A Judson WWII Story

The below item was relayed to me by Victor Paul of Christchurch, NZ and was taken from a French magazine article. The William Judson referred to was born in New Zealand in August 1922.

Start of magazine article :

« Would you accept my husband's ashes ? »

« Hello there ! , Mrs Judson speaking ! William has just died. Would you
accept my husband's ashes ? »

These were the very words of this rather unusual request, asked by telephone on October 15th 1994 to a couple of farmers in the hamlet of « La Revarderie » at TOUVOIS in the Loire Atlantique County in France (half way from The island of Noirmoutier and Nantes).

Gisèle and Joseph Brenelière, the heroes of this unbelievable adventure, a bit puzzled at first, answered whithout any hesitation : « But dear madam, how could one refuse it ! »

But who was the « William » mentioned ? and why this request ?

We are about to tell you the fabulous story of this aviator from New Zealand, who in his will asked that his dead body be cremated and his ashes laid down in this hamlet in the village of Touvois (near the Vendée county), near those who gave him their warmest help and comfort on August 9th 1944, while, severely injured and completely exhausted, he was about to be captured by occupying german forces, or even worse about breathing his last.

A « Mosquito » in deep trouble

The date is Agust 6th 1944, two months after D Day in Normandy.

After heroic fights in the Caen and Saint-LÔ area, the 3rd U.S. Army led by General Patton has just pushed in through the Avranches area on July 31st, and rushes forward toward Brittany and the Maine.

The whole German armies commissioned in the south of France are moving upward to try to block the breach, but the Allied Airforce is continuously bombing railroads to slow down as much as they can the last move of the Reich armies.
The Mosquito - serial Number 60324 from the 487th squadron flown by flying Officer John COOMBS (with WILLIAM JUDSON as a gunner) has received orders to put out of use the railroad between Nantes and La Rochelle. But after having dropped a few bombs on La Roche sur Yon  train station, the Mosquito is hit by the German anti aircraft defence.

Imediately the pilot flies north west bound to get to the Atlantic coast, but very rapidly, he realises that his aircraft is fatally hit, and that a crash is inevitable.

The gunner is ordered to make a parachute jump. William Judson, aged 21 from New Zealand complies immediately. The time is 2.30 a .m August 7th 1944. His landing in the dark of the night is a nightmare : our aviator, already wounded by a german bullet, falls in a tree near La Chapelle -Palluau (Vendée ), gouging out his right eye with some branches and fracturing one of his shoulders.

The Mosquito flies on for a while before crashing near Challans (Vendée) after the pilot managed to jump with his parachute landing fortunately safely.

William Judson's  escape.

But let us not forget Willaim Judson   caught in his tree, who has  a great trouble, because of his wounds to get down to terra firma.

After long minutes of suffering, nonetheless, he manages to unclasp his parachute harness and jump down to the ground.

Immediately, despite his suffering, he walks on heading north, with in mind the prospect of getting to a Breton harbour and with the secret hope to to get in touch with the Shelburn network which would enable him to get back to Britain.

We do not know for sure the details of his painful escape ; William moved about at night and hid in daytime in bushes, while avoiding farms not to make dogs bark, but one might guess he moved on from Palluau, then past Grandlandes and Falleron.

With his fractured shoulder and his gouged out eye, Willaim suffered tremendously and it is justified to think that his journey was a true and long ordeal.

William is rescued by farmers

This is the reason why, first thing in the morning of August 9th 1944, unable to cope anymore, William decided to make his way to a farm, obviously wanting to get the necessary help to his very bad state. Joseph Breneliere found him near his stable while taking care of his cattle. He was in a very very sorry state.

After a first moment of surprise, the farmer realizes very quickly through his identity papers that he is an allied soldier and he must absolutely hide and take care of him.

Right away he rushes him in his close- by- house and gives him a copious breakfast : William had no food for 48 hours excepted the pills from his survival kit.

Joseph Brenelière alerts his neighbour Auguste TULLEAU who immediately cycles to the village of Touvois to warn Doctor Blanchard, who gives the first aid to the wounded with the help of Sister Mélanie.

The Brenelière family was willing to keep William safe on the farm premises, but in the hamlet there was suspicion one inhabitant might talk,and what is more, there were still german forces stationed in Touvois.

So the same evening, our aviator was transfered to the house of Clémént Potier who already was hiding to people from Algeria on the run..

The R .A.F. uniform was burnt at the baker's oven by the apprentice : Aristide Moreau.

The Liberation is very near, and early september, as soon as the last german forces have left the area, William is take the Broussais military hospital in Nantes, where an operation is performed, then he is transfered to a London
hospital where he recovers.

Back to New Zealand

Demobilized, he goes back to New Zealand and buys a large farm he mames : « TOUVOIS »

He occasionally writes to the people he calls his « saviours ». However, with time passing by, his letters become less frequent and scarce ; but in 1988, William who, in the mean time, lost his wife, travelled back to the U.K. to marry the nurse who looked after him in London in October 1944. He came for the wedding of one of Mr and Mrs Brenneliere's sons, and even visited in Fromentine (next to the island of Noirmoutier on the Atlantic coast) Annick : Clément Pottier's daughter . He was the man who had put him up in Touvois at the time.

These were times of very moving and emotional meetings, because the time which had gone by ad not erased the war memories.

Posthumous return to Touvois

Unfortunately this beautiful story came to an end when the telephone rang on October 15th 1994.

After they had put down the receiver, the Breneliere family blamed itself for not having asked what was William's religion possibly to get in touch with the priest in Touvois. Was he an anglican, a roman catholic or even a budhist ?

Three days later, when Mrs Judson arrived with her husband's funeral urn, they had their answer : he was a roman catholic.

Immediately, the priest in Touvois was summoned, but he was out of his parish on that day. The town mayor was equally away on holiday.

Eventually, the funeral ceremony took place in a very intimate atmosphere : were present : his wife, two of his sons as well as Mr and Mrs Brenelière.

The urn with the ashes of the avaitor from New zealand was to be laid down in a big wooden bucket (where washing was done in the past),  next to the stable at the very spot where the meeting occured in August 9th 1944.

Wooden poles with barbed wires were set to prevent the cattle from trampling the grave, but a flower in a pot perpetuates the memory of this soldier from  he other side of the earth who had decided to lie down on eternal rest in the country he had hastened the liberation of, and to be near those who had probably saved his life.

Translated from a document written by Doctor Louis Gouraud from La Roche sur Yon (Vendée) for the monthly magazine : « La fin de la rabinaïe » published recently.

Island of Noirmoutier

Note: Mr Brenelière died in January 1998.

The Judson Connection
is created, edited & maintained by
Linda-Jeanne Dolby © 2002
Descendant of the Connecticut Judsons
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