World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

                            Harry Levy 

The Darker Side of the Sky

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Harry Levy
Location of story: Brussels, Belgium, Lamsdorf
Unit name: Honington 9 squadron
Background to story: Royal Air Force


This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Roger Marsh of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Harry Levy.

The Darker Side of the Sky
Harry Levy

September 1940, aged eighteen, I left the bombing of East End of London behind and joined the R.A.F. I enlisted as a Wireless Op. air gunner.

In June 1942, I joined Honington 9.squadron, flying Wellingtons, in night bombing. I flew 15 ops. against targets, mainly in the Ruhr. On August 1st. returning from a raid on Dusseldorf, we were attacked by an M.E.110. On the third attack we were shot down, all the crew except myself, were killed. The port engine was on fire. I baled out.

I landed in a field in Belgium and was helped by an old man to get to a doctor's house. Dr. Groenen and his wife had seven children, their ages ranging from 4 to 15yrs. My chest was bandaged by Dr. Groenen, and I was hidden in the loft and cared for by Mme. Groenen and her eldest daughter Merese. On about the 4th. day, the Germans were searching the village for an airman. Mme. Groenen, whose name in her underground group was "the Bluebird", arranged for me to go on two cycles with two men. We cycled at night to a small village in a wood. I stayed there the night and my R.A.F. clothes were taken away; I was given an old peasant-like suit.

I was taken by a young Belgian in civilians, (but apparently, he was a former officer in the Belgium Army), by train to Brussels. There I stayed in the flat of a young couple for one night, but next morning when they were warned that the Germans were looking for me, I was taken to the flat of a middle-aged couple in another part of Brussels. I stayed there the night and was looked at by a doctor who took off the bandages around my chest, as I found breathing difficult. Next morning I was shaving, when there was a knock on the bedroom door. I opened it.

Two German officers, guns in hand, led me out to a car and took me to Brussels' St. Gilles Prison. The couple who had taken me in were arrested together with a young Jewish woman and all were sent to the same prison as myself, but they were later sent to concentration camps. I was questioned and told that as I was in civilians, they could shoot me. They took me to a hospital where my wound was looked at. I was taken back to the prison and was kept there in solitary confinement for ten-weeks before being released by the efforts of a a German Luftwaffe officer, and sent to prison after a three day journey to Lamsdorf.

I was in the camp for nearly three years until in April 1945, as the Russians were closing in on Germany, all the prisoner of war camps were emptied and the prisoners marched out towards the west. I myself had been in the camp hospital with a bad attack of asthma, and together with three army men, planned to escape from the march. I and a parachute medic managed to run from the line of prisoners as we were passing through a wood. I and my friend were recaptured and sent by ambulance to another camp near Nuremberg. After several weeks there, we were liberated by the Americans.
After the war I lived for six months in Brussels with the couple with whom I was arrested.