(Text in French / Version française de cette page : )
Spring 1944. A beautiful day beckons in a little village in the North of France. Above the horizon streaks of condensation cross the sky in a very characteristic manner. These are from American bombers. They are going towards the East, and there are lots of them. For months now, the Allies are intensifying their missions over Germany and on strategic targets in occupied territory, including France. The Landings are imminent and aerial forces are called upon to neutralise bridges, marshalling yards and aerodromes etc. The American attack during the day and the English at night. There is no let-up on the pressure on the enemy.
The passage of the bombers over the village is nothing unusual, but today several of them appear to be in difficulty. One in particular is visibly hit. It is isolated and slower than the group, and rapidly loses altitude while the rest of the squadron is about to pass right over the village. Firing from DCA or an attack by a fighter? Difficult to say, but what is certain is that the bomber in difficulty is heading right for... the village! The aircraft seems to have become uncontrollable, and the smoke which is coming from the two engines leaves no doubt about the fate of the crew if the only decision which is possible is not taken immediately: namely, to evacuate the aircraft.
A stream of white points spreads out in the sky, behind the stricken aircraft. Without any doubt these are parachutes. The aircraft disappears behind the hill. The crash occurs a few kilometres from the village, while the parachutes are still in the air. The plume of smoke from the explosion is visible for miles around. Have all the members of the crew managed to escape. Where will they land?
In the next few minutes several German vehicles cross the village in a great hurry and go towards the site of the crash. Obviously, the villagers are not the only ones to have witnessed the crash. The Germans have two objectives: to surround the crash site in order to prevent anyone from reaching what is left of the aircraft and also to stop all the airmen who have survived. For the Occupier, there is no question of leaving in the wild trained and highly qualified airmen, since they could quickly rejoin their base via lines of escape which have been built up throughout the war. Also, the French population have been warned that all aid given to Allied airmen will result in the death penalty or deportation. Posters have been put up by the German authorities in the towns and villages of France.
By the evening calm is restored. The Germans have, so it appears, arrested several airmen and interrogated the population of the village and the neighbouring farms. They have left but have not laid hands on the whole crew, and they know it. They will undoubtedly come back the next day and will use persuasive methods to obtain the information which they require. Suddenly, at the bottom of a garden, there are unusual movements in a bush. A bedraggled man, exhausted, needs help. He does not speak a word of French, but his clothing leaves to doubt as to his identity. He is a “parachutist”! The back door of a house opens and a villager beckons to him to enter.
This house marks the beginning of a long journey, as dangerous for the airman as for those who help him escape to get back to England, if ever he makes it back...
The object and organisation of this website
The scene described in the preamble repeated itself numerous times, and in different forms. The help given to Allied airmen, spontaneous or organised, allowed several thousand men (Americans, English, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders and even Frenchmen) to escape and return to England, or to hide until the Liberation.
This site is entirely and uniquely dedicated to those who helped on or several Allied airmen to escape capture by the Occupant. The term “Helpers” will be freely used to characterise them.
The six main sections of this site are accessible via the above menu or by clicking on the icons below.