Escape lines through France.

Discussion in 'France' started by Oldleg, Jan 1, 2016.

  1. Oldleg

    Oldleg Well-Known Member

    Knowing that in my local area in France there were several alliied airmen that came through our village before getting on to the escape lines I was wondering if any has any copies of maps etc which show the the escape lines that crossed through France.
  2. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  3. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  4. Lindele

    Lindele formerly HA96

  5. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    Interesting topic Stefan

    Escape routes within and from Germany and to Switzerland were ad hoc and there is no evidence that formal escape structures existed. In Germany, Allied escapees were virtually on their own and depended on the provision of false papers,Reichmarks and an understanding of the Reichbahn routes and the geography of the might come from neutrals routing to Baltic ports but an escapee had to get overland to the port which might prove to be a formidable task in itself. .....very unlikely that an escapee would receive help within the Greater German Reich from Germans and ethic Germans...there was a number of anti Nazi German resistance movements but as far as I can ascertain,there is no record of these resistance movements being involved in escapee aid

    Different in Poland where some Poles were all too ready to assist escapees by providing food and shelter to help them on their way.

    As regards entry to the safe haven of Switzerland for escapees,this depended on the expertise of French Resistance and other clandestine personnel having knowledge of the Franco/Switzerland border in the Jura and Doubs Departments and associated quieter border sections where those whose cover had been blown or were being hotly pursued, could be spirited across the border.

    Local knowledge of the frontier and the minimum risk of being being intercepted by the Germans certainly saved the life of Harry Ree who was seriously injured in a scrap with the Gestapo when attempting to contact a French agent and finding the Gestapo at the scene...receiving medical attention from a sympathetic doctor, he covertly crossed the border into the safety of the British Consulate and the operation which was reported to have saved his life.
  6. TriciaF

    TriciaF Junior Member

    I have a book (in english) called Cruel Crossing by Edward Stourton, which has maps and many stories of people who used or helped on the escape routes.
    The writer mentions that there's still a commemorative trek of the crossing that starts in the Ariège, not far from where we live. I'd love to join it but knees won't permit.
    Harry - I thought you must have had a connection with the original Harry Rée. :)
  7. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member


    Harry Ree ....a tribute to a courageous SOE operator......interest goes back many years from when I started to read about organised resistance in France at a time that there appeared not to be any official sources....but then came along M R D Foot's 1966 HMSO publication "SOE in France" which delved deeper into clandestine activities....could have adopted many a name or field name.

    Holidays which enable me to visit parts of France, where clandestine history was created.... visiting airfields used by No 138 and No 161 Squadrons.

    Incidentally one of the best places to visit is the Plage Bonaparte,just north of Plouha where the Shelburne circuit took 135 airmen (according to a memorial plaque) escapees off the beach and not far from a German post.In total,Shelburne claimed 307 successes from this beach.

    Plage Bonaparte....the code for the beach is a peeble beach but has a superb sandy beach at low tide and ideal for swimming.Quite a few memorials here which commemorate the clandestine on the top of the cliff looking out to sea and Cornwall and Devon. The stone house at the top of the cliff, a "reception point" for pick up embarkation,still stands.Since the war,a large car park has been constructed towards the cliff face and a tunnel has been driven to the beach along with a walkway to the beach.

    Regarding the Pyrenees route,this is the Ariege connection.The French BCRA also were involved in routing people into Spain via Ariege under Georges Broussine, a Free French officer.His group tended to use Andorra as a link to Spain and 225 individuals passed this way.He also featured in the taking off of people from the South Brittany coast using RN boats.Brossine organised Ray Labrosse,a French Canadian who had escaped from Dieppe to get to England.It was Labrosse and Lucien Dumais,another escapee from Dieppe who set up the Shelburne line which not only survived without penetration and flourished with the brave crews of the RN boats who ran the risk in collecting escapees,playing their part.

