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Thread: Lisbon/UK/Lisbon Air Link in WW2

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    Default Lisbon/UK/Lisbon Air Link in WW2

    Dear All,
    I re-read some major WW2 books in the light of information, gleaned from this forum, that might clarify some passages that I didn’t quite understand when I read the book for the first time (Wilmot’s “Struggle For Europe”, etc, etc). I am currently re-reading the Garbo Story (West/Pujol).
    However, there are some passages in that (and other) book(s) that has me puzzled.
    Before I explain, can it be agreed that Portugal was neutral in WW2 (but with leanings towards the Allies)? Spain (and, maybe, Eire and Sweden) were neutrals (but with leanings towards the Germans)?
    There was some considerable air traffic between Lisbon and UK during WW2. Much of it was operated by, basically, CIVILIAN aircrews (BOAC, KLM, US, etc). Much of that traffic flew uniformed personnel (although, I suspect, they would have been dressed in civilian clothes.). I am talking about Commissioned (intelligence) Officers masquerading as Diplomatic Staff (going one way), and escaped PoWs going the other way. And why, indeed, were ALL personnel from belligerent nations not interned, on the spot, if they pitched up in neutral countries? (I believe the Swiss (except for diplomatic staff) were very careful about this?)
    I suspect that the Germans were quite happy for this to happen because their agents could monitor who was going where and when. The fact that their Int mobs made a cobblers of the ‘why’ bit is, to a certain extent, irrelevant.
    What, I ask, would have been the status (under the Geneva Convention) of civilian aircrew (from belligerent nations) ferrying military personnel (from belligerent nations) if they had come down in ‘enemy territory’? They could all, as far as I am aware been shot as spies?
    Now I know that this is getting into the very murky world of intelligence services, but I – at one stage in my RAF Mobile Met Unit career – was in the very same position. I could have been deployed to a combat zone, as a civilian, but with no hat, plain buttons on my combat kit, and a “Special Duties” flash on my shoulders. You can imagine the treatment that I would have received had I been unfortunate enough to be captured by “the other side”.
    Sorry to have gone on a bit – but was there some sort of “gentleman’s agreement” not to interfere with this (obviously vital) communications link?
    Interested
    Peter Davies
    Last edited by Resmoroh; 16th August 2013 at 14:05. Reason: Spelling
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
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    You might want to read those books again, Ireland, not Eire, was neutral but with a definet leaning towards Britain.

    The country was named Ireland in the English language, Eire in the Irish language.
    Dennis Burke
    - Dublin

    Foreign Aircrew and Aircraft Ireland 1939-1945
    www.ww2irishaviation.com

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    Dennis,
    I did not wish to open old wounds. I stand corrected. There is - probably - a significant difference between what Ireland actually did in WW2, and what Eamon de Valera is populary supposed to have wanted to happen! The usual difference from The Policitians, and those who have to make their decisons actually work. Been there, done it!
    Peter Davies
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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    It's an interesting question, but in this case the flight plans were routed to avoid enemy territory to prevent the situation arising. It does seem that a blind eye was turned to these operations by the Luftwaffe, for they could have been interfered with by KG40 yet there was only one very public case of this happening. Presumably because it is very useful for warring nations to have a reasonably convenient place to meet, and not just for Intelligence purposes.

    This is very different to the otherwise similar flights from the UK to Sweden, where interception attempts were common and in summer were re-routed north to reduce this, but could not avoid overflights. There possibly are cases where survivors of these aircraft were captured by the Germans, maybe Vingtor can tell us more, but I suspect that generally they would be treated as more conventional POWs rather than strictly outside the Geneva Convention. Known members of Intelligence organisations might expect special attention, of course.

    Despite your comment, the Swiss did not intern German aircrew but allowed them to return. I don't know what happened to the rare British aircrew (for example a PR Mosquito) but by the time large numbers of US aircrew were arriving on Swiss territory the course of the war was obvious. Interned on the spot: yes, indeed, but not necessarily for very long.

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    Some previous slightly related threads:
    http://www.rafcommands.com/forum/showthread.php?8548-Repatriated-Airmen

    rafcommands.com/forum/showthread.php?5055-Internment-in-Eire

    rafcommands.com/forum/showthread.php?405-Escape-and-Evasion-Policy
    rafcommands.com/forum/showthread.php?14757-Foynes-aerodrome-Southern-Ireland

    The link below details what I presume was a typical crew. My understanding of it all was that everyone was travelling as civilians on civilian aircraft, so it was with the letter of the law as such. I don't imagine they were rocking up in Foynes with helmets and sidearms etc.
    skynet.ie/~dan/war/gages.htm
    Last edited by dennis_burke; 16th August 2013 at 17:51.
    Dennis Burke
    - Dublin

    Foreign Aircrew and Aircraft Ireland 1939-1945
    www.ww2irishaviation.com

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