Bernard "Barney" Koller - an American airman's story of escape and evasion in France

The following amazing story was written late in 1944 by USAAF 2nd Lt Bernard Koller "Barney" to help explain to his friends what had happened to him during the three months he was in France.                           (Version française)

2nd Lt Koller was a Navigator with the 493rd BG based at Debach, Suffolk. His story takes us from the parachuting out from the stricken B-24 Liberator "Sweet Job" that crashed at La Bodinais near Lanrelas in the Côtes d'Armor departement in Brittany on the 8th June 1944 down to the south west of France around Angoulême in the Charente. He was picked up, looked after and fought alongside the maquis group of Jacques Nancy, the Section Spéciale de Sabotage until he and around 40 other allied airmen where returned to England on two USAAF Dakotas from Feytiat aerodrome near Limoges on the night of 2nd/3rd September 1944.

2nd Lt Bernard Koller - his story

Asleep at 2300 hrs I woke up at 1 am to go eat. The briefing passed as normal. Early in the morning we all stood around our B-24 "Sweet Job" smoking awaiting the time to get the engines started. The sky was clear but fog was beginning to appear.

As normal I checked all my equipment, checking also my oxygen supply, then my flying suit and my DCA protective vest. We finally took off and climbed quickly up to 12,000 feet, as navigator of the plane I was on the look out for any other Fortresses that had left before us so as to regroup with them. I couldn't see any. We were continually going in a circle like a bee around a hive. After a long time we were able to join another group of planes. Direction the Channel. I could see several hundred planes filling the entire horizon in a huge formation like a big square. The plan was to stay in this formation until we reached the target.

When we approached the target the bombardier pushed the button to release the bombs but none fell. He pressed the back up circuit but with no luck. He immediately called our Pilot "Tommy" who told him to try again to release the bombs but again nothing happened. Tommy asked me if there were other possible targets that we would pass on our route home. I started to check my maps when suddenly there was a terrible blast in the plane. It sounded as if someone had thrown a large rock at a wooden box. Then all of a sudden I heard in down the intercom "I've been hit, I've been hit".

I looked at the bombardier, it was not him who had been hit. We began to loose altitude. I opened the turret  door and could see that Smitty (Sgt Homer Smith) had been hit but how bad I didn't know. There was some blood on the side of his face but he seem more shocked than injured. I felt for him.

Tommy (2nd Lt Thomas Digges) told us to put our parachutes on in case we needed to bail out. I tried to contact the other planes and the 2nd Lt King again tried to release the bombs. I thought we wouldn't be able to get back over the Channel because of a strong headwind and the distance we were from the coast.

I helped Smitty put on his parachute then went back to the bomb door to see if could be of help. Tommy gave the order for us to bail out. Carmino (T/Sgt Carmine Feschetti) was sure we could get back okay. But Tommy knew best the state of the plane and gave the order to jump. I told Carmino to shut up and jump. I was the sixth to leave the plane. When my parachute opened, I noticed other open parachutes around me but at a distance.

Four crew members of Sweet Job
2nd Lt. Thomas Digges, 2nd Lt. Bernard Koller, 2nd Lt. Harold Bolin, 2nd Lt Kester King

Suddenly I saw the B-24 begin to turn to the right and then was coming at me. I felt helpless. I thought how stupid it would be to be killed by your own plane. The B-24 turned just before me and crashed with a huge explosion. A big column of oily black smoke and came up from the spot where the plane had crashed. I could see people below watching me descend. They were in a walled courtyard of a farm, typical in France.

I could see also a wooded area where I could hide. I felt relieved falling in a field knackered. A real shock on landing, but I picked myself up quickly. I took off my parachute harness and my safety jacket and hid them in a ditch. I ran across a field and saw a man running too. I saw him first so I had the advantage. I hid behind a tree and watched him. He seemed friendly, so I called over to him and we shook hands. He didn't say a word and didn't seem too smart so I decided to flee quickly. I got further away from the place where the plane had crashed towards a wooded area that I had seen during my descent.

