the soldiers had lived in Brussels for some months the group of
friends must have thought how they could get them back home to Britain.
The obvious route as a Channel crossing or air pick-up seemed too
difficult was through France, over the Pyreness and into neutral Spain.
They could then be taken to Gibraltar the British territory and naval
base in the south of the country. Already many Belgians had used this
route to escape from occupied Europe and join the British army or the
RAF. A young Belgian girl Andree
Dejongh (Dedee) who had like
Louisa Deloge had also been nursing injured British soldiers became the
means of escape for the trapped soldiers. It is interesting that she
also worked in the advertising department of the SOFINA company, Baron
Donny was a director of the company so probably they knew each other and
that's the link to the soldiers from Parike and Dedee the inspiration of the Comete Escape Line.
|The identity of the soldier who was the first Comete line escaper has always been a bit of a mystery to
Escape & Evasion researchers. Airey Neave calls him Colin Cromar in his book "Little Cyclone" and
Professor M.R.D. Foot & J.M. Langley in "MI9 Escape and Evasion 1939-1945" say he was called Colin Cupar and even
in the newly published "Home Run" by John Nichol & Tony Rennell he's called Colin Culpar. Colonel Remy in "Reseau
Comete" also called him Colin Cromar but Cecile Jouan's "Comete - Histoire d'une ligne d'evasion" named him as Jim Cromar which my research
at the National Archives proved to be the correct name. James CROMAR a Private in the 1st Gordon Highlanders from Aberdeen.
In 2005 I was able to trace his family and they kindly sent me the photo you see on this page for which I am very grateful to them.
The family told me his surname is pronounced in Aberdeen style as Krr-Mar and he was known in his army days as "Mad Cromar".
On the POW's march from St. Valery-en-Caux he tried to escape by diving into a canal, drowning, his life was saved by one of the German guards.
With the difficulties with knowing his correct name and finding the family after so many years had passed I was rather proud to obtain this
historic piece of Comete Line history and enable us to see the man himself.
If you wish to use the photograph in any publication or website I would ask that you give credit to www.belgiumww2.info
In June 1941
Dedee and Arnold Deppe who had also assisted in the hiding of the
soldiers, worked out a route through Bayonne where Deppe had once lived.
The first intention was to help Belgians wishing to reach Britain but
it soon became obvious that the British soldiers could also escape this
A contact of Deppe in the Societe Generale Bank. Monsieur
gave him the address of a
Madame Elvire DeGreef a
Belgian from the Brussels suburb of Etterbeek who had been living with
her family in the town of Anglet after fleeing the advancing German
army. Appert knew that Madame Degreef would be willing to help as she
had already offered her services in any capacity.
Deppe took the first reconnaissance trip down the escape line in June
1941, he was assisted in the crossing by boat the Zone Interdite at the
village of Hamelet on the River Somme by Nenette a country woman.
Travelling on by train through Paris and Bayonne Arnold Depee arrived
at Anglet where Madame DeGreef introduced him to Elisade a Basque who
in turn introduced him to the chief of the mountain guides. Arnold
returned to Brussels knowing he had the contacts to make the escape
In July 1941 Dedee joined Arnold in taking a party of 10 Belgians an
Englishwoman "Miss Richards" or Mlle. Dupuich and another person down
the line to Spain. Once they reached Hamelin and the River Somme They
used a Basque guide called Tomas ENA to take them over the mountains.
Once they arrived in Spain though the Belgians were all arrested by the
Spanish police and three of the Belgian officers were taken back across
the border and given to the Germans. Dedee thought that in future she
would take her charges straight to the British consul at Bilbao.
De Jongh home in Avenue Emile Verhaeren and Frederic De Jongh school in Rue Gaucheret, Schaerbeek, Brussels.
