Thursday, 29 November 2012

The Guides - Part Six


Typical Corridor Coach Encountered by Evaders - Auzeau 2007 & Patrick Baldy

The De Greef family - Left Elvire de Greef  'Tante Go'   Right Janine de Greef

Pilot Officer Bob Kellow

On the Trains (1)

Evaders and escapers were heavily reliant on train travel to cover the long distances necessary to reach freedom. In Germany there were no escape lines or guides, so fugitives using the trains had to rely on their own resource and ingenuity to try for freedom. In the Nazi occupied territories of North Western Europe, escape networks did operate and it was to these that evading and escaping service personnel were often passed. The guide was an essential tool in the trafficking process as the fugitives were moved down the lines. 
Various strategies were adopted by escape lines and their guides around train travel to minimise suspicion, reduce risks and transport their charges to the next point as inconspicuously as possible (See Post The Guides – Part Two.) Any arrests or problems affected the security of the whole line and the lives of its operators.  
Pilot Officer Bob Kellow was waiting at Brussels Gare Midi railway station in 1943 with an RAF evader known as ‘Bill Williams’. The men had been passed train tickets discreetly by their guide and were told to follow two men waiting near the ticket barrier at a distance.

‘The men were moving towards the barrier and we quickly moved up behind them but not too closely. We showed our tickets as we passed through, then followed our guides along the platform. They peered through the windows of each coach searching for an empty compartment and eventually stopped by an open door….We quickly followed them. Looking down the long corridor I saw them move into the standing area at the end of the coach. We followed, found a space next to them and leaned against the wall. As I stood with my back to the wall and my hands behind me I could feel the handle of the door. Then I suddenly felt something else. Something had been pushed through the handle. With a glance at our guide who nodded, I carefully removed the object and found it was two magazines rolled together. I passed one to Bill and we became immediately engrossed in these publications. It mattered that neither of us could understand a single word written in them. At least we had something to do to avoid eye contact and unwanted conversations with other passengers.’
The practice of passing over railway tickets by way of a handshake was sometimes utilised by guides. Other methods were also used to transfer tickets, including outside the station and in cafes,  but sometimes a straightforward process could go wrong as RAF Flying Officer Alfie Martin described in 1943 when he left Paris on the night train for Bordeaux:

‘Not long after we had started, the lady with us looked across, took out her rail ticket, and by signs asked me if I had ours. I shook my head, felt in all my pockets and brought out the seat reservations but no tickets. Then there started a great panic. I went out into the corridor, she followed and I explained that the man had not given them to me. For some time I thought that Doug and I were as good as captured, but the lady went up the train and after some time came down again, passed me in the corridor, went in and sat down. After she had passed I searched my pockets and discovered two tickets, so dangling them in my fingers I went back into the compartment and took my seat. At once she sat up and started talking to me, much to my consternation and she showed me two tickets which she had just purchased from the conductor. I thought that she had slipped the tickets into my pocket as she had passed, but they must have been put there by the man who had showed us on to the train….I had been entirely unaware that they were in my pocket. The conversation was of great interest to the other passengers but did not arouse particular attention. After I had made a few monosyllabic replies, they all sat back and continued their reading.’
This chain of events could easily have led to disaster.

Escape Lines and their guides often had to think carefully and consider all eventualities when changing plans as Pilot Officer Robert Horsley of RAF 50 Squadron discovered in June 1942 while travelling south in France with Comete’s Andrée de Jong. Horsley also had to be ready for some adaptations of his own:
‘At about six in the morning …the train pulled into Bayonne station; Les and I were instructed to stay put and Andrée left with Hal and Jean. After about ten minutes the train pulled out of Bayonne station, there was no sign of Andrée. We immediately suspected the worst….However our fears were soon allayed when Andrée entered with two other ladies, the elder was code named ‘Tante Go’ and the other was her daughter Janine. ‘Tante Go’ told me that they were checking papers very carefully at St Jean de Luz and it would be very unwise for me to have to pass through the checkpoint. They had arranged another method for me to leave the station; again they pointed out that I looked too much like a German and the German checker might think I was a German deserter; how I hated my Germanic looks.
The plan was outlined as follows: I should get off the train and I should go straight into the ‘Pissoir’ on the platform, then exit by the back door, walk across the marshalling yards to a gate, where I would see a man with an Alsatian dog. I should follow him and he would lead me to my hiding place.
Now I have never been inside a French ‘Pissoir’  and in my mind it was like any other English Gentleman’s toilet; imagine my horror when I later discovered that the wall was just above waist high and one urinated whilst saying ‘hallo’ to the rest of the  world.’

