LORD ASHCROFT: How two SAS men escaped from a Nazi firing squad

As the adult men prepared to be executed, Dupontel glanced at his finest friend Corporal Thomas ‘Ginger’ Jones, pictured higher than, small and stocky, who was the previous guy in the line

It was approaching dawn on August 9, 1944 and the seven prisoners of war caught working driving enemy strains in German-occupied France imagined they realized their fate.

Immediately after weeks of imprisonment, like brutal interrogation at the palms of the Gestapo, their conclude was in close proximity to. 

German SS adult males, armed with computerized weapons, led the seven SAS adult males, all of whom have been in handcuffs, from a lorry to a clearing some 100 yards into a wooden.

‘Are we heading to be shot?’ requested Corporal Jean Dupontel, a single of the prisoners.

‘Of course you’re going to be shot. What do you assume this is, a picnic?’ explained one of the guards, with a snigger. 

Dupontel, who was dark-haired and a bit crafted, experienced expended the past a few many years serving in the British Armed Forces. 

Now he had been weakened by torture and a deficiency of food. He was also so frightened that his knees started to tremble and he 50 % fell to the ground but the butts of several SS rifles propelled him forwards.

As Dupontel was lined up to be shot, his views turned to his youthful brother, Antoine, whom he had not viewed for 5 many years but who he knew was fighting with the French Resistance. 

Then, as he listened to the birdsong, he thought of his mothers and fathers, who lived in a small property in Brittany. 

‘God assist me,’ he whispered below his breath. ‘I’m as well youthful. I do not want to be shot down like a pet below these trees.’

As the guys geared up to be executed, Dupontel glanced at his finest close friend Corporal Thomas ‘Ginger’ Jones, short and stocky, who was the past person in the line. 

An SS captain study out a statement, initially in German, right before one particular of his sergeants translated it into English: ‘Having been tried and discovered responsible just before a courtroom martial of collaborating with French terrorists and in this way endangering the security of the German Military, you have been sentenced to demise by shooting.’

What happened following was astonishing and led to a person of the most extraordinary stories of the overall 1939-45 war.

Moments earlier, Dupontel experienced managed to perform his ideal hand no cost from the handcuffs but he stored his arms in entrance of him to fake that they had been however limited.

As the group of SS soldiers raised their weapons to fireplace, Dupontel allow out a roar like a wild beast and rushed ahead, breaking via a gap concerning a single of the German officers and a civilian who was watching the execution. 

Serge Vaculik was, in fact, Jean Dupontel¿s real name. His family were Czech, but when he fought with the British he was advised to change his name in case he was captured: his Gestapo interrogators would probably have given him a harder time if they knew he was Czech, not French

Serge Vaculik was, in truth, Jean Dupontel’s real title. His family were being Czech, but when he fought with the British he was advised to modify his name in situation he was captured: his Gestapo interrogators would in all probability have supplied him a more durable time if they understood he was Czech, not French

In the darkness, he raced forwards and as a single of the SS troopers opened hearth, he fell to the ground – not shot because, in fact, he had tripped on the root of a tree. He picked himself up and ran by way of trees, brambles and foliage as bullets whistled by his head and overall body.

‘Dear God, assistance me,’ he shouted. But at the edge of the forest he came to a tall, thick hedge. 

He could hear the Germans were on his heels and so he launched himself, arms very first, by way of the top of the hedge, briefly remembering what he had been taught at his commando coaching system in Inverness, Scotland.

Landing with a roll forwards, he glanced at a stunned horse standing close by, picked himself up and, after once again, ran for his lifetime in the direction of one more wood.

Inevitably, Dupontel was free – alone in the French countryside just over two months following the D-Working day landings. 

Dressed in civilian outfits, he was also limping from a terribly swollen right ankle that he experienced injured as he frantically manufactured his escape.

