Evasion Timeline

Mitchell & Bertie’s evasion timeline

Sources:  The primary sources for the day-by-day experiences of Mitchell and Bertie in Denmark are the MI9 de-briefing report from 1945 in The National Archives, Kew Gardens, England (WO208/3327 -3093 and -3094) and an expanded version of that report written by Merv Bertie in 1977 for Børge Rasmussen and now archived with Rasmussen’s papers in the Egvad Egnshistoriske Samling (Registration number 1007687).  Additional information comes from interviews and correspondence with Danish helpers or their descendants by Børge Rasmussen in 1977 and myself (Gail Michener) in 2011-2013.
Mitchell and Bertie did not identify helpers by their Danish names in either the MI9 de-briefing report from 1945 or Bertie’s extended report from 1977; for a few of the Danish helpers, Mitchell and Bertie invented their own code names, such as the “Painter” and the “Manager”.  Here I include the names of all the helpers for whom I have been able to confirm identities.

Note on time zones:  From 1 January to 1 April 1945, and at various other periods of World War II, British and German clocks were on the same time, with Britain observing BST = GMT + 1 hour and Germany observing CET = GMT + 1 hour (see PRO Readers’ Guide No 8, RAF Records in the PRO, 1994 for complete details)

Monday 12 March 1945
1743 h

Lancaster bomber ME 449 with 7 crew takes off from Elsham Wolds, Lincolnshire, England with Stoney Mitchell as Navigator and Merv Bertie as Bomb Aimer

ca. 2100 h

ME 449 drops mines off Kullen Peninsula where the Kattegat narrows to the northern entrance of the Øresund between Denmark and Sweden

2145 h

ME 449 attacked by Junkers Ju88 D5 + AL flown by Hauptmann Eduard Schröder of 3./NJG3, a staffel within Gruppe 1./NJG3
Pilot Squadron Leader Stan Slater orders bale out
Escape hatch located in the floor of the bomb-aiming compartment removed and discarded, landing in a field on the Bundgård family farm “Solvang” (coordinates: 55.789425 N, 8.4414 E) 3 km southwest of Lyne, Jutland
Five of the 7 crew abandon the plane, starting with Flight Engineer Ken Foster and ending with Pilot Stan Slater.  All five parachute safely to the ground, but land in different locations
ME 449 crashes into a field on Svend Jensen’s farm “Østergårde” (coordinates: 55.82916 N, 8.52882 E) 8 km south of Tarm, Jutland, and breaks into three pieces
Four men from the Tarm Civilbeskyttelse (CB) retrieve the bodies of the two gunners, Harvey Porter and Donald Morris, who died during the attack and crash
The two bodies are taken by truck to the hospital in Tarm.

Night of 12/13 March

Mitchell and Bertie find each other soon after landing but make no contact with the other three survivors from ME 449
Mitchell and Bertie bury their parachutes, remove and hide insignia such as their aircrew brevets, and modify their clothing as much as possible to appear less like Allied fliers
With reference to a map of Denmark and compass included in their escape kit, they head northeast, crossing streams to confuse dogs that might track them
Eventually tiredness forces them to take cover under conifers in a plantation and attempt to sleep
The probable location of this outdoor refuge is near the village of Grønfelt, Jutland

Tuesday 13 March
morning

When they hear the nearby sounds of children, Mitchell and Bertie leave the plantation and walk across fields and roads, intending to aim in a northeasterly direction but probably heading more northerly
They stop at a farm (unknown location) where they are given some food, then continue walking

afternoon

Around noon, Mitchell and Bertie are near the small village of Gundesbøl, on Vejlevej, when they are seen by a neighbor of Maria and Kr. Peder Kristensen
The neighbour tells the Kristensens that she thinks the two men might be Allied fliers
Dorthea Kristensen, who is at home celebrating her 21st birthday with her parents Maria and Kr. Peder Kristensen, uses her father’s bicycle to catch up with the strangers
Unbeknownst to them, Mitchell and Bertie are near Præstbro and heading northwest towards Tarm where Germans are stationed
With a combination of gestures and limited English, Dorthea indicates that the men should turn back and head towards her family farm 2 km away

1430 h

Mitchell and Bertie arrive at the Kristensen’s house at 1430 h where they clean up, dry off, eat, and explain (with the help of an atlas) that they are Australians
They use a 50 Kroner note from the escape kits in return for cigarettes and Bertie gives his flying gauntlets to Peder Kristensen
Mitchell and Bertie are taken up to the loft to rest until it is time for Dorthea to say goodbye as she must return that evening to her workplace at the school Vestjysk Gymnasium in Tarm

evening

Mitchell and Bertie come downstairs for coffee with the Kristensens
Despite the limitation of no common language, the Kristensens advise them to head in the direction of Herning but to by-pass towns and not use trains
Mitchell and Bertie sleep in the loft

Wednesday 14 March

0600 h

Mitchell and Bertie make an early start at about
They walk all day, by-passing a German military camp (possibly Borris Lejr) and various isolated farms

