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Thread: How many airmen helped by the Belgian Resistance

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    Default How many airmen helped by the Belgian Resistance

    I've been asked to comment on the draft chapter of a book about D-day, and it contains a statement to the effect that the Belgian Resistance "rescued hundreds of downed Allied aircrew". I have a niggle that 'hundreds' is an overstatement and would appreciate any thoughts forumites might have. I'm assuming that 'rescued' implies aircrew were returned to the UK.

    Have any figures ever been quoted as to the number of shot-down aircrew that managed to make it back home?

    Brian

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    Hello

    I'd suggest you manage to get access to a copy of "RAF evaders" by Oliver Clutton-Brock.

    Appendix 2 lists 288 allied (note allied, that includes americans) military (so not all airmen) passed by the Comète line, to Spain, 1941-1944. But not all evaders went through Comète, even though there are now some websites which are rewriting history, and giving Comète a larger activity that what was done at the time.

    There are some tables in the book which might answer your questions.

    In 2007 I worked out some statistics for the Nord-Pas-de-Calais area in France, (which is close to Belgium), for a symposium : I then calculated that 159 RAF and Commonwealth Air Forces airmen evaded capture between 1941 and 1944. Plus about 54 who managed to get back into allied lines in May and June 1940. 106 USAAF airmen evaded capture from 1942 to 1944. These figures have been altered since then, but I've not reworked the full tables, but it gives an idea. For my purpose, I counted airmen who evaded capture in the research area, but some of them were captured in other parts of France (mostly in Paris), during the trip to Spain. I didn't count airmen who had been shot down in other parts of France or in Belgium or Netherlands and who transited only through Northern France.

    Joss

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    That is very helpful, Joss - I'm extremely grateful. Your personal figures support those of Oliver Clutton-Brock, but I appreciate your comment about the total probably being higher.

    Technically the comment is therefore correct, although it implies rather more than you quote.

    Cheers
    Brian

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    Can we be a little clearer on this matter? Are we talking about Resistance or Escape Lines? There was a distinct difference between the two. Resisters were engaged in actions against the occupation forces, Escape Lines such as Comete, by nature of their work avoided the occupation forces at all costs. Of course resistance units assisted escapers and evaders whenever they came across them but the day-to-day work of returning evaders/escapers to the allied side fell to the escape lines.

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    I don't know, Bill, I was simply quoting from the draft document. That said I will add a little more:

    " .....X had been sent to make contact with Zéro, the Belgian resistance group developed by Frans Kerkhofs en Luc, initially to gather economic and political intelligence. During the war, they would rescue hundreds of downed Allied aircrew."

    As you will gather I'm a total novice in this (one reason I came to the forum for help) and certainly hadn't appreciated the fine difference that you describe.

    From what little I can find on the Internet 'Zéro' did not appear to go into guerrilla activities.

    Brian

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    Default Evaders in Belgium

    Hello ,

    Please check out this site , unfortenally it is only in French :

    http://www.cometeline.org/

    Regards

    Alain12

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    That's a brilliant site, Alain - many thanks.

    Brian

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    Brian,
    Zero was indeed an intelligence gathering network which, in the early days of the war, established a chain of couriers to take information down through France and into Spain and Allied intel gattherers. They did initially take a few allied airman with them but later (from Around 1941/42) they established links with EVA, an escape line originating in Holland into Belgium. EVA then fed allied personnel into the Comete line for onward transmission. At the end of the war, EVA, by their own accounts, had passed 149 allied aircrewman back to the allies, whicch was a great achievement in its own right. Zero was not a guerrilla organization but involved itself in intel gathering and publishing anti-Nazi pamphlets and news sheets. Like many other networks and escape lines, it did lose members to concentration camps. As with others, some survived, some sadly did not.

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    Would it not also include the 100 plus who were within the Marathon camps in the Ardennes?

    Neil

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    Neil,
    In the run-up and subsequent to the invasion, ALL escape lines were told to, when and where possible, channel escapers and evaders into such camps as the ones you refer to. As with all such things, different sources differ slightly on such things. All I can say is that EVA apparently kept count of airmen passed down the escape lines, hence the figure of 149. Now, how many of that number found themselves in the Marathon camps I cannot say. Once EVA had passed their charges on down the line they had no way of knowing whether they eventually crossed the Pyrenees or went to the hideout camps to await the arrival of the Allies. Either way, they did sterling work in helping airmen get back home.

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