Returning again to Brussels Arnold and Dedee assembled a party of eight
Belgians and a Scottish soldier, an escaper from the prisoners taken at
St Valery a large fair-haired man from Albyn place, Aberdeen called
Private James Cromar known as "Jim" . Two more Scottish soldiers were
due to join the party but they were arrested. Corporal Enoch BETTLEY
and Private Samuel SLAVIN were recaptured on the 14 August at the house
of Madam Augusta MARIOUX and her daughter in Rue Rogier, Scharbeek and
taken to St.Gilles prison. They were kept there for sixteen days,
interrogated and beaten daily. They were then sent to POW Camp in
Germany. The D'Looge family back in Parike were surprised to receive a
letter from them in the camp some time later.
The party left for the South. Arnold took six Belgians and travelled on
the train through Lille. Dedee the other two Belgians (called MERCKIERS and Jean STERCKMANS) and Jim Cromar
travelled through Valenciennes and there met up with a French soldier, Charles MORELLE
who had escaped from Germany and had been hiding in Brussels, and his sister Elvire.
Charlie and Elvire agreed to help in the escape line. Arnold failed to
arrive at their rendezvous at Hamelet on the Somme so Dedee continued
through Bayonne, Anglet and St John de Luz. Crossing the Pyrenees on
the 17th August 1941 she took Cromar straight to the British Consul at
Bilbao and spoke to the Vice-Consul Arthur Dean. Dedee then waited
three weeks in Bilbao while arrangements were made to reimburse her
expenses by the consul.
Dedee then returned to Brussels anxious to find out what had happened
to Arnold Deppe. The news was bad, Arnold Deppe had been arrested with
his group of escapers as they left Brussels on the train south. One of
the Belgian officers handed back to the Germans in July had talked. The
German also had a description of Dedee from this man, unable to stay in
Belgium as the Germans were looking for her, Dedee went to Paris.
Madame Jeanie Wolfe, Louisa and Yvonne Deloge and friends
at the Le Sanglier restaurant Boitsfort Brussels 1941
Marie DARMONT-COLLET and her son Jean DARMONT were arrested on the 3rd
September. Francois STRENS and Elise AUSSELOOS on the ninth of
On the 13th September Louisa DELOGE was arrested and taken to
the Geheime Feldpolizei (Germany's 'plain clothes' military police)
building in the Rue Traversiere in Brussels. On the same day or two
days later her sister Yvonne was arrested and also taken to the Rue
Sans Souci in 2001
25th September 1941 the Geheime Feldpolizei raided the house of Madame
Duchenne at Rue Sans-Souci Ixelles where McCUBBIN was staying. He tried
to get away but as he ran out of the house he was held by a passer-by
who thought he was a thief and shot three times by the persuing
Germans, he fell and fractured his shoulder. Madame Duchene and her
daughter Florence were arrested and taken to St. Gilles prison.
McCubbin was taken to the Belgian Military Hospital and then the
St.Pierre Hospital and later also to St.Gilles Prison.
Bobby Conville and Allan Cowan were on their way to Rue Sans-Souci from
having their passport photos taken at the Bon Marche where Yvonne
Deloge worked. As they arrived at the street, neighbours warned them
what had happened to their colleague and they were able to get away
28th September or the 1st October a red headed English or Irish
infiltrator was spotted outside VANDENHOVE's house in the Rue Washington
where LANGLOIS COPLEY and the Scottish soldier AHEARN were hiding. On
the morning of the next day there was a terrific thumping on the door,
the men looked out and saw three cars, the Geheime Feldpolizei were
raiding the house.The evaders leaned out from the 3rd floor right
window to see German soldiers lining the street and heard them
attacking the front door with rifle butts. The outer door was strongly
built, it took quite an effort for the Germans to break through and
gave them time to make their escape. As the door was smashed in
LANGLOIS, COPLEY and AHEARN grabbed their clothes and rushed down to
the basement. Vandenhove had built a tunnel from the kitchen to the
main sewer in the street. Two days previously he had checked that the
exit from the sewer through a manhole in the street was free but when
the three evaders tried to lift the manhole they were unable to move
it. They were forced to stay in the sewer. Meanwhile back in the house
Vandenhove had already been arrested, their hiding place was given away
by the family dog they had befriended. The Germans shot the dog and the
airmen and soldier were trapped in the sewer for seven hours before
they had to return to the kitchen and give themselves up.