Horsley got off the train taking advantage of some raucous behaviour by Spanish soldiers on the platform. He did what he needed to do, then wandered casually out of the toilet and back exit in full view of the passing crowds, made for the opening on to the tracks and walked across them without challenge to the man with the Alsatian dog waiting for him. This was a risky move which paid off as Horsley went on to successfully evade capture.


Paths to Freedom – Bob Kellow

Bale Out. Escaping Occupied France with the Resistance – Alfie Martin

Free to Fight Again – Alan Cooper

Next Week - On the Trains (2)

© Keith Morley

Friday, 23 November 2012

The Guides - Part Five

Belgian 'Streetcar'

USAAF Robert Grimes
Ernest Van Moorleghem - one of the five guides for John Justice

Alphonse Escrinier - another of the five guides for John Justice

On the Trams

Evader’s accounts of tram travel in occupied North Western Europe primarily centred on Brussels, Antwerp plus its approaches and Holland. ‘Streetcars’ as the American airmen called them were often used in moving evaders from one safe house to another, taking them to another location for questioning or to have their photograph taken for false papers. In some reports evaders used the tram with their guides and then walked back to their safe house for exercise to help build up strength or recover after injury/wounding. If certain protocols were followed, risks could be minimised, (see The Guides Part One), but trams were still dangerous places where the unexpected might happen and things could go wrong.  

First Lieutenant John Justice had to have his wits about him when being taken across Brussels in late 1943. He had been sheltered for his first night in the city, but had to move on the next afternoon:

‘The young lady explained that it was too dangerous for me to stay there. She gave me instructions that I was to follow her down the street. She would stop and talk to someone and I was to follow that person onto a streetcar. Later someone would get on the streetcar and speak to the man I was following. I was then to follow this new contact. During the streetcar ride, my contact changed five times and when the last contact spoke to no one and got off the streetcar I followed him. He went into a building and I followed.’ 

Australian airman Pilot Officer Bob Kellow of 617 Squadron who had taken part in the famous Dams Raid four months before baling out of his aircraft, described events on a long tram journey through the countryside to Antwerp. With ‘Michou’ Dumon (also k/a ‘Lily’) and a mystery man known as ‘The Chief’ as his guides, Kellow had good reason to be apprehensive. He had no identity card and a decision had been made by his two guides to risk travelling. It was a Sunday and just after 6.00am. The operators had decided to take a chance because of the early morning and day of the week, but there were precautions necessary after he had boarded the tram as Kellow described:

‘I took a window seat and Lily took the seat opposite. I didn’t look at her because I was more interested in what the man was doing. He was still standing on the platform earnestly engaged in talking to the conductor. The latter looked at me curiously, then gave an understanding nod to our male companion. I assumed the man trusted the conductor and had told him who his two passengers were. This assumption was correct as Lily later confirmed it….Several times I looked round the car and saw the conductor staring at me, but when our eyes met he turned away. I also noticed that whenever we approached a stopping point, he would lean out of one side of the car and peer ahead, then do the same out of the other side. Lily later told me he was watching to see if there was a ‘Checker’, usually a German or German collaborator who checked tickets. If a ‘Checker’ had any doubt he could ask for identity papers. Lily also told me that had the conductor seen one of these men, he would have signalled us to leave the tram at the next stop, with us exiting on the side opposite to the one the ‘Checker’ was standing on.’

