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The Shelburne Escape Line was the only World War II Underground escape line that successfully evaded infiltration by the Gestapo. Allied airmen, who were rescued after being shot down, were eventually taken to Paris by Resistance members where they received new names, identity cards, clothing, training, and special passes for the forbidden coastal zones in Brittany. The pilots were hidden in safe house attics, barns, and abandoned buildings of local farmers until a moonless night when they would be evacuated to England by the British Royal Navy's high-speed Motor Gun Boat 503.

On the night of 16/17 June 1944, Guy Hamilton and two sailors were stranded on a Brittany beach, codenamed Bonaparte, after successfully landing a small party of agents on the enemy-occupied coast. They were rescued by local members of the Shelburne Line, who hid them in farmhouses for a month. On the night of 11/12 July 1944, along with fifteen downed Allied airmen rescued by the Resistance, they were picked up and repatriated by MGB 503. Hamilton, who was born in France, later directed four of the early James Bond films.

By the end of the war, more than 12,000 citizens from France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, had participated in rescue and escape efforts for Allied forces. By the Allied D-Day landings in June 1944 in Normandy, more than 4,000 downed or captured airmen and POWs escaped occupied Europe.[1]


  1. ^ Reanne Hemingway-Douglass. The Shelburne Escape Line: Secrets of Allied Aviators by the French Underground, the British Royal Navy, and London's Mi-9. ISBN 978-1-934199-05-3.

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