2200 h

At about 2200 h, Mitchell and Bertie approach a farm (unknown location, but probably near Kibæk; unknown helpers)
They wash up, eat, smoke, and sleep in the hay loft

Thursday 15 March

0400 h

Mitchell and Bertie make an early start at about 0400 h

0600 h

After a couple of hours walking in the direction of Herning, they meet an English-speaking Danish worker on his way to a farm.  This man gives Mitchell and Bertie his lunch and warns them to by-pass Herning because many German troops are stationed there

day

While walking near a railway berm, Mitchell and Bertie hear an approaching train and throw themselves to the ground, which is of little protective value as there is no ground cover!
They continue walking through the day

evening

Mitchell and Bertie approach a farm (unknown location and unknown helpers) where they are given food and sleep overnight in the barn

Friday 16 March

0600 h

Mitchell and Bertie start walking at about 0600 h

day

While walking along the side of the road, a German convoy of trucks approaches from the opposite direction
With no time to take cover, Bertie and Mitchell continue walking and chatting to each other without arousing the suspicion of the passing Germans
Thereafter they walk where there is more cover and they by-pass a town
Towards sunset they stop at a small farm house where the farmer’s wife is scared but willing to give them eggs

1900 h

Mitchell and Bertie move on and stop at another farm house where they are invited in by Ottine and Åge Fisker to wash and clean up
After the Fisker’s second son Poul arrives home from work, they all eat dinner
Åge Fisker contacts his English-speaking cousin Mailor Ambrosiussen

2000 h

Ambrosiussen arrives with school teacher Nørdby Christensen, who is a Resistance member
Ambrosiussen and Christensen interrogate the two Australians, examine their clothes, Air Ministry watches, identity cards, and other possessions
Christensen supplies them with some civilian clothes

night

Mitchell and Bertie sleep in the barn overnight

Saturday 17 March

morning

Ole Engberg, leader of the Herning-area weapons receiving group, arrives in his truck nicknamed “Dorte”
Engberg is told that the airmen are in the barn, and when he sees them he says in English “Welcome to Denmark.”
Engberg questions Mitchell and Bertie, supplies them with more civilian clothes, then has them ride in the box of the truck with some other Resistance men
The two Australians and the Resistance men are “armed” with tyre irons and bars in case the truck is stopped by German patrols and Engberg is unable talk them out of the situation; however, the drive to Ikast goes smoothly
Mitchell and Bertie are taken to the home of Naomi and Arnold Petersen on the northwest edge of Ikast

17 – 22 March 1945

Mitchell and Bertie stay with the Petersens for the next 5 days
Arnold Petersen speaks English as a result of his earlier years in the merchant marine, including a period in USA
During their stay in Ikast, various local Resistance members stop by to chat and to play cards with Mitchell and Bertie
Occasionally Mitchell and Bertie are taken out for a walk late at night
Likely during this time, false identity cards are made using the photographs that Mitchell and Bertie carry with them on ops
To further ensure that the two Australians appear to be genuine Danes, all remaining personal items, including their underwear, are destroyed by being burnt in the lignite that fuels the Petersens’ kitchen stove, except that Arnold Petersen keeps a tiny compass that Mitchell and Bertie used to guide them while walking

Thursday 22 March

Ole Engberg arrives at the Petersens’ in the evening to transfer Mitchell and Bertie from Ikast to another safe house
For security reasons, Engberg does not tell the Petersens in Ikast where he is taking the two Australians
Their next safe house is with Magdalene and Alfred Balle Pedersen on Nørregade in Herning; ironically, this house is opposite a school that has been commandeered by the German occupying force

22 March – 2 April

Mitchell and Bertie spend the next 12 days with the Pedersen family
They stay in an upstairs bedroom on the same floor as Frida Bjerre Jensen, Magdalene Pedersen’s sister and the person who brings meals to Bertie and Mitchell
A doctor visits to tend to problems Bertie has with his hip and feet
A photographer comes to take photographs of the two Australians in their Danish civilian clothes
Another set of false identify cards is made with the new photographs
Members of the Herning weapons reception group frequently stop by to visit and tell the two Australians about their sabotage activities and how they pick up supplies air dropped by the SOE
One night Engberg takes Mitchell and Bertie to visit his cousin Louise Zeuthen
Occasionally Mitchell and Bertie are taken out for a walk late at night
On Sundays, when the Pedersens’ 5-year-old son Poul Helge is away visiting family, Mitchell and Bertie come down to the living room on the main floor where they are lavishly entertained by the Pedersens while watching the activities of German soldiers stationed across the street

