Avoid like the Plague

 3 days of no food and energy sapping activities is now complete and all that remains is a 25 mile
walk through the woods and knee deep snow without being caught by the German Army and the
soldiers on skis, well that should be easy!

The briefing tells us that we have 2 “RV’s” to make and that should we get split up for any reason
then we are to give ourselves up and we will be reassigned. If we are caught we are not
permitted to escape from a moving vehicle. In the unlikely event that anyone EVER escapes then,
providing they stay free for 15 minutes they must then give themselves up and they will be out of
the exercise.

A quick look at the map shows that there are 3 roads to cross within the exercise area and it
therefore seems reasonable that thats where I would deploy my forces if I was looking to
capture 28 British Airmen. Dumbo and I set off and he’s all for getting in the thickest patch of
pines he can find. Now look, lets think about this, the exercise started 10 minutes ago and it is
most unlikely that the entire German Army has managed to surround us already so common sense
says we stay on the tracks and roads while we can and make good time to the first road and then
stay up high and see if its safe to cross. Its going to be almost a full moon tonight which will have
pros and cons.

We make good time and get to the first road. Sit and watch for any movement but it all seems
quiet……. so creep over the road and get some distance uphill. Looking back down from our
vantage point high up on the ridge we can see several sets of lights moving along the road and
stopping, presumably letting troops off. We press on and make the first RV.

Leaving the RV we stay tight in against a thick pine forest and hike up to the top of the next
mountain where we are in some alpine meadows with barns and farm tracks. Time to get into
a barn and study the map for the next road crossing. Several different choices of where to cross,
maybe close in by the village? However if the natives aren’t friendly you are going to be a little
obvious with a liferaft and a parachute on your back and stinking of pine smoke. Also as this
exercise takes place every two weeks during Jan-Mar it would seem reasonable that these
troops have done this before and they know where we will be crossing. Studying the road we
see trucks moving and stopping so we think we have a good idea where they have been

Find some cover and slowly come down off the ridge and enter the thick Christmas tree type
pines, all interwoven and bloody hard going but just as well as in a flash there is a swishing
noise which from experience I recognise as a skier, in fact a group of them, and then a lot of
noise as the catch their prey. Seems we were lucky this time and there were others ahead of
us with the same idea although they had obviously stayed on the outside of the pines and the
ski patrol was just following their footprints…… and the aircrew flying boot has a very distinctive
tread pattern.

We make it to the end of the pines crawling underneath the low branches and without the snow
but the trees end about 20 yards from the road. Stop and watch and when it looks quiet we
wriggle across the snow and get to about 10 feet from the road then a Mercedes Jeep thing
comes down the road and stops right in front of us and out jump a load of troops. We try running
back to the pines but its uphill in deep snow and in our exhausted state and carrying a pack its
futile against fresh well fed troops. Game Over!

German Army “Dingo”

Hoods on, we are bundled into the back of the Merc and some minutes later we are in a farm and
dumped at a barn which already has about 20 of the 28 would be evaders. The barn is full of hay
and is pretty cosy and warm compared to the -35 outside. My boots are sopping wet and I have
one pair of dry socks in my pack so this looks like a good time to change them prior to the
unpleasant experience of interrogation. Bloody laces will not come undone so I take out my knife
and cut them out. Dry socks on and standing on warm hay time for a smoke so venture over to
the barn door where a German Officer is standing with a radio. I ask permission to smoke and
he indicates its Ok. As I’m smoking he says “Do you want to see how you get caught?” and he
hands me some night vision binoculars…. “We look for Ze zips” he says pointing to the bright
silver diagonal zippers on my cold weather jacket…. “Ozer zer”  and sure enough there are 2
more of our guys coming through the woods! so all he does is call the Merc and they come down
the road and gobble them up like grapes.

A bit later myself and 2 others are put in another of these Unimog things with an officer and
driver and guard. We drive for about 10 minutes and stop just outside a village and about 100
yards from a Gasthof which the officer tells us is the processing center, and we must wait our
turn. we get out and the officer says we can take off our hoods and smoke if we wish. The officer
bids us goodnight and walks off towards the hotel. I’m with two young Jaguar pilots from RAF
Bruggen and I’m still standing on tiptoes as I really don’t want to put my dry feet back in the
sopping boots. So there we are standing against the truck with 3 of us and two guards. The Jag
pilots start using the phonetic alphabet and one says “I fancy Foxtrot Oscar”……. so I say “I’d
better get my boots on” and bend down and then roll into the guards in a rugby tackle. With
three of us on the ground the two boy pilots take off in opposite directions up and down the
road. The guards get up and set off in hot pursuit ….. which leaves yours truly all on his

