Bromley councillor's Gestapo PoW story
The son of a Second World War prisoner of war helped by a French family will present a bound copy of his father's amazing story to councillors at a special ceremony.
John Griffin will be joined by Jean Michel Darrouman, whose father helped George Griffin in 1944 after his plane crash landed in a forest near the village of Anzex, in Gascony, south-west France.
George was the second Labour member to be elected to Bromley Council when he was voted in as Bromley Common councillor in 1937.
He was called up in June 1940 but because municipal elections were postponed during the war he remained the ward’s representative until 1946, despite being in a concentration camp.
On December 13 Mr Griffin and Mr Darrouman – who has written an account of the events which happened nearly 70 years ago – will hand a copy to Bromley councillors at the Civic Centre.
The tale tells the story of the events following the crash of a Stirling aircraft of 620 Squadron RAF on April 11.
Mr Griffin said: “It’s an incredible story. The Stirling, the RAF’s first four-engine bomber, was about to make a parachute drop of arms to the French Resistance when it caught fire and crash landed into a forest.”
Mr Griffin and pilot Les Brown managed to flee the wreckage and despite being badly burned, made it to the Darroumans’ farmhouse.
They were presumed dead by the Air Ministry, which contacted George’s devastated family.
Mr Darrouman – despite endangering his wife and six children – built them a hideout in the woods and gave them medical attention.
They stayed for two weeks before meeting with leader of the Gascony resistance, Colonel George Starr, who let the Air Ministry know that George was alive.
On D-Day George and Les were sent to destroy a railway but were caught.
Ironically, word finally reached England that George was safe on the day after he was captured by the Milice – the French secret police. They handed him to the Gestapo and on June 20 he travelled by train to the Stalag Luft 1 concentration camp near Barth.
He was finally released in 1945 when he returned to Bromley. He died in 1989 but in 1996, Mr Griffin received a letter from Jean Darrouman’s son.
The families have remained friends ever since and several members of the Darrouman family will come to Bromley on December 13 for the special ceremony.