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Tay

Airey Neave
Little Cyclone

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Published in 1954. Airey Neave former prisoner of war himself (later to be murdered by the INLA in a bomb attack outside The House of Commons) based this factual book on interviews he conducted with Andree de Jongh (nickname Dedee) and known as the Little Cyclone.

 

Dedee created the Comet Line, a resistance group that operated in Belgium and France and helped allied Airmen and soldiers return to the UK.

 

This short book gives an account of their practices and the brave (extremely brave) people who daily risked their lives to help the war effort and bring the end of the occupation of their countries and aid the downfall of Hitler and Nazism.

 

Hundreds of helpers including Dedee ended up in concentration camps in Germany. These ‘ordinary’ people who opened up their houses to the escapees, who stole or forged papers, who dealt on the black market to provide food, who moved the men from location to location. They were captured and tortured and imprisoned.

 

Twenty-three were shot, one hundred and thirty three perished of starvation and brutality. But their sacrifices saved eight hundred men of the allies. Not just saving lives and adding to the pool of men able to keep on fighting but bolstering the moral of those airmen daily (and nightly) taking the war to Germany.

 

Dedee was 24 in 1940 when she started the line. She herself escorted 118 servicemen over the Pyrenees.   Dedee survived incarceration for more than two years. She was awarded the George Medal. After the war she trained as a nurse and was working in a hospital in Belgium at the time of the interviews with Neave.

 

The chapters in this book are filled with courageous selfless people who sought to free their nations from tyranny. They worked long hard dangerous hours week in week out constantly living with fear of capture and potential death. Throughout the book I kept thinking of the many self-serving, greedy, corrupt and yes thieving politicians we now have here in the UK and around the world. Of course we have always had corrupt leaders, humanity doesn’t seem able to shake off these parasites. But when we compare their nefarious manipulations of people and state with the men and women of the escape lines………..

 

Perhaps next time we stand in a voting booth considering which politician to vote for we should ask ourselves would this man or woman risk their lives in the same way as the operators of the escape lines. If as I suspect the vast majority would result in a no then perhaps we are voting for the wrong people and perhaps the sacrifices of those brave people should teach us to challenge corruption and demand a better world. (steps down off soap box  :))

 

On reading up on this chapter of history on Wikipedia I found this quote about some of the numbers involved on all escape lines -  

"The authors of the official history of MI9 cite 2,373 British and Commonwealth servicemen and 2,700 Americans taken to Britain by such escape lines during the Second World War. The Royal Air Forces Escaping Society estimated that there were 14,000 helpers by 1945.[3]”"

 

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