Escape lines over the Pyrenees

Discussion in 'The War In The Air' started by Ian David Brown, Jul 4, 2017.

  1. I am trying to track down more information on my father's evasion over the Pyrenees. He was shot down over Rennes in Aug 1943 and with the help of the Resistance escaped through the Pyrenees in Oct 1943. I have pieced together a lot of the story during the time he was held by the Resistance in NW France. However there is little information about the route over the Pyrenees. According to the MI9 summary he probably used the John Carter escape line, which stemmed from Lyon and there is little written about it. I don't know if this information is accurate but I am planning to walk route myself in 2018 so would be very grateful for any insight anyone can give. Thanks very much Ian Brown
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  2. alieneyes

    alieneyes Senior Member

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  3. Thanks very much Dave. The National Archives search you provided threw up my father's report as the third item. I believe I have the evasion report in my records already. Looking at the John Carter document, it looks as though I will have to research the SOE Vic Line. I am pretty sure my father escaped through Perpignan and ended up in Barcelona but that remains uncertain. I will keep looking. Thanks for your help. Ian
  4. horsapassenger

    horsapassenger Senior Member

    Can I suggest that you look at the Conscript Heroes Escape Lines web site Escape Lines.
    The owner, Keith Janes, has walked the Pyrenees Escape line many times as a tribute to his Father who escaped by that route, He has also written books on the subject

  5. horsapassenger

    horsapassenger Senior Member

    If your Father was Leslie Charles Brown from 88 San I think the attached might be of interest. The story seems to fit


    Attached Files:

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  6. Thanks John. you have found my father.
  7. John

    This is a document I have never seen before, I think it was classified when I first started searching many years ago. So my father went from Perpignan over the border to Spain in c 24 hours. Is there a record of the route used or was it very ad hoc. Any help gratefully received. Ian Brown
  8. horsapassenger

    horsapassenger Senior Member


    I believe that these records were declassified at the same time as the other E&E reports but for a long time whenever I asked to view them I was told that they were 'in conservation'. As to routes used I would again recommend contacting Keith Janes

  9. RCG

    RCG Senior Member, Deceased

  10. TriciaF

    TriciaF Junior Member

    What a story! Glad you found your father's route, Ian David Brown.
    I'm interested in this topic because we live not far from the Central Pyrenees. I have this book:
    Cruel Crossing by Edward Stourton: review
    which has diagrams with the most used routes, and stories of the people who used them. From Perpignan it would be the most easterly.
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  11. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    Crossing the Pyrenees was a precarious event,first to evade frontier guards to gain access to neutral Spain and complete the "home run" back to Britain.On the other side was the uncertainty that a guide would deliver his commitment to deliver the escapist safely to Spain and not abscond from the agreement for which he had been paid for his services.

    Sometimes the guides deserted the escape party or the escape line was penetrated by the Germans.In one case it was highly suspected that an escapist was a German agent.Then there were others of a civilian status who found the physical effort required by the journey too much and succumbed to it.

    Some escapists were unfortunate to be caught and interned in the notorious internment at Miranda de Elbro which required the involvement of the British authorities to release them into British custody.Those who were able to travel and get help from the British Consulate in Barcelona fared better than those who had been interned at Miranda.The journey to Gib for transit back to Britain was arranged by The Consulate authorities had the continuous task of spiriting escapists down from Barcelona to Gib.As a rule it appears that Commissioned escapists were flown out of Gib to Britain while OR escapists were repatriated to Britain by ship.

    The well trod path usually was via Lyons then down to the Med side of SW France of the Spanish border, actively supported by the French either as Resistance workers or sympathisers.

    There are abundant accounts of these passages across the Pyrenees which record varying fortunes of the escapists.

    The SBS raid on Bordeaux harbour comes to mind with the two survivors,Major Hasler and Marine Sparks travelling without aid from the Gironde to Ruffec where a safe house had been prearranged, then on to Lyons to another safe house.Finally down to the the French/Spanish border to a safe house awaiting an opportunity to cross the Pyrenees.

    Another escapist was George Millar who escaped from a POW camp in Bavaria by rail,aided by French POWs. He stole away in a rail waggon taking supplies into Strasbourg and with contacts made available to him, took the Lyons route down to the French/Spanish border,crossed the Pyrenees for the final stretch to Gib.

    Millar gave the account of his escape and journey over the Pyrenees in The Horned Pigeon.He returned to France as a member of the SOE in Eastern France in Besancon and fought behind the lines with some distinction....the record of his time behind the lines was told in his Maquis....both publications are well worth reading.

    Some years ago the Editor of the France Magazine undertook a Pyrenees crossing to revisit the efforts made by many who crossed into neutral Spain during the war.
  12. Thanks John for the advice. I have tried to contact Keith Janes but with no luck. Do you have a contact number/ email for him. Thanks Ian
  13. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    The daylight raid on the Rennes naval stores,principally U Boat supplies was filmed by a RAF film unit.

    About 40 aircraft took part,two lost over the target due to flak and two returned after sustaining damage....good run in over Brittany, leaving by Start Point (South Devon) and crossing into Brittany at Puren (cannot locate this place) without any interception....squadrons used "St Neots Power Station" for pre op simulated training.....power station would be the old coal fired Little Barford P.S,demolished in the early 1980s ...St Neots nearest town.

    Rennes Naval store (F10). Berlin (Ops 120
  14. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    Just missed a related programme screened on Channel 4 tonight, WW11's Great Escapes.....The Freedom Trails...the trials faced by people seeking to escape Nazi occupation by crossing the French Pyrenees mountains.

    It appears it will be repeated on Monday 9 October at 0110-0200 on Channel 4
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  15. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

    Last edited: Oct 8, 2017
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  16. TriciaF

    TriciaF Junior Member

    Thanks - we'll try to record that.
  17. bear.cub

    bear.cub Member

    Hi Ian,

    Did you get the exact or roughly correct route? I research and walk escape and evasion routes in the Pyrenees.
  18. No I did not. It's all a puzzle to me. It seems that the line was used by SOE also known as the John Carter line, but no records are kept. Unless you know better!
  19. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

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  20. TriciaF

    TriciaF Junior Member

    I've just started reading another book about the escape routes. - Escaping Hitler by Monty Hall . Published by Pan.
    Very well written. He gives that map too.
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