KB723 F/O Steepe and F/O Murphy
KB718 F/O L W A Frame , F/O W C Watson, Sgt. P P Barclay, F/S J Morris
KB718 F/O L Frame
After jumping from a low height of 1,200 feet from KB718 and landing in a forested area,
Frame found himself wandering in the thick forest. Even with the aide of the small compass
and flashlight he carried, he had inadvertently arrived at what appeared to be the burning
wreckage of an aircraft, possibly his. Unless he wanted to be noticed, he had to leave the area.
Now he followed an easterly direction in the dark, stumbling over hidden obstacles until dawn,
when he came to an abrupt halt: ahead, some men were working in a field. Ever cautious, he decided
to observe them first from a tree rather than approach them. But tired men are careless men,
and eventually the workers noticed him. Rather than run to authorities, they motioned him over
with indications that they would help. Frame glanced around the field, worried that every stack
of hay might be hiding a Nazi, but with the men’s continued urging, Frame bit back his apprehension,
jumped down, and approached them. The workers chattered urgently in French, which Frame didn’t understand,
so he pulled out his map and lifted his shoulders. A man who identified himself as Louis, pointed out their
location, and also indicated that Frame should stay hidden up in the tree until he returned.
Still gesturing, Louis trotted off. For Frame, wedged and vulnerable in his tree roost,
every minute dragged on like an hour, every sensibility said, run, you’re being set up.
But he had no idea where to run, so he stayed put. After what seemed an eternity, Louis came back,
accompanied by a guide who safely brought him to Villa L’Ecureuil, home of Drue Tartiere.
KB723 F/O Donald Steepe and F/O Dannie Murphy
Escape from their flak-damaged Lancaster was the beginning of the long trip home for two airmen,
Steepe and Murphy, who would become two of six Evaders this night in July. They were pilot and
navigator of the Lancaster VR-U, and both had serious injuries that needed attention, and they too
were to meet an amazing woman. Drue Tartiere, an American who was imprisoned for her work with Radio
America in Paris, had escaped and joined the French underground. Her particular role was as part
of a network who helped Allied airmen evade capture.
Drue’s meeting with the two airmen began when a Frenchman, only identified as Bellanger from Acheres,
arrived at her house with word that two injured Allies were hidden in the forest near his home. They were
both in bad condition with clothes covered in blood, and, although he believed them to be dying, he did
not dare risk moving them. The Germans were searching the area for them.
Without hesitation, Drue left, taking with her "Joe" Louarn, a nurse, along with some bandages,
needle and thread. Steepe had requested the supplies from Bellanger who had found him. It was a
20 kilometer bicycle ride to the forest for Drue, Joe and Bellanger, interspersed with frequent
German patrols who were still searching for the Allied airmen and questioning all travellers.
Her acting experience paid off as time after time Drue and her companions passed easily through
patrols until finally they arrived at the spot where the men were hidden.
On seeing them, Drue’s breath caught. Bellanger had not exaggerated. Both airmen needed considerable
medical help, more than Drue and Joe could possibly offer, and definitely in cleaner conditions than
a forest. There was no choice but to move Steepe and Murphy to the house of Caillaux, a forest guard,
and administer their meagre medical aid there. Drue felt empathy for Don Steepe who was worried about
how his mother would react to his being posted as missing after he had lost his brother, John, over
the Normandy beach a week earlier. Steepe seemed less worried about his own injuries: a torn upper lip
hanging down, scalp lacerations and hair burned off the back of his head, and a cut to his forehead as
well as burns to his arms.
Dannie Murphy, however, was in worse condition with an extremely swollen and painful broken left leg,
third degree burns to both legs, and his left hand described as burned through. For him especially,
it was an extremely painful experience being brought from where his chute had brought him down to
this hiding place in the woods. He now had to be moved yet again.
With help of Bellanger, Louarn and Drue moved the injured men to the cottage.
While Louarn and Drue worked, Bellanger kept watch outside for German patrols.
Both airmen had first aid kits with them which were used to clean and dress the wounds.
But the morphine in the kits was not used. Despite their pain, both men needed to keep
their wits about them when they were re-hidden in the woods.
The rescuers had no choice but to hide the airmen back in the woods until a better
hiding spot could be found. The Germans had already posted a reward of 10,000 francs for
any Allied airman handed in, and there was no shortage of French collaborators.
The rescuers left the airmen with quilts, water, some food and a promise to return for
them later. With heavy hearts, Drue and Louarn mounted their bicycles and returned to Barbizon.
KB718 F/O Wiliam "Bill" C Watson
Back at Barbizon, physically and emotionally exhausted, Drue immediately faced another challenge:
she and her maid Nadine had to move yet another airman, this one from the hay stack of Marie Rode's
farm to a safer location. Her first impression on arriving at the Rode home was that in the complete
darkness, the Rode household was sleeping. Inside, Drue and Nadine were almost overwhelmed by the tension
sizzling among the waiting family. They had not wanted the airman to stay in the hay stack overnight
for the Germans to find, so they brought him inside.
Drue was led to a hiding place in Grandmother Rode’s bedroom where the airman was sleeping peacefully.
Bill Watson was awakened to find an english speaking women who was waiting to move him to safety
elsewhere. F/O Watson said his thanks to his rescuers including the Grandmother who had watched over him.
Now covered in the trench coat Nadine had brought the three of them walked down darkened empty main street ,
Grande Rue back to Drue's home.
At the sight of his Navigator "Red" as Frame was called at the house, was over whelmed to
see Watson and a happy and physical reunion transpired.