In Kellow’s account, there is an absence of German soldiers and enemy personnel boarding and leaving the tram as they frequently did during normal hours. This was certainly factored into the decision to move him on that day and at that moment. It is doubtful whether the conductor would have adopted the ‘lookout’ strategy in such an obvious manner at any other time.

However well planned travel on trams was, certain events could still put the fugitives in danger. American Flyer Art Horning was travelling on a tram in Brussels when it stopped for an air raid siren and everyone including several German officers got out onto the street which seemed to be the standard procedure. A dogfight was taking place in the skies overhead between German and American aircraft. Two of the German planes were hit and retreated with the Americans in pursuit.

The occupants of the tram began to scream and clap as the Germans retreated. The officers stared and looked menacing, but the Belgians continued to talk about the action. Horning got back on the tram and continued his journey, but events could have taken a more sinister turn as they did with injured American flyer Robert Grimes. He was being sheltered in Brussels recovering from a wound in his leg and with curfew approaching got on a tram with his guide ‘Michou’ Dumon.

A platoon of German soldiers surrounded the tram and ordered everyone off for an identity check. A number of men in plainclothes stood back in the shadows. Checks like this were often carried out at random, but in this instance Grimes felt that the soldiers were looking for something specific. Checks were intended to catch men dodging the forced labour draft, Resistance personnel, evaders and anyone whose papers were not in order.

The passengers were lined up with hands raised and three soldiers worked their way down the line checking papers and searching them. As Grimes stood waiting he palmed a piece of incriminating evidence into the crook of his raised right thumb and index finger and hoped that it would not be seen in the dark. He always carried his ‘lucky’ fragment of bullet that had lodged itself in his leg and had been surgically removed by a doctor in Brussels. Grimes handed over his papers and was searched without incident. 


Unpublished Memoirs – John Justice

Paths to Freedom – Bob Kellow

In the Footsteps of a Flying Boot – Art Horning

The Freedom Line – Peter Eisner

© Keith Morley

Thursday, 15 November 2012

The Guides - Part Four

Paris Street in 1943 - Andre Zucca

Photo of  Pilot Officer Jimmy Elliott Taken for False Identity Card

Comete Operator & Guide Anne Brusselmans

In the Streets

Guides navigated the streets with their evaders to move them to safe houses or catch trams, trains and buses. Another reason was to visit a photography shop or house to have the evaders photographed for their false identity cards.

Pilot Officer Jimmy Elliott (accompanied by another evader) described his arrival in Paris Gare du Nord. Following his guide his guide the famous ‘Michou’ Dumon off the train, events became far from routine:

‘I tried to keep an eye on Michou as she mingled with the crowds leaving the platform, but she was so small that she simply disappeared. With no little relief we cleared the platform, and I spotted her strolling nonchalantly in the concourse obviously waiting for us to catch up. Then came a spell of ‘follow the leader’ with the two of us well spaced out ‘in line astern’ behind her. The game was a trifle confusing to begin with but eventually it was evident that she was trying to discover if she was being ‘tailed.’ We walked about, we doubled back, we went into Metro Stations then came out again, we entered Metro stations and then travelled for two or three stops etc. The game ended when eventually she headed for the street and we saw her approaching a tall blonde woman, whom she had obviously arranged to meet’  See earlier Post ‘Madame Black and Madame Blonde’.
‘We walked on and stood apart about 30 yards away, watching what would develop. I could see from the earnestness of the conversation, that something was amiss. This certainly wasn’t a cheerful chat or an exchange of gossip. Still looking mighty serious they shook hands as they parted, with an indication from Michou that we should now follow the new guide.
Blondie set off along the street with me bringing up the rear but watching very carefully what was happening ahead. She certainly was striding out purposefully at a high rate of knots. Perhaps I was concentrating so much on the elegant carriage of our new guide or maybe I was admiring her legs too much, but then suddenly I was aware of a man having fallen in step beside me. In perfect English I heard him say ‘Just keep on walking. I have a few questions I would like to ask you. Just answer them very quietly.’ He then proceeded to ask me a number of questions mainly of RAF service jargon – which only a genuine RAF type would know……….’

