PROJECT : The Maquis de Falise - Baclain
In the beginning of april 1942, a resistance maquis camp was constructed in the woods of the Roches de Baclain , just outside the village of Baclain, close to the Luxemburg border in the Belgian Ardennes. Joseph Istace, Alphonse Nelis and Jean Gustin constructed 2 wooden shelters next to the small stream Wez de Halleux , dividing the large woods from the nord-east to the south. They used this stream to connect to the shelter camp, not leaving traces on the small roads, crossing this terrain with several slopes. On the northern side, two large meadows were the scene for two droppings by the SOE, providing the resistance with explosives and munition, on May 28 and Sept 9, 1944. Under the command of Albert Thill, this refuge gave shelter to more then 40 men at the end of may 1944, 16 of them arrived on April 7, 1944 being Russian POW’s, escaped from the forced labour in the Charleroi colemines. Three extra tents were added to the hidden site, behind the rocks that covered their presence from the south-east side towards Baclain. The members of the maquis took part in several uge sabotage actions in Gouvy and Trois-Ponts. Pipovaroff, a real Russian specialist in preparing explosives, made the charges in the second shelter, where also the illegal press was made and the transmitter was installed on a 6 volts battery. Combining with engineers like Herman Bodson from the Service Hotton network, the destruction of the railwaystation of Gouvy was a uge success. Even the destruction of the railwaybridge in the direction of La Gleize made 600 German casualties, on their way to the Normandy region.
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In the beginning of June 1944, the location of the maquis was compromised. A German reconnaisance airplane dropped several light flares above the camp and a conflict with a small German reconnaissance squadron made it clear they had to evade. And not a munite to soon ! The two Browning 50 cal turret machineguns they salvaged from the downed “Duffy’s Taverne “ B17 bomber ( 42-32040 ) near Baclain-Langlire on Jan 29, 1944 made such an impact on the Germans entering the maquis , they withdrew until the next morning, giving Joseph and Albert Thill the time to make the order to empty the camp and set three charges to destroy the camp. This was the only maquis of the “Falise” region in sector IV and V that had no casualties during the German sweeps.. Lots of them were killed in their sleep... The two .50 cal’s that Nicolas and Gvosdarieff builded on a wooden sled saved them all. The site was destroyed by the three charges of plastic explosives, ignited by timer pencils. Fleeing the scene, Herman Bodson and his companions heared the loud detonations, half an hour after they left with the last pieces of evidence towards Lomré and Langlire.
1. History of the maquis of Baclain
2. Research and fieldwork
Seventy three years after the facts, the War Heritage Detection Program started the project in August 2017, to recover what was left of the camp site. All began with a picture of a friend and researcher Bob Konings from Grand-Menil, showing a part of a little stove he found during his research on the slope where he was tracing the remains of the 36th AIR during the Battle of the Bulge. I recognised the stove immediatly from our archives ! Being aware of the timeframe and the fact everything was included in a series of blasts, an archeologic toolbox was assembled. Pinpointing the exact location took several weeks, using several testimonies from Albert Thill, letters from Jean Gustin and the book from Herman Bodson he wrote in 1994 on his life during the occupation. A visual platform was created out of the Eddy Monfort archives from Malempré and an edition of the “Patriote Illustré”  from May 1946. During GPS logging and grid profiling in the field, the in 1946 well discribed “ Rocks of Baclain “ were discovered in the woods, that changed significant during the seven decades. The wide open space, between the southern part of the woods and the rock structure had become unvisible for the naked eye. Other indicators were gone. However, from there on - things evolved quickly and the actual site of the wooden sheds was found and recorded. In the proximity of the rocks, several signs of “ golddiggers “ were visible, illegal scavaging of the woods, probably hunting for relics from the Battle of the Bulge... Luckely - their goal was ours !!
About 20 meters from the Wez de Halleux, the remains of what once was the home for all those refugees, became visible. Nothing else but the large foxhole-like structure gives it away these days. After removing old wood between the old trees, the soil became accessable. Heavily rooted and dense by pieces of rocks, we realised this was not goin to be easy. In april 1944, Joseph Istace made the call to dig out the surface and created a lower floor level, offering the possibility to lower the roof as well. Two shelters were constructed : one to install the kitchen and room for 16 men to sleep and the other for the supplies and a workshop. Due to the small fragments we we expecting, “detection by layer “ was determined as retraction facility. Timeconsuming but effective. A swift detection by metaldetector showed fractions not to be blown away more then 25-30 meters from the sheds. The lower floor profile made the blast evolving upwards, reducing the spread.