Back for F/O Steepe and F/S Murphy
After returning home with F/O Bill Watson, Drue had to see to transportation to get the
two Steepe and Murphy back to Barbizon. The local garage man only named as Robilliard was
again called on to help as he had done a number of time before for Drue. To put their plan
into action Drue had to return to the forest and arrange a pickup point in the forest. A dangerous
cycle back to the forest through German patrols was again completed with a few complications thrown
in by a new check point set up on the way. The German check point was waiting for one of their patrols
who had lost their way. Eventually they dismantled their barriers and went on their way with the
missing trucks a break which allowed Drue
to continue her journey. With the help of Bellanger and another, Caillaux a pickup point was set
up near the forest's edge for Robilliard to find the airmen and load them on board his old truck.
Again cycling back to Barbizon carrying RCAF clothing in her basket she was halted by another patrol
who then let her pass without looking in the basket. She now had to arrange with Mme May De Genes,
a New York born neighbour, for a place to hide the two injured airmen as Drue's small home,
Villa L’Ecureuil, was now full. Returning yet again to the forest this time in the truck of Robilliard
and with a trunk loaded in the back they set off for two injured men awaiting them. With Watson
travelling in the front seat his injured legs covered to conceal the bandages and Steepe hidden
in the trunk in the rear of the old Renault truck they headed off. Knowing that Steepe's head and
facial injuries would set off an alarm to anyone inspecting the truck. Hence in a hot July day
Steepe was confined to the trunk with Drue dressed in summer clothes riding on top of the trunk.
The deception paid off as the truck was stopped by a patrol, Drue drawing on her acting experience
and her appearance to get them through the situation, explaining to the German guards that they
were simply moving. The guard was more interested in Drue' legs then the only item in the truck,
the truck containing the injured Steepe. Which is what she planned. Arriving at the De Genes home
the two were quickly transferred to the studio of the home.
The two men needed medical attention a visit from Doctor Philardeau of
Fontainebleau was arranged. Murphy’s leg was in need of higher medical experience then could be
performed by anything less then a skilled practitioner.
KB718 Sgt. Barclay
At this point yet another 419 crewman was brought to the attention of Drue and joined the others.
Sergeant "Shorty" Barclay the Flight Engineer of KB718 appeared wearing clothes much to big for his
small frame, the little Englishman from near London was wearing a raggedy shirt over the too large
red pants, still wearing his lucky sweater a constant travel companion on all his missions. How Barclay
had traveled to Barbizon is a story with it’s self. Coming down into the branches of the trees that
suddenly came out of the darkness he was able to lower himself to the ground . Using his compass he
headed off until he came across a group of villagers watching an aircraft in the field burning.
The villagers spotted him and and provided him with an overcoat to hide his uniform and two young girls
to guide him to a place to hide in a church located in a village near the Fontainebleau forest.
The girls were to next take him to a contact once the meeting had been set up. The contact did not show up,
so he once again hid in the church boiler house. Where he was once again moved to another hiding spot until
two days later two French guides showed up. Following the instructions of his French guides shadowed them
at a distance until they came to a small house with high gates. The house was Villa L’Ecureuil home of
Drue Tartiere. And so yet another joyous reunion was made with Frame and Watson literally throwing Barclay
back and forth between them.
The Final Journey
With in the small house were now hidden three 419 airmen soon to be rejoined by Steepe and Murphy
returning from Fontainebleau.
Although supplies were in short supply they managed to avoid capture until August 23 when after a
number of days of fighting all around them the American Army reached Barbizon. Taken by Jeep to
Fontainebleau after an emotional farewell to “Mum” as Madam Tartiere had become to be know as.
Transported to the Normandy coast to be airlifted by an USAAF Dakota from Banville to Northholt
in England. At some point after interrogation in a building on the famous Baker Street the Canadians,
Steepe, Frame, Watson and Murphy now slated to home to Canada said good bye to Sgt. Barclay.
Sgt. Phillipp Barclay's report to MI9 was not a long but praised the work of those who had helped:
" An American, Mme. Dorothy Tartiere, whose husband was killed in Syria and whose brother is still in some form
of espionage for the French, has been helping to hide Allied airmen for over the past two years. I was number 197.
She had been in a German concentration camp, but managed to escape through feigning illness, and has since
been fooling the Gestapo day after day. She was aided in her work by a Miss Greenough from Boston
and a Miss Kaye de Vigne. It is impossible to thank or to praise any one of these ladies too much"
KB718 F/S J. Morris
F/S Morris had hidden in a forest in the area South West of Of Melun, continuing in a
South West direction until he came upon the River Seine an obstical too dangerous to attempt.
Deciding to head West he found refuge by a women tending a house used only on used on weekends.
Four days later an English speaking girl connected with the Red Cross took him to Melun. After
a number of days he was taken to the North West outlining area of Paris. He an USSAF sergeant
were then moved to different section of Paris where they stayed until Paris was liberated.
Born in Wisconsin, she travelled in her youth to Mexico, Switzerland. Her work in California, as Drue Leyton
in a number of moviesincluding a few in the Charlie Chan series and performing on stage were to provide her
with acting abilites for use in her real life role as a member of the French underground. Well known in France,
writing and acting in French movies under the name Jacques Terrane in pre-war France. When the war broke out she was
with the French Ministry of Information producing broadcasts to North and South America through
the Voice of America. A venture which attracted the attention of the Gestapo. When America entered
the war she was arrested and placed in a concentration camp. She escaped and joined the French Resistance
and helped to save over 150 allied airmen. Honored by the Canadian, French, America and British governments for her work in the
There were many who's names never became known who helped in the transportation, hiding and caring
for the Allied airmen. And indeed in this series of rescues of these 419 squadron members there are
others who aided Drue. Hopefully I will find further information about them as well.