Thursday, 14 June 2012

How to Evade Capture Part One - Top Twenty Tips

Occupied Paris 1943 -  Andre Zucca
Carte d' Identité
Three Allied Evaders Walk Behind a German Kriegsmarine Officer at the Trocadero Paris
- 'Ticket To Freedom' -  H J Spiller

1)      If you have landed at night and are not badly injured, count your blessings. You are mobile and still free.

2)      Bury or conceal your parachute, dispose of any secret papers, operational maps etc. and get away from the landing area immediately otherwise your liberty may not last long. Enemy patrols usually motorised, will reach the area within half to three quarters of an hour.  If you’ve not been spotted already, full searches and sweeps will begin at first light.

3)      If you’ve crash landed destroy the aircraft and all secret documents, divide into parties of no more than two and head off initially in different directions (should have been decided before take-off). Endeavour to get clear of a five mile radius from the aircraft, searches rarely cover beyond that.

4)      Once you are well away from the landing point - hide. Good places are woodland, bushes, a ditch next to a hedge or a haystack. Treat farm buildings with care. Surveillance of the place in daylight is advisable before any approach is made. If you land in a town or city, find a deserted shed, hut or garden to conceal yourself until it is daylight.

5)      If you bale out during the day, avoid opening your parachute until the last moment so as not to make yourself too visible. Once your chute is sighted there may be a race between the locals and Germans to reach you first. * Airmen reported seeing parachutists machine gunned or shot at from the ground whilst drifting down.

6)      When you reach the ground, unclip and bundle up your chute, then run away from the site, checking the lie of the land as you go. Make for any nearby trees; observation without being seen is vital to the next decision you will have to make.    

7)      On your way to the first hiding place, carry out minor alterations to your uniform to make it resemble as far as possible civilian clothing. Try to avoid being seen and do not arouse suspicion by being too furtive. Evaders have bluffed the Germans by carrying a bundle of wood, or pretending to work in fields and vineyards.

8)      Try to make your hiding place as near to water as possible – searches can last for three days. During this time use the rations from your escape kit box sparingly. From your ‘bolt hole’, look and listen, wait to see if you spot anyone that looks friendly. The local inhabitants may contact you first.

9)      If there are signs of the enemy searching (especially with dogs), the hiding place may have to be abandoned.

10)  Make sure you are clear on the names and descriptions of members of your crew. Individual members of an aircrew may be picked up by the Resistance in different locations, this will enable the Underground to check up amongst themselves that each airman is genuine and not an enemy agent masquerading as an Allied airman to try and infiltrate escape lines.

11)  Be prepared for further travel alone before you manage to obtain help, and always adopt the attributes, clothing and manners of the local population on your journey back.

12)  It is imperative to remember that one evasion has begun, the sailor,soldier or airman adopts the guise of a civilian, all arms and weapons must be discarded and force must no longer be employed. This does not rule out the rare occurrence where an evader may have to dispose of an enemy, but even then, this method will only be used if and when the lines of helpers are not thereby jeopardised and there are no eye-witnesses.

13)  If travelling on foot across the countryside, try to move at night, resting up in the day in a suitable hiding place.

14)  Keep close to hedges and avoid walking in the centre of fields. It is harder to notice a moving object if it is set against a dark background. Also be wary of crossing the skyline.

15)  Keep to the edges of woods as opposed to walking through the middle; this improves your field of vision and decreases the noise you will make.

16)  Conserve your energy and rations (in case you are chased), take care of your feet and try to sleep in the day when holed up.

17)  Exercise caution if approaching civilians and never approach anyone who is not alone, unless instructed by a helper.

18)  Consider isolated farms off the main roads for assistance. Watch the buildings and activity during the day from a hidden vantage point and if the location is considered free of the enemy make an approach for help once it is dark. Once you are convinced of the owner’s or inhabitant’s good intention, you should declare your true identity and give full particulars. This will assist in verifying who you are. 

19)  Remember that the punishment for helping an evader is death, whereas the evader if discovered will eventually be transferred to a POW camp.    

20)  Never take chances.

Some extracts taken from ‘Escape and Evasion Chapter One’ held at the National Archives.

© Keith Morley


  1. Excellent advice. One thought, why didn't the RAF crews go on missions in civilian clothing? That way they wouldn't have the problem of ditching or adapting uniforms if shot down. Much easier to blend in with the locals (OK, there'd be wearing different clothes to the locals to some extent, but not as explicitly as an RAF uniform, I expect).

