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Bill Thayer

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Bessy Myers

Captured

My experiences as an ambulance driver
and as a prisoner of the Nazis

For someone who published a whole book about her experiences, Bessy Myers subsequently proved a singularly elusive and private person. Several days of diligent searching online yielded me not a speck of information about her in the whole wide world of the Internet other than what she tells us of herself in her book, all the more curiously that her principal coworkers, and in particular her teammate Mary Darby, all left considerably firmer traces of themselves: to the point that I seriously wondered for a time that Myers might not have existed.

It wouldn't be the only time in World War II that the British succeeded in pulling the wool over the world's eyes in the interest of winning the conflict — as for example the outrageous plot, concocted and successfully brought to fruition by the British intelligence services, chronicled after the war by its chief perpetrator as The Man Who Never Was.

Fortunately however, Keith Janes, an expert on World War II escapes and the webmaster of a splendidly deep and detailed site on the subject, WWII Escape and Evasion Information Exchange, informs me that Myers is vouched for by Marjorie Juta ("Kruger" in our book, see p. x).

Though Myers's actual existence is confirmed, I still have no details to share about her; but we can easily surmise she came from a comfortable, possibly even privileged background. She had the means to volunteer her services and pay for the uniforms, spoke very good French, was at ease in good social circles, was conversant with German literature and opera (p50), had traveled enough to say that she'd been all over the world (p30) and had in fact spent a whole month for example in Russia: she reminds us, in more ways than one, of E. M. Delafield (who had lived six months in Russia in the Thirties, who did spend a few weeks in France during the early days of the war, and who died in 1943 aged 53).

Foreword

ix
 

Part I. Diary

Chapter

France in Flight

1

Prisoners of War

18

L'Hôpital Militaire, Soissons

44

The Snake in the Grass

79
 

Part II. Prison and Escape

Cherche-Midi: My Diary Seized

109

Cherche-Midi: Solitary Confinement

147

Cherche-Midi: Cross-examination

185

Fresnes Prison

212

"A German City"

235

Vichy

256

Marseille

270

En Route for Home

288

Technical Details

Edition and Copyright

The text on this site is my transcription of the book by Bessy Myers published in London and New York in 1941. It is in the public domain in the United States since the copyright was not renewed in 1968 or 1969 as required by American law at the time.

In Great Britain and in most other countries her book will not have entered the public domain until seventy years after the author's death; but as noted above, I've been unable to discover when the author might have died, if indeed she is not still living: on p30 (1940) she tells us she was over thirty, so when I put this online in 2020, she would have been at least 110 years old.

To judge by the bookplate in the inside cover, my copy of the book once belonged to a man named Jim Schuricht; the plate is further marked in a neat hand, "Chicago, 1943". The name is an uncommon one, and he appears to have been James George Schuricht (Norton, KS June 30, 1923 – Georgetown, TX March 2, 2018), who enlisted in the Army Air Corps Cadet Program in August, 1943, received navigator training, and shipped out to England in 1945, time enough for him to fly in twelve B‑17 missions with the 384th Bomb Group over Europe as deep as Pilsen in occupied Czechoslovakia. He went on to a 23‑year career in the Air Force, retiring with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. I haven't yet, however, been able to confirm that he was indeed the owner of my book. If he was, it would be interesting to know whether the book before us here played some part in his decision to enlist in the war effort: if you have good information on either the man or the bookplate that would settle his identity, please contact me, of course.

Proofreading

As almost always, I retyped the text by hand rather than scanning it — not only to minimize errors prior to proofreading, but as an opportunity for me to become intimately familiar with the work, an exercise which I heartily recommend: Qui scribit, bis legit. (Well-meaning attempts to get me to scan text, if successful, would merely turn me into some kind of machine: gambit declined.)

This transcription has been minutely proofread. In the table of contents above, the sections are shown on blue backgrounds, indicating that I believe the text of them to be completely errorfree. As elsewhere onsite, the header bar at the top of each chapter's webpage will remind you with the same color scheme.

The print edition was pretty well proofread, but I still caught a few errors in it, not all of them even strictly typographical. My corrections are marked, when important (or unavoidable because inside a link), with a bullet like this;º and when trivial, with a dotted underscore like this: as elsewhere on my site, glide your cursor over the bullet or the underscored words to read the variant. Similarly, bullets before measurements provide conversions to metric, e.g., 10 miles. Very occasionally, also, I use this blue circle to make some brief comment.

Inconsistencies in punctuation have been corrected to the author's usual style, in a slightly different color — barely noticeable on the page, but it shows up in the sourcecode as <SPAN CLASS="emend">. Finally, a number of odd spellings, curious turns of phrase, apparently duplicated citations, etc. have been marked <!‑‑ sic  in the sourcecode, just to confirm that they were checked.

Any other mistakes, please drop me a line, of course: especially if you have the printed edition in front of you.

Pagination and Local Links

For citation and indexing purposes, the pagination is indicated by local links in the sourcecode and made apparent in the right margin of the text at the page turns (like at the end of this line p57 ). Sticklers for total accuracy will of course find the anchor at its exact place in the sourcecode.

In addition, I've inserted a number of other local anchors: whatever links might be required to accommodate the editor's own cross-references, as well as a few others for my own purposes. If in turn you have a website and would like to target a link to some specific passage of the text, please let me know: I'll be glad to insert a local anchor there as well.



[image ALT: A head-and-shoulders portrait of a young woman in uniform against a solid background with a striped bar running down the left side. She is Bessy Myers, author of 'Captured', an account of her captivity in France in the early days of World War II. The design serves as my icon for this book thruout my site.]

The icon I use for this book is of course the photograph of its author, cropped from the book's frontispiece, on the background used elsewhere onsite for British history.


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Site updated: 11 Feb 21