Studiegroep Luchtoorlog 1939-1945


Evader chart: E0138
SGLO Date crash Aircraft
T2886 16-09-43 Lancaster
MilRank First Name(s) Name
Sgt. Leslie Charles Woollard
Milregnr. Nationality Born
1332301 British
Returned Y/N Evader Fate Date Captured/Liberated Place Captured/Liberated Escape Line
Yes EVD 23 Jan 44 Falmouth, England Smit-Van der Heijden Line - EVA - Line Treboul
Evader Story
						Sgt. Leslie Charles ('Woollie') Woollard was the mid upper gunner of Lancaster JB144. He did not take part in the famous Dambusters, but he was added to F/Lt. Les Knight's Dams Raid crew for a bombing mission on the Dortmund-Ems Canal in the night of 15/16 September 1943. Their task this night was to bomb from very low level with a 12000-pounder. Due to a change of the wind direction and intense flak the Lancaster had to fly at higher level and flew through some trees on the top of a hill. This damaged both port engines and the elevator rudder. Knight managed to gain some height but shortly after he couldn’t control the aircraft anymore and ordered to bail out. Les Knight was the only one who didn’t survive.

After bailing out Woollard landed not too far from the crash site. He eventually reached the farm of family Hendrik Jan Schutmaat at the Hallerhoek, south of Den Ham. He first hid himself at the farm. When in the morning only Mrs. Schutmaat and her daughter Toos were at home, he approached them. They let him in and in the meantime Toos warned her father and her brother who were working in a potatoe field. The problem was that nobody spoke English. They decided to ask their neighbor for advise. He warned a local policeman (van de Kamp), who - on his turn - went to doctor Koyly in the village. doctor Koyly passed by that same night - 16 September - and spoke with Woollard. He remained at the farm for more than a week. During the day he hid on the attic of the pigsty. In the evenings he was allowed in the house. Koyly passed by regularly and also arranged civilian clothes for Woollard. The next Saturday - probably 25 September - Woollard left. With a red handkerchief in his pants he walked to the village of Den Ham. Here he was picked up by three men in a car who took him to Meppel. He was probably brought - by ‘Thijs Rijkmans and W. Jansen’ -  to two sisters, Froukje Trijntje and Tina Wilhelmina de Vries at Prins Hendrikstraat 3a at Meppel. According to the Helper File of Froukje Trijntje de Vries he remained here for ‘abt 4 weeks’. It was probably a shorter period. After being handed over to resistance leader Peter van der Hurk he moved probably to the rectory of reverend Willem N. van Nooten at Zuideinde 53 at Meppel. He arrived here on 2 October. Here he met F/O. Herbert Arthur (Harry) Penny (E0133) and Sgt. R. Fidler (E0128). Early in the morning of 15 October, Peter van den Hurk, accompanied by another Dutchman, took Penny, Fidler and Woollard by bike to Zwolle in order to catch a train to Tilburg. The three men were joined here by a fourth airman, S/Sgt. Paul F. Shipe (E1066). The four crossed the border by bicycle escorted by the Dutch gendarme Karst Smit. In the afternoon, Smit guided them by bus to Turnhout, then by tram to Antwerp and finally by train to Brussels where he handed them over to Ernest Van Moorleghem, who took the four took them to the fish shop of Prosper Spilliaert at 394 Chaussée d'Anvers in Schaerbeek where they found a hiding place in an annex building. Here Penny was separated from Fidler and Woollard, who reached Paris together. From there it went to Quimper in Brittany.

In this village a girl named Simone picked up Woollard, Fidler, Sgt. A.J.A. Reynolds and three Americans and took them to a house were they remained until 31 October. On this date 'FanFan' ported them to another house. The plan to evacuate them by boat miscarried so that they left for Paris again on 5 November. At the end of January they gave it another try. Sgt. R. Fidler, W/O. R.A. Jones, 2/Lt. J.E. Armstrong, a second American and Woollard were taken by train from Paris by Robert Viroux and a young woman to as far south as Carcassone. Here they were unable to find the appointed guide and then travelled on to Quillan. But neither here they could find him. They then returned to Paris the next day. In the French capital they met Sgt. J.D.H. Carleton and several other airmen in a church. This party - four RAF and twelve Americans - were now handed over to the Burgundy escape line. At 24 December they left for Quimper and Douarnenez, which they reached on Christmas Day. On the same night the whole party, now numbering some forty persons, including several Frenchmen, walked to Tréboul. Here the crew of the boat that had evacuate them suddenly announced that they weren't able to go. They then returned to Douarnenez and all stayed in a house for the night. The next day - 26 December - they had to spend large part of the day in a wood because the police was looking for them. 

Now the group was split up. Fidler, Carleton, Woollard, 1/Lt. D.A. Fisher and T/Sgt. T.R. Moore found a hiding place in the house of Madame Talec. Almost four weeks later Georges Broussine told the group - fourteen airmen and sixteen Frenchmen - that they would part that night. Once more it went to Tréboul harbour. Here they boarded the 'Breizh-Izel'. The skipper was Gabriel Cloarec, who let raise the anchor at 2.50 AM at 22 January. Although a German guard noticed the departure, the boat managed to get away because the post was attacked by the resistance. Outside the harbor the motor was started and after 36 hours the little boat reached Falmouth in Cornwall, shortly after midday on 23 January 1944.

Woollard passed away in September 1978 in Lewes, Sussex at the age of aged 57.						
* P.C. Meijer, Luchtoorlog rondom Den Ham (Den Ham 1995)
* Oliver Clutton-Brock, RAF Evaders. The comprehensive story of thousands of escapers and their escape lines, western Europe, 1940-1945 (London 2009), page 175-177
* National Archives, London, NAID: 286649702