|Research by Jacky Lawrence, 2020
Jack Dickens was a Sgt mechanic in RAF Bomber Command 466 Squadron which was a squadron of the Royal Australian Air Force. On the night of 6/7 May 1944 he was part of the crew of a Halifax which was shot down on return from a mission to the Gossicourt railway instillations, a suburb of Mantes-La-Jolie in south Normandy. The plane crashed in Boisset-les-Prevanches near Evreux. As the plane was on fire the crew bailed out at 11000ft.
Apart from Jack the rest of the crew were all Australian. Three men were immediately taken prisoner. Two escaped one of whom was later arrested and interned in Buchenwald. The other returned to England via Gibraltar at the end of June 1944.
Jack Dickens and the pilot, Edmund Hourigan, landed by parachute and were accommodated briefly by a farmer, then taken care of by Jean Simon and Robert Louis Le Ledan, both of whom were arrested by the Germans and later died.
From May 25th to July 17th they were lodged in Breux-sur-Avre with Roland and Anita Dablanc. Roland was a teacher and member of the local Resistance (Filiere Crucey). He was also the town secretary and he fabricated false identity cards using the names of long dead people. It was his wife who wrote the cards because Roland’s handwriting was too well known. The false papers for Jack Dickens, in the name of Jean Danglot, stated he was a deaf mute so he occasionally accompanied Roland to the village.
Edmund Hourigan was considered too British looking so had to remain in hiding.
In July 1944 they were directed to Camp de Freteval where they were liberated by American Troops. They left Banville by plane on August 13th 1944 and landed at Northolt, Middlesex the same day.
After the war Jack married Brenda York and they had five children, Janet, Raymond, Roy, Neil and Celia. Sadly Brenda died when Celia was just four, but later Jack married Jessie Marriott. Jack died in 1986 when he was only 65.
Jack Dickens went back to France several times to visit the Dablanc family and Anita Dablanc came to the RAFA branch in Rushden in June 1984 and presented them with the framed items (above) including a copy of Jack Dicken‘s false papers.