|T3948||26-08-44||B-17 Flying Fortress|
|Returned Y/N||Evader Fate||Date Captured/Liberated||Place Captured/Liberated||Escape Line|
|Yes||EVD||8 May 45||Sliedrecht||-|
S/Sgt. Alfred Bachelor Knowlton was the right waist gunner of B-17 42-97204 ‘Skylark’ that was hit by flak on a raid to Gelsenkirchen on August 26, 1944. Passing Zwolle, it became clear that the stricken bomber was doomed and the captain ordered the crew to bail out. All crew members bailed out and descended over the army training area at Oldebroek and the bomber crashed on the west side of the Scholterbos near Heerde. After landing, all crewmembers except Knowlton were captured by SS soldiers and the tail gunner, S/Sgt. Gordon, was even shot by them. Knowlton landed in a wooded patch of the area and evading capture, managed to get in touch with the local resistance. Loed Creutzberg took the American to Dr. Willem Wolffensperger who lived in Huize Klarenbeek in Doornspijk. The airman stayed here until September 24 and resistance member D. Uijttenboogaert from Epe then brought by car him to ‘Het Verscholen Dorp’, a refugee camp near Vierhouten. This camp mainly housed Jews in hiding and young Dutchmen who were avoiding the German ‘Arbeitseinsats’, compulsory employment in Germany. But it was also used to hide downed airmen and Knowlton joined 2/Lt. Carrol Stearns (E0536), P/O. Derek A. Duncliffe (E0538), T/Sgt. James R. Wilson (E0482) and S/Sgt. Thomas Reilly (E0480) who were already staying there for some time. A few days later the number of downed airmen increased with the arrival of P/O. Eric Blakemore (E0570), F/O. John Craven (E0571) and F/O. Kenneth Parsons (E0613). Conditions in the camp that was also called ‘Pas op’ were 'fair' but after operation Market Garden, the food situation worsened. The Germans became increasingly aware of the existence of the camp and therefore all refugees were transferred to a larger refugee camp near Oldebroek on October 22, 1944. The group was split up and the resistance from Elburg took them to different hiding addresses. By mid-November the airmen were collected again and in the evening of November 17, they were brought to the farm of the van Norel family at the Stoopschaarweg in Doornspijk. Here they joined some others, most of them Airborne soldiers who had fought at Arnhem. Only the son of the family, Gerrit, was aware of the ‘unofficial guests’ who were going to participate in the Pegasus II escape operation. The plan was that the group would be picked up by a truck there the same night but the truck didn’t show up. Early in the morning of November 18, the eighteen men were brought to different hiding addresses. At the beginning of the evening the truck did arrive but at the ‘Old Putten’ estate near Elburg. The eighteen men were brought there in a hurry from their different hiding places. All men were given a shovel when they boarded the truck as if they were Organisation Todt-workers. After an adventurous ride of about an hour the truck stopped, and a man escorted them to another staging point for Operation Pegasus II. However, they had arrived too late at the rendez-vous and therefore they missed the main group. They then left as last party and while on their way, they heard machine gun fire from up front. An advance party had run into a German sentry and a firefight had started. The guides of the resistance ordered the party into a thick forest to wait there. In the afternoon, after a night in the cold, a farmer turned up with stew and Dutch gin (jenever). In the evening of November 19, a horse drawn cart appeared as promised and took the group to a barn on the land of J. van Essen at the Westerhuisweg in Harskamp. The group was then split up and the men went to several addresses. Where Knowlton went in hiding is (yet) unknown but perhaps he stayed together with either Stearns or Kilgore. It is safe to assume that he stayed somewhere in the Veluwe area and in the first half of March 1945, he was put on the Biesbosch escape line by Capt. Dick Kragt of IS9. Undoubtedly, he must have passed through Amerongen and safely crossed the lock at Schalkwijk. From there he must have cycled to the farm of Henk Rijneveld in Willige Langerak, the usual departure point for the crossing of the Lek River. Having arrived on the other bank, he probably stayed there for a day or two and was then taken to Sliedrecht by Pieter Visser. By then, the escape line had been blocked due to increased German presence in the area and Knowlton was brought to the house of Cornelis van der Wiel at the H. de Grootstraat 82 in Sliedrecht on March 19, together with Albert Banford, an American paratrooper who had been captured by the Germans near Opheusden. Banford managed to escape from a train between Putten and Harderwijk and had participated in Pegasus II as well. On April 12, Knowlton and Banford transferred to the house of Albert Kuipers at B345 in Sliedrecht and on May 8, 1945, they were brought to Culemborg where they were handed over to the Canadian troops there.
|* National Archives, Washington, MACR 8466
* Wolter Noordman, Ondergedoken op de Veluwe, (Kampen 2010), pages 208, 292, 403, 476
* National Archives, Washington. Helper Files NAID: 286720284, 286718377, 286687302, 286712476, 286657831, 286651359, 286715474, 286704064, 286669725.