After Elliott had given his answers the man explained that there had been a number of arrests during the night which would mean a change of plan. He told Elliott not to worry, all would be alright and then he disappeared into the crowd leaving Elliott to continue following his guide who was still a safe distance away.
This sequence of events took place in Paris during November 1943 and although the Geheime Feldpolizei had parts of the Comete Escape Line under surveillance at that time*, the organisation bravely continued, and well organised guiding was a feature of this slick sector of the operation. *See The Traitors Part Two – Maurice Grapin

Guides on the lines worked in a relay system and were often just one link in a very big chain. Each concentrated on their own job with little or no knowledge of the links that came before and after. It was safer for the evaders/escapers, the guide’s own protection and the overall security of the line if they knew little about its operation.  Consequently they never got to know the evaders and usually operated under pseudonyms if names were given.

According to Pierre Moreau:
‘to the guide, evaders were sometimes just faces passing each other with no other contact than a silent handshake, but you could always read their thanks  and gratitude in their eyes in the last gaze exchanged before they left.’

As a teenage guide Moreau had to keep cool and think on his feet when escorting several airmen in a coastal region town when he realised one of the group was missing. He left the men in a safe place and backtracked to try and find the missing evader. At a distance he observed the evader examining German tanks on the main street.
The reader one can feel anger rising at the crass stupidity of this act. Moreau could not approach the man as it had become too dangerous. He did record later that it was difficult not to overreact when the evader rejoined the party.

RAF Sergeant Kenneth Skidmore often sought his own Guide to get away from danger. In his book ‘Follow the Man with the Pitcher’ he describes a number of instances during his evasion where his deep Christian faith and regular reference to his pocket bible guided him to make decisions which avoided capture.
Tired, unshaven and dirty after landing, and still in his battledress minus insignia, he had turned off a village street into a lane:   

‘I was startled to see ahead of me, a German soldier – fully armed. Regaining my composure, I continued towards him without changing pace or direction. I spontaneously picked up a piece of wood and began to whistle.
The thought flashed into my mind ‘Go follow the man with the pitcher of water.’ This command was part of the instructions our Lord gave to His disciples for the preparation of the Last Supper, which I had read in St. Luke Chapter 22 whilst hiding in the barn. This is ridiculous I thought. Furthermore where was the man to follow. The only one around was the German soldier, who by this time I deduced was guarding some place ahead.
'Go follow the man with the pitcher of water’ persisted as the thought driving all other thoughts from my mind as I drew nearer to the enemy.

 At that moment into the lane came a horse and cart driven by a man. He stepped out of the cart carrying what looked like a milk-can in his right hand….I paused while he overtook me. I followed behind him. My lead was here. What lay ahead was immaterial. I had been told to follow a man with a pitcher of water and was doing exactly that. The man was carrying a can, a modern counterpart for a liquid container. I had made the promise to be guided by His Word and my mind was clear of doubt or questioning.

The man made straight for the entrance being guarded by the soldier and walked past him without challenge.’

Greetings were exchanged between the two and Kenneth Skidmore followed, doing the same with a polite ‘bonjour' to the soldier. Wearing RAF battledress, he had walked straight into a German encampment.
He describes what happened next:

‘Soldiers were grooming horses and generally going about their tasks whilst my ‘pitcher-carrier’ walked ahead….My confidence was tested when into the scene came a German officer. He appeared to be suspicious about my presence, for he ignored the pitcher carrier and proceeded towards me.
…I looked hard at this smartly dressed field-officer, telepathing through my eyes my every right to be here in this place.….The officer stood still as if transfixed and seemed disarmed by my audacity. Not a word was spoken. I continued to follow my ‘pitcher-carrier.’ This ‘follow my leader’ procedure ended when having passed through the camp and out at the other side my ‘pitcher-carrier’ entered a nearby house. I was no longer impelled to follow, so turning left in the other direction and away from the camp I began to run.’

