Group Captain Bill Randle (RAF) MBE, OBE, DFM, AFC. AM


On the night of 16 September 1942 Wellington bomber pilot, Bill Randle, took off on his 19th operation.

Whilst crossing the Dutch coast at 21,000 feet the Wellington was hit by anti-aircraft fire but despite the damage Randle continued to the target where they again came under intense ground fire.

After bombing the target in Essen Germany, the Wellington was hit by flak and the port engine failed and as the aircraft became increasingly difficult to control and was quickly losing height Randle ordered the crew to bailout.

Randle landed in a tree near the German-Belgium border and after freeing himself from the tangled parachute he headed for the coast and travelled by night and hid during the day. After coming across a patriotic farmer, he was warned the coast was heavily defended so decided to make his way south.

During a train journey to Namur, he realised without identity papers he was unlikely to escape so decided to walk towards France.

Randle was then fortunate to come across an elderly man who was also a patriot who arranged for him to be hidden by monks for ten days. It was said Randle was passed to the Belgium Resistance; in fact, he was passed to the Comet Escape line which for security reasons was separate from the Resistance.

After being interrogated to ensure he was not a German infiltrator and his story confirmed by London through their wireless link Randle was given clothes and false identity papers identifying him as a Flemish commercial traveller. Guides then took him to Brussels where he was reunited with two of his crew who were also being helped by members of Comet.

comete andree de jongh

The crew were kept in a safehouse before the escape line organiser 26-year-old Andree de Jongh (cover name Dedee) escorted them to Paris. After two days in a Paris safehouse a young girl escorted them by train to St Jean de Luz where they dressed as Basque farm labourers. Dedee     then re-joined the airmen and with a local guide they quietly walked along narrow forest paths during the night whilst avoiding German patrols. After crossing the river Bidassoa into Spain Dedee briefly left the group and returned with a taxi and took them to the British consul in San Sebastian.

Randle had been on the run for 55 days; Dedee was eventually betrayed but survived Ravensbrûck concentration camp and after the war was awarded the GM (George Medal) for her work on the escape line during which she was responsible for rescuing over 300 allied air crews.

Alan Malcher

Jacques Desoubrie: Belgium double agent working for the Gestapo during WW2

Desoubrie was born in Luingne, Belgium on 22 October 1922 and grew up in Tourcoing on the French border where he trained as an electrician. He is said to have spoken perfect English and unlike other double agents and collaborators working for the Germans he was not motivated by money; he was a dedicated supporter of the Third Reich although he was also well paid for his treachery.

He began working for the Gestapo in 1941 and used various cover names including Jacque Leman, Jean Masson, Pierre Boulain and Captain Jacques.

Sometime in 1941 he infiltrated a resistance group called Vérite Française (French Truth) which printed and distributed an underground newspaper and helped people escape from France and after being responsible for the arrest of 100 people he then infiltrated the Le Gualés Network and 50 people were arrested.

In November 1942 Desoubrie infiltrated the Comet Escape Line which operated in Belgium and France rescuing allied aircrews who were shot down over both countries. Members of the line escorted aircrews, referred to as parcels or packages, to neutral Spain through a network of safe houses and other members at various locations until they reached safety and Desoubrie was responsible for many arrests. Apart from a large loss of life some parts of the network had to be rebuilt with new recruits and replacement safehouses.

Using the name Jean Mason, in January 1943 Desoubrie convinced members of the Comet line he was escorting six airmen from Belgium to Paris and requested they meet him at a Paris railway station to arrange their escape to Spain, the Comet leader agreed and after sending a few members to collect the `parcels’ they were arrested.

By this time Desoubrie had discovered the identity of several members of Comet and their safehouses and further arrests based on his information almost destroyed the network. He was not suspected as a double agent and the only members of the resistance who knew of his involvement were those who had disappeared and sentence to death by the Gestapo.

In January 1944 he was responsible for the arrest of a senior leader of the Comet Line called Jean -Jacques Northomb (code name Franco), a British agent thought to be a member of MI9 Named Jacques Legrelle (code name Jerome) and after these betrayals Desoubrie started using the name Pierre Boulain.

On 7 May 1944 a Belgium woman named Michelle Dumon (code name Lily and Michou) who worked for the Comet Line discovered Desoubrie was a double agent and informed MI9 agent Albert Ancia, and he asked the French Forces of the Interior (FFI) to assassinate him. Although MI9 was later informed Desoubrie had been eliminated he was later seen, and it was assumed the FFI assassinated the wrong person.

After Desoubrie became aware the resistance in Belgium and France and MI9 had identified him as a double agent he was undeterred and continued working for the Gestapo.

After three allied airmen: American Roy Allen, New Zealander Phil Lamason and Ken Chapman who was a navigator with the RAF were picked up by members of the French Resistance they were hidden in a safehouse until arrangements could be made for their journey to Spain. In August 1944, Lamason and Chapman were arrested by the Gestapo and Desoubrie was paid 10,000 francs for each man after providing the information which led to their arrests and both airmen were sent to Buchenwald concentration camp.

