Robert John ''Bob'' Ramsey
Service No.: 148745
Hometown: 113 Bush Elma Road, Romford, Essex
Born: 16 August 1921 at Hastings, Sussex
POW: Prisonnier n° 6305 au Stalag Luft 3.
Captured by Feldgendarmerie at Brussels on 16 June 1944 after he was helped by René Van Muylem.
Prisoner nr 6305 at Stalag Luft 3
Who was Rene Van Muylem?
The next blow to Service EVA’s operations came in early 1944 from the Abwehr, the German military counterintelligence and counterespionage service, and its agent René Van Muylem, a Flemish collaborator. Born in the province of Antwerp to a father with strong Flemish nationalist beliefs, Van Muylem set himself up in business as a hair dresser, later moving to Cologne. Bombardments by the RAF destroyed his business there and he returned to Belgium. On the advice of his younger brother, a member of the Black Brigade, René went to the offices of the VNV (Vlaams National Verbond) in Antwerp, to see about employment as a propagandist in the German labor camps where there were thousands of Belgian workers. It was probably at the VNV HQ where he met a German agent of the Abwehr who recruited him into their attempts to infiltrate the escape lines.
Abwehr officials in Belgium conceived of a plan whereby they would create a false escape line in Antwerp using innocent people who wanted to assist the Allies. The false line came to be known as the KLM line. Some Resistance members were taken in by the scheme, including Jean Portzenheim, in charge of one of the sectors of safe houses for Service EVA. The Abwehr even paid some of Portzenheim’s expenses. But the Abwehr’s objective was not just to catch Allied fliers and their helpers. Probably more important to it was the opportunity to extract valuable intelligence from the fliers who thought they were in friendly hands—information on the airmen’s units, bases, locations of airfields, their planes’ armament and radar, where they were shot down, and their helpers.20
A letter written after the war by 2nd Lt. Robert Giles of Spindale, North Carolina, describes how he and another flier were guided “to a rather luxurious apartment where we were ‘entertained’ by a prosperous-looking businessman and his wife. This man was supposedly the head of the organization in Antwerp.” Another man “who spoke excellent English with an American accent” conducted them to another apartment where they were “told that we would have to be questioned some to finally establish our identity as American airmen” and not “English-speaking German flyers”. “The questioning was conducted very skillfully.” Still believing they were going to be taken to France, the two fliers were guided up the street to another building. “We entered a building and there we were in Gestapo headquarters in Antwerp.”21
When Belgium was liberated in September 1944, Van Muylem fled to Germany, then Austria. Returned to France by the Germans in 1945, possibly for sabotage assignments, he managed to get a job in a U.S. Army mess. But one of the American airmen Van Muylem had captured spotted him there and alerted his superiors. Belgian police arrested Van Muylem in Paris. He confessed that he was responsible for the German capture of 177 Allied airmen. The totals may have been much higher. He was tried, found guilty, and executed May 29, 1948.22 One of the many members of Service EVA ensnared by the KLM line was Blanche Page, who had survived the bombing of the fishmarket on May 9.