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The Journey to Freedom Continues

Heroes Remember

The Journey to Freedom Continues

We got to the railway station in South Bommel and there I was, Mr. Peggy (sp), Jane’s father, was already there and he took me to a middle-aged Dutchman whose name was Van Gijsmeer who was obviously in charge of things. And he gave me a ticket to Weert and pointed out a young priest to me, who said that would be my guide. Yes, I followed the priest onto the train when it came, and after a while he sidled up to me and showed me my dog tag that this other former Dutch officer had taken from me. So I knew I was in good hands. But one thing I wasn’t told. I thought it was a direct trip to Vucht, but when we got to Eindhoven, the train pulled into the station and everyone got off! And prior to that, it stopped at a little town and about 20 young, I guess there was a seminary there or something, about 20 young priests, all like mine, got on the train. And when it pulled into Eindhoven and all of them got off, I lost my guide in a jungle, jumble of young priests. So, I had no choice but to stay in the station, which I did. And after about an hour and a half or two hours, it sounded like, seemed like an eternity, I saw my priest come back and he got on another train and I followed him and we arrived at Weert that evening. And at Weert we were met by a man, a young man in his early twenties, I think. His name was Beland (sp) and he was to take me somewhere and he had two bicycles, and I told him of course my problem, and I rode on his bicycle. The two of us rode on the same bicycle. So we came on a road outside of Weert, we came to a house and we hid in a grain field. He watched this house, which was right on the border, very intently, and after a while a woman came out and hung a wash tub on a nail beside the back door. And that was the signal that the guards on the border between Holland and Belgium were at the other end of their route and it was safe for us to cross. So he slapped me on the back and we both ran across the border into Belgium and went to a village, where we met in a pub and there were three young men in the pub and he told me that, beforehand, that when we, after we were in the pub for a bit, two of them would get up and I was supposed to go with them, and there, which I did. We arrived outside, they had 3 bicyles hidden in the hedge. So it was a case of riding on the handle bars again. We went for about ten miles. One of these fellas was, his name was Peters and we went to his farm where his mother and father lived and one sister, and I lived there for about a week.

Mr. MacLean continues his account of his escape from Holland and on into Belgium.

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

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