This fascinating book uses first hand accounts to take us into the world of the evaders and the many people who helped them escape from Nazi occupied Europe. This is the world most famously portrayed in the BBC series "Secret Army", and was a mix of short bursts of high adventure and long periods of tension, as Allied airmen and soldiers attempted to avoid the SS, the Gestapo, uncertain local policemen, traitors and informants to return to Britain.
This book made me realise how badly distorted the image of the evader has become over the years - the vast majority of escape stories start in a POW camp, and focus on the ingenious methods used to get past the wire (one only has to think of The Great Escape or the Colditz Story), but this book makes it clear that by far the largest group of evaders were aircrew who never fell into German hands, closely followed by men who were left behind after the Dunkirk evacuation.
Nichol and Rennell start with the moment the evader realised they isolated in occupied Europe, normally just after escaping from their burning aircraft. We then follow our evaders as they realise that they are going to have to risk making contact with Dutch, Belgian or French civilians, not always with good results. For those who found their way into the evasion network, the ..
The book covers a lot of ground, from the earliest evaders, left behind after the French collapse in May-June 1940, through the period when airmen were falling into occupied Europe, into the operations to rescue the survivors of Operation Market Garden, and on to the efforts many made to escape from the chaotic German POW system in the last days of the war.
The real heroes of this book are the Belgian, Dutch and French civilians who risked their own and their family's lives to help the evaders. The authors do not flinch from this difficult topic, following some of these people into the horrors of the concentration camps. These were the people who created the lifelines that in some cases ran from the Low Countries all the way to Spain, and then led their "packages" along the line.
Author: John Nichol and Tony Rennell