A few hours later, still alone, Skidmore was walking down the busy street of another village:
‘I failed to notice standing side by side two German soldiers, one of whom appeared to be an officer. They were both smart, alert and were peering around in an inquisitive manner. They began to walk in my direction. I stopped without a thought in my head.
As if from nowhere, a man appeared from one of the houses carrying a bucket. Here thought I, was my second water-carrier….A few more paces along the road and my bucket-carrier entered a house.  Without hesitation before he could close the door, I was inside, though not before glancing back at the two Germans who appeared to have lost interest in my movements.’

Although the occupants were initially completely bewildered at seeing Skidmore standing there, after he had identified himself, the middle aged couple agreed to help.

The nature of these last two events, show that truth is sometimes stranger than fiction.  


An Unusual Day – James M Elliott

Silent Heroes – Sherri Greene Ottis

Follow the Man with the Pitcher – Kenneth Skidmore

Next Week – The Trams

© Keith Morley

Thursday, 8 November 2012

The Guides - Part Three

Photos of  Squadron Leader Walter Wallington & Flying Officer Robert Clements taken for false Identity Cards

Typical Belgian Haystacks
In the Countryside

Guiding evaders and escapers on foot or by bicycle across the countryside in occupied Europe often occurred during the early part of their journey before the fugitives were filtered into organised escape lines. Because of the distances involved in getting their charges to the safety of a neutral country, the organised lines relied heavily on public transport, but occasions arose where this became too dangerous or the transport was simply not available.

The Comete Escape Line often crossed the Belgian and French/Spanish borders on foot; with bicycles being used from Dax, Bordeaux or St Jean de Luz and then on foot over the Pyrenees. One route briefly operated with the use of a car crossing from Belgium into France where the border post barrier would ‘miraculously’ lift as the car approached. Evaders from other lines also crossed on foot or by bicycle from Holland into Belgium.

Evaders and escapers rarely encountered an established escape line soon after landing, so they relied on patriots or members of the Resistance to help them. Men and women often made on the spot decisions to become involved and help for the first time when evaders appeared without warning. Guiding the evader to a safe place and then finding someone who could help was high risk. The Germans and their sympathisers would already be on alert and searching (in daylight – immediately, at night – immediately if the parachute had been sighted, otherwise first light). 

Best practices were often not used, simply because there was insufficient time or the guide, relying on instinct had not fully considered them. They accompanied their charges on foot or by bicycle in daylight and used ordinary roads. Evaders had to be moved quickly despite the associated risks, even if it involved confinement in ‘safe’ open air locations.

Often, civilian clothes could not be obtained immediately and there was no chance of false identity papers. Leaving an evader in the main search area with or without shelter would inevitably lead to complications and travelling at night after curfew could be dangerous, especially if knowledge of the countryside away from the roads was not strong.

Theory and practice could be poles apart, Guides had to think quickly, be ready to improvise and sometimes just chance their luck.

Flying Officer Robert Clements of 57 Squadron RAF approached a farmhouse at night after landing. Having been directed to a barn, he described what happened next in his evasion report:

‘The following morning I was awakened by an armed man, who pointed a revolver at me, at the same time demanding my maps and compasses. I handed these over to him, which seemed to satisfy him that I was genuine…

At 09.00 hrs he returned with two girls. I was taken into the house and closely questioned. After removing the tops of my boots* and my moustache (all young Belgians have removed their moustaches since the occupation as Hitler wears one) I cycled with the two girls to Exel. On the way we passed three squads of Germans and though I was still wearing my battle-dress, they took no notice of me.’

* British and Comonwealth airmen wore flying boots where the top part could be cut off leaving the remaining part as a shoe.   

In his book the Comet Connection, American flier Sergeant George Watt described how within a few hours of landing in Belgium his passage across country was initially much more text book:

‘We covered about two kilometres, cutting across fields and ditches and country roads. Whenever we came to a road, my guide would stop, crouch close to the ground, and look up and down in both directions before he let me cross. Once again I marvelled at the caution and skill of the farmer in using the terrain.’

