Distinguished Conduct Medal
No. 6397485 Lance-Sergeant Archibald Tilling, 7th Bn. (Chichester)
Prior to Capture
On 19 May 40 the 7 Royal Sussex were travelling by train to Abbeville, when they were bombed just outside Amiens and were ordered to take up defensive positions. They remained here during the night.
On the morning 20 May, the Germans increased their attack and Tilling was hit in the thigh. In spite of this he continued for some time to fire on a machine-gun post, and eventually managed to crawl to the temporary field dressing station, where stretcher-bearers were attending to the wounded. About an hour later the station was surrounded by German tanks and a German officer demanded their surrender. As all ammunition was exhausted, those of the wounded that could walk did so. All stragglers were rounded up by armoured vehicles and collected at the dressing station.
The Germans were heavily armed and adopted a menacing attitude throughout the interrogation on Unit, Bde, Div and strength of Army. Questions were also put on the armament of the R.A.F. About 40 P⁄W were put into tanks or armoured vehicles and 4 wounded (of which Tilling was one) were left under armed guard at the FDS, during this time there was no medical attention, food or water.
That night Tilling discussed escaping with another P⁄W but the latter decided against it. Tilling who was determined to escape, eluded the guard, crawled down the road in a ditch and eventually found an abandoned bicycle, on which he free-wheeled for about 2 miles into the next village. Here he fainted and was picked up by two villagers, who put him in a handcart at first then a car and drove him to Beauvais to the French hospital.
On 23 May Tilling was taken from Beauvais to Paris by a French ambulance and admitted to the Bichot Hospital. On the same day, he was evacuated to a French Military Hospital - France-Musselman at Bobigny (Seine) and remained at this hospital until 13 June. During this period he was operated upon and the bullet in his thigh extracted. On 13 June he was evacuated to Clermont Ferrand in an ambulance train and put into a large school which was being used as a hospital. During the time he spent there, he was disguised as a French soldier and was moved from hospital to hospital in order not to come under suspicion.
From here he was sent to a convalescent home at Gravanche about 5 kms from Clermont Ferrand. At Gravanche there was a large aerodrome. From here he was sent back to Clermont Ferrand to another hospital - Hospital St. Hilaire - where he tried to persuade the M.O. in charge to discharge him but was not successful.
On 9 August, with the help of an Irish nurse, he managed to persuade the M.O. to discharge him and was given a railway warrant to Marseilles. When he reached Marseilles he went to the American Consul and was passed on to the Annexe which was the unofficial British Consulate, after a period he was interned in Fort St. Jean.
During his internment, a scheme was in progress whereby British soldiers should become Poles, be given Polish passports and obtain visas to Portugal and Spain. The plan fell through. In the fort he contacted C.S.M. Moir and with him, they approached a man, giving him 1,000Frs for a passage to Oran. When the time came for them to board the ship, the captain asked them for a further sum of money, which they were unable to give, so had to come off the French troop carrier. However, they managed to get back 500Frs of the 1,000Frs they had paid originally.
After this they returned to the Poles again, who by then had another scheme and had managed to obtain a boat “SS Storm” - but after waiting about 10 days on board ship, they heard that the scheme had fallen through, as the Poles were unable to obtain permission for the boat to leave the harbour.
Tilling then decided to try and get to Spain, so took the train to Perpignan and walked over the mountains near le Perthus. In Spain he travelled at night by side-roads and passed through Figueras and on to Gerona. Just outside Gerona, he was arrested by the Guardian Civil and asked for papers, when he produced the British Emergency Certificate given to him by the American Consul at Marseilles, he was taken to the Police Station and from there put in prison.
He was removed to Figueras where he remained for 10 days. His next prison was Castillo in Figueras where he remained for a week. From Castillo he was transferred to the concentration camp at Cevera for 10 days and then sent on to Miranda del Ebro where he remained until he was released and sent to Gibraltar via Madrid.
Escaped Prisoner of War: Captured near Amiens 20 May 1940 and escaped same day. Interned Fort St. Jean, Vichy France. Left Gibraltar 19 November 1940. Arrived United Kingdom 4 December 1940. Recommendation for Distinguished Conduct Medal based on interrogation report dated 5 December 1940, now in the Public Record Office (Reference WO 373 reel 60).