    Regarding the Pat line,I think the last escapees to use it were the Frankton survivors Hasler and Sparks..73 years ago as about now......recorded that accompanying them over the Pyrenees was a "French intellectual" who later was suspected as being a Gestapo plant...soon vanished when they entered Barcelona and never seen again.....transpired that the line was betrayed to the Germans by Harold Cole.
  8. Lindele

    Lindele formerly HA96

    Interesting indeed Harry. I am investigating into the escape of September 1941 from OFLAG VB in Biberach and collecting as much information as I can. The 4+1 successful escapes from this camp as well as some of the narrow escapes I am aware of, all went via Southern Germany and Switzerland.
  9. ritsonvaljos

    ritsonvaljos Senior Member

    The map already posted by Super Admin Owen (# 3) summarises the main escape routes of the war in Western Europe. However, throughout the war many Allied evaders in Normandy were hidden away until they could be sent further down the line via one of the escape and evasion networks.

    As the above map shows, the Shelburne escape and evasion line passed through Normandy to Brittany and the evacuations were by sea from Plouha. From your initial posting I assume you have come across accounts of where Allied servicemen were hidden away until (if they were airmen) they were passed along the line? A small number of soldiers attempting to evade capture in Normandy in the summer of 1940 remained there until the Liberation in 1944 (I know the details of one chap from my home area: Sgt. John Dugdale Vallely).

    You don't mention where in Normandy you are based, but you could try making an enquiry to one of the Resistance and Deportation Museums in your local area, or even the Musée Mémorial at Caen (which has a good WW2 Archives). There is a Musée de la Résistance et de la Déportation at Forge-les-Eaux (a short distance to the east of Rouen) if you are based near there. This is a link to the museum website:

    Good luck.
  10. Oldleg

    Oldleg Well-Known Member

    Is there anywhere I can get lists of villages etc that were on these routes? Rits, I live in the area of Lyons La Forêt, about 25Kms S/E of Rouen. There are allied airmen that were hidden in someone's henhouse in the middle of the local forest. They were hidden by someone who I believe was an amazing woman,, a madame Huguette Verhague who was involved with the resistance. Here house backed onto the ground of the Abbaye De Mortemer where there was a german garisson stationed there. She was raided several times but no one was ever found. According to a letter she wrote at one point there was a german officer standing litterally centimetres away from the allied airmen.I know that one US airman whose B17 crashed locally ad managed to get on escape line as I have read his E&E report but he does not mention names of places.
  11. Oldleg

    Oldleg Well-Known Member

    Owen, HA thanks for the picture. I was interested to see the area of Plouha. I think I visited that place a couple of years ago when I on hols with the family and friends. I went metal detecting around there and found something that I am not sure what it is but believe it may be part of the breach of something like an anti aircraft gun.
  12. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member


    I have seen it recorded where British POWs struck south on escaping from POW camps and heading for Switzerland,all were equipped as best possible with home made escape aids and other escape aids as devised by MI 9 which were covertly sent to POWs camps in otherwise legitimate comfort parcels.Other POWs held in Italian POW camps were successful in entering Switzerland from the south but there was a more likelihood of help from the Italians to penetrate the Swiss border from the south than from the north.

    According to MI 9 escape training paid dividends for successful escape and evasion but I would think that those receiving this type of training were in a minority.Nevertheless MI 9 played an important role in providing the means for British POWs to escape or evade from German territory.

    As I see it,one of the pitfalls of getting into Switzerland from the north was the lack of guide support.The German/Swiss border line tended to be irregular such as that at the Schaffhausen salient. As a result some escapees failed to cross the border into Switzerland where it doubled back on itself such that persons might think the border had been crossed safely and then inadvertently crossed back into Germany to be caught by German border guards.

    Biberach was.conveniently located for a run into Switzerland.The breakout was from a tunnel which had taken 3 months to construct and 2 dozen POWs had a vested interest in using it.The escape occurred on the night of 13/14 September 1941 with only the two instigators of the escape getting away.These were Michael Duncan of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and Barry O'Sullivan of the Royal Armoured Corps.They negotiated the Schaffhausen salient and entered Switzerland.Apparently they had a map, thought to have been supplied via MI 9 which indicated every twist and turn of the border at Scaffhausen.Hence they did not make the mistake of misunderstanding the border configuration as others had done.

    Both Duncan and O'Sullivan had been captured during the withdrawal of the BEF in May 1940 and were acquainted with each other while POWs at Posen.

