Despite the established routes and patterns of escape lines, every Allied aviator’s evasion was wildly unique. Certainly some crew members traveled the length of occupied Europe together and had similar stories. But even in the case of crew mates, men were left behind because of illness or took different trains to make a large group less noticeable.

Very rarely, if ever, did aviators parachute or crash into the hands of the network that took them across the Spanish border. Even when they had found their way to an escape line, they often had to change helpers because of arrests or because they crossed an international border.

Take the story of a British sergeant who was shot down near Groningen in the northern part of the Netherlands in October 1943. Because he had injured his leg, the rest of his crew left him with resisters to heal when they headed south. Our sergeant left his hiding place after 37 members of the organization helping him were arrested. He then planned to go to Sweden with a different escape line, but someone he trusted told him that that line was not reliable. So he moved to another Dutch town instead. By this time he’d gotten impatient with all the delay and would have left on his own if his helpers hadn’t taken away his false identity documents.

At the end of November 1943 a Dutch officer offered to take him and an American over the border into Belgium. Indeed, they took the train to the border and were passed to Belgian partisans in the White Brigade the next day. They must have taken the airmen back over the border at some point because our British sergeant and his American companion spent Christmas at the home of a Dutch family in Roermond. News came that the White Brigade partisans had been arrested, so their hosts passed them to another organization in Maastricht. Those resisters walked the men over the Belgian border, put them on a train to Brussels, and passed them to Dutch-Paris.

The men stayed with Dutch-Paris from Brussels to Toulouse via Paris. In Toulouse Dutch-Paris organized a convoy of some two dozen men to cross the Pyrenees with a particular passeur. German border guards ambushed the convoy close to the Spanish border, but our two men escaped along with some others. Dutch-Paris then hid them for a while before passing them to a different French passeur. This one got them to Spain in March 1944.

Our sergeant may have been helped by more resistance groups than most, but his journey was neither especially long nor complicated.