THE MEN WHO NEVER FORGOT
During the first week in March in 1954, this was a headline that appeared in most British newspapers, both national and local, and as far afield as South Africa and Northern Europe. Here is the story:
There was little hope for four year old Francine Schmit. The French girl was dying, and her doctors could do nothing more. In England there was a certain treatment, but it was costly and, to a poor Frenchman, England was a million expensive miles away.
In desperation, and with a certain faith, the child’s grandfather, Monsieur Jules Schmit, the ageing and blind owner of a sweet shop in Saint-Dizier, wrote to the only man he knew in the whole of Great Britain – an ex RAF pilot whom he had helped to escape from the Germans.
His faith was rewarded, for this airman, although lacking in funds himself, never forgot. And neither did 450 men of the Royal Air Forces Escaping Society [RAFES], who have never forgotten the debt that they owed to the brave people who helped them to achieve freedom when they had been shot down in enemy occupied territories.
From their HQ in London they phoned the Great Ormond Street Hospital for sick children: yes, there was a treatment and, better still, there was a professor in Paris who knew the technique. Minutes later, the men were on the phone to Wg Cdr FFE Yeo-Thomas, a Resistance hero now living in Paris, working as Director of the Federation of British Industries. He, too, being one of the men who never forgot. The professor was found. Within three days little Francine was in hospital. The RAFES paid for the treatment. Today Francine is a healthy little girl skipping around the streets of Saint-Dizier.