    Michael Duncan wrote an account of his POW experiences under "Underground from Posen" (1954)

    There is further information on these two escapees here......

    This source gives a very good account of the successful escapees from Biberach and the escape route used.
    Lindele likes this.
  13. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    RAFA Airmail January- March 2016. Ile de France Branch News.Genevieve Camus further honoured

    Interesting snip of information relating to the Burgundy escape line in which Genevieve Camus (nee Soulie) played a leading role and the organiser Georges Broussine who is mentioned in this thread.

    Attached Files:

  14. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member


    Thanks for your note.I will reply to it.

    Best Wishes in working up your project.I look forward to the anticipated English version.
  15. Fred Wilson

    Fred Wilson Member


    Another from:

    This POW map was hidden within the game of "MONOPOLY". The game was created by John Waddington LTD; licensed from Parker Brothers, for the British Secret Service.
    Displayed here is a map of Germany, printed on very thin silk, rayon or tissue paper. They could be concealed in a packet of cigarettes or in the heel of a boot.

  16. Oldleg

    Oldleg Well-Known Member

    This is all facinating!!! I visited plage Bonaparte in Plouha just when I was getting interested in all things war, I Had no idea at the time what happened there, I just turnned with the family for a day at the beach. Beautifull area... Has anyone seen in any books mention of a Huguette Verhague at all? She was a resistant in the area of la Forêt de Lyons, Lyons La Forêt and Lisors. She helped save the lives of at least seven allied aircrew. Has anyone read any books where she is mentioned. By the way, in case it interests anyone in September we hold a remembrance ceremony in honour of her on the fist Sunday of the month. We also remember seven members of the Cofrerie de Notre Dame group who were tortured and then executed by the SS. There will be details of the 2016 ceremony on when available. If anyone is interested, please let me know.

    What is remarkable about madame Verhague is that her house is part of an estate which housed a German Garrison and during the occupation as I say she housed at least 7 allied airmen including Mr Ron Leverington, Don Leslie and Doug Eagle and Reg Joyce of 102 Sqd, Phillip Hemmens of 49 Sqd. and I think ttwo americans from B17 102464 that crashed at Fleury La Forêt.She was raided a couple of times whilst hiding these men and yet, they were never found.
  17. ritsonvaljos

    ritsonvaljos Senior Member

    Bon soir, Oldleg,

    There is a piece about Mme. Huguette Verhague's Resistance activities during the summer of 1944 in "RAF Evaders" by Oliver Clutton-Brock (2009), p. 308 - 309. Have you come across this book?

    Part of Mr Clutton-Brock's account of the events involving Mme. Verhague is based upon the wartime testimonies of the following two Allied airmen:

    1. F/Lt. H.J. Nixon, RCAF, shot down near Grainville (Eure),


    2. 2nd Lt. Theodore R. Baskette, USAAF, shot down on 14 June 1944 while flying a B-17.

    It seems the said Mme Verhague spoke good German and " ... did her bit by talking with the German troops ... and doing her best to lower their morale".

    Mr Clutton-Brock also quotes F/Lt. Nixon's high opinion of Mme Verhague: "I have never met a woman of such sublime courage and daring".

    (Both quotes from p. 309 in Oliver Clutton-Brock's book).

    If you are interested in reading F/Lt. Nixon's interview, which was at Bayeux (Calvados) on 1 September 1944, from the index in "RAF Evaders" the UK National Archives reference looks to be: 3350 / 1123 (IS9/WEA/MB/1123). Perhaps another 'WW2 Talk' member could assist you to obtain a copy of this?

    Bon courage !
  18. Oldleg

    Oldleg Well-Known Member

    Cheers, I have noted the book and willl be ordering a copy soon. From what I know of her she was an amazing woman. I have a copy of a letter that she wrote in 1945 tellling of her wartime experience, 15 pages of details....
  19. Oldleg

    Oldleg Well-Known Member

    Rits, in your comment you mention an aircraft that was shot down near Grainville (Eure). Do you have more info on that aircraft? The type etc. I have connections with a group of lisenced aviation archeologists that would be interested in hearring about this. They research stories and if they think they can locate it they get the permits needed, carry out archeological digs and donate the material found to museums. Grainville is not that far from me.
  20. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

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