Escape from Rozel to Normandy (October 8th 1944)

Eric John and Barb.jpeg

Eric Hamon, John Langley & Barbara Hutchings (left to right in the photo, Eric is about to shake the hand of Prince Marina 1947), Escaped from Rozel on the 8th of October 1944. 

Eric, John and Barbra planned in 1944 to escape Jersey and get to the American lines in Normandy. John had obtained an engine and the three were set on borrowing a boat to get them to France. The selection of a boat and point of embarkation was decided when the two young men were making a reconnaissance from a vantage point overlooking the tiny harbour of Rozel, on the North-East coast of the Island, where a number of small fishing boats were moored alongside the jetty. From their observation point across the small bay, they noticed an open boat, between 11-13 feet in length, moored against the jetty, and decided it seemed to fit the bill for their purpose. The harbour area was under German guard day and night. They decided, therefore, that they would swim across the small bay at night, release the boat, and move it into a small gully on the East side of the bay, where they could load up the boat, pick up Barbara, and be on their way.

On the evening of 8 October 1944, the three escapees rode out on their bicycles to the top of the hill overlooking Rozel bay, accompanied by two friends who would return the bikes to St. Helier after they had departed. Saying goodbye, the three made their way down the precarious cliff path, overgrown with brambles, which led to the gully, and it was during the descent that the first calamity of the evening occurred when John, in the darkness, slipped and fell, damaging the compass beyond repair. They reached the bottom of the cliff without further mishap with the rest of their equipment. Leaving Barbara hiding in some bushes, the two young men stripped off and swam across the bay to the jetty a distance of between 200 and 300 yards in an extremely difficult swim, on a dark night in October, when discovery would mean at the least capture, and at the worst death by drowning or a bullet from a German sentry. 

Eric pulled himself over the side of the boat, eased the moorings fore and aft and, pushing and swimming, the two boys manoeuvred the boat across the small bay towards the gully. This action, incredibly, went completely unnoticed by the German sentry, whose silhouette had been seen by Eric when he was releasing the boat from its moorings. Nearing the gully, the boat came close to a rock and was in danger of being overturned, but a lucky tidal surge lifted it clear of the rock and into deeper water. Having reached the gully, Eric remained in the sea, holding on to the boat to prevent it from grounding, while John went up the beach to bring down Barbara and the engine and other equipment. Moments later Barbara returned alone, saying that John had passed out through the sheer cold; she then took over from Eric in maintaining a hold on the boat, while Eric went back to John who was, by then, partially recovering. The young men put on their clothes, and Eric helped John down to the boat, which was loaded up and made ready to leave; the time was about 10 p.m.

With no compass luckily Eric had received some basic but extremely useful information prior to the attempt from a local skipper,  who had briefed him on a suggested course and explained the tidal patterns. John recovered slowly, and when they considered that they were reasonably clear of the Island the outboard motor was fitted and started up. The weather deteriorated, and the sea became much rougher. Between 1 and 2 o'clock in the morning, Eric became aware that there were rocks ahead and correctly guessed that they were in the area of the Écréhous which is halfway between Jersey and the French coast. They waited and then used the rising sun to navigate to the French coast.  After about 4 hours the line of a beach came into sight, and as they neared the shore, the sea became calmer. A grey granite wall came into sight, which, when they got closer, turned out to be a harbour. John by now had recovered and hoisted a Union Jack they had brought with them. They rounded the small harbour, tied up at the quayside and, after their hazardous trip of some 14 hours, discovered that they had landed at Carteret.  

Eric noticed a soldier in a khaki uniform on the quay and asked him."Who are you?" the reply was "Don't you recognise the American uniform, buddy? The boat was hauled up onto the harbour slipway by a group of locals. It was understood that it was returned to its rightful owner in Jersey after the War.

The Americans took the three escapees to Carteret Centre HQ, where they were given a most welcomed meal. Then on to Cherbourg by jeep, and transferred to the United Kingdom. The trio were accompanied by an R.A.F. Squadron Leader who escorted them to London, where they were de-briefed by Military authorities at the War Office.

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Sources of Information 
 

Jersey Heritage click the link above and subscribe as a member! 


German Documents are housed at The National Archived in Washington or Archive in Kew UK. 

 

NARA Rolls 
T-78 Roll 318
T-78 Roll 317
T-315 Roll 1639
T-315 Roll 1643
T-311 Roll 27
T-312 Roll 1545

AOK 7 War Diary

OKW War Diary

Operation Green Arrow - Occupation of the Channel Islands MOD 584
Allied Technical Intelligence Reports 1944-45 
German Preparations for Invasion of the United Kingdom 1941-42
B-833, 319th Infantry Division (1941-45)
German Seacoast Defenses, European Theatre - prepared by the Seacoast Artillery Evaluation Board
Jersey Occupied by Michael Ginns - ISBN 978-1-905095-29-2
Operation Nestegg Plans 
Operation Hardtack Plans 
Operation Basalt Plans 
RAF Photos care of The National Collection of Aerial Photography
Bundesarchiv - Multiple Photos - and Files 
A Map of slave labour camps. Kindly Provided by Emilio Pérez 
Photo's and information provided by fans 
Onsite visits & internet research 
After the Battle Multiple Magazines 

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