Today's post continues the story of the Comet Escape Line, the network established during World War II to escort downed Allied Airmen safely out of Europe and back into the fight. If you missed the first four posts and would like to read them, they can be found here and here and here and here.
Masson brought his first group of seven airmen down from Brussels to the Gare Montparnesse (train station) in Paris to the delight of Paul and others working with him in Paris. Masson was eager to please, polite, and treated Paul with deference. In early June, Masson warned Paul to be prepared for a large party arriving from Brussels on June 7th. He stated that all Paul's helpers would be needed.
|Gare Montparnesse - Station for Trains to and from Belgium|
On June 7th, two women workers were sent north to Lille to meet Masson and the pilots and help escort them to Paris. When they arrived, Masson met them and handed over an airman to each of the women. One couple went to a little café across the street while they waited for the train back to Paris. They were promptly surrounded by the Gestapo and arrested. The other couple was arrested after the train left the station.
Late that same day, Paul and two other team members arrived at the Gare du Nord and were waiting on the platform as Masson had requested. Masson arrived with a number of Allied airmen and greeted Paul's group, shaking hands and smiling. Soon the group was surrounded by at least twelve gendarmes (police). They were all handcuffed and led to the headquarters of the railway police, including Jean Masson.
|Gare du Nord (train station) at the end of the street|
The three people in Paul's group were taken to the Gestapo office on the Rue des Saussaies. Jean Masson was not with them, but he soon showed up, smiling and free of handcuffs. He spat on the floor in front of them, and called them fools. Paul and his helpers were shocked to discover Masson was a traitor.
Franco returned to Paris from Spain eight days later and went to Paul's apartment on the Rue Vaneau. He discovered rotting fruit and moldy vegetables. He gathered up all the false papers and money he could find and loaded them into a suitcase and hurried away. Franco and another operative checked the apartments of other helpers and discovered their doors had been sealed by the Gestapo. Realizing Paul and his helpers had been arrested, Franco and his helper grieved the loss of their friends. This didn't stop Franco, however. He was more determined than ever to keep the Comet Line running.
If you've enjoyed this story, please return on August 1st to follow the continuing perils of the Comet Line.