rather more bearable than our cold, damp north, a slight ground mist in the morning with lots of sunshine to come for the rest of the day. It didn't look like our great escape would come to be anymore! Anyone not called up to transport now would maybe gain the fruits of our efforts and have a chance. The French guards told us that the time was not ripe yet, so I put myself to reasoning that we may never be seen or heard of again and that this would be the last place we would report from; everybody else was in the same mood.
We left our memories on the walls - like prisoners do, inscribed! I put the most innocent addresses that wouldn't incriminate anybody while the Germans were still there, so I put my family's addresses in England. Later the evening, nearly everybody knew that we were due for transport. The news was that allied landings were imminent so the Germans wanted to get us on our way, far away. By evening a hell of a racket was heard from all the cells in the whole of the fort in unison, singing and pots banging together. Then the Germans from the center yard assembled and gave orders over the megaphone that they were going to start shooting; so the din gradually subsided to nothing!
The next morning, we were all called to be to the ready and then cashed off with some meager food distributed just in advance of departure. Transportation army vans took us all to the station in intervals until we were all gathered up. The S.S. were in the rear wagons with soldiers, collaborators and lots of plain clothes police, all heavily armed. Our inquisitor - Gestapo - was there too, the strong one! When the convoy was complete we were all pushed into the goods wagons, the two end spaces left for us and the middle section reserved for two soldiers with a sergeant. The sliding doors were left open, no facilities, no absolutions, the sections were divided by strings. In this manner we departed from Bordeaux.
The only chance I saw for possible escape was when we passed the big river Gironde on a high bridge. The train was rolling steadily along the pilions but they came too quick in succession to be able to make a jump for it from under the strings and into the tempting water that we could see far below us.
With the help of a Belgian pilot from Leige, called Allard, we tried to persuade some of the others to make a break for it in unison. Jumping the guards, in the wagon could be easily done before the guards could draw their weapons.
Machine guns covered both sides, Allard and I both volunteered to unhook the wagons at the rear; we soon found out that this was not possible! The mixed sections formed a very assorted crowd, old ones, some tortured to the point of incapability but most of all the majority were apathetic to such action.
The majority of those people would not come back from this journey, neither would Allard. After the war, I saw his photo displayed in one of those big multiple panels for the missing. The Gestapo had thought of everything including all the most possible ways and means of escape! The long journey went on for a good way until the S.S. and Gestapo thought it was time for a relief stop somewhere in a field, strategically situated to shoot any would be escapees. At this point, my inquisitor was keeping a watchful eye on me. I was, indeed, looking for a chance to escape underneath the wheels and a bit further away from the crowds - I could see the open fields now!
To reach the coverage of the trees was too much of a run, so I took my trousers off and showed what I thought of it all to my Gestapo man! I cannot judge his immediate reaction to that but I thought he displayed a slight human kind of smile. I also knew he was an excellent, well trained shot, my logic told me that. My intuition also told me to wait for a better opportunity than this one. I couldn't trust my Gestapo man's misleading reactions at all!
When this episode was over, Allard and I tried to study the trap windows in the corner under the cover of our inmates - we had a knife to work at it. It was a bit high and had to be done with the advantage of darkness and silently too. The plan was to drop at the other side, the speed and nearness of the wheels would almost certainly draw you in underneath them! Nothing came of this attempt , the drop was too high, close and awkward".
To be continued ...