The Comet Line (Le Réseau Comète) is a famous escape line which operated between 1941 and 1944 during World War II. It was the brain child of a 24 year-old Belgium woman, André de Jongh (known as Dédée), a young nurse who, at the outbreak of World War II, found herself nursing Allied soldiers and pilots who had fallen – or been stranded – behind enemy lines.
Dédée organised a network of Belgium and French resistance workers to help evacuate Allied pilots out of Nazi-occupied Europe over the Basque Pyrenees and the Bidasoa river into Spain. Here, while dodging Franco´s police, (known German sympathisers), Basque smugglers helped to guide the pilots into the hands of MI9 who then facilitated their return to Great Britain via Gibralter.
A total of about 700 - 900 people were helped or hidden by the Comet Line and roughly 300 Allied pilots were guided to safety over the Basque Pyrenees. The number of people working for the Comet line is more complex to calculate as anonymity was a form of self-protection, however it is estimated that about 2000 - 3000 people helped guide, lodge, feed and clothe the soldiers, among these over 150 were captured and killed directly by firing squad or perished in concentration camps.
If the resistance workers were caught they invariably risked a far more terrible ending than the pilots themselves. Many of the resistance workers were women and children, with girls as young as 15 helping to attend the soliders hidden in their family houses or guide them from one village to the next.