• Plage Bonaparte à Plouha (Côtes d'Armor) - Haut-lieu de la Résistance

  • Sacy-le-Grand (Oise) - Mémorial en souvenir du F/O H. H. MacKenzie (RCAF)

  • Supermarine LF Mk.Vb Spitfire EP120 - G-LFVB - (The Fighter Collection)

  • Le Cardonnois (Somme) - Stèle à la mémoire de l'équipage du Boeing B-17 #42-31325, 452nd Bomb Group

  • B-17G-85-VE 44-8846 - F-AZDX - (FTV)

 

NOVEMBER 2012

 

Sains-Morainvillers (Oise) - Welles-Perennes (Oise)

Caix (Somme) - Le Mesnil-Saint-Firmin (Oise)

 

American airman Warren A. THOMPSON

a hero returns

                                                                                                                                                                                        
 
 
                                                                                                              Copyright © 2014 - Association des Sauveteurs d'Aviateurs Alliés - All rights reserved
                                                                                                              En français france                                                                           

 

In October 2012, I was lucky to find in the United States, the trail of Lt. Warren A. Thompson , an American bomber pilot. At first he was surprised but then happy to be contacted by this stranger from France, out of the blue, who was interested in his adventure and he agreed to reminisce. It was then that I discovered what a terrible journey he had. Three days later the 88 years old American veteran, decided to cross the Atlantic accompanied by members of his family.

We were to meet this hero !  
 

Friday 9th November

 

2nd Lt. Warren A. Thompson

Warren A. Thompson's stay began with a visit to the Chateau de La Borde. Upon his arrival, his eyes lit up. Deeply moved, the pilot immediately recognized where he had spent about six weeks in 1944.

Wearing his bomber jacket, he was warmly welcomed by Mr Philippe de Baynast and his wife. The two men had never met, although they lived, without knowing it, in the same house in 1944.

Chateau de La Borde - Warren A. Thompson
Lt Thompson is greeted with great emotion at the chateau de La Borde
 

Veterans, friends and newspaper reporters were present, as well as military vehicles of the time. A row of standard bearers honoured the veteran and those present were then invited to go inside the chateau.

The presentations finished, Philippe de Baynast began his welcome speech followed by the reading of a letter written in August 1945 by his father Jacques to the parents of the pilot, reflecting the affection he held for the young airman he considered like a son.

The whole assembly was then invited to stand in front the plaque near the gate of the chateau to tribute to Jacques and Colette de Baynast and to this landmark of the Resistance.

Chateau de La Borde - The plaque
The plaque at the entrance of the chateau


In defiance of the risks to the de Baynast family, more than a dozen Allied airmen and many resistants, found refuge in the chateau in 1943 and 1944 despite the ever-present German occupiers.

Chateau de La Borde - Tribute to 2nd Lt. Warren A. Thompson
Tribute is paid at this main site of the Resistance


After the laying of wreaths of flowers and the minute of silence, the national anthem was sung.

Then followed a visit of the barn. The memories of Warren A. Thompson were vivid 68 years later. He recognized the small private chapel upstairs, rushed to the altar and, with tears in his eyes, kneeled with emotion on a pew. In this chapel, portraits of Jacques and Colette Baynast reminded the airman of the faces of those who had saved his life.

Chateau de La Borde - The barn
The barn. On left, one of the rooms where Lt. Thompson was hidden


In the second part of the barn, upstairs, after passing from one room to another, the airman finally found his "room" where he had remained hidden for days on end. He remembered that every morning a young employee of the chateau brought him his breakfast on the balcony.

Then we were back in the chateau where the glass of friendship awaited us.Chateau de La Borde - The gift offered by our Association

On behalf of the ASAA, an aerial photo of Caix, the village where his plane had crashed, was offered to Warren Thompson.

