Pilot's 50-year wait to meet rescuer

First published in Search

Meeting of the heroes A FORMER fighter pilot has had an emotional reunion with the Frenchman who rescued him after he was shot down during World War Two.

Air Commodore Sir Archie Winskill met Felix Caron at the spot near Calais where he parachuted out of his Spitfire after it was shot down in August 1941.

The reunion at the weekend was the first time in more than 50 years that the 81-year-old war veteran had seen Mr Caron.

"We chatted away like long-lost brothers," said Air Cdre Winskill, who was Captain of the Queen's Flight at RAF Benson from 1968 to 1982, and was hit four days after fighter ace Douglas Bader was shot down.

"It was marvellous to see Felix again. We have both changed but I still recognised him - it was a very emotional moment."

Air Cdre Winskill, who fought in the Battle of Britain, lives in Phyllis Court Drive, Henley, with his French wife Christiane, who he met in London in 1945. Coincidentally, she was born in the village of Adruicq, near St Foulquin, where her husband was shot down four years earlier.

Mr Caron was just 18 at the time of the accident and lived on a farm in St Foulquin.

He fed Air Cdre Winskill for three days while he hid from the Germans in a cornfield.

Air Cdre Winskill, who spoke French, was later given a false identity card by the French Resistance and masqueraded as a French citizen while making his way to neutral Spain by train and bicycle. He then went to the British Consulate in Barcelona and was flown back to England, when he was de-briefed by the security department MI9. "I remember thinking that I just did not want to get caught and spend the rest of the war in a PoW camp," added Air Cdre Winskill.

"If Felix had not been there, that's what would have happened. The French people who helped me were terribly brave. If they were caught, they could have been tortured."

Following the crash over France and his return to England, he was awarded the DFC, and commanded a number of different squadrons.

He was shot down over the Tunisian coast in 1943 but swam ashore and managed to make his way into safe territory.

"I've never met anyone who, like me, was shot down twice and escaped," he said.

After the war Air Cdre Winskill worked for the former Air Ministry, and he was awarded the CBE. He became an Air Cdre in 1963 and kept his post as Captain of the Queen's Flight after his retirement from the RAF in 1968. He was later awarded the KCVO and CVO.

Mr Caron, 75, lives in the village of Bourbourg, near St Foulquin, and still owns Air Cdre Winskill's flying helmet. The two last saw each other when Air Cdre Winskill returned to the area just after the war ended.

Converted for the new archive on 30 June 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.

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