A few hours later having briefly been sheltered in the kitchen of a house and wearing a hastily assembled set of civilian clothes minus a shirt and hat, things took an unexpected turn as Watt walked down a road alongside his guide.

‘Off in the distance ahead of us I thought I heard the persistent sound of water passing over a millwheel. The sound grew louder as we continued walking. Suddenly it wasn’t water over a mill. It was the clatter of horses’ hoofs… They were coming towards us. It’s a cavalry patrol coming back from the search I thought…….I glanced anxiously at the old man……

‘Lets hide here’.

The old man was disturbingly undisturbed. ‘No’ he said. ‘Just remember. Nicht sprechen. Let me do all the talking.’

I thought he was crazy. Why take a chance. But I could not show him I was afraid. Besides, he was leading me, and I knew I would follow him…….Two truck horses were pulling an old World War One army wagon. It had an arch over the top and in the driver’s seat were three German soldiers…..The old man broke into a spirited conversation with me speaking in Flemish. He could have been talking of this year’s crop or the weather, for all I knew. Not only couldn’t I understand the language, but I was not listening to him. I was concentrating on my feet. ‘Keep walking’ I said to myself. ‘Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Don’t run. Don’t turn away. Don’t panic now….look them straight in the eye’

Goddam that moon! It’s always there when you don’t want it. Why is that end man over there looking at me like that? Could he be…? Cut it out you’re getting panicky. He can’t tell you’re no Belgian. Boy am I glad I didn’t get that haircut. I look less GI this way. 

‘Guten Abend’ the old man said to them.

I nodded my head in greeting.

‘Guten Abend’ the ‘superman’* said.

It took Watt all of his nerve not to look around then break into a run. He travelled the next four kilometres with his guide to a safe-house in Hamme. 

*Earlier term used by the guide for a German.

Squadron Leader Walter Wallington RAF 487 Squadron was a Mosquito pilot and described in his evasion reports how his early ‘guides’ adopted a rather chilly strategy which did not follow typical patterns:

‘I made for some fields and hid in a ditch which a farmer pointed out to me. After half an hour, I decided to find a better hiding place and made my way back along the main road until I came to a haystack. I crawled right into the middle of the haystack and remained there for thirty six hours, while the Germans were making a very thorough search of the neighbourhood. Several times they passed within a few yards of the haystack.  

I was eventually discovered by a small boy who brought his father to see me. He provided me with some food and brought a man who could speak a little English. He told me that ‘friends’ had been enquiring about me and offered to get in touch with them for me. He warned me to remain hidden, as there were several German patrols stationed round about.

On 10 October 1943 at 21.00 hours a man came and took me to a village near Oost Eeecloo where I was again hidden in a haystack. I was provided with food and peasants’ clothing and told to remain where I was until called for. I stayed here until 12 October when I was removed to another haystack. This performance was repeated several times until the beginning of November, when the weather became too severe for me to remain out of doors continually and I was allowed to seek shelter in a farmhouse.’

Whilst cycling at a respectable distance behind his guide during the early part of his evasion in France, RAF Sergeant Kenneth Skidmore described what happened as a result of momentarily losing his concentration:.

‘After cycling many miles we arrived at a junction in Pont L’Evique. It was her that my attention was distracted by the sight of a tall, smartly dressed knee booted German , standing to attention. How impressive he looked. During my admiration of his appearance, I had failed to notice which way the cyclist ahead of me had taken and he was now out of sight. There were three roads to choose – but which one?’


British & Commonwealth Evasion Reports

The Comet Connection – George Watt

Follow the Man with the Pitcher – Kenneth Skidmore

Next week - In the Streets

© Keith Morley

Thursday, 1 November 2012

The Guides - Part Two

Odile de Vasselot

Chemin de la Liberté- Pyrenees
Florentino Goicoechea

In this second post on a ‘Guide’s Guide’ some of the extracts from a booklet might have looked like as below, had one ever been written.


Consider using trams when moving evaders from one location to another. Providing everyone knows exactly what they have to do, this mode of transport is useful when travelling across the bigger cities and suburbs.