This was also the time when many memories were evoked. Aged 11 years in 1944 and kept in ignorance, like his brothers and sisters, of the illegal activity of his parents, Philippe de Baynast, despite everything, remembers "those shadows perched in the cherry tree", "the pieces of tarts which mysteriously disappeared"or the "footsteps upstairs".

Chateau de La Borde - The place where he spent his 20th birthdayieu de son anniversaire

                                           For Warren A. Thompson, memories resurfaced ...
                          He recognized the living room and the exact place where he was seated,
                      on 20 June 1944, when he celebrated his twentieth birthday with his rescuers.
   
This pilgrimage to the Chateau de La Borde was a highlight of Warren A. Thompson's visit. Having spent several weeks here, this place was still engraved in his memory. He had never forgotten the family de Baynast who had risked so much to protect him. He wanted to thank them personally from the bottom of his heart and expressed all his sincere gratitude.

 

 

Saturday 10th November


Warren A. Thompson and his family were greeted at Welles-Perennes by Mr. Pamart, Mayor of the village, and his council. We went to the small village hall where an exhibition about the history of the village during the two world wars, was displayed.

Various materials and panels remembering the First World War in the village and in the region, including the combats of the Battle of Matz, were presented by the Association "Juin 1918, Memoires des Chars".

For World War II, the display exposure was related to the assistance provided by the local population to the American airmen of the Flying Fortress shot down on 8 February 1944 at Le Cardonnois, Claire Girard, this inhabitant who was later murdered by the Germans, to the assistance, in August 1944, given to Pierre-Henri Teitgen, a resistance worker, after his escape from a train that was taking him into deportation and of course to the adventure of Warren A. Thompson, who was housed by the family Bauduin at Perennes and in the surrounding villages.

Many people were present. Welcomed as a hero, Warren A. Thompson was obviously very sought after. Elected officials responded to the invitation to honour the pilot by gracing him with their presence. Claire Andrieu, niece of Claire Girard, came especially from Paris.

In front of the Stars and Stripes, the official ceremony began with a speech by Mr Pamart which recounted the adventure of 2nd Lt. Warren A. Thompson. Much emotion and respect ran silently amongst the audience listening to the adventure of the pilot who, after almost being killed aboard his aircraft had several narrow escapes after his arrest, his imprisonment and his deportation.

Welles-Perennes - The ceremony
Lt. Thompson's grandson re-traces the journey of his grandfather


The floor was then taken by the grand-son of Lt. Thompson and then by Ms. Andrieu who emphasized in particular the important role of the people of our department in helping Allied airmen.

Mr Olivier Dassault, Member of Parliament, delivered his speech in English, thanking through the presence of Lt. Thompson, all the American airmen of the Second World War and remembering the great friendship between the United States and France. He also highlighted the parallels between the story of Warren A. Thompson and that of his own family, since his grandfather had also been deported to the Buchenwald concentration camp.

Then came the glass of friendship shared with all the audience. Warren A. Thompson, so warm and so simple, made himself available for meetings and souvenir photos.

A beautiful day of tribute in this small village where the coming of the American veteran will remain engraved in our memories.

 

Sunday 30th November

After the ceremony at the Welles-Pérennes memorial, we went to Montdidier where we made a stop at the station.

Lt. Thompson immediately rushed to the big building where he tried to take the train in 1944. The waiting room has been modernized since but once on the platform, he immediately recognized the small staircase leading to the shelter where he had fled during the attack on the station. The employee kindly offered to open the door of the shelter. Divided into two parts, it has remained unchanged.

Montdidier - At the station
Warren A. Thompson shows us the exact spot
where he sheltered amongst German soldiers during the attack.
 

We then went to Caix where we were expected for the Veteran's Day ceremony purposely put off due to the arrival of Lt. Thompson. At the foot of the church, the pilot told us jokingly that the last time he had seen it whilst suspended by his parachute, it seemed much smaller. Arriving in the square, Warren A. Thompson and his family were welcomed by the authorities to the applause of the crowd who were very honoured to welcome the veteran.

