Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Andree de Jongh: Founder of the Comet Line

Andree de Jongh, courtesy of Sherri Greene Ottis.

Andree de Jongh was a native of Belgium, a 23 year-old artist and nurse-in-training when the Germans overran Belgium in the spring of 1940. She had been inspired to study nursing by Edith Cavell, the heroic British nurse who was executed in Brussels by a firing squad during World War I because she had helped British servicemen escape from German-occupied Belgium.

Andree's father, Frederic, who had lived through that previous war, broke down in tears of rage and despair when he saw the Germans march into Brussels, Belgium's capital city. Andree, who had never seen her father cry before, comforted him by saying "You'll see what we'll do to them. You'll see, they are going to lose this war. They started it, but they are going to lose it."

When Andree realized there were Allied servicemen trapped inside Belgium because they had attempted to assist the Belgian army against the Nazi invasion, she organized a series of safe houses in and around Brussels where the servicemen could hide, receive civilian clothing, and secure false identity papers. They couldn't stay there forever, though; they had to get back to England somehow. The path back to England was through France, over the Pyrenees Mountains, into neutral Spain, then home to Great Britain.

Excerpt from Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue.

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