It was past 9 in the morning. I took off my heavy flying boots so I could run quicker. I crossed over a main road and thought that some locals had seen me enter the wood. I kept running for another half hour until I needed a break. I sat down and reflected on what had happened. I threw away my pearl encrusted pen knife as I had heard that some airmen had been shot as spies for having some knives on their possession, however small they may have been. I kept my prisoner of war kit, a map of France and 2000 Francs. 

I stayed there until 5 o'clock in the afternoon then decided to explore the area and head south east. Finally I left the wood and saw the spire of a church and decided to go round the village. I was very mistrustful, hiding from everyone at the start. I saw a man and his son digging up some cabbages in a field. I decided to approach them and ask for a glass of water. Not knowing a single word of French I used sign language to try to be understood. The son went back to the house and came out with a glass of cider. The man told his son to go get some civilian clothes to swap for my flying suit. He told me to follow him into the house where his wife would give me some bread.

All of a sudden his wife had seen something from the window and said something to her husband. He grabbed my hand and I followed him out into a barn, then out the back and over a wall of the farm. I thought that the Germans were onto me already. I ran in a semi circle around the farm and headed south.

At the house the farmer's wife had shown me a handkerchief with the initials H.W.B. sown onto it, these were the initials of second lieutenant Harold Bolin so I believed that the co-pilot had got away safely and had passed by before me. I could see no other traces of the crew. I kept away from everyone and carried on walking until 10 o'clock that night. That night I decided to sleep in a ditch under a tree. It started to rain and it continued

The tree sheltered me for a bit bit it started to get pretty cold. I thought about returning to the farmhouse, at least I would be warm and would have something to eat. At around 4 in the morning I decided to walk to conserve my body heat. It was still dark. In spite of the difficulties I stayed on fields and kept low. I continued walking until 10 in the morning until I came across a farm and asked the lady if I could sleep in the barn.

She said to me that I could. I slept for about an hour when a man came in to the barn and told me to get going. I walked until 6 pm and stopped to ask someone for some food. A lady brought me out what looked at first like a greenish dish cloth. It had some butter on it. She then brought me some cider. I found out later that this dish was a delicacy in that area and was made with pancakes with eggs. 

I carried on walking until nightfall then slept again in a ditch. Rain, rain and more rain and very cold. I decided to hide myself under the first haystack that I came across so I could rest a bit. This I did until dawn and then carried on south. I stopped to look for some food. A lady gave me some bread and told me not to carry on along the same road making gestures of a soldier being up ahead. I decided however to continue in that direction. I was still very cold. I was drenched and very tired. I had only slept two hours in the last three days. I took to the road again as the fields were too wet. Soon I could see ahead a German soldier standing guard across the road of a building with his rifle on his shoulder. My heart jumped.

The German saw me and as not to attract too much attention I had to carry on towards him acting as naturally as possible. Luckily he suspected nothing. In the building I saw other Germans in an office. I took the first route to my right to get away as soon as possible. I passed three more Germans, this time patrolling on their bikes.

I took the next road and then off along another to leave the town. I could see two Germans standing in front of two individual tents, lighting up a cigarette. My heart beat so fast that I thought they'd be able to hear it ! Finally I was out of the town, very tired. I looked for somewhere dry to spend the night. I saw an empty pigsty but thought it best to wait to see what the farmer was like.

I sat down on the edge of the road and waited for them to return back to the farm. As they returned they came towards me accompanied by their dog. It was a man and his son who had been working in their fields. I asked them for something to eat. They invited me into their house and gave me some soup and bread. The soup was very good. They made me feel welcome and brought down a bed from the attic for me to sleep in their kitchen.

I was so tired I dropped off to sleep straight away. The next morning I asked for a mirror so I could shave. It was a Sunday and the farmer told me he had to go to church. I left as I could not trust anyone. I continued south for a while. A German patrol passed me camouflaged with branches. I so wanted to be in a car, but not with them ! 

