13 March 2018

He Rode Into Town--And Liberated It

How was your ride today?

Oh, it was fine.  I liberated a town.

I've never had a conversation quite like that.  The fellow who did had every right to any honors and accolades he may have received--even if they made him blush.

Somehow, though, I don't think Angus Mitchell would have been one of the parties. At least, he probably wouldn't have uttered "I liberated a town", even though it was true.

The Scotsman took command of his squadron after its leader was killed in a scout car just 50 yards from where he stood.   Then he was shot at himself, but the bullet glanced off a bronze periscope, sending bits of metal toward his face and injuring him.

After a brief recovery, he returned to his unit and was ordered to advance to a railway line near the Maas River, just outside the Dutch town of Boxmeer.  There, he decided to ditch the squadron's armored vehicles in favor of bicycles so the Royal Air Force wouldn't mistakenly bomb him and his fellow soldiers.  

He entered the town on his bicycle--alone--and found the enemy had retreated to a small village just outside the town.  Then he called down an attack and defeated the remaining German soldiers, thus liberating the town and its surrounding area.

For his exploits, he would be decorated by three different countries:  the United Kingdom would reward him with its Military Cross, the Netherlands would make him a Ridder (Knight) in the Dutch Order of Oranje-Nassau and France would bestow its Legion d'Honneur medal upon him.

He says he played a "small part" in the war, but the citizens of Boxmeer were grateful for it--enough so that he was invited back some 50 years later.

Angus Mitchell outlived most of them:  A little more than two weeks ago, on 26 February, he passed away, at the age of 93.  To say that his life was a journey would be an understatement and a cliche at the same time:  He took one bike ride that no doubt saved lives and changed others--including, I'm sure, his own.


  1. Does the RAF have pilots better able to distinguish the nationalities of people riding bikes better than those driving British vs German motor vehicles? Perhaps he was thinking he could dive into a ditch easier from a bike than from an amoured personnel carrier, though we know this is probably not really the case. Interesting post in any event!

  2. Steve-- Thanks! Good question. I couldn't find more info, but I'm guessing that the RAF pilots either couldn't detect bikes or didn't bother going after them.

  3. Morlamweb--I would say so!

    Thanks for stopping by.