3. Relics from the site and determination
1. Soup bowl, metal (enameled) plate and spoon from the kitchen shed     The camp was well equiped with a stove and kitchenware, provided by the Istace family in the center of Baclain. They had regular     food supplies, even up to a whole pig !     Recovered in the center part of the second shed in a 10 meter perimeter.
2. Glass medical bottle     In use for the chemical products for the production of the explosives by Pivovarov.
4. Remains of 1.5 volts electrolyte batteries     The bigger carbon sticks and electrolyte-sponge parts were part of the BA-30 type ( AA like ) batteries, the smaller were part of the     4.5v type battery blocks ( 3 serial connected 1.5v batteries inside ) for common flaslights.
3. Handle of a razor, presumably military.     The maquis offert refuge to several downed airmen, US and RAF, leading them into the Comete evasion line by Dr Bodson.     This aluminum handle is determined to be AC & Co manufactured and British military issued during the war. 
5. German DAIMON flashlight remains      This remains probably were taken from the German Geheime Feldpolizei officer, that was killed on June 1st, 1944.       In the second fase of the research, other remains of the uniform were found ( see  6.2 Remains of the German officer )
6. Bakelite tube remains, holding Marconi amplifier lamps for the transmitter.      The last 6 weeks before the liberation period, the Baclain maquis was the “ Etat-Major “ for the Region X from the Secret Army.      A transmitter unit was activated several times, receiving BBC messages on daily bases and reports were morsed to the SOE several      times.      The dropping site for the May 28 parachuting was coded as “ Le Peuplier “. On Sept 9, 1944 - a second dropping was received on the      sames meadows, on the northern side of the forest.
7. Hardrubber 6 volts batterypack, 120Ah type ( Bosch or Varta ).     The remains of this lead-acid electrolyte are very special. The battery was used to power the 4 car headlights they laid on the meadow     of the dropzone, to light them up as soon as the airplane was heard. A 5th headlight was morsing the first letter of the codename that     was used for the announcement of the dropping by the BBC. ( testimony Albert Thill, le Patriote Illustré, May 1946 )     The car headlights and the battery were provided by Jean Gustin, who was working in a garage in Liège during the war. After the war,     he started a bussiness of his own in Trois-Ponts.     The battery could also be used to power the transmitter.     The blast that destroyed the campsite, also got it’s impact on the battery. The lead-dioxide plates ( kathode ) are visible.
4. Canopy 15C/187 type - remains from the May 28, 1944 dropping at “Le Peuplier “ parachute zone sect. IV, zone 5   -     meadows of the maquis of Baclain.     Small parts of the canopy, found at the location of the second shed. Even totally blasted in to pieces, the tissue sustained the test of     time in an exellent manor. Black canopies were often used for nighttime dropping for the resistance, making them less visible.     During the time the camp was active, only one dropping was received at the meadows with codename “Le Peuplier”. When the     campsite was blown up, the canopy was close to the battery and plastic explosive itself, leftside of the shed.
2. Ammunition St. Louis Ordonance SL4 .50 cal rounds from the B17 “Duffy’s Tavern” ( 42-32040 ), MACR 2873     downed on Jan 29, 1944 at Baclain. The Flying Fortress, on his way back from Frankfurt Am Main, was seriously damaged by FLAK and flying with only one engine. The pilot Douglas K.   Hoverkamp ordered his men to bail out. Only he and his radio operator tech sergeant Orvin Taylor stayed on board, until the bomber lost hight and they jumped out above the Gouvy region. The B17 crashed in the Baclain woods, not far from the maquis camp itself on the Rocks of Baclain ( Les Roches de Baclain ). Hoverkamp and Taylor came in contact with Alphonse Nelis in the center of Baclain, introducing them to Joseph Istace. The two men were given shelter in the maquis camp site for two days, when Alphonse gave them civilian clothes and guided them to the Gouvy railway station. There they met four other crewmen, but plans changed. Under the protection of Herman Bodson’s group they were transported to Liège by car, a deary mission !     Joseph Istace ordered the salvaging of two Browning .50 cal machineguns from the B17’s turret and all the 50 cal rounds.  Nicolas and     two other Russians constructed a wooden sled to manouver the double .50 cal setup and installed them on the rocks, about 30 meters     from their camp. The two Brownings saved the maquisards when the camp was compromised on the beginning of June 1944, keeping the     Germans from entering the camp in the evening. They got the chance to evade and blow up the remains of the camp. An unique fact in the     Maquis de Falise region, other camps were whiped out - even killing maquisards in their sleep...    Lots of the .50 cal rounds were opened to salvage the cordite and primers for other use.    On the top of the rock formation a complete .50 cal cartridge was recovered with the SL 4 Headstamp : St. Louis    Ordonance manufactured, 1944.
3. Lee Enfield cartridge, .303 British Z type until 1944 ( Kynoch & Co, Witton, Birmingham, UK )      The Lee Enfield MkIV was in use by several members of the Baclain maquis. The rifles and according cartridges were dropped in large       amount for the resistance.       This cartridge was found between the rock structure, 30 meters from the campsite. This place is known for the first       encounter with the German scouts, two days before the evasion of the camp. One German soldier was killed, another wounded and       two others fled the scene. This was a prelude of what was going to happen...      ( Cartridge is disarmed for display )
1. Mauser S cartridges, Deutsche Waffen und Munitionsfabriken - Karlsruhe, Germany - 1917 and 1918 production.     The exact origin of this WWI rounds is unknown. 43 of them where found unfired in the southern security post, always occupied by two     maquisards, released every two hours. Even remains of a complete cloth belt for the German MG08 machinegun were on the same     spot. A captured Mauser K98 was in use in the maquis, the cartridges are believed to be old ammunition simply covered during the    interbellum.
5. Technical parts of the 15c/187 canopies and buckle, received at the maquis of Baclain on May 28, 1944.     ( Info : see number 4 )
6. 9mm ammunition for the Sten Gun, part of the May 28, 1944 dropping at “Le Peuplier” - Baclain.     The origin of this lot of 9mm cartridges and the one-time parachuting supplies at this maquis before the liberation, offers certainty they     were part of the May 28 drop. Two manufacturers were indicated by the headstamps, leading to this statement.     WCC 43 - Western Cartridge Company 9mm, US contract ammunition for the UK during WWII     22 cartridges were retrieved at a spot, right on the edge where the right wall structure of the second shed stood in 1944. Concentrated on     a vefy small surface, unfired, this seemed like they were still in the ‘50 piece cardboard box’ when they were left at the scene.     The ball ammunition was intended for the use in sub-machine guns.     WRA 9mm - Winchester Repeating Arms 9mm , US contract ammunition for the UK during WWII     One unfired 9mm round was retrieved from the ground, 2 meters in front of the entry from the second shed.     The manufacturer indicated that this amuunition was made for the use in sub-machine guns and was running rather dirty.     These two brands of 9mm ware dropped in a large amount for the use in the British Stenguns.     (The cartridges were disarmed for display).    
1. Stove or “poêle” - used in the second shelter ( storage )    This is the bottempiece of the small stove supplied by Albert Thill for the storage shelter, as a heating unit in 1943.    Produced in cast iron, modified to use a smoke pipe.    On the terrain other remains of the roster and cleaning hatch were determined, destroyed by the explosion.    This piece was found by Bob Konings, researcher on the project of the 36th Armored Infantry Regiment in the Battle of the Bulge. The    determination of the piece by a picture in our archives, initiated this platform and project.
The artefact is visible on the original picture taken by Mr. Beelen in April 1946. It was published in “ le Patriote Illustré “ of May 5, 1946 in an article on the maquis of Baclain. Albert Thill, Pol Remacle and Jean Gustin visited the sites once again, giving their testimonies.
2 . Part of the construction of the small stove ( see number 1 ) 3. Cast iron roster of the stove and and a part of the upper section ( see number 1). 
4. Metal shoe iron, front tip from a German officers boot ( a second piece and leather remains were found during the second fase of the research, see 6.2 Remains of the German officer )
The 16 Russian refugees that arrived in Baclain on April 7, 1944. In the center Alexis Gvousdarieff, to his right Wil Kapoustin : the two men who will die in Manhay during the German offensive on Dec 24,1944.
Remains of the B17 at Roches de Baclain.
Pictures taken by Albert Thill in the month of december 1944, when they checked out the remains of the camp. On the left picture, the soup bowl is visible on the table. The right picture shows the lower part of the small stove they used to heat the supply/workshop shelter. 
Picture taken by Mr. Beelen in May 1946, main shelter. The Remington typewriter is still there...
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4. Second fase : looking for the evacuation line of the camp
The camp was evacuated on June 2th, 1944. After the encounter with the German patrol next to the rocks of Baclain a day earlier, they knew the hidden campsite was compromised. One Feldgendarm was killed, the second one managed to escape... Albert Thill and Herman Bodson both mentioned and described how a German reconaissance plane passed over the site and marked it with smokeflares in the morning of June 2th... The evacuation started immediatly and rather irratic - In less then an hour,  the forest was flooded with Walloon SS soldiers and the maquisards made quick decisions : Pipovarov succeeded in blowing off the German charge by firing the dual Browing .50 cal machineguns from the top of the Baclain rocks, giving them time to set explosive charges in the camp, to destroy everything. They succeded - every member of the site escaped towards the forests of Langlire. Also was mentioned that the Russian’s decided to take the Browing machineguns on the wooded sled along with them during the evacuation. But the structure got to heavy and unmanageable to pull and, according to the testimony, Gvosdarieff  burried the machineguns in the forest and destroyed the wooden sled they were mounted on...
In April 2019, we started our search for the evacuation route. A difficult project with few indications and lots of superficial facts. We didn’t have high hopes, but we decided to make a logical deduction of the facts. The grounds to cover to reach the Langlire sector in the most logical way. As a two men team, we started covering soil between the uphill sector of the Baclain campsite and the shortest way towards Langlire. Metaldetecting by gps, in a 200m wide terrain  - it took us 7 weeks to find the first plausible trace of the evacuation. The work contained detecting the upper layer of the forest terrain to a maximum depth of 30 cm under the toplayer containing humus and roots. A slow process : this region was also littered by the remains of artillery and mortar fire of the Battle of the Bulge in January 1945 : tons of schrapnel, parts of M52 and M72 fuses, copper shell rings,...
Sofie detecting on 13kHz in all metal mode : every possible indication had to be unearthed
700 meters from the camp... The morning of July 20, 2019 - we started on a new survay, covering a section of 120 meters. A terrain with a postwar implant of trees for controled forest harvesting, but the old wartime tree trunks were still visible. Probably, the owner  made the decision in those days, not the remove them. For us, these decomposed and molded trunks made a fine indication of the wartime frame we were working in. Confirmation was provided by the owner, harvesting this terrain for many generations in his family. A first contact with US brass ammunition was logged by Sofie. For days, not a Garand or Browning casing was recovered. Probably, these forests were “hunted” before, but the .50 cal casings popping up, indicated these were virgin grounds when it came to metaldetecting. Or they did a crappy job...
A whole series of SL 4 headstamped casings were centralized in a small section, surrounded by 7 tree trunk remains. A Browning machinegun had been fired here with many bursts. The spread of the casings was less then a meter diameter. The acid semi-dry humus layer kept the brass in a good shape for all these years. After some evaluation during the afternoon break, we made two conclusions : - These casings carried the same headstamps as the recovered once on the topsection of the Baclain rocks : S L 4 - They could not have been fired from a US vehicle mounted Browning setup : deduction by the implantation of the old tree trunks -    the trees simply didn’t offer the surface to place or manouver a Sherman tank, semi-track or Jeep.  We assumed this was a good indication, the ammunition that was fired here, came from the same batch as the salvaged ammo from the B-17. All St. Louis Ordonance, manufactured in the early days of 1944. But secondly - the circumstance of firing. The use of the “mobile wooden-sled-mounted machineguns “ made the access of the dense wood possible. According to the “ frame of trees “ we could deduct exactly that a vehicle mounted Browning was simply impossible.
Some logging pictures of the many centralized .50 cal casings