Exhausted from the long walk and stuck to the back lanes to try not to meet anyone. That day I carried on walking until nightfall. I asked at a house for some food and the man gave me some bread. Near to 11 o'clock that evening the man caught up with me and said I should come back to his house He gave me some soup with bread and some milk, all good. He told me that he was in the DCA Française (French Anti-Aircraft) until 1940. He had worked in Germany but was over 40 years old before he was liberated. His brother-in-law had been a prisoner in Germany now for three years. The next morning he made me breakfast and I left. As I walked across a field a Messerschmitt 109 suddenly flew over me very low.

I could see the pilot in his cockpit. I walked through a forest the whole day and in the evening looked for somewhere to sleep. A man indicated to me where I could find a nearby barn. I was just climbing the ladder to the hay loft when suddenly another man told me to clear off. I continued and asked at another farm for help, it was refused. I carried on walking, on and on until I saw standing in the shade a man and asked if I could sleep in a haystack. He said it would be okay. That night was freezing, I was so tired and famished. I got up at dawn and rejoined my route, still to the south. I had some blisters on my feet which were making me suffer.

Finally the sun came out but I was in a pretty low place asking myself how long this was all going to carry on. In the evening I asked a man for some food. He gave me some pea soup which had some bits of the pod in it. This man told me that the Germans were 3 km away. He was worried about letting me sleep in his barn but in the end said I could. The horses in the adjoining stables were unsettled the whole night meaning I didn't get much sleep.

In the morning I left and continued on until 3 o'clock in the afternoon. I searched for some food. A lady who I thought looked like the American singer Jeanne Burton made me an excellent omelette. She gave me some bread and put an egg in my pocket. I arrived at the Loire river, a beautiful wide river. Not knowing how to swim there was no question of me crossing it here. I decided to cross it by a bridge. I came into a small town where I came across another of the river.

The bridge here had been destroyed by bombing. My heart sank. I left the town and sat down on the river bank. I was exhausted. I saw a man crossing the river in a small boat. I called over to him and he took me over the river. He said that I'd been lucky. The following night I slept in a barn. I put my jacket over my head to not have hay on me. I had an infected toe caused by my blisters.

                  Mission report for 8th June 1944    (Courtesy 493rd BG Museum Debach, Suffolk)

The following day I walked the entire day in spite of my painful feet. I noticed a dam above an industrial town. In the evening a very nice lady made me an omelette using six eggs. It was so good I asked for another, she obliged. She must have thought I was a pig ! At this point I began to ask myself if there was a network to help evading airmen. How come I had gone so long without coming across this. I continued to walk. There was no other solution. I crossed a town and saw a soldier on a bicycle who stopped in front of a shop. He put his helmet on the saddle. I passed by the bike and tried to balance it then ran off laughing. But perhaps I would not have laughed for long. I asked myself how come they could not spot me. I took the direction south east. I had to stop for a rest often.

So, that's how my evasion had gone after several days. My legs had become very stiff. I liked to travel but not on such a long journey. I could see some P-47 fighter planes attacking a train I believed in the distance. This gave me great pleasure to see them flying over me. This gave me the push I needed to continue the fight. Walk, walk, walk. 

I eventually went past a hospital covered with red crosses.There were some anti-aircraft turrets on each side. Leaving the hospital were some trucks full of soldiers. There were also some women on the truck and not in uniform. I wondered what they were doing there. I walked down on one side of the road and took the next turn. Some people were waiting for a train noticed me. I had to get past them.

A military train passes and I could see it full of tired German soldiers sitting on their bales of straw in the wagon trains with the doors open. Most of them were blond and looked pretty young with perfect field equipment. A wagon full of young idiots on their way to their death I thought. Why continue fighting when they must of known that they were going to get a severe beating. Knowing that they had as good as lost the war already. What a stupid war. Some Frenchmen were waving at them. I waved too. If only they had have known that an American was waving at them. Life is a crazy thing at times...

