14 June 2000: from Ian Le Sueur of Jersey

Raymond Van Wymeersch
Great Escaper

Raymond Van Wymeersch one of the 26 survivors of the escape from Stalag Luft III, died earlier this week aged 80. He was one of sixteen Frenchmen from the l'Ecole de Chasse III who escaped from France early in the war, from Bayonne to Casablanca.

In Morocco they mixed with a party of Poles and caught a British Merchant ship to Gibraltar. On 19th August 1942 he was the pilot of Hurricane IIc BP299 'U' of 174 Sqn which in thick smog over Dieppe collided with a FW190. He subsequently broke his legs in the crash landing that followed and was made POW.

On March 24/25th 1944 Raymond took part in the large scale escape from Stalag Luft III masterminded by Sqn Ldr Roger Bushell. He took a circuitous route returning to Breslau where he purchased a ticket direct to Paris, where he hoped to link up with the resistance. He was recaptured in Metz and sent to a number of prisons in Berlin from where he escaped again twice. He was next imprisoned in Sachsenhausen concentration camp from where he escaped and was recaptured for a third time. He was then returned to Stalag Luft III. In the investigations that followed his statement played a major part in convicting the Gestapo agents responsible and bringing them to justice.

He returned to flying with the French Air Force finally retiring with the rank of Colonel in 1969, with 90 different types of aircraft including as he would proudly put it "several helicopters" in his log books. He retired to La Rochelle where he spent his time sailing and fishing.

Last September in Jersey I had the honour to meet him and his fellow escaper Sydney Dowse at the unveiling of a memorial to Raymond's close friend from Stalag Luft III, Bernard Scheidhauer. Raymond was a lovely gentleman with a constant glint of mischief in his eye. Though I only met him once he left a marked impression on me and all who met him.

L-R: Sydney Dowse and Raymond Van Wymeersch