Thursday, 13 September 2012

‘I Know Because I Was There’

German Checkpoint - Occupied France

From the Escape Kit

Escape Map

German Checkpoint

The Escape Line is now 6 months and 20 posts old. That time has passed in an instant for me. The written and verbal comments I receive on and off line are greatly appreciated and hundreds of you read the posts every week. Please continue to let me know what you think of them. I always welcome any feedback or discussion and look forward to hearing your views and stories.


This ‘war within a war’ makes fascinating reading and learning, but it is still in my view a vastly underrepresented area of that conflict in terms of public awareness. In Britain, of the generations outside the war years many know about ‘The Great Escape’ because it is on TV almost every Christmas, some may recall the story and film of the Wooden Horse, but the work around the actual escape lines often passes through unnoticed.


The reverence shown to the Allied fallen of both World Wars is second to none in the European countries formerly under German occupation. Additionally in Britain and its Commonwealth the focus on sacrifices made has been sharpened amongst the modern generations since the conflicts in the Falklands, Gulf War, Iraq 2 and Afghanistan. It is to these generations that we also look to keep the memories of both World Wars alive in the future.


The various World War 2 Escape Organisations and researchers dedicated to Allied commemoration, kinship, history and help to others are all doing amazing work (some excellent factual links below). Their membership and involvement often has a personal or family connection to a patriot or escaper/evader who was involved in an escape line or the resistance. It is right and proper that this should be so, but as the protagonists who took part in the actual events pass into history, it is also vital that those outside of this sphere are also drawn in to learn more of what happened in the escape lines so they are also ready to pass the information and memories on to the next generation.


Recently I took a step back to look at the tone and pathway taken on the blog since my early posts. Factual themes have overtaken the specific threads signposted to writing, which I interspersed into my early initial posts, but I intend to bring the latter back from time to time. As blog posts are different to web sites in their length, depth and focus, a more ‘bite sized’ brevity will always remain the target, giving the reader a taste of the subject. The Escape Line still remains on this course. Towards the safety of a neutral country or Allied lines. 


The title for today’s post stuck in my mind when I first thought about the pitch and tone I initially wanted for The Escape Line. ‘I Know Because I Was There’ is synonymous with the Welsh entertainer Max Boyce as he was present at many memorable matches where the Welsh rugby union team triumphed in their glory years, and he used it in his act. It was a strange analogy to sit with a blog which was about to focus on escape and evasion, but there is no substitute for personally experiencing and witnessing events at first hand and then recording them from the heart.


Whilst the connection here is made purely on the human side rather than from any rugby subject matter, ‘I know because I was there’ made an impression on me when I was young. I was not a rugby union fan and England were not in great shape at the time, but I never forgot what Max Boyce said, and as my interest in World War Two grew,  I began to read diaries, memoirs, eyewitness accounts, personal reminiscences and listen to audio recordings of men, women and children who were there at the time. I wanted to get close, so accompanied by film footage, pictures and visiting the locations this is still the best way. It is also a good angle from which the new reader/listener can look in. They are straight on the front line with the narrator and are ideally placed to see things as they really were, before making a choice as to whether to delve deeper or not. This is often the hook that generates further interest and with this in mind the shape of The Escape Line developed.


I hope that the extracts  from documents, unpublished memoirs, interviews and the paraphrased short pieces from books that I include spark an interest and encourage readers to seek out more information, or even find the book for a full account.


My own book is nearing completion, which brings the usual commitments and tasks on final edit/ submissions. Consequently for a few weeks some of the posts may be a little shorter, but will still retain the same style. I intend to blog weekly every Thursday or Friday from now on.


Do stay in The Escape Line with the patriots and their charges; they fought for what they believed in and they fought for our freedom.


The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of others.












  1. Keith, my goodness how time does indeed fly!

    Very informative blog you have created here, and anyone wanting to know more about 'the war within the war' as you say, and 'escape' is going to learn a lot by reading your researched words.

    I understand you need to get on, and finish your book, and I am sure your shorter posts will keep us interested and entertained.

    Good post, and good luck with the WIP.

  2. Thanks Maria. I'm looking forward to the next set of posts and some fresh angles on this subject. Manuscript is close to completion and submission now.

  3. These posts have been a major source of information and of great human interest. I previously didn't know much about the 'war within a war' apart from the usual fare served up by the popular media or what I gleaned from my own reading. I knew about the SOE and the lives of spies but stories tended to be mostly about a few famous people who were decorated for their gallant service.Here we have gone into many personal situations and have learnt so much about this time and the people in it.I agree we need to perpetuate this knowledge for future generations and there are people who survived terrible circumstances who go into schools to make history come to life for the pupils. I recall flicking through the pages of a history book at school and suddenly coming across a photograph of a soldier who had been run over by a tank.That image remained with me for quite a while.Writers are constantly being told to write about what they know-but the war poets didn't have to sit staring at a blank page-they were inspired by their plight and the plight of others.Siegfried Sassoon said that his poem which began 'everyone suddenly burst out singing'....was written in one go whilst on his way to bed. he stopped by a table and picked up the pen and just wrote it straight down. Like Max Boyce's titular phrase here Sassoon knew because he had 'been there'. I recall Max and his programmes and the reverence he gave to the legendary Welsh Rugby team. They were proud to pull on the shirt. Like our Escapers and evaders they were proud to fight for their country.I definately want to now discover exactly what my two late Grandfathers did in the War. Cyril Bernard Charlton and Vero John Vye. One in the Army as RSM and the latter in the RAF. These posts have been about the survivors and their helpers and continues to be an inspiration.We have learnt much and there is more to come.
    'I have a journey Sir, Shortly to go, my master calls me I must not say no........' The escapeline journey continues.........