MCS was informed that Bas passed away on 1 May 2011. In memory of Basil, his wife directed us to a fascinating piece he wrote about his war experiences, the full text of which you can read on the BBC People’s War. An extract reads:
‘I was flying a Whitley when I was shot down. On July 4th, at 2am, I made a parachute descent at Eindhoven, Holland… I was found by a dog, shot in both legs, in an irrigation ditch. A German orderly helped cut me out of my flying suit, he was very gentle and kindly. He wouldn’t let me walk but got an ambulance, which was driven across the field to pick me up. I was put on to a stretcher and was taken to Krefeld to a hospital run by nuns.
My left leg went gangrenous. They took me to a hospital (Res Laz) in Dusseldorf Gerresheim, which was run by the French and had about 1000 French patients, I was the only Brit. This was in 1941 on July 8th, when France was under German rule and French workers were taken into Germany to work. They were used to handling minor injuries, hernias etc. A doctor there called Galving came to look at me. I was on a stretcher and when he saw my left leg he recoiled. I stayed in this hospital for about 8 months.
I’d already learnt German and French at school – at Dusseldorf I got a big compliment from a Frenchman. He said ‘You speak very good English for a Frenchman’. I had done 7 years of French at school and was better at it than German. I learned the correct version but you pick up the patois from French men. Of course I picked up a lot, I was stuck in a hospital with only French people. My greatest friend was a Frenchman whom I met at Dusseldorf, he gave me some of his ration and a lighter. I saw him a couple of times after the war, once in Lille, another time in Leicester in 1957 when Muriel was expecting Fran…’