On their return to the cellar they were greeted by highly exited German guards
who poked them with their bayonets.
Richard Copley felt that poor Jean Vandenhove "aged in front of our eyes" as he
must have known what his fate would be.
The two airmen and the soldier where taken to St. Gilles Prison and put into
solitary confinement, Richard Copley wondered what would happen to him as he
had been picked up in civilian clothes. He thought he would be shot as a spy.
On 3rd October 1941 Marceline DELOGE left her home in Rue General
Capiaumont and went to enquire with the German authorities about the
whereabouts of her two missing daughters. She was arrested at the Rue
Traversiere GFP HQ, held for questioning and then taken to the main
Brussels' prison of St Gilles where her daughters were already being
The arrests continued Alice de WERGIFOSSE on the fifteenth of
October,Professor Jean-Marie Derscheid at sometime in October, Welsh
Conville and Allan Cowan managed to avoid arrest and left Brussels for
Spain on the 14th October 1941 accompanied by Elvire de Greef (Tante
Go) as Dedee could no longer go to Brussels. Airey
book "Little Cyclone" describes the crossing of the Franco-Belgian
"At the end of September 1941,
Tante Go (Elvire de Greef) arrived in Brussels from Anglet to collect
the two men of the Highland Division, Bobby and Allan, from Paul. Her
return journey with the Scotsmen to the Belgian frontier was
uneventful, but at Quievrain station there was a disturbing incident.
The two young Scotsmen had been told to represent themselves as
Flemish. They had informed Tante Go that there was nothing in their
pockets of interest to the Customs. But on arrival at Quievrain, the
presence of a German Feldgendarme made the French officials more alert
than usual. To the horror of Tante Go, her companions were taken to an
office and searched. Allan had a large quantity of cigarettes.
Both were told to wait while the douanier disappeared, leaving them in
the office under the stolid gaze of the Feldgendarme. When his back was
turned, Bobby began to stuff the cigarettes, taken from Allan, into his
own pockets. The German, suddenly observing this, appeared highly
amused and began to laugh. To Bobby's intense surprise he was allowed
to leave with some of the cigarettes.
Allan waited dumbly in the office until the casual Feldgendarme
disappeared. Through the open door, he saw Tante Go wave in the
distance. He ran for all he was worth to join her. Then the three of
them walked hastily away.
Suddenly there was a shout behind them. The customs man who had
searched Allan was riding towards them on a bicycle, grinning broadly.
He stopped and handed over to Allan the remainder of the cigarettes".
de Greef (Tante Go)
De Jongh (Dedee)
In truth the customs man kept a proportion of the cigarettes for
himself of course. One of the soldiers also made the mistake at the
border crossing of giving his British army identity papers as well as
his forged documents to the passport official. Luckily the French
official handed them back without comment.
At Valenciennes the two men were met by Andree De Jongh (Dedee), the
famous founder of the Comete escape line. They left the Zone Interdite
by crossing the Somme river near Villiers in a small boat and then
travelled on through Amiens, Paris and Bayonne. They stayed at the
"Villa Voisin" the de Greef family house at Anglet.
From Bayonne Cowan and Coville went by bus to St Jean de Luz. They
crossed the Pyrenees on foot, most probably guided by the Basque
Florentino Goikoetxea and/or "B" Johnson, arriving in San Sebastian on
the 16th October 1941.
The two Scotsmen Cowan and Conville were the second and third British
soldiers to escape along what has become known as the Comete Line. By
the end of the war more than 800 Allied servicemen had successfully
reached Spain helped by the line.
Next down the line were the Polish RAF airmen Sgt. Stefan Tomicki and
Sgt. Michal Kowalski and the Canadian RAF Sgt John Ives.
