During the Second World War citizens in the occupied countries of Europe were not free to move about without identification cards and travel permits. Nazi patrols stopped, and searched citizens without warning or reason. Controls on travel and the frequent patrols made it extremely dangerous to move allied evaders from place to place because there was always a possibility that they would be stopped. If arrested, an evader was interrogated, sometimes tortured and sent to a POW camp. The guide /helper, however, was interrogated, often tortured, imprisoned in a concentration camp, or executed and her or his family and friends were at great risk.
The citizens in the communities along the closed border between Belgium and France joined the Secret army or other Resistance Groups to fight the Nazi occupation. These resistance groups played an important role in the successful movement of evaders across the border between Rumes, Belgium and Bachy, France. More than 70 years later the region honors and preserves the history of these heroic acts.
On 9 May 2015, “Dans les pas de Monique” (“In Monique’s Footsteps”) part of the French-Belgium Hiking Circuit was inaugurated. (For links to speeches on the occasion of the inauguration of the walk, see below.) The 10.3 km walk follows one of the routes used by the Comète guide Henriette “Monique” Hanotte to bring evaders from Belgium into France. The trail crosses the border from one country to another, passing by farms, fields, religious shrines, the French and British Bunkers on the Maginot Line and other points of historical interest.
Memorial to be Dedicated to all Comète Guides
Recently the community of Bachy, France began a campaign to raise money to erect a memorial dedicated to all of the guides in the Comète Escape Line, the evading airmen, and members of the local resistance groups. A statue, “Le Passage de la Frontière” will be erected on the Place de la Liberté in Bachy. A preliminary view of what the statue will look like appears below. First there is the drawing by the artist Jacques Van Butsèle. That is followed by two photos of the sculpture under way. The sculptor, who is several months away from completing it, is Eric Dupon (second photo). The woman figure is the Comète guide, “Monique” (Henriette Hanotte), who, in her mid-90’s, continues to tell her story of resistance so that the heroic acts of her family, friends, and other Comète Line members are not forgotten. She grew up in Rumes, Belgium and attended school in Bachy, France. From 1940 until 1944, “Monique”, risking her own life, guided 145 Allied airmen: 50 from Rumes into France at Bachy, 45 from Hertain, Belgium, and another 50 from Mons, Belgium on to Paris and sometimes Bordeaux, France. She moved the evaders on crowded local buses, trains controlled by the enemy, on bicycles and on foot.
The second figure in the statue, representing the evaders who passed through region, is an American bombardier, Charles Carlson. In mid-January 1944, “Monique” brought him to Rumes. They traveled by train from Renaix to Tournai, Belgium. Arriving late at night, long after curfew, they managed to avoid Nazi night patrols as they rode bicycles from Tournai to Rumes, a distance of 8 km (about 5 miles). When it was decided that his injuries would prevent him from crossing the Pyrenees, he and another evader, Charles Elwell, a radio operator, spent three or four months in the area hidden and protected by the brave citizens of Bachy and Rumes.
How You Can Donate
The statue will cost 18,400 Euros, financed in part by municipal funds and donations from those who want to remember and honor all the participants in this extraordinary human adventure. If you wish to support this project, donations can be sent by PayPal.
The PayPal account is: firstname.lastname@example.org. Arrangements have been made to reduce the fee. The note you provide should say, “Donation is for the statue, “Le Passage de la Frontiére.” The transaction detail provided by PayPal will show a payment to “Le musée d’antan” in Bachy. Regis Doucy is the first deputy mayor of Bachy and president of the historical association Cercle du Souvenir.
Anyone who has difficulty in making a donation via PayPal can contact Margy Fricke at frickej at comcast.net. Arrangements can be made with her to make donations through her PayPal account. Margy Fricke is a member of the board of directors of AFEES.
Drawing by Artist Jacques Van Butsèle of Charles Carlson and Henriette Hanotte
Preliminary View of the Sculpture, “Le Passage de la Frontière”
The two photos below, taken in April 2017, give a rough idea of what the final statue will look like.
Inauguration of the “Walk: In Monique’s Footsteps”
The following speeches were given on the occasion of the inauguration of the walk:
- Speech by Regis Doucy , First Deputy Mayor of Bachy.
- Speech by Philippe Delcourt, Mayor of Bachy
- Speech by Michel Casterman, Mayor of Rumes
- Speech by Brigitte d Oultremont, President of Comet Line Remembrance
Links to websites about the towns of Bachy and Rumes
- Town of Bachy: http://www.map-france.com/Bachy-59830/.
- Town of Rumes: https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rumes.