After having walked non stop from dawn to dusk for 14 days I wanted to stop at a farm and just rest for a while and find something to eat. I had covered 400 km since my arrival on French soil. Even more when you take in the long routes around some of the towns I passed. I asked a young lady for some food and she said she needed to ask her grandmother if it was okay. The grandmother gave her permission to give me some food. I waited and then went inside and ate soup with the family in a typical French kitchen. They all spoke at the same time. They threw little pieces on the floor for the dogs and cats. The bread was a large round loaf of about 4 kg. Everyone cut themselves a slice.

Huguette, the first young lady I spoke to said I could stay there the night and then in the morning her father would go find an Englishman and an American who were supposedly with French comrades. (It was the 23rd June and the farmhouse was in the village of Chives in the Charente-Maritime in between Saint Jean d'Angely and Ruffec). I stayed the night there and at the end of the afternoon of the following day a truck pulled into their courtyard with a few Frenchmen and an English guy who had come for me. Finally I thought I was going to get over to Spain. I had found the resistance.

All seemed to be going well when all of a sudden the Frenchmen all pointed their machine guns and pistols in the direction of a car that was coming down the lane of the farm. I presumed it was a German car. But no, it was the butcher on his rounds. When he left everyone was relieved and behind the truck covered with a tarpaulin under which everyone had hidden. The Englishman whose name was Mike (Michael Patrick Mcpartland) seemed very shaky. He was a small skinny man. The Frenchmen also were pretty jumpy. We drove for a long time and when we finally stopped we were in the heart of a forest.

I jumped off the truck and to my surprise met two Americans. (S/Sgt Jack M. Garrett and S/Sgt Norman C. Benson (448th BG)  whose B-24 came down near Niort). They asked me when I had been shot down and I told them 8th June. I asked them when they had, they replied 5th March. I was beginning to realise that it would not be easy to leave France and get back to England. So, Jack, Norman, Mike and myself could all speak the same language and I sure was happy to see them. I was pretty tired of trying to communicate in French only knowing two words and ending every conversation with gestures.

We all shook hands with the Frenchmen. Norm and Jack were joining the group the same time as me. (Jack Garrett and Norman Benson had been picked up by the same resistant group earlier in the day at Villefagnan). The head of this small group of resistants was "René" (Denis Olivain). He was a small bald and chubby man. He did not know a single word of English. There was also "Emile" (Elie Dodart) who had been the Mayor of a big town in the area and had been part of the resistance since the beginning. He had helped 18 Americans to get over the Pyrenees into Spain but he told us that it was pretty dangerous, especially as since May the Germans had tripled their guards. We understood the position and we resolved to wait.

He told us that the Germans were shooting the Frenchmen and American airmen who had been sent to camps in Germany. Emile spoke good English but with a strong accent. He had studied at Cambridge University. Also there was Jacky, a brave man, well-built, very nervous and a chain smoker. Later he told me that he wanted to move to America and be a farmer. His father was a farmer and he felt there would be more opportunities in America.

I told him that there were many Frenchmen in Quebec and New Orleans. Amongst the men there was also a guy called "Max" (Marcel Chabonnier). He had been a sergeant in the French Army and had escaped from a German prisoner of war camp. He was an easy going guy and very athletic. His knowledge of English ran to "Get up, shut up, Al Capone and Chicago". Another "Pierre" (Louis Proust), was a serious young man around 18 years old. One day he and I caught some over curious visitors while we were out collecting wood. René interrogated them but let them go the next day. The first night we were there, Emile asked us if we wanted to derail a train. We all said yes. We jumped in a Citroen Traction Avant and the others jumped in the truck. It appeared that on our way to try to get to Spain we had joined a group of saboteurs. What a life !

