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9. Operation Pistol A3

A3 Report
(Original images courtesy of The National Archives)
                 OPERATION   PISTOL   A 3
Consolidated report by Pcts. Williams W.T., Haeberle, Sheville A.,
                             Keeble J.W., and Mace D.F.
           We dropped on the night 15/16th Sep 44 from the same plane and
at the same time as Pistol A 1, at map ref Q 299471.   Our planned D.Z. was
at Q 288485, so the error in drop was 1 mile.
           Sjt. Williams was No.7 on the stick and Haeberle No.8.   The
latter saw Sjt. Williams' parachute open in the air but could not find him
on the ground.   It was a very dark night and Mace, who landed about 20
yards from a sentry and was challenged by him, was able to undo his belt
and escape behind a barn.   Mace found Keeble and contacted Williams,
Sheville and then Haeberle.   We marched on a bearing of 135° towards a
nearby wood, map ref Q 3047.   The bearing had been given by Sjt. Williams
just before we dropped.   Just as we were 10 yards from the wood a machine-
gun fired over our heads, and a few minutes later we heard some single
shots and shouting and then all was quiet again.   Haeberle was not able
to make out whether the shouting was in German or in English.   One man in
the stick had fallen on his leg bag and could not march far.  Accordingly
we were forced to stay in the wood at Q 315472.
           Shortly after 1 o'clock in the afternoon of the 16th we heard
dogs barking and the sound of men moving around the wood.   A fox ran past.
The noise came nearer and we heard a lot of gutteral voices.   We left our
packs where they were, well hidden, and crept to the edge of the wood as
it was too small for us to hide in.   We found a ditch half full of water
and walked along it.   There was an officer and three men at the edge of
the wood.   If they had turned they would have seen us.   However, they
entered the wood and we went further along the ditch to where it was
covered in bracken, sat down in the water and awaited what might happen.
Some S S men in black uniforms went past and discussed between themselves
where we might be.   Haeberle heard two of them talking and heard one say
"Lets look in the ditch".   The other answered "Zum teufel mit dem scheiss-
graben - lets go in the wood".   We stayed in the ditch for 6 hours.
During this time the Germans crossed the ditch on several occasions, about
10 feet away from us.   About 18.00 hrs we saw them walking past and Haeberle
heard them say they thought we had escaped to the North.   However, we
had to stay in the ditch as there were children watching cattle in the
field and one of the cows threatened to expose us by eating away the cover
over the ditch.   During the afternoon a dog stood a short distance from
us but did not give the Germans any indication of our whereabouts, so we
think it must have been a farm dog.   At dusk we left our damp hiding
place and set off in a South-Easterly direction.   We had planned to go
back for our rucksacks, but Haeberle had heard the Germans arrange to lie
in wait for us near them so we had to leave them, and our food.
          Haeberle took over command of the party as Sjt. Williams had
not been found after the drop.
          By daylight on the 17th we had reached a small wood south
of Hinsing, Q 435450.   There it started to rain and rained all day.
We began to eat the contents of our R.A.F. packs as we had no other food
with us.   The day passed quietly and we felt safer as there was neither
transport nor soldiers about.   At twilight we set off towards the south
to reach the large woods near Finstigen.   After some time we crossed a
railway track which did not appear to be guarded, and after an uneventful
night's march reached the corner of a wood at Q 464373.   Here we spent
the day of the 18th and made recces in the neighbourhood.   We had hoped
to find Sjt. Williams here because we knew that the party would move in
this direction, but the whole countryside seemed dead and there was not
a soul to be seen and no traffic.   At dark on the 18/19th we moved off
towards the west, but did not go so far this night because we were tired
through being wet and hungry.   We lay up at Q 365340.   The next day,
the 19th, was the same, and we saw nothing except a shepherd who was
guarding some sheep about a kilo away.
          The railway was not far off and three of us saw a train going
past.   All our explosives had been left with the packs.   On the night of
the 19/20th we moved off at twilight.   After an hour's march we crossed
another single track railway and half an hour later we saw lights.   We
thought it was a farm and Haeberle went on with one other in order to get
something to eat as we were extremely hungry.   The farm was at Kutzeling,
Q 255310.
          Haeberle knocked at the door and a man opened the shutters
and asked in German who was there.   Haeberle told him that it was two
soldiers who had got lost and wanted to be directed on to their right
road.   After a little time the door opened and a woman of about 60 years
of age asked them to come in.   She asked Haeberle to what unit he
belonged and he said we were White Russians in the German army.   He also
told her that he spoke good German because he had lived in Germany a long
time.   After a long conversation Haeberle noticed that she was anti-
German in sentiment and so he told her that we were British parachutists.
She was overjoyed and wanted to call her son who was upstairs sleeping.
The son came down and would not believe we were English because, he said,
the Germans came in exactly the same uniform as that which we were wearing,
and took their cattle away.   The son pointed to the pockets of the battle
dress and the jumping jacket and said it was the same uniform.   At last,
however, he believed Haeberle and gave him some food and cigarettes, as
well as some for the rest of us who were waiting outside.   The old woman
asked Haeberle for some French money, and said that German money was
beginning to be worthless.   He gave her some.   We left the farm and went
back to the edge of the wood to the South-West.   We marched on until
first light and reached the point where the main road from Dieuze to Morhange
passed through the wood at Q 224265.   We hoped to find the Americans on
this road because the woman at the farm told us that Dieuze was occupied
by them.   After some time we saw a lorry, but it was one belonging to
the Luftwaffe.   It was followed after some little time by a motor-cycle
and a commandeered private car.   We went back towards one of the corners
of the wood by daylight and came on the track at Q 224273; we followed it
to the West in the afternoon.   A little further on we found a track
which had been mined, so we turned off and sat down where we could over-
look the valley and  farm below us at Q 163233.   At about 2 o'clock in
the afternoon a heavy artillery bombardment began.   We noticed that the
shells were passing over us.   At about 5 o'clock it quietened again and
we saw the farmer coming out of the house, which was about a kilo away.
The farmer began to mend his fence.   Haeberle went down to ask for food
and to find out where the Americans were.   The farmer only spoke French and
and said that he really did not know because on some days American tanks
would pass through the village and a few minutes later a German tank would
follow.   He said also that a short time before five German soldiers had
been there for food, so Haeberle asked him for food for five as well.
The farmer said he would prepare it and we could come down to the farmhouse
for it at daylight.   Haeberle kept a good watch on the farm in the mean-
time to see that the police were not fetched.   At a pre-arranged signal
the rest of us came down and we had a very good meal.   The woman in the
house told us that she had heard that a wounded staff sergeant from 2nd
S.A.S. had been handed over by the Germans to the hospital at Dieuze.
She also told him that a German officer had said that they were going to
shoot all night parachutists, or Nachtfallschirmjaeger as they called them.
After the meal, one of the farm labourers guided us into the village of
Haraucourt, Q 179229.   The farmer had told him that there were neither
Americans nor Germans there.     We went up the main street towards the
village without seeing anyone or any transport.   We found an empty house
which had been a German officer's mess, and went to bed in it.   During
the night we heard a little artillery fire.   In the morning we went out
and followed the main road to the West.   After about 1 kilo we heard a
truck coming and hid in the ditch.   It was, however, American.   We
stopped it and were driven back to the Command Post of the 25th Cavalry
Squadron of the 4th American Armoured Division.