Veteran returns to scene of wartime forest escape

Raymond Worrall

Raymond Worrall

Updated in News

A retired barrister from York will soon return to the forest where he hid for weeks during 1944 to evade capture by the Germans after D-Day.

Raymond Worrall, now 90, is believed to be the last English survivor of 152 airmen who lived rough in two concealed camps in the Forest of Freteval near Orleans in central France.

At the risk of their own lives, the local French resistance protected and fed the servicemen until they were rescued by the Allies in Operation Sherwood, hours before the Nazis started searching the area for them.

Now Mr Worrall has been invited back to mark the 70th anniversary of the event.

He said: “It’s very uplifting to see that our French colleagues still recall the forest and the remarkable events of 70 years ago. There is absolutely no doubt that were it not for the efforts of the French Resistance, I would not be alive today, nor many of the aircrew who shared those days in the forest with me, memories which will live with me forever. We owe them an enormous debt of gratitude and I’m looking forward very much to making the return in the hope of seeing – and walking - into the forest once more – perhaps for the final time.

"It will be an emotional moment because when I enter the forest on June 28, it will be 70 years since I was taken in there on July 28, 1944. I only wish my colleagues were with me.”

Mr Worrall was a 20-year-old flight engineer when he had to bail out over occupied France from a Lancaster bomb en route to Stuttgart in Germany. After living on his wits for three days, he was spotted by the French Resistance and taken to the camps, whose members dodged enemy patrols daily.

The anniversary commemorations on June 28 and June 29 have been organised by the citizens and local councillors for Villebout and Bellande.

After the war, Mr Worrall qualified as a barrister and worked on the North Eastern circuit for 20 years.

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