In a tale that seems to have come straight from a boy’s own adventure tale, John Jammes and his band of Resistance fighters helped capture a total of 80 Germans – and kept them in a barn
At just 17, John Jammes was already a seasoned fighter with the French Resistance.
Despite his age, he was no stranger to the risks of taking part in sabotage missions in his occupied homeland. He even helped downed Allied airmen.
But in a tale that seems to have come straight from a boy’s own adventure tale, he and his band of Resistance fighters helped capture a total of 80 Germans – and kept them in a barn.
Mr Jammes, now a 92-year-old, revealed his wartime exploits yesterday at the Chalke Valley History Festival.
Speaking of his wartime prisoners, the great-grandfather of four said: ‘They were the best-guarded Germans in occupied France, I assure you.
‘We did not maltreat them, though of course we did interrogate them. Then when liberation came we handed over those 80 Germans to the Americans who looked after them for us.’
Mr Jammes told a rapt audience how he and other Resistance fighters would ambush German troops by felling trees in the path of their convoys.
But these attacks carried a huge risk. When three fighters were captured during such an ambush they were buried alive.
A group of French Resistance fighters are pictured above in 1940. Despite his age, Jammes was no stranger to the risks of taking part in sabotage missions in his occupied homeland
Mr Jammes told a rapt audience how he and other Resistance fighters would ambush German troops by felling trees in the path of their convoys. A group of Resistance fighters are pictured receiving weapons near Chateaudun in central France in August 1944
Mr Jammes, who was a schoolboy in the summer of 1944 when he joined the Resistance group led by his father around Loches, near Tours in central France, he even helped to capture three Germans hiding in a farmer’s barn.
Describing his escapades at the festival near Salisbury, which is sponsored by the Daily Mail, he said: ‘In August 1944 these Germans said to the farmer, ‘We are going to spend the night in your barn. If you tell the terrorists’, meaning the Resistance, ‘we will shoot you’.
‘But the daughter of the farmer, she was about 15, came to us and said, ‘We have three Germans – how about it!’ I said, ‘That sounds rather exciting!’
A group of Resistance fighters are pictured above. Jammes described his escapades as a 17-year old French Resistance fighter at the Chalke Valley History Festival near Salisbury, Wiltshire
Resistance fighters are pictured in southern France, 1944, around the same time Mr Jammes joined a Resistance group in central France. When three Resistance fighters were captured ambushing German troops, they were buried alive
Resistance fighters are pictured cheering American soldiers at the end of the war in Paris. Mr Jammes also smuggled British and US troops to safety after they were shot down over France
‘We set out at midnight, breaking the curfew, got to that barn and burst in shouting, ‘Hände hoch!’ – German for ‘hands up!’ – and we captured them.
‘One had a superb sub-machine gun – a beautiful weapon, ten times better than our guns, so we borrowed that for the rest of the war.’
Mr Jammes also smuggled British and US troops to safety after they were shot down over France.
‘Our job was to rescue them, give them false papers, feed them and send them from safehouse to safehouse across the Pyrenees,’ he said. ‘You were told, ‘There is a parcel for you’.
The Chalke Valley History Festival held near Salisbury, Wiltshire is sponsored by the Daily Mail
To escort a British airman was comparatively easy because the British were the same size as the French.
But Americans were enormous and even walked differently, so were much more difficult to pass off as a Frenchman.’
After the war, Mr Jammes was awarded the Croix de Guerre for his bravery. He moved to Britain, changed his name from Jean to John and taught French at Cranfield University, near Bedford.
Although he never feared death during the war, he was haunted by the prospect of being tortured.
‘I knew far too much and there’s no guarantee you could hold up,’ he said.
The Chalke Valley History Festival near Salisbury, Wiltshire, is in its ninth year and tickets are still available to see top speakers including Harry Enfield, Ian Hislop, Max Hastings and Dan Snow. Visit cvhf.org.uk for details.
A trench and Normandy scenario is recreated at the Chalke Valley History Festival near Salisbury. Mr Jammes even helped downed Allied airmen (whose missions helped the troops on the ground, as recreated at the festival above)