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From Paris to Southern France

Heroes Remember

From Paris to Southern France

We were then walked to a house which a woman owned, and she had two little girls and she provided us with our supper one evening. When we were there a little while, just at dark a guide arrived and Dédée arrived too at the house. So there were the five of us and Dédée and this guide, Florentino was his name. He was a Basque and this guide took us across the Pyrenees to Spain and when... About four o'clock in the morning he lined us up in what he thought was the strongest at the back. This Scottish soldier who was at the back, he’s behind me, I was second from the back but, Goldie was his name, but he’d been hidden up for weeks and was, for months actually, since three or four months at least and was in poor shape physically and he began to pass out in the morning, at four o’clock in the morning. So I’d have to stop the line by pulling their coat tails and get him up on his feet again and get him going. I was really exhausted when we got to a, a little cabin in the Pyrenees on the Spanish side where there were two men and two women. I don’t know wether they were all one family or two husbands and wives or what, but anyway they lived in this cabin. They were shepherds I think, and they fed us and we rested there for the early part of the day and then walked that afternoon to San Sebastian and the next day we were met by a car from the British Embassy outside of San Sebastian and taken to the British Embassy in Madrid, and where they had a temporary building in which we lived for several days. Interviewer: Tell me Mr. MacLean during that period of time Spain was ruled by Franco, General Franco who was a fascist himself... Yes, but the Spanish seemed ready, willing to cooperate provided they were covered. The, at La Linea, which is opposite Gibraltar, for example, where we crossed into Gibraltar, we were handed over to the British Consulate in Gibraltar. Then we had to, we were interviewed by a Spanish official and of course we had false names and he queried us in a whole lot of questions. I had to invent ancestors all over the place as time went by and I was really worried. The fellow said, eventually he said to me, "You’re doing very," when he had finished he said, "You’re doing very well, you know. We have to, I know what the score is," he said, "but," he spoke perfect English, "I know what the score is," he said, "but we have to have it foolproof for the Germans because they have the right to inspect these papers." And so that, some of the Spanish were very, very cooperative.

Following his time in Paris, Mr. MacLean and several others were taken by train to the south of France. He spent the first night there in the home of the founder of the Comet Line and, the following evening, he was taken to another residence. It would prove to be his last day in occupied territory and the beginning of the last leg of his journey to freedom.

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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