Albert de Bruin
- 630 Sqn – East Kirby
- Lancaster – pilot Gordon Maxwell
- Mid upper gunner
- 18 July 1944
- Target Caen
- Bomb run – hit by flak
- Bailed out – landed in field by River Marne
A young man suddenly appeared, wearing an FFI armband and pointing a pistol at Albert, who was instructed to ‘walk on’. The man took him to a Resistance group; amongst whom was a British Army Sergeant, who asked for proof of identity. Once cleared, Albert continued into the forest and came across a large fortified farmhouse; after watching it for nearly two days he approached an old man outside who was chopping wood. Albert explained he was RAF and needed water. The farmer nodded towards the house where two men appeared, M. Gillete and M. Bernier. The men questioned Albert, and asked for his name, rank and number. They were very cautious as the Gestapo had been planting bogus aircrew into the area to catch people hiding evaders. Many had been executed. Albert waited outside the farmhouse for a long time. This time he was treated differently. A message was transmitted to England, and the reply confirmed he was RAF aircrew.
A visitor arrived at the farm; a M. Schmit, who had worked as a chef in London. Many more questions were asked to prove Albert’s identity. Once satisfied, a bottle of wine was produced and a toast made. On 3 August 44, Albert was moved from the farm to the village of Robert-Espagne. There he was given a large coat and told to follow behind a Gendarme, but not, on any account, to speak. Germans were now moving into the area in great numbers. Albert was taken to the safe-house of M. and Mme Evrard, and told he would remain there until he could be moved on. On one occasion he was taken back to the farm to identify his rear gunner, Sgt Leary. Later the farm was attacked, and all the men inside shot.
Sitting down to eat one day, the Evrard family were startled by banging on the door. Albert and his Gendarme guide were ushered to the bedroom where they were hidden in the cellar under a hidden trap door. A while later Mme Evrard appeared and instructed the men to leave the house as the Germans had set it alight. Climbing out into the garden the men headed into the woods. All houses in the village were attacked with grenades and looted.
The next day Albert and his guide approached the village with caution; they learned that Mme Evrard had taken shelter away from the village and that the Germans were due to return, so they resumed their hiding place the woods. On re-entering the village, the Germans lined up 57 men and executed them, including the safe-house keeper M Evrard.
Later, following the sound of heavy gunfire, a man ran into the wood loudly shouting Albert’s name. The men tried to silence him for fear of being detected, but the man had actually brought good news – the Americans had arrived in the village!
Albert returned to the village of Robert-Espagne on many occasions after the war to lay wreaths on the graves of four of his crew members whose bodies had been collected by local people and buried in the churchyard. He also laid wreaths on the graves of the Resistance men executed by the SS.