RAF Escaping Society 1945-95
Forêt de Fréteval images from the Brayley Collection
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F/O (Navigator) Bill Brayley, of Montreal, Quebec, Canada (died 1973).
F/O Bill Brayley was reported missing April 10/1944 after his Halifax was shot down in France. He spent the following four months in hiding, courtesy of the French Resistance. Two of those months were spent in the Fréteval Forest. F/O Brayley was one of the earlier airmen to reach the forest and was active on night raids with the local Maquis. The Maquis referred to Bill as "Guy".
Bill Brayley also helped along with the earlier airmen, in the construction and maintenance of the two camps in Fréteval Forest. Bill described Fréteval Forest from an article written about his experiences shortly after the war. "We lived and worked for over two months in that forest, (Fréteval) and soon knew every path,stream, and tree, by the touch of a hand or foot, even in the black of night. That forest was our kingdom, a little spot of liberated territory deep in the heart of enemy country"
Bill Brayley is survived today by his widow Patricia Brayley and his four children. Patricia and Bill were married in 1947 with Norman Binnie their usher and Jack Pearson was Bill Brayley's Best Man. When Bill Brayley died in 1973, he was President of Johnson & Johnson Canada.
Twenty years after the war, in 1964, Bill and Patricia Brayley returned to France, visiting the Fréteval Forest and nearby communities.
The Brayley's wedding - identifications sought
They visited with men and women Bill knew from his time in the forest. Bill and Pat Brayley also went to Brussels, Belgium. They spent time outside of Brussels, on the estate of Baron Jean de Blommaert. One of the photographs in the Brayley Collection is taken at this time and that photo includes Patricia Brayley, Blommaert and his wife. During this 1964 visit, Bill Brayley again met with retired Colonel Lucien Boussa.
About the Brayley photographs
In 2006, with a bit of luck, Lorraine Vickerman (daughter of F/O Bill Vickerman/Sherwood List) located Patricia Brayley. Mrs. Brayley kindly loaned some old photographs of Fréteval Forest to Lorraine. These photographs were scanned by Lorraine's husband Tom Batts and have been digitally enhanced by Frank Haslam for this website. The photographs, depicting daily life in the forest and the liberation of Busloup were taken by Bill Brayley while he was in Fréteval Forest back in 1944. Unfortunately, there was little information on the back of the photographs. But they are a wonderful story in themselves of life for the Airmen of Fréteval Forest.
Whilst copyright in those photos taken by Bill Brayley remains with Mrs Patricia Brayley, if it is intended to use them elsewhere it would be appreciated that permission is sought (via the editor) and that the source is credited.
If you can add or correct information about any of these images please contact the editor.
A stitch in time ...
Baron Jean de Blommaert
Bill Brayley in Amiens, June 1964
Camp photo 1
Camp photo 2
Camp photo 3
Camp photo 4
Camp photo 5
Camp photo 6
Camp no.1 tents
Camp 2 Chow line
Camp 2 parachute tent
Dinner in the forest
Jan 2008: Don Ouellette writes: The first on the left (closest to the camera) at the Dinner table is my uncle Oscar Peloquin from Biddeford Maine, (USA) - also known as Joseph Peloquin or J. Oscar Peloquin. He is still alive (84 years old), now resides with his brother in law, Richard Dumont in Parsonsfield.
He was a top turret gunner and engineer on a B24 in the 44th Bomb Group. US Air Corps. He was wounded when his bomber went down in Patay, France on May 11th 1944. [editor: B-24H 42-94999 44BG 506BS: CR 11 May 44 Patay. MACR 4849 see http://greenharbor.com/ROHPDF/ROHMay44.pdf p293]
Next to him is Sam Taylor RCAF, president of a hotel in Regina (see Register).
The French Resistance hid Oscar and moved him to the Fréteval Forest. Since his parents were originally Canadian, he spoke French fluently (as did Bill Brayley). My uncle knew Bill Brayley, and was among the first 5 evadees to enter that camp. He spent time in both Camp 1 and Camp 2. The Canadian Weekend Magazine mentioned him in the article about The Men of The Hidden Forest. At the time he didn't know about his mention in the story or how the writer even knew of him.
[Lawrence C Richards, LW Gunner in the same crew, was a fellow evadee in the Forest]
Fréteval Monument 19 June 1967
Jean and Therese de Blommaert June 1964
Liberation Day - Bill Brayley on the left, holding the Escadrille 69 flag, the Gauloise cigarettes logo
Liberation of Busloup
Liberation of Busloup - 2
Liberation of Busloup - 3
Listening to radio
Bruce Hyde RCAF
RCAF: Joe Foreman - Bill Brayley - Norm Binnie
RCAF: Sam Taylor, Regina
Bill Brayley RCAF
Russian and South African airmen [?]
Town - 1
Town - 4
Town - 5
Town - 6
see also Canadian Weekly 12 1968 article Forest of Hidden Men
page last updated 25 July 2008