Welshman Alfred JONES was arrested while playing cards on the
Jack Newton had been separated from Langlois and Copley since the 8th
of September. He had been taken by car to a Madame DEPORQUE's
house in Brussels and after that to Waterloo outside Brussels to the
EVERARD's house where he stayed for 6 or 7 weeks until the end of
October. While he was there he met Australian Sergeant Hilary BIRK RAAF
and Canadian Sergeant Albert DAY RCAF. At the end of October Jack was
moved to nurse Mlle BECQET's house at Ixelles in Brussels. Then in late
November it was arranged that he live in a house in the Schaerbeek
district of Brussels where Birk and Day were already staying.
On the 6th of December 1941 Jack Newton and Hilary BIRK met up with
Pilot Officer Howard CARROLL (pictured left) and a Belgian Gerard
WAUQUEZ at the Brussels railway station for the journey south. Wauquez
the nephew of the head of the Belgian government in exile in London was
SOE agent "Brichamart". Gerard WAUQUEZ was on his way to London with
plans to set up a fully organised escape organisation based in Brussels
that would take escaping British servicemen to Spain and Gibraltar. The
group was taken to Valenciennes by Elvire Morelle sister of Charles
Morelle. Jack had replaced Albert Day in the group as Albert had
pneumonia. Surprisingly the officer and men divide still existed on the
jouney south so there was little communication between Carroll and
Newton. They met Dedee De Jongh at the Franco-Belgian border and she
escorted them all the way to Spain.
& now.Francoise Usandizaga's farm at Bidegain-Berri, the last
safehouse on the route to Spain
Crossing the Pyrenees guided by Florentino and arriving in Bilbao on
the 10th December, Howard CARROLL, Hilary Birk and Jack NEWTON were the
first RAF men to cross the Pyrennes aided by Comete. They reached
Gibraltar on the 4th January 1942.
Antoinette Veronique BURY was arrested on the second of November, Greta
Julia THIRY the next day although she was released on the eighteenth of
Elise de LOMBAERT and Clara STRENS on the fifth of November, Dr Jacques
PENS third of December and Emile TOUSSAINT on the twelfth December. On
the twelfth January 1942 Dr Paul JANSSENS was arrested and Greta Julia
THIRY was re-arrested.
The next arrest of a was Urbain RUSCART on the twenty-eighth January
Jimmy Clark surrendered to the Germans in Brussels and in January 1942
Joseph Dixie left for Namur south east of Brussels. In April he left
Namur with student Jean Thiry a guide working for Henri Michelli who
was one of the chief organiser of the escape line. They travelled by
train to Besancon hoping to cross the Swiss border but were caught by
the Gestapo. Dixie spent five weeks in jail in Besancon until he was
taken back to Brussels and put in St.Gilles Prison when his connection
to the city was revealed. Dixie had been living for seven months at
Madame Anne Marie Bruycker-Roberts house at 141, Rue Stevin, she had
also sheltered Jimmy Clark for 4 months. She was married to an
Englishman was was working in Blackpool.
Madame Robert's house (in picture Rue Stevin today) had become a centre of the organisation, meetings
were held there, two Belgian agents Marcel Lefevre and Joseph van Hoof,
a footballer with F.C.Malinnes, who were radio operators who had
parachuted into Belgium kept their transmitter there. Mrs Roberts put
Lefevre in touch with Henri Michelli as he was due to return to
England. The group though, had been infiltrated by the German agent,
Florrie Dings. Dings of Spanish descent but assuming Irish nationality
was the mistress of Prosper De Zitter the most notorious traitor in
occupied Belgium of the whole war. Through Madame Roberts, Dings was
able to infiltrate the group. She had been trusted by Madame Roberts as
she had been able to supply neccessary clothing, papers, coupons etc.
On the day of Marcel Lefevre's departure 6th May 1942, Roberts took
Dings with her on a visit to Henri Michelli house where a meeting was
being held, this resulted in the arrest of all of them including
Charles Morelle another leader of the group and Gerard WAUQUEZ
(Brichamart) who had returned from London with Van Hoof and Lefevre.
Luckily Frederic DeJongh, Dedee's father, who had been hiding in the
house had left for Paris 6 days earlier.
Click on www.belgiumww2.info
to go to INTRODUCTION
John Clinch 2004