- 320 (Dutch) Squadron RAF
- Supporting airborne troops – Arnhem
- Attacking SS Panzer Battalions
- Halting the German Ardennes offensive
- 59 operations
Jon Hommes completed his escapes and evasions prior to joining the RAF!
When the Germans invaded Holland in May 1940, Jon was a medical student in his second year at Leiden University. With two close friends, he hatched a plan to escape from Holland to England to join the RAF. Unable to steal a boat, or get aboard a ship, the men decided to cycle the complete route, about 1800 miles from Holland to Gibraltar.
In June 1941, they set off towards the border with Belgium, unaware that any help was available to them. Their first luck arrived in Brussels where they were accommodated and fed, then provided with a contact to take them to the border with France. Once in France they lived rough and headed for Paris.
The crossing of the River Somme proved problematic, as all the bridges had been destroyed with the exception of one that was guarded by Germans. They laid low for some while, observing the procedures at the bridge, then took their chance by crossing at the same time as a German patrol, when checking of civilians took lower precedence than military matters.
A Swiss banker housed the group for the night and suggested they took the night-train from Paris to Bordeaux then cross into Spain. They hoisted their bicycles onto the train and mingled and chatted with German soldiers on board. Their audacity worked – the ticket collector ignored them and the Germans shared their rations.
From Bordeaux, they cycled on to Biarritz with a plan to cross the border at Irun. Unfortunately the area was swarming with Germans. A change of direction took them to St Pied de Port then, heading south, they found a small bridge, guarded by only one German, to take them into Spain, but without papers they were turned back. So they continued along the frontier, laid up until dark, and crossed the border and waded the stream during the moonless night.
Once in the mountains they and their bikes hitched a lift on a lorry – which unhelpfully delivered them to the Guadia Civil in Pamploma, where their belongings were confiscated and they were locked up! Later they were taken to the Provincial Prison, their hair was shaved off, and all personal items taken. With food and water in short supply Jon became very weak. Spanish companions were released and promised to get information to the Dutch Consulate in Madrid. After nearly four months, John was moved back to the border town of Irun and placed in a dungeon with criminals and cut-throats, life had become worse. By overpowering a guard Jon and a friend escaped but were apprehended by Spanish locals and handed back to the guards. This resulted in shackles and moving to Miranda del Ebro concentration camp.
With nothing heard from the Dutch Consul, approaches were made to the British Embassy. In June 1942, Jon and his friend were met by the British Military Attaché, who took them to Madrid, and then Bilbao. They then sailed via the West Indies and South America to New York, then by train to Canada, and finally by the Queen Mary to Liverpool, England.
Through the Free Dutch Army, Jon joined the RAF. He trained in Canada as a Navigator and was posted to 320 (Dutch) Squadron RAF where he flew with Mitchells on operations over northern Europe.
Jon received the Dutch Distinguished Service Cross for his escape, and was awarded the DFC for his wartime service.