Warrant Officer (now Pilot Officer) Vernon James BASTABLE (R.95313) Royal Canadian Air Force,No. 156 Squadron.
BASTABLE, WO (now P/O) Vernon James (R95313/J96709) - Military Cross - No.106 Squadron - Award effective 13 April as per London Gazette dated 17 May 1946 and AFRO 602/46 dated 14 June 1946.
Born in Winnipeg 2 December 1914; home there (clerk, warehouseman);
member of Fort Garry Horse, 19331-1935;
enlisted Winnipeg 4 March 1941.
Trained at No.2 ITS (graduated 4 June 1941),
No.8 EFTS (graduated 27 July 1941)
and No.3 SFTS (graduated 17 October 1941).
Further trained at No.20 OTU, Lossiemouth.
Shot down on his fifth sortie.
Back in England, June 1945;
repatriated to Canada, July 1945.
Released 12 October 1945.
Medal presented 30 October 1948.
Killed at Winnipeg in a Vampire, No.402 Squadron, 27 March 1949.
Warrant Officer Bastable was captured in the Rouen area in September 1942 and was held in various prison camps.
He made his first attempt to escape in May 1943, whilst with a working party at Metsdorf, Sudetenland, having obtained civilian clothes from the Czechs. His true identity was discovered and he was returned to Stalag 344.
Warrant Officer Bastable then decided to make an immediate attempt to escape in an Army uniform. He cut the wire of a second floor window and, timing his action to miss the guards, he jumped clear and escaped. He travelled in the direction of Prague but after three days he was discovered by some German civilians. He was handed over to the authorities and sent to a Gestapo prison where he was kept for fourteen days in solitary confinement. He was sent back to Stalag Luft 344 and spent a further ten days in solitary confinement.
In October 1943, Warrant Officer Bastable made another attempt to escape by means of an emergency ladder in the main shaft of a coal mine in which he was working. He gained his liberty for two days after which he was recaptured by German police in company with a Czech air force sergeant.
He made another attempt to escape from Stalag 344 but both were recaptured and were returned to camp. Warrant Officer Bastable and the same Czech sergeant finally escaped in October 1944 by jumping from the roof of their billets over the fence and proceeding into some woods nearby. Here they were assisted by Czech civilians.
They eventually made contact with the Czech underground with arms and ammunition and took part in many operations, destroying railways, bridges, road blocks, and electrical installations. The Czech sergeant was captured again and has not been heard of since. Warrant Officer Bastable continued serving in the underground movement until he was liberated by the Russians in May 1945.