Whilst riding on trams can speed up operations, caution must still be exercised. Follow your instructions exactly, no matter how trivial or simple they may seem. ‘Convoyers’ should not look as though they are travelling with their charge(s) but must be ready to intervene at any given moment if an outsider tries to start up a conversation with the evader(s) under their care.

Trams are liable to ‘stop and searches’ by the enemy and also ticket inspections. The latter can also involve presentation of identity papers and the need to answer questions. If either of these occurs you will be required to make an instant judgement as to your next action. Once a check is in operation there may be little you can do to help your evader. If the evader is carrying an identity card signifying they are a deaf mute, care should be taken when involving yourself, as the enemy has a number of ruses to expose this practice.

To anticipate problems, position yourself so that the evader is within easy reach, you can see the stop ahead in good time and the second exit door if there is one is nearby (usually on the road side of the tram). This will enable you to spot a ticket inspector/ possible ‘stop and search’ and get off the tram with your charge well before it reaches the next stop.

As with travelling on foot, if the handover to another guide contains a signal or action, be sure that your charge can see it and that it is safe to pass them on. Also be certain that you have identified the new guide correctly by way of appearance (if known) or signal e.g. 'the new guide will be standing at a prearranged street corner wearing a brown raincoat with a rolled up newspaper in his right hand. Approach him and shake hands, the guide will move slowly away and your charge should follow him at the usual distance. If the newspaper is in the left hand, it is not safe to approach and you must proceed to the standby location to await further instructions.'  


Adopt similar strategies to those of travelling on trams. If you are responsible for buying train tickets, you will already have any necessary documentation (if required) in order to do this. Do not buy tickets together so they are sequential, this can arouse suspicion if the travellers are sitting or standing next to each other and do not appear to be acquainted.

Consider giving your charges a copy of Signal magazine. This is a German propaganda publication and will give them something to look at in order to avoid eye contact. It may also help discourage someone trying to begin a conversation.

If you need to give tickets to your charge(s), approach them and shake hands passing over the ticket. Their papers will already have been arranged unless you have been told otherwise. It may be too dangerous to travel in the same compartment or carriage, so be sure that you know whether your charges have been briefed on this in advance. If not, inform them of your strategy e.g. they look out for you when it is time to leave the train and know what to do after that - i.e. handover to another guide or follow to the ticket barrier and proceed as briefed.  


Be sure that each of your charges can ride a bicycle. Ask the question – some cannot!

Be clear of your route and use back streets, isolated country lanes and tracks to minimise the risk of encountering checkpoints and being observed. Approach towns away from main roads and travel around the edges if possible.

You will often journey with another guide accompanying the party (usually four evaders to two guides). Best strategy is for a gap of no less than 100 metres between each cyclist. This will help avoid suspicion that the party is travelling together. One guide leading and one bringing up the rear is the best methodology. Ensure you have a clear signalling system for the guide cycling in front to warn of impending danger and that your charges know what action to take when they see that signal. 

Across the Mountains

These are usually undertaken with personnel who have specialist knowledge and if it is the Pyrenees, Spanish Guides will take over for part of the journey.

If you are walking the more severe mountain routes, ensure that your charges have a walking stick, espadrilles (special shoes for grip) and that they tie something white to their sticks (usually a handkerchief) so the person in front can be seen in the dark. At night the party must travel as close together as possible to avoid getting lost and falling, and it is good practice for guides to wear a white disk on their back or pack to assist the party in following.

Good speed is essential as travel should be done in the hours of darkness wherever possible, but care must be taken to avoid accidents. Remember that your charges will not be experienced climbers; they do not know the location and may tire quickly. The mountains are full of ravines, sheer drops and places where someone can fall.  

Be ready to link together to ford rivers if necessary and watch out for German border patrols, Spanish guards and smugglers. The latter may be using the same route as your party.

Remember Spanish prisons can be very unpleasant.  Avoid capture.  

Next few weeks – Drawing from official reports, books, diaries and memoirs - what really happened.

© Keith Morley