World War II
Memories and Biography
Etiennie Jean Le Moal - deaf mute
By William G. Robertie (44th BG)
213 George Dye Rd.
Hamilton Sq., NJ 08690-2301
On 12 May 1972, Stanley Langcaskey, taking a brief respite from the 2nd AD Reunion being held in Norwich, stepped off the elevator on the 9th floor of an apartment house in La Roche-Sur-Yon (France) and came face to face with Madame Annonier. Madame hesitated for about one second then greeted him with "Good morning, Etiennie." For both of them the memories of 29 years ago came flooding back.
On the cold, dismal morning of 30 December 1943, S/Sgt. Stanley Langcaskey and the rest of the crew of "Bull of the Woods" left the runway at Shipdham to join with a formation of B-24s heading for Ludwigshaven.
The flight across the channel was relatively uneventful - most of them were - but as the formation penetrated deeper over the continent the famous "Yellow Nose" fighters hit the 44th formation and hit it hard.
"Bull of the Woods" was rapidly reduced to a flying junk pile. The "bail out" order was given and Stan, wounded in the head and arm, went out with the rest of the crew. He used the short interval between bailing out and landing to develop his one thought of the moment - escape.
Fortunately, he landed in a wooded area and quickly burying his parachute, hid in the brush. His wounds, while painful, did not incapacitate him, but he knew he couldn't travel far in that condition without help.
Waiting until dusk he headed for a small village in the distance which he later learned was Vezzapson, approximately 75 miles N.E. of Paris. Here, he took refuge in the first building he came to which happened to be an "out house." What better way to make contact!!
It was inevitable that he should meet the owner of the property and this event took place about an hour later. The property belonged to a Ms. Pestal who quickly ushered Stanley into the house where his wounds were dressed. Communication immediately became a problem as they didn't speak English and Stan didn't speak French. This was solved when they obtained the services of a 75-year-old woman from the village who spoke fluent English. She acted as interpreter.
Due to the number of Germans in the area, it was quickly decided that Stan, in company with their 12-year-old grandson, would ride bikes to Soissons. Riding a bike with shrapnel wounds in the head and left arm is not the easiest thing in the world to do, but with constant encouragement from the boy, they arrived in Soissons at the home of the younger Ms. Pestal without incident.
A doctor was quickly located who again treated Stan's wounds. Then, with the aid of a dictionary, Ms. Pestal and Stan discussed what the next step would be. Surrendering did not enter into the conversation at all.
Stan felt that he could get to Spain. "Impossible," said Ms. Pestal. "The Channel Ports?" "Ridiculous," countered Ms. Pestal. "Paris?" Stan asked. "THAT'S possible," Ms. Pestal replied.
The next morning the Pestals took Stan to the train station and while he and Ms. Pestal walked up and down the platform seemingly in deep conversation Madame Pestal bought his ticket. He was on his way.
Arriving in Paris, Stan strode off the train with the purposeful stride of someone who knew where he was going. Germans were everywhere and to hesitate would have invited questions, which would inevitably lead to capture. Spotting a café he headed towards it as if this was his original destination. Once inside, all he had to do was start speaking English and contact was immediately made. Two members of the underground hurried him to their apartment where they supplied him with French identification papers using his escape photo. They then obtained medical attention for his wounds.
From there, in company with one member of the underground unit, it was a trip to Brest to see if they could get Stan on a boat back to England. No luck. From Brest, they traveled to Nantes then to La Sable-de-lone. Again, no contact. His companion had to leave him at this point, but he gave Stan the names of people to contact. After two more days during which time Stan slept in empty buildings he again made contact with the underground. They were certain they could get him out of France and took him 25 kilometers inland to La Roche-Sur-Yon and the home of Monsieur & Madame Annonier where he was to stay for one month.
Here, Stan was given excellent food and accommodations. Monsieur Annonier would take him for walks and Stan was supposed to be his deaf and dumb cousin. EVERYBODY has a deaf and dumb cousin! The only trouble was that Ms. Annonier had a deep hatred for the Germans and often let this feeling come to the surface at inopportune times.
He would see German soldiers approaching them on the street and look at Stan saying quite loudly, "stupid Germans." Monsieur wanted Stan to stay with him until the invasion when they could have a war of their own with the Germans. Monsieur showed Stan the sub machine guns he had hidden under the floorboards in his shed and on his farm. There was no question that given the opportunity, he could be a one-man army.
Stan, eventually, left La Roche in company with a Madame Evelyn Depinay to go to Pau in the south of France. Here, they contacted another resistance group and arrangements were made to get Stan to Spain.
After a week in Pau he was taken into the Pyrennes Mountains where he met with other escaping American airmen, and in a group they walked over the mountains into Spain. After spending six weeks in a local jail the group was sent to Gibralter from where they were flown back to London on 30 May 1944 - just five months to the day when "Bull of the Woods" left the runway at Shipdham never to return.
These were the events that Stanley and Madame Annonier were recalling as they embraced after that first greeting.
When Stan said "Goodbye" to the Annoiers in 1944, he said he would be back to visit them again at some future date. It took 29 years, but he kept his promise, and for a brief period, Stanley Langcaskey once again became Etiennie Jean Le Moal - deaf mute.