Bomber Command Clasp, as issued in labelled box, awarded to Flight Engineer, Sergeant Alexander “Sandy” Christison, Royal Air Force, who was forced to crash land in France and was aided by the French Resistance to escape back to England, in a great story of Solidarity between a crew of lost RAF airmen and the French who fed and drank the young RAF men under the table before safely dispatching sneaking them home.
They became the very first aircraft to be lost by 171 Squadron during the war, miraculously the crew all survived the bale out and met back up in France to return home together.
“Sandy” had his life saved when at gunpoint by the French Resistance, they were not convinced he was English, until he calmly offered him a Woodbine Cigarette from his pocket, only the British would be carrying them, once he returned safely home and told Woodbines, they sent him 200 cigarettes.
A scarce original example of the Bomber Command Clasp, attached to a ribbon in fitted case as issued, with issue label on the back reading: “BOMBER COMMAND CLASP SGT A CHRISTISON 2210273”
Also a not often seen modern medal issue slip with awards ticked off.
Alexander Christison, was a Flight Engineer with No 171 Squadron, flying operationally in Halifax III NA 108 6Y-V.
The crew was posted on a Bomber Support Operation starting on Sunday 26th November 1944, it was a long flight and as the crew was attempting to return home into Monday, the fuel was running dangerously low, eventually they all were forced to bale out of the plane and were scattered across a small area just outside of Paris.
The full story of his crew has been very well compiled by the excellent web site Aircrewremembered.com on a page dedicated to the crew’s Pilot, Flight Sergt Francis Allen, it can be read be read by clicking the link below.
Alexander Christison later made a full personal account of his adventure in France contributed online to the BBC Series, WW2 People’s War by the user “Xtison” titled “Bail Out 25th November 1944”, The full original account can be read by clicking this link to the BBC website
Here is the full account by Alexander:
“Account dictated by flight engineer A.Christison 2210273 of Halifax NA108Y-V on his return.
We were on our way back from a long trip that started on Sunday the 26th November 1944 when we came to the decision that we had not enough fuel to get back to England. Some of the navigational instruments had also gone haywire and were of no use to us.
The weather was really appalling and we could not see the ground nor the stars above we were in solid cloud. We then decided to land at a drome given to us at the briefing so flew there and called them up but got no reply (later we learnt they had no facilities for night flying at all).
By this time our fuel was really low so we flew away from the town and bailed out. I actually was last but one to go and never saw the ground till I hit it with my behind due to cloud and rain. I landed in the middle of a ploughed field which was very damp and muddy, it was dark and pouring with rain. I hadn’t the vaguest idea where I was, I found my torch in my Mae West and with the aid of tits light made my way to a canal and walked along its bank till I came to a cart track which eventually led to a road.
On hearing a cock crow to my right I turned toward the sound and after three quarters of an hour I reached a farm on the outskirts of a village, but the gates were locked. I could see a light shining in a window so I shouted, the gate was opened by a woman who took me into the house. She gave me some coffee and a roll and butter whilst I dried myself by the fire.
The door opened and a man came in holding a automatic pistol keeping me covered he was not convinced that I was RAF but when I produced a packet of Woodbines and offered him one he realised I must be British. Drinks were produced and it was smiles all round. I was then escorted to another house where a woman spoke a fair amount of English. After more drinks and coffee and much discussion it was decided to drive me from Montigny where I had landed, to Donnemarie, where there was a police station, and a telephone.
On arrival I found six of the crew there already and shortly afterwards we were joined by our skipper making our crew complete. We were naturally delighted to see each other especially as there were no injuries. The villagers plied us with food and drink all of which they could ill afford to give us, we accepted as refusal was liable to cause offence. The police managed to contact the French military at Provins who sent cars to take us there. On arrival we were given another meal in the officers mess. It was now 3 p.m. on Monday, a call was made to Le Bourget that we were safe and sound (this we learnt later was signalled to Britain at 3.30 p.m.).
We were told that our aircraft had come down in open fields and was scattered over a wide area in small pieces. Then to a military hospital an looked after by a very large nurse. Finally to bed very weary, we were woken at 7 o’clock and had dinner and a walk around the town then back to bed for eleven. We woke at 10 o’clock on Tuesday morning and were treated to breakfast in bed, whilst there was a stream of visitors shaking us by the hand and wishing us luck.
We were about to have a shower when a lorry arrived to take us to Le Bourget. First though we went back to collect our parachutes. Then lunch in a local restaurant and off to Le Bourget, where we arrived having got lost along the way. Dinner and a chance to buy English cigarettes, a walk around the town and a few drinks despite the rain then to bed on straw mattresses. Next morning we reported to the Medical Officer for a check up. Then issued with a razor and toothbrush we at long last were able to make ourselves respectable again.
Then on board a Dakota for a flight to Croydon arriving at 1.30 p.m. on Wednesday, after Customs and Censor off to the receiving centre at St.John’s Wood. When we arrived we sent wires to our folks to say we were safe . We were then issued with new uniform to replace our torn and muddy ones, suitably attired we went to the pub for a celebratory drink then to bed. On Thursday morning we were debriefed and given another medical. After lunch we went to the Air Ministry and were issued with rail passes back to North Cheadle, we were also told we were entitled to seven days survivors leave.
That evening we went to a show in the West End then bed. We caught the 08.30 train to Creake where we arrived at 4.30p.m.. Next morning yet another debrief, and given four days leave! With a scramble managed to catch the six o’clock train which arrived in Goole next morning.
As a result of this he received 200 Woodbines from the company when he sent them a letter saying how they had changed the attitude of the French resistance that burst into the house. As no German would have Woodbines.
A few years ago we had contact from Andre Guillet one of the young Frenchmen involved,who supplied the photograph.
Rest of the crew
F/S R.F.Allen pilot
Sgt A (Sandy) Christison Flight Engineer
F/S Leslie.M.Keen RNZAF
F/S L.B Simmonds
F/S A.J.Steve Scanlon RNZAF
W/O S.W.Cook Specialist operator
According to records the aircraft ran low on fuel and after encountering severe icing abandoned E of Paris. There were no reported injuries. This was the first Halifax III lost from 171 Sqdrn. Which had reformed on 8th September 1944.