Saturday, November 10, 2012

Rev. Donald Caskie

    The prisoner was thrown into the musty cell.  He landed hard on the stone floor.  As he rolled onto his back, the guard threw a plate and a rag of a blanket at his feet.  “Don’t cause any problems Vallet,” the guard warned before slamming the cell door.  Captain Vallet was depressed, lonely, hungry and tired of interrogation and prison.  He was tired of this French prison.  He was tired of life.  There was no way out of here except death.  He knew why he was brought to the Villa Lynwood – this was the prison of interrogation and torture.  He was about to cut his wrist open, when he saw something etched into the wall.
“Thus saith the Lord... Fear not for I have redeemed thee... I have called them by name.  Thou are mine.  When thou passeth through the waters, I will be with thee, and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee.  When thou walketh through the fire, thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee...”

Vallet read the words and gained comfort, consolation, and strength.  Thoughts of suicide left him, and he was filled with peace.  Months passed, and Vallet was transferred to the prison at St. Remo.  Again, he was thrown into a cell.  This time he was helped off of the floor by a Scotsman.

Vallet wiped the dust off his hands on his pants extended his right hand.  

“Captain Vallet’s my name.”

“My name is Donald Caskie.  Rev. Caskie to be exact.”

The two men sat down and Vallet told Rev. Caskie about his ordeal in the torturous prison of Villa Lynwood.  Caskie remained silent as he listened to Vallet’s account, but hardly dared to breathe as Vallet finished.

“As I was thrown in that cell,” Vallet said, “I couldn’t endure anymore.  I didn’t want to sit through any more interrogations, or listen to the screams from the cells next to mine.  I almost killed myself that day.  Just as I was about to cut my wrist, I looked up and the words from Isaiah were inscribed on the wall.  I knew then that God would help me through.  I’ll never forget those words.”

Rev. Caskie was silent for a moment, but looked intently at Vallet.  With his voice thick with emotion, Caskie said:

“I wrote those words.”

Tears streaked down Vallet’s cheeks.  Rev. Caskie leaned closer to Vallet and began to tell him how he had ended up in the prison of St. Remo.

“I was the Scottish minister of the Scots Kirk in Paris up until the Germans invaded France in 1940.  When the Nazi’s entered the city, I closed up the church, gave the keys to a neighbour, and decided to flee to Scotland.  A couple of opportunities came and went and I decided to stay in France.  There was work for me to do.  I began helping Allied soldiers and airmen trapped in Nazi territory.  Some of those men were so clueless when they found themselves in occupied territory.  They seemed unaware of the danger surrounding them and went about Paris as if they were tourists.  Other men were much more cunning and were able to blend in, adapt, and escape much easier.  As time went by, the need became greater and greater.  I became one of the leaders of the Allied escape routes.  Eventually our mission in Marseilles was betrayed, and I was arrested and brought to the Villa Lynwood.  As you can imagine, Captain, it was very difficult for me to go from helping men escape, to being a prisoner – completely helpless.  Those were dark days, as they were for you.  It wasn’t until I inscribed those words on the walls, that I knew Christ had gone before me and was with me.  Time passed slowly at Villa Lynwood, but eventually I was transferred and brought here.”

Several weeks later, Rev. Caskie was transferred from the Italian prison of St. Remo back to France, where he was transferred to yet another prison just outside of Paris.  It was in Paris that Rev. Caskie was tried for his crimes against the Third Reich.

“You are a spy, agitator, agent for escaping soldiers, prisoners-of-war, and friendly disposed towards that hated race the Jews.” ranted one of the judges. 

“I have aided Jews because they are human beings and because of your country’s policy they are in need of help.  But I never have aided them against anyone!” replied Rev. Caskie.

After the judges on the panel repeatedly accused Rev. Caskie of lying, they brought in a witness.  Rev. Caskie recognized him as Pierre, one of the guides that took Allied escapees from checkpoint to checkpoint.  Rev. Caskie was repulsed to see that the man was a double agent, and even more disgusted that Pierre refused to make eye contact.

Pierre identified Rev. Caskie and reported to the panel the activities that Rev. Caskie had been involved in.

One of the judges asked Rev. Caskie if he knew Pierre.

“I should think I do know him.  Even before I suspected him of being what he has now proved himself to be – a double agent – I regret to say I associated him in my mind with Judas Iscariot.  His purse was his god.  His every word and action sought to magnify it alone.  He had no other aim in life... You may agree that he a is most interesting witness.  Someday he may give evidence against you.  He is a professional.”

As the trial progressed, Rev. Caskie knew that the outcome was decided before the start of the trial.  He was resigned to being declared guilty, and was also ready to be taken home to glory.  Guilty was the sentence, and death was the sentence. 

The sentence, however, was never carried out.  Due to the intervention of a German pastor, and some political intrigue surrounding the judges on the panel, the sentence was lifted on January 7th, 1944.

Rev. Caskie continued to serve at the Scottish Kirk on the Rue Bayard in Paris after the city was liberated.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

(Psa 23:5-6)


  1. As the current minister of the Scots Kirk Paris I have been invited to preach at the Remembrance Day service in Notre Dame Cathedral this year. I had been reviewing the life of Donald Caskie wondering how to condense it. The incident and summary you post here is very helpful.

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    2. Thank-you for your kind words. Rev. Caskie's story and life is an inspiration and example of God's grace. All the best with your Remembrance Day service at the Cathedral!