Fairford History Society

Thursday March 19th 2015: On the run behind the lines (WW2)

In March Air Commodore Graham Pitchfork talked to FHS about some of the RAF aircrew who crashed or were shot down behind enemy lines in Europe during World War 2 and tried to evade capture.

They were mostly helped by the extremely brave local people in the Resistance who put themselves and their families in extreme danger. There were three main escape routes across France:

  • the Comet Line. In August 1941 Andrée de Jongh (nickname Dédée) arrived at the British consulate in Bilbao with a British soldier James Cromar from Aberdeen and two Belgian volunteers, having travelled by train from Paris to Bayonne and then on foot over the Pyrenees. She requested British support for her escape network (later named ‘Comet line’)

  • the Pat Line (named after Pat O’Leary) ran from Paris to Toulouse via Limoges and then over the Pyrenees via Esterri d’Aneu to Barcelona

  • the Shelburne Line which ran from Paris to Rennes then St Brieuc in Brittany, where men were shipped to Dartmouth.

Graham told us tales of some of the individual’s adventures and the heros who helped them. He had personally met some of the evaders and the heroic people of the Resistance. He has written several books on the subject, the latest being:-

Shot Down and On the Run: The RCAF and Commonwealth Aircrews who got home from behind enemy lines, 1940-1945