Owain Williams

Owain Williams

  • 11th September 1944
  • Sgt – Flt Engineer
  • HALIFAX lll LL584 LK-E
  • 578 Sqn – RAF Burn, Nr Selby
  • Target: Oil refineries at Gelsenkirken

At 1549 Halifax LL584 left RAF Burn en route for the oil refineries at Gelsenkirken in Germany. The Ack Ack had other ideas and the aircraft lost two engines and was badly damaged. The order was given to bale out over North Belgium – Williams wished his two air gunners a happy landing and jumped.

The mid-upper gunner had the misfortune to almost land on top of a lorry full of German soldiers and was taken captive. All the rest of the crew landed safely and successfully evaded. Owain landed in a small clearing in a forest and quickly hid his parachute and divested himself of the last of his English money, then laid low to take stock of his situation.

Voices approached and grew louder until the clearing was full of people; men, women, and children; all wearing clogs. Owain listened intently to try to define their language, without success. A man found the parachute and disappeared with it under his arm – no cry to the enemy of his find. Next, a young man approached within a few yards of Owain’s hiding place. Owain remained motionless and was unseen. Then everyone departed leaving him undetected. He waited until dusk, then moved into the forest. As darkness began to fall, the stars appeared, and he sought the Plough and North Star and headed East.

Coming across a cottage, Owain knocked tentatively – no sign of life, so he went in. Footsteps, and a blonde young woman appeared. Owain said ‘Englishman, parachute’. The room suddenly filled with people. Owain recognised the man who had picked up his chute. They seemed very friendly. An English speaker was brought in and an interrogation followed. Owain was then dressed in peasant clothes and taken to a Resistance group hiding in the forest.

A barn in a clearing contained 21 German prisoners – and Barney, Owain’s Aussie Navigator, who proceeded to recount the fates of the rest of the crew. Whilst with the Resistance group Owain and Barney participated in many skirmishes against the Germans and, for good measure, discovered their rear gunner, also hiding up.

In an attempt by two German patrols searching a village to seek out the Resistance group, the German prisoners were mistaken for the Resistance and fired on by their own men, killing them all.

While hiding up, word arrived that the Allies, who had failed to relieve the Arnhem lads via Eindhoven, were on the way [the group had actually witnessed that huge armada of aircraft and gliders whilst hiding from a German search in the forest]. The Resistance took Owain to the local butcher’s house on the main street. He was asked to stay awake through the night in order to hand the Allies plans of the mined roads ahead. Nothing occurred during the night. Next morning, Sunday, there were cheers, flags and shouts of ‘The Allies are coming’. Owain went out into the street, but saw no army vehicles, so he had to kiss all the children and shake hands with everyone – then fight his way back into the house because there were snipers in the village! Later, more cheers, louder this time, and there they were! The Allies in column, advancing towards them. Owain hailed the first vehicle carrying a soldier wearing a French helmet and asked ‘Do you speak English?’ Suddenly up popped another head. ‘I hope so man’, was the reply. Owain handed him the plans. A great celebration followed. Then he hitch-hiked back to Antwerp, and later on to Brussels, for interrogation and home.