Fellow Evaders, Helpers, and Norwegian Sailors

The research reflected in this part of the website certainly has been some of the most interesting.

Fellow Evaders – Tom Applewhite, of course, was able to tell me the names of the airmen who traveled with him.  From the Brussels apartment of Yvonne Bienfait all the way back to England, Jockey was with Tom almost all the time.  Elton Kevil and Stan Munns joined him and Wiggins when they got of the train in Dax, France.  John Hurst became part of the group in Seville when he joined them in hiding on the Norwegian ship, “The Lisbeth.”  But there were several other airmen whose paths crossed Tom’s along the way.  Using helper files, Tom’s debriefing information, and interviews, it was possible to identify  several other airmen Tom encountered along the way.

Helpers – Dutch, Belgian, and French – Tom was able to give me the names of several of his helpers, particularly the De Noo family of the village of Well where he was first hidden; Jan Naaijkens, who guided him to Hilvarenbeek; Eugene van der Heijden, his guide to Brussels; Amanda Stassart, his guide across the Belgian-French border and on to Paris; and “Franco,” one of his guides from the Dax train station and part way into Spain.  But the identities of the others came about by examining helper files, other airmen’s debriefing reports, escape line histories, memoirs, and interviews.  Even the membership records of RAFES, the Royal Air Forces Escaping Society, housed at the Imperial War Museum in London, proved useful.  The records for Stan Munns gave the names of his helpers, two of whom were his and Tom’s key helpers while they were in the Anglet-Bayonne-Larressore area near the Spanish border.

Norwegian Sailors – Tom knew the nationality of the ship on which he was hidden (Norwegian) and the date it sailed from Seville, but not its name, nor the name of the captain.   Neither Munns nor Hurst could remember it (the others were deceased at the time of my research).   If I was to learn anything about the ship, the captain, etc., from the Norwegian National Archives in Oslo, where all the WWII records on their ships are housed, learning the ship’s name was essential.  But from a history of the Norwegian merchant marine during the war I learned that half the Norwegian ships helping the Allies were insured by Lloyds of London.  This was an important lead.  The Lloyds shipping agent’s office in Gibraltar confirmed that they would have been tracking the movements of all ships in 1943-44–and still do.  Finally, I learned that the WWII Lloyds of London records of ship traffic were held by the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England.  They provided the ship’s name, “The Lisbeth.”  Back I went to the Norwegian National Archives in Oslo.  They promptly provided me with the names of the captain and crew, the record of the captain’s commands, and the record of the ship’s voyages.  Both the captain and the ship were from Haugesund, Norway.  The local library located for me the captain’s son, who remembered his father talking about hiding the airmen on the ship.  In addition, Tom recalled talking with a young Englishman who was one of the ship’s radio officers.  The crew list provided his name.  He proved to be still alive, living in England, and remembered talking with Tom Applewhite.

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