Photo taken at camp de Barbezières in June 1944
Standing : Séraphin, Emile, Jacques, Jacky, Marc, René
Kneeling : Blaireau, Clovis, Antoine

They gave Sten machine guns to Norm, Jack and myself. The bullets were a little smaller than a 45 and the magazine contained 28 bullets. We were there to protect Rene while he installed the wire between the dynamo and the sticks of dynamite. They were set for the time that a train would pass. A lone locomotive approached. It was on the wrong track. It was pitch-dark. We were all hidden behind a small mound waiting for the train. 

All of a sudden we could hear the rumblings of a plane. It passed over us and dropped some yellow flares. It was a warning for the population in Angoulême nearby to take shelter. The plane came over again and this time it dropped some white flares. Then many planes came over and dropped their bombs. The ground shook and rumbled. The planes past and all went calm.

We waited a long time. It was pretty cold. Finally the train arrived but the detonator didn't work. After this I began to worry what things were going to follow. We quickly set off back to the camp on back roads. The Traction unfortunately broke down. Crazy ! If the Germans were on this route we could have said goodbye to the world. The truck took us all back to the camp. The resistants slept during the day and were operational in the night. They did not want us on the next mission. A Gendarme arrived at the camp. He was called Robert (Robert Pradier) and came from a nearby town where he was a guard at the prison. He came with a spare set of keys to the prison and gave them to the resistants. This group would set free more than 400 political prisoners in the days that followed. The prisoners weren't too keen to leave at first as they thought it was a trap.

They thought that the Germans were going to kill them all. Two days later in the evening we moved to a new camp in another forest. It was necessary for us to change our location often as to not be found. The maquisards shelter were tents made from parachutes. They never stayed in houses in case they came under attack and couldn't get away in time. In the woods this would be easier to scarper and disappear. Mike, Norm, Jack and myself slept in the same tent. We had one blanket below us and one above. Mike was very jumpy and at night he smoked a cigarette every half an hour. Jack itched and scratched away like a dog with fleas.

In case of an emergency we had to flee through the wood. The signal being two shots. We all slept with our clothes on to stay warm as much as possible and also to be ready if we needed to run. There were not enough arms for everyone. One night we patrolled the forest, us Americans and the cook. Not seeing anything we returned to the camp. It rained a lot, we were soaking wet and it was cold. The rain got into our improvised tents. One day we killed a sheep. It was necessary to eat well. We shared it round and all ate until it was gone.

One evening at around 8.30, Emile told us that we were going to give them a hand. He said it would be dangerous and that we must be ready for anything. He gave me an old French Army rifle. It was dirty and rusty and could only take one bullet in its magazine. Jack had a Sten. We drove until midnight, then jumped out of the truck. Quietly we approached a bridge over a railway line. We went down the side of the bridge and suddenly a dog began to bark. We thought it was a German patrol.

Norm and myself had to sit on each side of the bridge blocking its access. The order was to be ready for anything that might happen. I was sitting on the right edge of the bridge. I tried to see the other side and also out to the horizon where I could see along the embankment. Each time a branch moved, I thought that an enemy patrol had arrived, at times I believe that these minutes where the hardest of my life. It was dark and cloudy with an occasional break with moonlight. The other guys were setting up the explosives on the tracks. We had to wait until 5 am. If no train passed we were to blow up the tracks. After waiting a good half hour, we could hear in the distance a train coming towards us. The driver sounded the whistle. It was approaching us, the train hissed as if it was carrying a heavy load. We could see the train's lantern. I threw myself down on the embankment. I just managed to get flat on the ground when a huge explosion could be heard.

A massive flame went up into the air. The train's boiler had blown up. The locomotive was derailed and the first two wagons were in pieces. We could hear bits of metal hitting the ground. The embankment protected us. We quickly jumped in the truck and sped off with our lights turned off. We were on our guard at each village that we passed through in case the Germans had set up a roadblock. The guys in the front of the truck had grenades ready. Far behind us we noticed the headlights of a vehicle. We thought it Germans, and it turned out to be the case. However, even with our headlights off, we managed to get away from them.