    1. Thanks Dan. I guess it becomes a bit tricky as airmen in civilian clothes directly involved on military Ops goes against the rules of war. Anyone operating out of uniform like that would cease to be treated as servicemen under those rules and would be classed as a spy. This made it very dangerous for some of the evaders after they had their Identity Tags taken off them by the escape lines. Even though they weren't doing anything other than trying to evade/escape they would be turned over to the Gestapo or German Police ,put in solitary confinement, interrogated and sometimes knocked about. Some finished up having a really bad time, especiallly if they knew something that the Germans really wanted (often info on the escape line thay had used).Some airmen finished up in concentration camps. The Germans would often take airmen out in front of a firing squad and tell them they were going to execute them. Another ploy was to tell the airman that, return them to their cell then have the firing party execute someone else or fire as if carrying out an execution. Future posts will cover some of these unfortunate chaps.
      On a lighter note. 7 blokes scrambling out of a crashed Halifax aircraft in suits. What a picture.

  2. Very interesting post, Keith. The danger they (and their helpers) faced in unimaginable. Love the photo of the three evaders.

    1. Thanks Liz. The photo was taken secretly. Its the only one I know that features evaders in a well known public place. There are quite a few taken in houses or at farms/in back gardens, but this picture has always fascinated me. Look at the body language of the first two evaders. Could be my imagination, but somehow they just don't look right.

  3. Great post as always. It sounds so easy to just follow the list like that but we all know that real life doesn't follow the straight and narrow.

  4. Thanks Sally. In future posts I'll be picking out some of these 'Tips' and looking at how things went wrong or nearly went wrong.

  5. Good post - what a list though, really makes you think about what it was like...

  6. An enjoyable and interesting post again, Keith, well executed.How frightening to be parachuting down behind enemy lines. At least it has opened, that’s a start.This is what the Parachute preparers felt back at the factories…………

    The Parachute Packers Prayer

    When they posted me here to the section,
    I was free as the pitiless air,
    Unashamed of confessed imperfection,
    Having no sort of burden to bear.
    I was not an incurable slacker;
    Neat, not fussy - I fancied of old,
    But today I'm a Parachute Packer,
    And my heart takes a turn with each fold.

    When I think how I snugly resided
    In the lap of this land we could lose,
    I believe if I left one cord twisted,
    I would place my own neck in a noose.
    So I lay the fine silk on the table
    And I lift each pale panel in turn.
    They have said that my folding is able
    But it took me a long time to learn.

    For the cords must come free for smooth flowing
    And the webbing attachment be stout,
    For the brute of a breeze will be blowing
    If the aircrew have to bale out.
    'Cos the flyer must float unencumbered,
    Come to earth to complete the design,
    See, the 'chute has been carefully numbered,
    And in the name in the log book is mine.

    So is conscience awakened and care born
    In the heart of a negligent maid.
    Fickle Aeolus, fight for the airborne,
    Whom I strive with frail fingers to aid.
    Give my heroes kind wind and fair weather,
    Let no parachute sidle or slump,
    For today we go warring together
    And my soul will be there at the jump.

    G.D. Martineau

    Should the parachute fail-the person who packed it always attended the funeral. Suitable motivation for packing it properly.Once behind enemy lines, the airmen if they were lucky found help with the ‘escapelines’.Now The WW2 Escape Lines Memorial Society is dedicated to the ‘helpers’, escapers and evaders who either organised or used the escape lines of mainland Europe during WW2. Their aim is to; “preserve and commemorate the memory of the ‘helpers’ of the escape lines and of the ‘helpers’ who worked alone, in order to teach successive generations about their vital role in WW2. Without those brave people, many Allied soldiers and airmen, who found themselves stranded behind enemy lines, would not have been able to return to the UK to continue the common fight for freedom; they would have been captured, or dead. They have never forgotten the people who helped them.The ‘‘helpers’’ of the escape lines aided Allies of many nationalities by sheltering, feeding, nursing, and guiding them – they did this at great cost to themselves and their families – many paid with their lives for their selfless acts of humanity and courage towards total strangers.”Humanity and courage towards total strangers. It’s worth repeating and never forgetting.‘When you go home, tell them of us and say, For your tomorrow we gave our today.’