Language selection


A Close Call With the Germans

Heroes Remember

A Close Call With the Germans

I was in a little village before it and there was a man, carpenter working on a door, on a house and I stopped to talk to him and he indicated with his carpenter’s pencil that 95% of the people were friendly, 5% were not and he pointed to the house as being one of the 5%. At that point, an elderly woman came to the door and started yelling at me in Dutch, which I didn’t comprehend very well but I gathered that she was asking me where I was going and I said that I was going to South Bommel, which was the opposite direction and I took off in that direction. As soon as I was out of sight of the place, I hid in some small bushes, and within 10 minutes a truck load of German soldiers went by and then two motorcycles, and the motorcycles went down the road and the truck stopped and they came back. The motorcycles came back and they talked to the officer in charge of the truck, and then he had the soldiers dismount from the truck and walk along the, both sides of the road in the direction of South Bommel. All of this was about a 100 yards or less from where I was. So when they were out of sight, I made for the bridge and walked through the village. When I walked back to the village, the carpenter was gone and I walked out on the bridge. The approach was quite built up approach, quite high, and the bridge itself had been blown up during the retreat of the Dutch Army and it was replaced by a pontoon bridge and which was at a lower level than the approaches. When I got out on the approach, just as I was getting there, they opened the bridge to let some barges through and there was a small crowd accumulated. Just before they closed the bridge there was a woman, about my own age, came along down this steep embankment with a baby in a baby carriage. I admired the baby for a minute or two, and when the bridge was closed I pushed the baby carriage across the bridge for this lady. When we got to the other side there was a guard there asking people for their identity cards, asking young men but older people, since there was a crowd, he was ignoring them and old women, he was ignoring. And then, thank God, he ignored us because he thought we were a local couple out with their baby, I suppose. I pushed the baby carriage up the other incline on the other side, and when I got away from that approach on that side onto a road I saw a little side road that went along the river. I tipped my hat and said goodbye to the woman. I never figured out whether she was so dim she didn’t think I was acting strangely or whether she was so bright that she knew who, that she suspected who I was and protected me.

Now in civilian clothes, thanks to the efforts of friendly Dutch people who continue to risk their lives to help him, Mr. MacLean begins walking toward a bridge over a near-by river. Again, an unexpected development delivers him from certain discovery and capture by the Germans.

John Angus MacLean

Mr. MacLean’s father was a farmer in eastern Prince Edward Island. His grandfather came to Canada from Scotland in 1832. Mr. MacLean had three brothers and four sisters. Two of his brothers died, one at the age of fiveand the other at the age of about one year. For the first two years of his higher education, Mr. MacLean attended Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick. He went on to the University of British Columbia for his third year of study on a one-year scholarship, majoring in chemistry. In 1938, he returned to Mount Allison University to complete his studies and graduated in 1939. Following graduation, he answered a newspaper advertisement placed by the Royal Air Force for a short-term commission with the RAF. He was chosen as one of two successful Canadian candidates. But, before he could leave for England, the Second World War had started and he was offered a commission in the Royal Canadian Air Force, which he accepted. Mr. MacLean’s bomber was brought down over Germany and he and his crew were forced to bail out. Mr. MacLean landed just inside occupied Holland and was moved along the Comet Line through Holland, Belgium and France to freedom in Spain. He’s an excellent story-teller with emphasis on detail. Mr. MacLean also had an outstanding post-war career as a politician. He served for 10 terms as a Member of Parliament and a term as Premier of his home province of Prince Edward Island.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
Person Interviewed:
John Angus MacLean
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Air Force
Bomber Command

Copyright / Permission to Reproduce

Related Videos

Date modified: