Beyond the Call News

All the lost prisoners

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On this day 70 years ago – the last day of January 1945, Captain Robert Trimble was en route to the Soviet Union, bound for a secret mission he didn’t yet know about. Meanwhile, advancing Red Army spearheads were closing in on Stalag III-C, a Nazi POW camp near the eastern border of Germany.

Inside the camp were thousands of prisoners, including a large number of American enlisted men. As the Russian forces approached, the Germans decided to evacuate. The POWs were herded into a long column in the camp’s snow-covered main street. Near the front of the column was Sgt Richard J. Beadle – a medic from Louisiana, Beadle had won a medal for bravery in the Anzio raid the previous year, and had later been captured in France. He was about to face his toughest time in this whole war.

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The prisoners were kept waiting for hours in the bitter cold. Then, just as the order came to march out, the leading Soviet troops and tanks opened fire. Shells and mortar bombs rained down on the camp gateway, killing and wounding dozens of prisoners. This was the Allied POWs’ first taste of how the Red Army viewed prisoners of war. Stalin had decreed that men who surrendered to the enemy were “criminal deserters” who had “breached their oath and betrayed their Homeland.” This attitude had filtered down to the troops, and although their bitterest hatred was reserved for their fellow Russians who had been captured, they viewed all POWs with cold callousness.

Meet the author


With the launch of Beyond the Call only days away, we have some early opportunities to meet Lee Trimble and hear about his father’s story …

If you’re in Washington, DC in early February you can meet Lee Trimble, author of Beyond the Call and son of Captain Robert Trimble, and hear him read from the book. He’ll be at the Politics and Prose bookstore and coffee house on Saturday February 7, 2015, at 3.30pm.

Later in the month Lee will be reading and talking about the book at Somerset County Library, Hillsborough, NJ, on February 23 at 6.30pm. 

"To keep a part of him with me"

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On this day 70 years ago – Monday January 29, 1945 – the sleek, olive-drab form of a USAAF C-47 transport plane swooped down over the glittering Mediterranean Sea and landed at Marignane Airport, near Marseille. Among the passengers on board was Captain Robert M. Trimble. As a veteran bomber pilot he wasn’t accustomed to being a passenger; but it was something he’d have to get used to over the coming weeks. He had a long way to travel – from England to the USSR was a hell of a journey when you had to take a detour around the Third Reich. England, France, Italy, Egypt, Iran … and then up through the wilds of Central Asia and into Russia. And all on the hard steel seat of a C-47 paratroop transport.

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C-47 Skytrain transport aircraft, 1944.

According to the passport he’d been issued in London, his itinerary was supposed to take him via Casablanca, but he’d had to take whatever military flights were available, and it was ruled out. He’d have liked to go there – he’d had an idyllic rest-stop in Casablanca on his way to the war, nearly a year earlier.

"Safely and Freely to Pass"

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In 2015, the United States Embassy, a great block of concrete and glass, dominates one side of Grosvenor Square at the heart of Mayfair – London’s swankiest district. On most days of the year, there are queues of Britiish citizens outside, lining up to get visas for travel to the US, watched over benignly by London police officers packing sub-machine guns.

America has had a diplomatic presence in Grosvenor square since the founding of the Republic. If you came here anytime during World War II, you’d have found more Americans than Britons; not only was the US Embassy here, so too were the headquarters of General Eisenhower and the American Red Cross.In those days, the Embassy was on the other side of the square, in a smaller but more elegant building.

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Grosvenor Square, London; view of the statue of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and (left background) the former headquarters of General Eisenhower. There is also a memorial here to the British victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

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The former US Embassy in Grosvenor Square, London. The building now houses the Canadian High Commission.

It was in this building, 70 years ago today, that Captain Robert M. Trimble, veteran bomber pilot of the US 8th Air Force, had his photograph taken and placed in a brand new passport. After being told that he was being sent to the USSR, he’d been kept hanging around in London for some time, and had been through some interviews with military attachés which had been troubling – to say the least. Although he’d been told that his job in the Soviet Union would be as a ferry pilot, transporting salvaged American bombers back to England or down to Italy, he’d heard things in those interviews that made him wonder if there was more to it than that. Much more.

13: Lucky for Some

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Captain Robert M. Trimble flew his last combat mission on December 30, 1944, and became a member of the Lucky Bastards Club – that elite, blessed band of airmen who had survived a tour of combat. Thousands of men were not so fortunate. Among them were the crew of Lieutenant Norman S. Lamoreaux, one of Captain Trimble’s comrades.

Lamoreaux and Trimble had a good deal in common; like most airmen they were close in age (27 and 25 respectively), and both came from blue-collar backgrounds in small-town Pennsylvania. Norman Lamoreaux was a farmhand and college dropout from Susquehanna, while Robert Trimble was a railroad worker from Harrisburg. Unlike Robert, Norman Lamoreaux was unmarried.

On Saturday January 13, 1945, while Robert Trimble was in London being prepared for an aircraft-ferrying mission (which he mistakenly believed would keep him out of harm’s way for the rest of the war), his former unit, the 493rd Bomb Group, took off on a bombing mission to Mainz, Germany. Among the pilots taking part was Lt Lamoreaux. The plane they flew was B-17 Flying Fortress 43-38271, nicknamed Big Buster. This was the very Fort in which Robert Trimble had flown his final mission.

An American in London

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Early in January 1945, during one of the coldest winters in England’s living memory, Captain Robert M. Trimble left the airfield at Debach, Suffolk, base of the 493rd Bomb Group of the US 8th Air Force, and took a train to London.

A few days earlier, following his 35th and final combat mission, Robert Trimble had been ordered up to the unit’s HQ for an interview with Colonel Helton, the commanding officer. Helton offered him a tempting mission – a safe, simple job in Russia, ferrying salvaged aircraft back to England. If he didn’t take it, he would be allowed to go home to the States on furlough, but with the virtual certainty of being called up for a second tour of duty, maybe in the Pacific.

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Headquarters site, Debach air base, Suffolk, January 1945.

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The same location now. Debach airfield closed down after the war, but parts of its roads, runways and buildings have survived.

Robert, who had a wife and baby to think of, decided to take the “safe” option.

In London, he was directed to a peculiar address, where he began to get the first inkling that the top brass had something in mind for him that was secret, mysterious, and possibly very far from safe.

The countdown begins!

Early February 2015 – less than a month away – will see the publication of an exciting new book. Beyond the Call tells the amazing true story of a top secret mission of mercy on the Eastern Front in World War II.

The book has been written in collaboration between Lee Trimble – whose father, bomber pilot Captain Robert M. Trimble, is the subject of the story – and British biographer, academic and novelist Jeremy Dronfield. It is published in the US by Penguin's Berkley Caliber imprint, and in the UK by Icon Books.

BEYOND THE CALL revised

This website, Beyondthecallbook.com, is your resource for information, news and events relating to the book and the story it tells.

This year, 2015, happens to be the 70th anniversary of Captain Robert Trimble’s mission, and the book’s month of publication coincides with the timeline of the original mission in January to June 1945. During the coming months, we will be marking the dates as they pass, commemorating the key moments in Captain Trimble’s incredible mission.

Content © Jeremy Dronfield and Lee Trimble 2015