We took small back roads to lessen the risk of meeting any more Germans. Finally... we arrived back at the camp. We had coffee and a bit of bread then found the nearest haystack which would serve as a bed. The next day we tested our arms and my old rifle. We shot a target placed at the other side of the valley, half of the bullets did not fire. I imagined the situation the night before where we had the same arms and bullets if the enemy had engaged in combat with us. It is destiny that rules our lives. Two days later we joined another resistant group.

The six American evaders
Standing : Barney Koller, Norman Benson, Joe Gonet
Kneeling : Herbert Brill, Jack Garrett, Bill Weber

The commander was called Jacques (Jacques Nancy), René was his second in command. The camp was divided into two groups. Us Americans were with Jacques. We got a new cook, Robert. He was a brave man and never flinched at the hardest of tasks. He used to walk up and down the middle of the road with his machine gun as brazen as Lady Godiva. Us Americans were a little more on guard. Apparently he had been a mercenary and had been shot in the shoulder.

He had a finger missing, he had told us that it was a bullet that had taken it off. His wife who we had met told us that it had been cut off by the blade of a hay mower. He had a tattoo on his back, a Senor and his senorita. Without doubt a trophy of a time passed. Our new commander was excellent. Jacques had been an artillery officer in the French Army. He had managed to escape from a German jail, got over to Spain where he was arrested and in prison for 16 months. Finally he got to England where he was trained in sabotage. He was then dropped back into France.

Next I met "Toubib" (Jacques Dodart) a student in medicine who had had his studies interrupted due to the war. He was thought of as the doctor of the group. He was an intelligent guy. I had now been in France for 45 days and had yet to get a toothbrush, so Toubib brought me one. In the group also was Antoine, always joking around. He did all that he could for us. We had set up our new camp at the foot of a ravine where a stream ran. There was also a lake about a 100 metres from us. We went swimming in it. I'll always remember our first night at this place, it rained non stop for ten hours.

We were beginning to lose our moral. One day I went out with Mike to collect wood. Suddenly he let out a cry and put his hand on his chest and started to roll around in agony on the floor. It seemed he was having a heart attack and was having trouble breathing. I ran to get Toubib. We put a blanket around him and drove him to a clandestine hospital, he was in a deep coma. Mike was English and an Officer in the Merchant Navy. In 1942 he escaped from a ship that had sunk during the Canadian/British assault on Dieppe. He was pulled out the water by some French fishermen and handed over to the Germans and put in prison in Cologne. He escaped and got into France and after many adventures where he met the Resistance. (Michael Patrick Mcpartland's military records tell a slightly different story, he was a seaman in the Merchant Navy but his ship SS Gracefield had been sunk by the Germans on 14th July 1940. He had spent time in a prison at Bordeaux until being transferred in January 1941 to a prison at Drancy). Mike was 42 years old but looked 60. He returned to the group two weeks later. The Doctor had told him to stop drinking and smoking. He ignored his advice.

On the 14th July at the camp we celebrated Bastille Day. (Like our 4th July in the U.S.) This was the same day that Herb and Bill turned up at the camp. Their plane had gone down on 31st December 1943 and were still in France. They decided to stay with us. Our group was beginning to grow. One day we had to go into a town for provisions. We took advantage of the visit by cutting some telephone wires to the Post Office. The truck was full of pasta, wine and a heap of other stuff. We left the town in the direction of the camp. At this point it was decided that due to our numbers we would move into a chateau. Our bedrooms were huge. It was a grand property. (Château de Puycharnaud near Piégut-pluviers in the Dordogne).