Monday 2 April

day

Ole Engberg stops by to inform Mitchell and Bertie that they will be picked up by another person later that night

evening

Jens Anton Jensen, better known by his code name of Toldstrup, arrives in a car with a driver
Toldstrup comes in the guise of an officer in the Statens Civile Luftværn but is actually a Resistance member in charge of communicating with the British SOE about smuggling weapons and supplies into northern Jutland
Mitchell and Bertie are briefed on which pockets to place various items; for example, the identity card is placed in the inside left pocket of the coat so that if the car is stopped and Toldstrup puts his hand in his inside left pocket that indicates that identity cards from their left pockets need to be produced
This preparation proves to be wise because a couple of hours after leaving Herning the vehicle is stopped by a German patrol in Djursland
Toldstrup puts his head out the window and yells “Zivile Luftwaffe!” as he points to his cap
The German guards demand proof of identity, so Toldstrup, the driver, and the two Australians present their identity cards
The German soldier soon relinquishes the old and worn identity cards for Toldstrup and the driver, but retains the other two and carefully compares them while a second soldier shines a lantern on them
Toldstrup claims that they are all in a desperate hurry to get to Aarhus where the occupants of the car have an urgent meeting with the authorities
The German soldiers return the cards of the two Australians, saying “Alles gut – weiter fahren!”, and allow the vehicle to proceed

2300 h

Mitchell and Bertie arrive in Ebeltoft where they get out and follow a few paces behind Toldstrup as he approaches a man waiting at the Ebeltoft townhall
The man is ‘Bruun’, a Resistance member involved in organizing reception of smuggled weapons and supplies arriving by boat from Sweden
After Toldstrup confirms that the waiting man is the correct contact, Toldstrup and the two Australians follow ‘Bruun’ to an apartment on the edge of Ebeltoft where Mitchell and Bertie will stay for the remainder of their time in Denmark
This is the home of Svend Aage Ballisager, Gudrun Ballisager, and their 3-year-old daughter Sine Marie
Ballisager is a Resistance member who uses his position as a Customs officer as a cover for receiving armaments arriving from Sweden at the stone and gravel loading facilities at Øerhage, about 6 km south of Ebeltoft
Arne Elstrøm, a senior Resistance member involved in various activities including smuggling people and goods between north Jutland and Sweden, is at the Ballisager’s apartment when Mitchell and Bertie arrive, but he leaves with Toldstrup
Mitchell and Bertie then have coffee with the Ballisagers, ‘Bruun’, and two other Resistance members, ‘Svend’ and Nils Lauritz Larsen, visiting at the Ballisagers’ home

Tuesday 3 April

During the day, while Svend Aage Ballisager is at work, Gudrun Ballisager entertains Mitchell and Bertie
Fru Ballisager speaks English, and amongst other things the three of them play card games such as Patience and Seks og Tres
In the evening Ballisager takes the two Australians out for a walk to the home of Svend Aage Høst, another local Resistance member, where they enjoy coffee and musical entertainment

Wednesday 4 April

The boat that is expected to take Mitchell and Bertie does not arrive, so the two Australians spend another day at the Ballisager’s home
One concern for the Ballisagers while protecting Mitchell and Bertie in their apartment is the possibility that their toddler might mention the two men who speak a strange language; however, no problems arise
Mitchell and Bertie are able to observe the comings and goings of German patrols on bicycles searching for parachute agents they believe had been dropped in the vicinity

2200 h

‘Svend’ and ‘Bruun’ arrive by car to drive Mitchell and Bertie to Øerhage
By prior arrangement with the SOE, the fishing vessel “Freden” arrives from Göteborg and docks off-shore at the stone and gravel facilities
Mitchell and Bertie reach “Freden” via a suspension bridge and then assist in unloading fish boxes that, in reality, are packed with Plastic Explosive for sabotage activities
Also smuggled into Denmark aboard “Freden” that night was Esther Vang, wife of SOE agent Frits Tornøe Vang, but likely Mitchell and Bertie were not aware of that

Thursday 5 April

early am

Over several hours, the fish crates are loaded on to row boats to be taken ashore by Ballisager and others in the reception group then hidden in a local plantation
When all the crates are loaded Ballisager says farewell to Mitchell and Bertie

0500 h

When “Freden” is ready to leave Denmark, Mitchell and Bertie are hidden in a compartment until the vessel is a few km out to sea
Thereafter the two Australians take turns assisting the crew with steering to Gøteborg
When a German patrol boat is spotted, Mitchell and Bertie hide but soon return on deck when the danger passes

2100 h

“Freden” docks in Göteborg

Friday 6 April

After questioning by Swedish police, Bertie and Mitchell contact the British Consulate in Göteborg
Albert E. Christensen, the Danish-born British Vice Consul, takes the two Australians to a hotel where they clean up and then describe their recent experiences in Denmark
Consulate staff make arrangements for Bertie and Mitchell to catch the evening train to Stockholm

Saturday 7 April

0600 h

Mitchell and Bertie are met by Air Attache Mr Bannock
They are booked into a hotel for the remainder of their time in Sweden

7 – 16 April 1945

During their 9 days in Stockholm, British Consular staff advance money for Mitchell and Bertie’s daily needs, arrange purchase of clothing, and organize trips and entertainment for them

16 – 17 April

Mitchell and Bertie fly overnight from Stockholm’s Bromma airfield to Leuchars airfield, St Andrews, Scotland in Dakota 1 G-AGGI
They take a train to the Personnel Depot and Receiving Centre in Brighton, England

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