Out of desperation, he sought aid from French villagers, some 40 miles north of Paris, hoping that they would acquire pity on him and not turn him about to their German masters.

He was in luck: he was befriended by a French butcher who had a cousin in the Maquis, the French Resistance.

As he prised off the second handcuff, his views turned to his 6 comrades who he imagined experienced been shot and buried in the wood. Distraught and frightened as he sheltered in a farmhouse, the slightest sounds made him jump.

Before long Dupontel connected up with the butcher’s cousin and his Resistance good friends. And times later, as his ankle started to heal, his new pal instructed him that three miles absent villagers had located a gentleman who didn’t discuss any French but who was gesturing for support. 

At to start with, Dupontel feared it was a trap, but he agreed to accompany the Frenchman to see the stranger. The two males slipped into a home and listened to the stranger talking in English.

The voice coming from the kitchen area was unmistakable to Dupontel: it was Ginger Jones, so he entered the area. The two good friends stared at every other as if they had each found a ghost, then they shook arms and hugged each and every other warmly. 

‘Is it really you, aged guy?’ Jones explained. ‘It just cannot be. I was absolutely sure you were being useless.’ Dupontel told Jones he experienced been similarly positive that he was dead.

As the excitement calmed down, Jones stated that in the commotion brought about by Dupontel’s sprint for freedom, he also experienced raced absent from his posture at the close of the line right before tripping and slipping.

‘Bullets hit the floor around exactly where I was lying.

‘I was frightened to shift. I understood that my only possibility now was to fake to be useless. I listened to another person come up to me and my coronary heart practically stopped beating… I was astonished at nonetheless being alive,’ Jones recalled. When the execution squad left, Jones experienced picked himself off the floor and counted the five lifeless bodies of his comrades.

Then he created his way up a hill and sooner or later arrived to a village where by he, much too, was befriended by locals.

Jones thanked his close friend for preserving his daily life. ‘If you hadn’t distracted their awareness by shouting and building a split for it, I’d have had it with the other people,’ he stated.

As the Allied forces shut in on Paris and its nearby countryside, Dupontel and Jones determined to remain and combat with the Resistance. They have been delighted to find that their new friends had been nicely armed. 

Their very first mission was to ambush a German team car that the Resistance had noticed passing by just about every day, and which by no means experienced a motorcycle escort. 5 adult men, which include an SS colonel, ended up captured. They had been requested to dig their own graves and afterwards shot, although not by Dupontel or Jones.

On yet another situation, Dupontel observed six enemy troopers beating up a younger Frenchman, dragging the boy’s mother by her hair and thieving their horses. With a further Resistance fighter, he shot the SS adult males dead.

By this level in the war, the Germans had been retreating and it was not long in advance of the space in which Dupontel and Jones had been in hiding was liberated by advancing American troops.

‘You fellas absolutely did a really swell task,’ explained one particular US officer, just after hearing of the bravery with which the adult males and their Resistance allies had fought off a German tank.

German SS men, armed with automatic weapons, led the seven SAS men, all of whom were in handcuffs, from a lorry to a clearing some 100 yards into a wood.

German SS adult males, armed with computerized weapons, led the seven SAS males, all of whom were in handcuffs, from a lorry to a clearing some 100 yards into a wood. 

Shortly Dupontel and Jones, each aged 30, have been heading back again to London, hitching a lift in a flat-bottomed landing craft on its way back to England throughout the Channel. 

Each survived the war, Dupontel was reunited with his family, and they both equally gave proof at a war crimes demo in the German city of Wuppertal in February 1947. 

Some of the German troops liable for torturing the two men and killing their colleagues during their captivity had been uncovered responsible by the courtroom and executed by hanging.

I have been in a position to inform this remarkable, real story simply because of enable from a Mail on Sunday reader, Roger Mason, who contacted me right after looking at my account in this paper of the bravery of the ‘Parachuting Padre’, the Rev Fraser McLuskey, who went guiding enemy traces in France with the SAS in 1944.