Caix - The ceremony

The ceremony at the War Memorial took place according to the tradition of reading out the very long list of soldiers of the village killed for France and decoration of standard bearers. The Star-Spangled Banner followed by La Marseillaise was played by the Band of the Amis Réunis of Rosières-en-Santerre. After the ceremony, all the audience was invited to the village hall.

Opposite this hall was the house on which the Douglas "Havoc" broke in two and, in flames, had crashed. On 27th May 1944, having landed in a nearby plain, Lt. Thompson had anxiously watched his plane crash in the heart of the village. A year later, he was relieved to hear that there were no civilian casualties. Only one woman was slightly burned. Witnesses of the crash were present to share their memories.

Caix - The place of the crash
In the courtyard of the house where Lt. Thompson's aircraft crashed.
 

At the entrance of the village hall, U.S. military vehicles formed a guard of honour. Everything was prepared to honour of the arrival of the pilot. An exhibition based on documents, photos and testimonials, traced the history of the village during the Occupation up to the Liberation.

Caix - Ceremony in the honour of 2nd Lt. Warren A. Thompson


Mr Mannens, Mayor of Caix, delivered his speech and expressed, on behalf of his inhabitants, his pride in welcoming Warren A. Thompson and his family and then made a historical overview of his adventure. Ms. Suzette Henry, who housed gunner Jones at Harbonnières was welcomed and thanked. Ms. Maille, Departmental Councillor, carried out the translations and awarded the pilot the Medal of the General Council of the Somme.

Caix - Warren A. Thompson with Mme Suzette Henry
Lt. Thompson thanking Madame Suzette Henry for the help given to his gunner, Jones.

 

Caix - The glove offered to Warren A. Thompson


Then came a highly symbolic moment. Warren A. Thompson, very touched and moved, was offered a glove found at the time in the wreckage of the aircraft and which had been kept ever since.

The Association Somme-Aviation 39-45 through his President Pierre Ben offered in souvenir to the pilot a certificate of his Douglas "Havoc". Warren A. Thompson, very moved, briefly thanked the municipality and all those present for the warm reception given in his honour. The evening ended with the glass of friendship.

 

Monday 12th November

During the course of the afternoon, we went to Mesnil-Saint-Firmin.

This visit had a particular meaning since it was in this village that Warren A. Thompson had been taken prisoner by the Germans in mid-July 1944. We were greeted by the mayor, Mr Duflos, accompanied by a delegation of veterans of the village. Immediately and without indication from us, the pilot recognized the school and the adjoining house where Mrs. Suzanne Cauvel, the teacher, had housed him. He remembered the gate which was in wood at the time and the trees, now disappeared, which bordered the square.

Le Mesnil St Firmin - At the school
In front of the former school, where Lt. Thompson was captured.


Warren A. Thompson said he was alone in the house during his capture. The Germans began to question him, hands up, in the street. Nuns from the neighbouring community were called in to help with translating.

Notified by the baker of the presence of German soldiers, Ms. Suzanne Cauvel had narrowly escaped arrest. She had to flee until the Liberation. According to witnesses, only the mayor was taken in for questioning but was quickly released.

Then Warren A. Thompson's visit to our region ended. The next day he went with his family to visit Paris for a few days before returning to the United States.

Received as a hero throughout his visit, 2nd Lt. Thompson was very touched by the welcome. For a few days there were moments of great respect and deep gratitude to the veteran who was so touching by his simplicity and his warmth.

Often with tears in his eyes and hand on his heart, Warren A. Thompson had constantly insisted on thanking the French people, who had taken great risks in order to save him. This visit of several days will remain etched in the memories of all.


Plateau picard : l'aviateur américain Warren A... par Lebonhommeclermont

 

Warren A. Thompson

    

Thank you M. Warren A. Thompson !! 

 

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