Studiegroep Luchtoorlog 1939-1945


Evader chart: E0192
SGLO Date crash Aircraft
T3086 13-11-43 B-24 Liberator
MilRank First Name(s) Name
Sgt. Nicholas Mandell
Milregnr. Nationality Born
13102105 American 21 Jun 1921
Returned Y/N Evader Fate Date Captured/Liberated Place Captured/Liberated Escape Line
Yes EVD 11 May 44 Bristol, England Dutch-Paris Line
Evader Story
						Sgt. Nicholas (Nick) Mandell was the radio operator of the B-24 Liberator 42-7483 ‘Big Dog’ that crashed at the Meppelerdiep near Zwartsluis on November 13, 1943. He bailed out and landed around noon in the ‘Noordelijke Buitenlanden’, on the northern bank of the ‘Zwarte Water’. Roelof Heijs, who was hiding at a farm near Genemuiden, saw Mandell land and took a ferry to find him. When Heijs had located Mandell, he told him to hide in the reed land along the bank and stay there until Heijs came back for him. Later that afternoon Heijs returned together with Klaas Visscher from Genemuiden. They gave Mandell something to eat and a long coat to hide his uniform. Next, they brought him closer to Zwartsluis and told him to hide in the reed again. He was instructed to stay put because German patrols were searching along the dikes near the crash location. With a car, driven by Bertus Breman from Genemuiden, Heijs returned again later that afternoon to pick up the airman. Mandell was told to only come out of the reed, when he heard someone whistling the English anthem.

They drove to Dedemsvaart where teacher Stap lived, a friend of Heijs. But at this address Mandell could not be hidden because a German razzia had been announced. He was taken to Hendrik Lubbers who had, because of the announced razzia, sent off his ‘onderduiker’. But Lubbers understood that this was an emergency and hid Mandell and Heijs in his empty cattle truck while Visscher and Breman returned to Genemuiden. The cattle truck was parked quite close to the ‘Villa Langedijk’ in Dedemsvaart. What Heijs and Mandell didn’t know was that the villa served as a local German headquarters. However, all worked out fine and on Monday morning both men travelled to Coevorden by tram. Sander Heijs was waiting for them there and he took Mandell to Fritz van Faassen. Van Faassen had connections with the local resistance, and he contacted the Van Aalderen nephews from Hoogeveen about Mandell. They had to prepare his escape, and, in the meantime, Mandell was brought to Fritz his father, Hendrik van Faassen in Slagharen on November 16. He stayed here till November 28 and then was brought to Hoogeveen. On arrival he was first severely interrogated by either Albert or Johannes van Aalderen. When they were convinced that Mandell was who he said he was, he was introduced to F/Sgt. George Watts (E0145).

For the onward travel of allied airmen and ‘onderduikers’, Van Aalderen kept in touch with former fellow villager Machiel Rombout (alias ‘Rob Kooymans’) who in turn kept in touch with Adriaan van Wijlen, leader of the group ‘André’. Rombout had been the head of the ‘Ordedienst’ in Hoogeveen but was, as a former officer in the Dutch army, called up for service. Instead, he went in hiding, initially with his family in Zeist and next via Arnold van Zandbergen, head of the LO in Hoogeveen, at the reverend Berend van Lummel in Sprang-Capelle. Van Lummel was a high ranking member in the national LO and so Rombout became head of the regional LO department in the western part of the province of Noord Brabant. LO stands for Landelijke Organisatie, the Dutch National Organisation for help to persons in hiding.

Probably on the evening of 28 November 1943, Rombout advised that the two men, Mandell and Watts, could come to Brabant. Already on the 29th of November, Hilda Dekker (the daughter of Albert van Aalderen’s opposite neighbour Hendrikus Dekker) accompanied both men by train from Hoogeveen to Utrecht. Rombouts waited there for them at the station and the three men travelled by train again to their hiding address at the Spoorstraat 48a in Breda. This was the pension of the widow Neeltje Ueberfeldt-van Vliet (alias “Ma”). This address was also Rombout’s headquarters since his appointment as leader of the LO-district West-Brabant.    

