British prisoners of war are guarded by an SS soldier. (Photo: Federal Archives.)

A French sailor among British prisoners of war

in september 26

After the fighting in Oosterbeek had subsided and the remnants of the British airborne division had withdrawn across the Rhine, the Germans made a special discovery. Among the British soldiers who remained in Oosterbeek was also a French sailor.

The French sailor was found on Tuesday morning, September 26, at the Oude Kerk on the Benedendorpseweg in Oosterbeek. Due to daylight, the British were unable to transfer all airborne units to the south bank of the Rhine in time. About 300 British were forced to stay behind.

The British had been encountered near the church in the morning by cautiously advancing German troops. The British were rounded up and registered as prisoners of war with a German officer who spoke good English.

The German officer looked surprised when a small, ragged man stood before him in an unfamiliar uniform. His face was badly damaged with several wounds. This was clearly not a paratrooper. The man’s shoulder patch featured a French flag.

“I don’t want Frenchmen, only British,” said the German officer.
The man opposite him launched into a tirade.
“I’m not a damn Frenchman, I’m a sailor in the Navy!”

The German didn’t believe it.
“Soon you will also say that you sailed up the Rhine in a submarine.”

But it turned out to be true that a French sailor had ended up among the British airborne troops in Oosterbeek.

The Frenchman was originally a sailor in the French Navy, but in Great Britain he worked as a technician in the Fleet Air Arm. This was the army unit responsible for aircraft maintenance. The British transport planes that arranged the supply of the British in Oosterbeek also took off from the same airport.

The Frenchman had asked a friendly English pilot if he could join one of the flights and help drop supplies. During the flight the aircraft was hit by German anti-aircraft fire. The Frenchman should have jumped from the plane together with the rest of the crew.

During his parachute jump he had landed in some bushes, causing his face to be severely damaged. The Frenchman had landed within the British perimeter in Oosterbeek. There he remained until he was finally taken prisoner of war.

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