After the liberation of France, Desoubrie fled to Germany but was later captured by the allies and after being found guilty in a French court was executed by firing squad on 20 December 1949 at the fort of Montrouge near Paris, but some sources claim he was executed in 1945.

The Dumon Sisters and the Belgium Resistance during WW2.

‘Michou’ Dumon with her husband, Pierre Ugeux who served with SOE (Comete line)

Micheline Dumon (code names Lily and Michou) served with the Belgium Resistance and worked on the Comet Escape Line and her surname often appears misspelt as ‘Dumont’.

As a member of Comet, she helped allied aircrews shot down over Belgium and France evade capture and was credited for assisting 250 aircrew by guiding them through Belgium and France to neutral Spain, and is noted for being one of the most experienced and longest serving member of the escape line.

Comet Escape Line

In August 1942 her father who also worked on the Comet Line was arrested by the Gestapo and deported to a concentration camp where he later died.

In 1944 the line was infiltrated by a double agent named Jacques Desoubrie a Belgium working for the Gestapo infiltrating resistance groups in Belgium and France and after finding herself on the Gestpo wanted list was forced to escape to England where she spent the remainder of the war training MI9 agents.

After the war Micheline Dumon said, “I knew a lot of people and I moved around a lot. I never stayed in one place, and so I was always alone. Also, I was lucky.”

Andree Dumon

Andree (code name Nadine), Micheline Dumon’s sister, was in charge of safehouses where aircrews were hidden until they could be moved down the line and she also prepared false identification cards and connected escapers with escorts to take them from Belgium to neutral Spain by bicycle, train and on foot. After a narrow escape from the Gestapo, she went underground and lived in a safehouse for several weeks and obtained false identity papers which said she was 15-years-old and accoding to several airmen she looked about 12 or 13 and dressed accordingly. She also spoke English and interacted with allied airmen who rarely spoke French.

In June 1943 the Comet Line was close to collapse after many arrests by the Abwehr and Gestapo and Andree Dumon took on a leadership position which she described as “A sort of odd-job woman: looking after safehouses, escorting aircrews, recruiting new agents, collecting food coupons and repairing escape routes after waves of arrests.”

By January 1944 it was too dangerous for her to remain in Brussels so she moved to Paris and then to Bayonne in southwestern France to work with Elvire de Geer who was the leader of that end of the line during which she escorted two groups of 10 allied airmen across the Pyrenees to Spain, and in March 1944 she was one of three Comet Line leaders who attended a meeting in Madrid with senior MI9 officers to plan their activities for D-day.

After the meeting she went to Paris and shortly after arriving was arrested by the French police and spent two nights in jail. From the time she was in police custody she behaved like a young girl and the way she was dressed supported the deception and instead of being handed to the Gestapo the police commandant released her becuase she was a child. After this close escape she found a new safehouse and continued her resistance work until France and Belgium were liberated.

Andrée de Jongh: MI9 and the Comet Escape Line in Belgium

Andrée de Jongh

Andrée de Jongh grew up in a suburb of Brussels and after the emergency evacuation of Dunkirk she became aware British soldiers were being hidden by Belgium families and a man named Arnold Deppe was planning to escort them across France to neutral Spain and Andree decided she wanted to help.  Neither were aware their early success would develop into the Comet Escape Line financed and supported by MI9 in London.  

At the age of 24 Andrée escorted her first escapers: a young British woman and 10 Belgians wanted by the Gestapo but when they reached the River Somme, it was discovered six of the Belgians could not swim so Andrée made seven trips across the river swimming with only her legs and pushing the escapers on a rubber tyre. After returning to Brussels she was told Arnold Deppe had been arrested by the Gestapo and she was now in command.

Throughout the war Comet rescued down aircrews, political prisoners and British agents and although it was part of MI9 it was a network of families and friends. Its escape routes consisted of hundreds of Belgium citizens among which were the de Greef family who provided black market supplies and forged papers; 19-year-old Nadine Dumont, a Comet guide who survived ten-weeks of interrogations and two concentration camps and Andree’s father, Frédéric who was arrested at a Paris train station after being betrayed and later executed by firing squad. Around one thousand people worked in some capacity for the Comet Line and roughly 155 were killed and many others deported to concentration camps.

Andrée de Jongh personally escorted 118 escapers across the Spanish border which took over 33 trips. In 1943 part of the line was infiltrated by the Germans and Andree de Jongh was captured at a French safe-house. After being interrogated multiple times she was transported to Ravensbrück and then Mathausen concentration camp where she was liberated in April 1945.

After the war she was awarded the George Medal, the Belgian Croix de Guerre/Oorlogskruis and the US Medal of Freedom and was made a Chevalier in both the Order of Leopold and the Legion d’honneur, she also fulfilled her childhood dream of working as a nurse in Third World Countries.  Andrée de Jongh died in 2007 at the age of 90