But now ‘Rob’ had two airmen and what to do next with them? He contacted Van Lummel who once had said to him that if he had 'pilots', then he knew a way to get them back to England. The reverend told ‘Rob’ to get in touch with ‘Piet’. This was Peter de Rooy, also known as ‘René’, a 28 year old man from Rotterdam but was hiding in Sprang-Capelle and member of the local LO. The same evening, 30 November 1943, De Rooy went looking for a hiding address and found one with the reverend Arend Vroegindeweij at the Zuidhollandsedijk 64 in Kaatsheuvel. The vicar was a bit scared so he would take them for one night only. “Rob” was informed and arrived with Mandell and Watts at the vicars house round 21:00 hours. Although they were stopped by the German Grüne Polizei, the company was allowed to travel on after their ID-cards had been found all right. The Germans found out then that two of the men, Mandell and Watts, were deaf mute. 

The next day Van Rooy went looking for another hiding address and found it with Hendrik Mes at the Winterdijk (now Waspiksedijk 4) in Capelle. Together with Jan, the son of Hendrik, De Rooy and the two airmen cycled to the house of the Mes family. That Mandell and Watts were conspicuous due to their inability to ride a bike goes without saying. Both men stayed there for seven days and then De Rooy and Jan Mes brought them to their next address. Mandell stayed with Leen Kuysten, who was member of the resistance group ‘André’, at Kerkeinde A72 in Sprang-Capelle, while Watts went to the De Bruijn family, Leen’s in-laws. They stayed there for five days while the group ‘André’, led by Adriaan van Wijlen, arranged their further transport.

On 12 December 1943, both Mandell and Watts were collected from the house of the vicar Van Lummel by Paul Reybroek. He cycled with both airmen to the house of his uncle Paulus van den Broek at the Nijnsel D108 in Sint Oedenrode. The same day, both evaders were taken by Van den Broek to the farm of Wilhelmus Habraken where they stayed for fifteen days. On 17 December Reybroek and Van den Broek collected the airmen for a new cycle trip. This time they went to the Otten family in Erp who already had a French escaped prisoner of war staying with them. After three days at the so called Pyama House of the Otten family, Mandell, Watts and the Frenchman Pailfres were taken on 19 December to Helmond by the brothers Gerard and Harrie Otten. In Helmond the three were handed over to Piet and Jan Alexander Vermeeren who took the men to their house at the Markt 29A (now Markt 3) in Sevenum.

The house of the Vermeeren family was very convenient for hiding persons. Entering the front door, one found a pharmacy on the left and the Post Office on the right. These were open whole day and people were moving in and out continuously and in front of the house quite some bicycles were parked. This way an evader or escapee could go in or out without attracting undue attention. That the family hid persons was known in the village, but everyone kept quite about it. Persons in hiding like the three airmen were well taken care off and provided with clean clothing. The men stayed for just two days in Sevenum and on 23 December they cycled to Neeritter with Jan and Piet Vermeeren who brought them to the farm ‘De Zonnehoeve’ of Reinier Hubert (Neer) van der Vin, Haardstraat 130 at Neeritter. Farmer Neer van der Vin was already in 1941 active with an escape line to Belgium for escaped French PoW’s and evading airmen. After five hours Mandell and Watts were collected by Willem ‘Wiel’ Houwen and his nephew, teacher Willem Crijns from Helden. Wiel had asked Crijns to accompany him, because he spoke proper English. Wiel himself was head of the local air raid warning service and could use the car of this organisation.

The two ‘pilots’ went to Roermond where they were received by Remko Roosje (alias ‘Jan Huizinga’) and Frans Verbruggen (alias ‘Francis’). Frans brought Mandell and Watts to his parents house at the Minderbroedersingel 27. Officially Franks lived there as well but in reality, he was never there because it was too dangerous. Both airmen slept at this address but in daytime they had to stay elsewhere. Mandell then stayed with Egidius Bremmers at the Minderbroedersingel 19, while Watts went to Jan Irpenburg at the Minderbroedersingel 56. Frans his sister Maria also still lived with her parents, and she took care that sufficient food was available. Furthermore, she chatted with both airmen to keep their morale up. On January 18, 1944, Mandell and Watts travelled together with Frans Verbruggen by train to Maastricht. At the station there, they were handed over to Jacques Vrij. He brought them to Jacqueline Maria Catharina Rademakers-Tuinstra who lived at the Volksplein 12 in Maastricht. Her husband, Marie Johannes Hubertus Rademakers, was imprisoned in a concentration camp. Next Vrij took both men to butcher Josef Ummels (alias ‘Giel’) at the Wolfstraat 6 in Maastricht. On January 20, 1944, Mandell and Watts were collected from their hiding address by passeur Pierre Souren, member of the group ‘Vrij’, who took them to the border at the Caberg near Maastricht. They were handed over to guides of the Dutch-Paris escape line who took both men to Brussels.

