Allen Scarnell Maw was the eldest son of Mildred Amy Brison and Geoffrey W. Maw born in 1914. He was worried about his position as a Quaker when call up commenced for the Second World War and spoke to a Brigadier friend who found him a position in the Catering Corps. He later told the following story:~
As a non-combatant Quaker with the rank of lieutenant and serving as catering adviser in HQ Corps of BEF (British Expeditionary Forces) in May 1940 at the start of the Second World War, Allen did not carry any weapons when he reached the beach at Dunkirk. Amid the chaos and confusion of the defeat, he boarded a paddle-steamer, the SS Waverley, which was to carry him and many others across the English Channel.
Shortly after leaving the French shore his ship was hit by a German torpedo. While moving below decks and seeing the water steadily rising, he noticed a mass of splinters and wreckage in the galley way and passing through the remains of an officer's cabin, he found two ropes, which he used to tie the wood together. Then he jumped into the water, and swam away to avoid being sucked under by the sinking ship. This bundle allowed him to stay afloat for quite a while in the cold waters while his fellow soldiers were drowning all around him.
Finally he was picked up by a tugboat. Removing all his wet clothes, he wrapped himself in a blanket and stowed away, with another survivor, under the prow of the boat to escape discovery in case a German patrol boat stopped them. When he woke up he found the fellow next to him had died.
On reaching the British Coast at Dover several WVS (Women's Volunteer Service) people were waiting on the wharf to care for the sick and wounded. Allen got off the boat stark naked and had to walk down the wharf to meet them.
He was taken in total secrecy to a holding camp behind barbed wire somewhere in England where he and other survivors from Dunkirk were kept totally isolated so as to prevent the British public from learning the horrible details about the recent debacle. When it became clear that he was not going to be released from this camp any time soon, he wrote to his girl friend and had her meet him outside the camp fence. On his recommendation she had brought with her a pair of wire cutters so he was able to cut his way through the fence.
After changing into civilian clothes and walking away with his girl friend on his arm, he went to the nearest railroad station and returned to London where he got into contact with his unit. He later rejoined his command and was shipped out to North Africa.
As told by Allen Maw to David Brison
With corrections by Ruby Maw
December 1999 and January 2005
with thanks and acknowledgement to Ruby and David
|Return to Brison Page||Return to Wedmore Home Page|