Best go in another direction so over the fence I go having kicked off the worthless boots and
before I can even think I’m end over end in the snow tumbling down a 30 feet bank. Get to the
bottom like something out a “Looney Tunes cartoon” and start running……. something black
ahead and a whole lot darker down here…. keep heading towards the black! ……. SPLOOOSH!
SH**!!!! it’s water ….. but keep running its only 9 inches deep …. get to the far side a solid brick
wall …….turn left and run, run like the wind!… . still sploshing through the water I come round a
turn and right in front of me is a waterfall… nothing for it, up we go, over moss and rocks amid
cascading water, but nowhere else to go……. as I scrabble up this thing I hear the Village clock
chime the quarter…. and on I go and now the snow is smasmodic on the bank so I run on the
bank trying not to step in the snow…… running out of ideas and puff I come to a field with a
hedge on the side which is somebody’s property……… same game run down the hedgerow and
now here’s a fence, quick high jumpers “westland roll” but it’s rotten and an almighty “CRAAACK!”
echoes round the valley……. now I’m in a muddy chicken farm area so find a coop and get on the
far side of it and try and stay still …… cover everything with the hood and mud over all the zips.
……try and control the breathing……..        very soon I can hear german voices shouting and
whistles blowing and a lot of splashing around in the river, even hear one running up the side of
the field but as I wasn’t leaving any footprints without boots they can’t work out where I went.

After they have given up I hear the Church clock strike midnight! Well that’s a good 15 minutes
so now retrace my steps and regrettably there is no other way so its back down the waterfall
through the river and try, and try, to get up the snow bank back to the road. Finally I’m at the
lowest strand of the fence when I’m grabbed and pulled through by some very irate Germans.
“Referee, Referee” I shout and  the Officer comes running.

He gives me a smart salute and says to go with him to the hotel. I tell him I’m not going
anywhere as I have no boots! He sanps out something and the two guards pick me up and chair
lift me to the hotel…… it gets better!

At the hotel I explain I escaped at 2345, as the clock chimed and I then returned after midnight
and as we came down the road it chimed the quarter past the hour. The Officer agreed so I’m

1215, out of the exercise, big roaring fire and 4 marks in my pocket?…….. time for a beer! A little
old Frau delivers the giant foaming stein and starts talking to me in German….. something about
soupen? She is dressed in the picture postcard bavarian outfit and must be about 75. As I warm
myself by the fire and the steam comes out of my wet clothes she reappears with a huge bowl
of soup and big lumps of bread…… I’m in heaven!……. but wait there’s more. She reappears
with a pair of huge socks, all cable knit and like a couple of broken leg casts but in wool…… and
a pair of trousers which were her husbands, long since departed……. how kind.

Soup finished, toes wriggling and warm for the first time in 24 hours, beer going down well the
German Officer comes in again,
“So, Squadron Leader…. you are zee first to ezer eezcape,…..zo, I will buy you ze beer! and
with that another giant stein arrives…….. half way through that one he comes back with the 2
guards who were at the truck.
“Zeese men are also buying you zee beer…..and stein 3 arrives as they click their heels and salute.

Danka Shein!

Around 0130 the three are back, “OK we go!” so the guards pick me up (just as well as the beer
is having an effect) and carry me outside to a big German Unimog. As we pass the tailgate there
are the two Jaguar pilots tied by their thumbs over the center beam. I’m in the front with an
outrageous heater and 45 minutes later I’m dropped off at our hotel,warm and a bit tipsy. The
look on the Jaguar pilots faces was something to behold as the truck sped off to the interrogation


So now its Tuesday, and as those prisoners start coming home around 8 in the morning the
rest of the day is a freebe with a visit in the afternoon to the local spa bath, outside hot pools
and saunas. Its mixed both in the facilities and the changing rooms! and ……..No clothes!!

The results are in 28 evaders, 26 captured and one escapee.

With the arduous part of the course over things change, we still have lectures morning and
evening but now the skiing is much nicer with full use of the lifts and trips to other first class
resorts and ski areas including the Zugspitze which is something else.

Hope these cables are new?

Bit James Bondish! Top of the Zugspitze

Fun time continues for the rest of the week culminating in a ski race….. being military what
would you expect?

The Ski Race, stepping into the Turn

A lot of effort for some Free Skiing


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