In Brussels more airmen were brought together by the escape line for their journey to the French-Spanish border, Mandell and Watts being two of them. They both left Brussels for Paris by train on the evening of January 23, arriving at the Gare du Nord in Paris early on January 24. It is not clear were they stayed in Paris, but the most likely address was an apartment at the Rue Lhomond. Late in the afternoon on February 4, they left in a small group of airmen for Gare d’Austerlitz via the Metro. From this station they took the night train to Toulouse. Having arrived there the men had breakfast at Chez Emile and next took the afternoon train to Saint-Girons. From this little town, some went by taxi and others by bus to Mane where the whole group of 26 men assembled in a shepherd's hut outside of Arbas. At 22:00 hours on February 5, the group left for the crossing to Spain, led by passeurs Treillet and Marot. During the night it started to snow, making the going even worse, and early in the morning the passeurs led the group to a shepherd's hut for a break. In the morning the weather improved and under a clear blue sky the passeurs decided to leave on the Col de Portes d’ Aspet. Passeur Treillet was the first to leave around 10:00 hours and went ahead to scout. When the group started to leave the hut to follow him, Treillet spotted a pair of dog ears belonging to a German mountain patrol lying in ambush. He shouted a warning and eleven men, including Watts and Mandell, scrambled up the mountain to hide, being fired at by the Germans. The patrol then descended to the hut on ski and arrested the remaining fifteen men. Passeur Marot was among the arrested but managed to escape a little later. Passeur Treillet found the escapees and led them to an inn to warm up before returning to France.  

On February 7, Mandell and Watts and the other escapees travelled by bus to Boussons where they took the train to Cazères. Here they stayed for some days before returning to Toulouse on February 15. In Toulouse they were informed that they already would leave the next day for the Pyrenees crossing. In the afternoon of the 16th, the group, including Mandell and Watts, left by train for Montréjeau. From here they were transferred to a shepherds hut in the foothills near Ardon in the Valley of Baroussa. Heavy snow prevented their departure and they had to wait several weeks, while in the meantime the number of fugitives increased to 38 men of different nationalities. On March 16, passeurs Jean-Luc Bazerque (alias ‘Charbonnier’) and ‘Frisco’ led the evaders and an armed guide of the Maquis on a wide three-day trek round Bagnères-de-Luchon. On 19 March, the group of 38 arrived at Bossòst in the Aran Valley in Catalonia, Spain. Their ordeal was not yet over, for they were arrested and next interrogated by the Spaniards. Via Viella, Sort and Lleida they arrived at Alhama the Aragón where they were visited by a representative of the American Military Attaché. It took another two weeks before the American airmen, including Mandell, were released from custody and via Madrid taken to Gibraltar, arriving there on May 8. By air they returned to England, arriving here on May 11, 1944.

Nicholas Mandell passed away on 25 November 1988 at the age of 67. He is buried at Saint Vincents Catholic Cemetery, Conewago Township, Adams County, Pennsylvania, USA.						
* D. Driessen en D. van Eerde, Sporen Terug. Crash van Liberator B24. 13 november 1943 Zwartsluis
* Frans Govers, Pyama-House. Ontdekkingsreis door het uitgebreide netwerk van de pilotenhulp tijdens de Tweede Wereldoorlog: 1943-1944 (Uden 1992), page 27-33
* Megan Koreman, The Escape Line. How the ordinary heroes of Dutch-Paris resisted the Nazi occupation of Western Europe (Oxford 2018), page 160-171
* Jean-Luc E. Cartron, So Close to Freedom: A World War II Story of Peril and Betrayal in the Pyrenees (Nebraska 2019), page 2-3
* J. Bussels, De doodstraf als risico. Pilotenhulp in Belgisch Limburg 1941-1944 (without place 1981), page 157-158
* NIMH, The Hague, List 'Ondergedoken piloten te Erp (Fam. Otten)'