The following day we barred a road a few kilometres away with trees after we heard that the Germans based in Angoulême were planning an attack on the town of Nontron. We took care when we were away from the chateau. We were near the village of Javerlhac in the Dordogne situated in between Angoulême and Nontron and on 24th July 1944 a heavy battle took place and five of our men were killed whereas the Germans lost more than thirty including a captain in the French Milice. This we read in the papers a few days later. One of our guys had been killed accidently by his own gun. (His name was Robert Marchedier, the accident happened whilst on patrol near Javerlhac on 25th July 1944, he was 18 years old. Every 24th july a commemoration is held around Javerlhac at the locations where each of the resistants lost their lives).

Jedburgh Team Ian
Gildee, Bourgoin, Desfarges
Around this time another American, Joe, joined us (Joe Gonet). His B-24 had also come down. (Hit by flak and crashed near Nantes 19th July 1944). Now we were six. (Bernard Koller is including two other American airmen whose B-24 had crashed on 31st December 1943, Sgt Bill Weber and Lt. Herbert Brill who had been looked after by Jacques Nancy's group at various locations since 2nd January 1944). We had envisaged that we could get back to England all together. Jacques took Norm and myself about 50 kms from our camp to meet a French Captain (Lieutenant Alexander Desfarges) and an American Commander called John (Major John Gildee) who had parachuted in some time earlier in the area to coordinate the parachuting of supplies. (Gildee and Desfarges were two of the remaining Jedburgh Team Ian).

He knew the area like the back of his hand and he advised us strongly to not attempt to get back to England. We decided to stay in the area but we chose to leave the maquis as it was too dangerous. We stayed in an abandoned farm surrounded by woods. It turned out five other Americans had stayed their before us making it eleven of us Americans who had stayed in this hidden place. These outbuildings belonged to a farmer who we called "The proprietor".

He did all he could for us. We had French money to buy things in the local area but the farmers nearby brought us lots of food too. We discretely one at a time used to buy bread from a bakers 5 kms away. We stayed there for a month. One morning the American Commander John came to see us. He had some news we could hardly believe, we were finally going to be able to leave for England. We had to get to an airfield near a large town close to us where a plane would arrive to pick us up, I think it was near Angoulême. (The airfield was at Feytiat near Limoges). The airfield had been abandoned by the Germans but still in tact.

The local resistance had extended the landing strip so that our plane could land. The night came and we arrived at the airfield to wait for the plane. The wait was long. We were with other Allied soldiers, English, Canadians, New Zealanders amongst others. Just after midnight we heard the noise of engines. The plane landed. The take off was quick as soon as it had filled with fuel. We took off and as the new day dawned we landed on English soil.

Second Lieutenant Barney Koller - 1944

Photo taken at the Château Puycharnaud
Section Spéciale de Sabotage de Jacques Nancy / 2e Compagnie de la brigade Rac

Marc Leproux "Le Tontin", one of Jacques Nancy's men, published in two volumes the Journal de la Section Spéciale de Sabotage, Volume one published in 1947 : De la Débâcle au Débarquement, Volume Two published in 1948 : Du Débarquement à la Victoire. This volume has allowed me to add certain details (in brackets) to Bernard Koller's story.

Volume Two names the camps where Bernard Koller, Benson and Garrett stayed :
Camp du Moulin du milieu near Lupsault (Charente) : 16th to 28th June 1944.
Camp de couture d'Argenson (Charente-Maritime) : 28th June to 8th July 1944.
Camp du Chadeau or de l'Etang de Leygurat near Audignac in the Dordogne : 2nd July to 22nd July 1944.
Camp du Château Puycharnaud near Piégut-pluviers in the Dordogne : 22nd July to 7th September 1944.

We are very grateful to Daniel Dehiot at the Association Bretonne du Souvenir Aerien 39-45 for allowing us to translate into English and share Bernard Koller's story which can be viewed on their website - ABSA3945 (link). The website (in French) also tells the story of other members of the crew.

Thanks also to Richard Taylor and Darren Jelly at the 493rd BG Museum at Debach Airfield near Woodbridge in Suffolk for their help with the article. 
493rd BG Museum website (link)