Wednesday, June 1, 2022

The WWII Comet Escape Line

by Cindy Kay Stewart 

Today's post continues the story of the Comet Escape Line. The network was established during World War II to escort downed Allied Airmen safely out of Europe and back into the fight. If you missed the first three posts and would like to read them, they can be found here and here and here.

Dédée De Jongh
Leader of the Comet Line

Dédée De Jongh and her father, Paul, continued to work out of their apartment in Paris. She escorted the Allied airmen south across the border to Spain, and Paul stamped forged identity cards. Fearing that her father would be captured by the Nazis, Dédée convinced him to leave France. On January 13, 1943, the two of them along with Franco and three pilots left Paris on the night train and traveled to Bayonne.

Comet Escape Line Path in Red

The weather had turned bad. Days of tropical rains had flooded the Bidassoa River, making it impossible to cross. The group needed to take a route which was five hours longer than usual, and they would face terrible wind and rain. Paul was not allowed to cross with the team but was told he must wait for better weather and take the shorter route.

Franco returned to Paris to prepare another group to escape. Tante Go, who organized the southern section of the Comet Line, led 
Dédée and the airmen on bicycles to St. Jean de Luz through the pelting rain. Then they navigated the steep slopes to Urrugne on a road that had become a river of mud. Upon arrival at Francia's farmhouse, they were treated to hot milk and soup.

Francia's House in Urrugne

Florentino, the Basque guide who would lead them over the mountains, decided it was too dangerous to make the treck in the tempestuous weather, and the group would have to wait until the next evening to leave. He returned to the town of Ciboure. The storm passed through and was gone by the next morning. The airmen enjoyed Francia's hospitality and played with her children while they waited.

Soon the sound of an engine stopping in front of the house caught everyone's attention. The shadow of a gendarme in uniform passed across the window of the farmhouse, and the door burst open. Ten gendarmes invaded the house and searched everywhere, lifting floorboards and casting furniture and pictures aside. After an hour, the gendarmes marched the group to police headquarters in St. Jean de Luz. It is believed that a disgruntled former guide for the Comet Line had betrayed the group. 

Dédée was transferred to the Villa Chagrin prison in Bayonne the next day. The Gestapo interrogated her, and later moved her to the Maison Blance prison in Biarritz and then to Paris by train under armed guard. Her father Paul returned to Paris under a fictitious name. The safe houses in Paris were overflowing, and he worked to move some of them out through another organization.

If you've enjoyed this story, please return on July 1st to learn more about the courageous Comet Line.


Resource: Little Cyclone by Airey Neave. Biteback Publishing Ltd, 2013, 2016.


Cindy Kay Stewart, a high school social studies teacher, church pianist, and 
inspirational historical romance author, writes stories of hope, steeped in faith and love. Her first manuscript finaled in the Georgia Romance Writers Maggie Award of Excellence, placed second in the North Texas Romance Writers Great Expectations contest, semi-finaled in the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Genesis contest, and won ACFW’s First Impressions contest. Cindy is passionate about revealing God’s handiwork in history. She resides in North Georgia with her college sweetheart and husband of forty years. Their daughter, son-in-law, and four adorable grandchildren live only an hour away. Cindy’s currently writing two fiction series set in WWII Europe.

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