France and captivity
On June 14, 1944, pilot Roy Allen and the crew of his B-17 Flying Fortress embarked on a mission over Nazi-occupied France. Hit by flak, Roy was forced to parachute into France. Trapped behind enemy lines, he was rescued by Colette Florin, a 21-year-old schoolteacher and member of the French Resistance. He stayed with Colette for a few weeks until he was able to be moved into Paris. Once he arrived in Paris a man told him that he was taking him to another agent who would then sneak him into Spain and then on to England. The agent that was taking him to his supposed "British Agent", who went by Captain Jacques, betrayed him, turning him over to the Gestapo. He was then taken to Avenue Foch which at the time was the Gestapo headquarters for all of France. At Avenue Foch he was tortured, labelled a terrorist and denied his rights as a Prisoner of War under the terms of the Geneva Convention. He and other airmen were then taken to Fresnes Prison located in the town of Fresnes, Val-de-Marne, 7 miles south of Paris. As the front neared them, the Germans decided to ship Roy Allen and all of the other 168 Allied airmen to Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany. They left Fresnes, traveling by train in cattle cars. The cars were designed to hold up to 40 men. The Germans loaded them with 80, forcing their passengers to stand for the long duration of the trip.
Buchenwald concentration camp
In Buchenwald, Allen suffered from extensive physical and psychological abuse. By the time he left he weighed a mere 110 lb (50 kg), almost 80 lb (36 kg) lighter than when he left for his mission back on June 14. While there, he suffered from dysentery, pneumonia and various other illnesses presented by the poor environment. The harsh treatment endured by Roy Allen and the other airmen at Buchenwald was a blatant violation of the Third Geneva Convention, which specifically prohibits the physical and mental abuse of captured service personnel, and states that they must be treated humanely. This explains the reason for the SS guards issuing the airmen with inmate uniforms with no serial numbers.
Later, an officer from the Luftwaffe inspecting allied bomb damage came across the allied airmen prisoners. One of the prisoners who spoke fluent German, highlighted their case to the officer. Sympathetic to their plight (and also aware that Luftwaffe POWs in allied hands could suffer reprisals if he did not intervene) the German officer organized their transfer from Buchenwald to a legitimate prisoner of war camp i.e. Stalag Luft III in Poland.