Mr Mason place me in touch with Ginger Jones’s daughter and also referred me to a minor-acknowledged memoir, Air Commando, prepared by Serge Vaculik soon soon after the war and which was published in 1954.

Serge Vaculik was, in simple fact, Jean Dupontel’s serious title. His family members had been Czech, but when he fought with the British he was recommended to modify his name in circumstance he was captured: his Gestapo interrogators would most likely have given him a tougher time if they knew he was Czech, not French.

Neither Vaculik nor Jones was adorned at the time for bravery, which looks an injustice, supplied their gallantry.

Many many years later on they have been awarded the French Croix de Guerre and a war memorial was erected in France for the 5 comrades who experienced been executed in 1944. Their bodies ended up exhumed and buried in a army ceremony at Beauvais.

Glenys Atherton, Ginger Jones’s daughter, explained to me that she was happy of her father’s steps far more than 75 a long time back. ‘He was an outstanding gentleman,’ she reported.

Glenys was born in 1946, the 12 months soon after the war finished, but she remembers getting six or 7 yrs outdated when Serge Vaculik came to her loved ones residence in Wigan to run through the activities of 1944 with her father, who by then was a coal miner.

‘They corroborated their tales in advance of Serge’s e-book was revealed,’ she described.

In Vaculik’s book, he refers to his comrades as remaining commandos or parachutists and he does not point out the Specific Air Support: this is simply because the regiment was then, in its early days, still so secretive.

In simple fact, all the captured males had been from 1 SAS commanded by the legendary Lieutenant Colonel Blair ‘Paddy’ Mayne.

They experienced been taken prisoner just after a firefight during only their second mission at the rear of enemy lines, working with the French Resistance to carry out strike-and-run assaults on German targets.

‘When my youthful brother Norman and I were being children, our father did not talk substantially about the war, but when we grew up he did speak to us about what he had performed. He spoke about how he experienced survived the firing squad,’ stated Glenys, 73, a retired training assistant, who life in Saddleworth, around Manchester.

Soon after her father’s death, she and her spouse, David, went to retrace his methods in northern France and found the villages wherever the two gentlemen experienced been befriended, talking to a feminine member of the Maquis who experienced achieved her father in 1944.

Ginger Jones died in Oldham Medical center, Lancashire, on December 6, 1990, aged 76. He experienced been sick in medical center for three months and then contracted pneumonia.

Ginger experienced shown a perception of humour in medical center even when he was in terrific soreness. Through his stay, physicians knowledgeable him that they would have to amputate 1 of his legs previously mentioned the knee.

He replied: ‘Well then, give me a pair of headphones so that I just cannot listen to you – and get on with it!’

Later he requested if he could preserve the leg and mount it in a glass scenario, explaining: ‘You see I scored nine ambitions with that leg in a match, participating in schoolboy centre-ahead in Wigan!’

There is, however, a single exceptional closing twist to this wartime story that relates to Ginger’s loss of life.

Mrs Atherton reported: ‘Soon right after I bought again from the clinic, a consultant from the SAS rang me, possessing learnt of my father’s loss of life. He requested me if there was everything he could do to help, and I asked him to make contact with Serge Vaculik to let him know my father experienced died.

‘A couple of days later, the person rang me back and explained to me that Serge experienced died way too – within just a few several hours of my father. I couldn’t consider it.’

Unbelievably, the two males who had been because of to die jointly in August 1944 had, in reality, died at just about the same time 46 decades later on in December 1990.

In Pegasus, the magazine for the Parachute Regiment and airborne forces, their obituaries appeared on reverse internet pages. Brothers in arms to the pretty stop.

Lord Ashcroft KCMG Computer system is a businessman, philanthropist, creator and pollster. For information about his operate, together with his six guides on bravery, pay a visit to Stick to him on Twitter and Fb: @LordAshcroft.

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