Most of the Allied servicemen whom Dutch-Paris smuggled out of occupied territory via the Pyrenees and Spain were aviators who had bailed out of their airplanes or crash landed them in the Netherlands, Belgium or France. That was certainly the case with the men who were arrested – or not- at the Porte de Pantin in Paris in December 1943.

But some were aviators or soldiers who escaped from POW camps in the Third Reich or Italy and made their own way to Switzerland. Once there, they came under the protection of their respective embassies. It just so happened that the Dutch military attaché in Bern had connections to Dutch-Paris and was on good terms with the British and American military attachés in Switzerland. The Dutch military attaché arranged for a number of escaped POWs to travel from Switzerland to Spain with Dutch-Paris. His American and British counterparts paid for the men’s expenses such as train tickets, black market food, false documents for the border zone in the Pyrenees and a guide, or passeur, over the Pyrenees.

One of these men, F/Lt Hank Wardle, was a Canadian book keeper who had volunteered with the RAF before the war began. He had the dubious honor of piloting the first British bomber to be shot down over Germany at night in April 1940. He escaped from a POW camp in August 1940 but was captured the next day when he ran into a patrol. As a result he was beaten so severely he lost his hearing in one ear and walked with a limp. He was also transferred to the high security POW camp at Colditz castle. Colditz was filled with the most eager and determined escapers among all the Polish, French, Dutch and English POWs in the Third Reich. Hank himself participated in two failed attempts at tunneling out of the fortress. He also assisted the Escape Committee with preparations for other men’s escapes.

In October 1942 the Escape Committee chose Wardle to join a daring plan that did not involve any tunneling at all. Four officers split into teams of two and made their way out of the castle by walking over roofs and areas that were brightly lit by floodlights despite the black out over the rest of Germany. Everything did not go according to plan. A POW band was supposed to signal the few seconds when a sentry had his back turned, but a guard got suspicious and that didn’t work. Then they had to pass by the dog kennels, causing a dog to bark furiously, but no one checked why. Finally they intended to pick the lock to a carpenter’s shop and get out a window in the shop, but could not open the lock. Finally, they stripped down and squeezed through a grate that only men who had been on prisoners’ rations and were truly desperate could possibly have passed through.

The two teams then split up. Wardle and his partner walked by night and rested in woods during the day. When they got near  Munich, they cleaned up and changed into civilian clothes that they had brought with them from Colditz. They spent a couple days on trains heading southwest toward Switzerland and then continued on by foot. When they approached the Swiss frontier they started to use a map of the frontier and a magnetic compass that was not even an inch wide that had been manufactured by other POWs at Colditz.

They talked their way through a document inspection and kept walking past their turn when a bicycle patrol appeared. But they made it across the border and gave themselves up to Swiss police at 6:00 pm on October 18, four days after they began their escape.

Wardle left Switzerland under the care of Dutch-Paris thirteen months after he escaped from Colditz. He rendezvoused with three Frenchmen, two Italians and seven Dutchmen in Toulouse and trekked across the Pyrenees with them in mid-December 1943. A blizzard blew up while they were in the mountains, leading Wardle to quip that only an idiot would give up German hospitality for the Pyrenees in December. Still, they made it to Spain, only to be arrested by the Guardia Civil. British authorities got him out of that prison camp and he arrived back in England on 6 February 1944.