During 1940 the Battle Of was in full swing, with fierce aerial battles and daring bombing raids taking place over Europe every day and every night. Those setting off on bombing missions in Germany knew that their lives were at risk and as they crossed the Channel it might be the last time they saw the country of their birth. They not only risked the anti-aircraft guns, but also the risk of every pilot’s nightmare – to be shot down and survive in enemy territory.
Shot Down; Escaping Nazi Germany tells the astonishing and emotional stories of RAF pilots who survived being stranded in enemy territory.
Bomber Command lost almost half of all its pilots over enemy territory and the escape of some of those who were shot down was essential to maintaining morale. As a result a government unit, codenamed M19, came into being 70 years ago, dedicated to the creation of secret RAF escape routes out of Europe and back home to Britain. All aircrew were supplied with false papers, survival rations for 48 hours and instructions on how they might get back home if they were shot down. Many failed. They were arrested and imprisoned, or shot. But remarkably almost 5,000 succeeded in making what was called ‘the home run’.
Shot Down; Escaping Nazi Germany tells the story of the last surviving escapees and the remarkable resistance fighters, some of them young French women, who helped save their lives and smuggle them out.
We’ll find out about the Comet escape route, which ran from Amsterdam, to Bordeaux, then onto Gibraltar via a western crossing of the Pyrenees and down through Madrid in neutral Spain; how resistance fighters and friendly families risked their lives by helping British RAF pilots to safety; how the escape routes, thanks to double agents and suspicious border guards, were fraught with danger and disaster; how the physical ordeal of crossing the Pyrenees with few supplies on foot almost got the better of escapees; and how the downed pilots had to summon the courage to face the fact that they may never see their families again.