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” was erected on the Place de la Liberté in Bachy. A preliminary view of what the statue was to 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 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.
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 how the statue was progressing.
Views of the Completed Statue (attachment to the base was forthcoming)
As part of the ceremonies, a commemorative historical booklet was prepared about Henriette Hanotte and appears below. Our thanks to Bernard Leclercq and Regis Doucy for permission to reproduce it on this website.
Henriette Hanotte, nom de guerre “Monique”, A guide to the “COMÈTE escape line 1942-1944
For further information on the Comet Line, see https://wwii-netherlands-escape-lines.com/other-escape-lines/comet-line-le-reseau-comete/. For books on the Comet Line, see https://airforceescape.org/book-list/.
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.
Link to website about walks
- VAB Magazine (scroll down to item 2, Hainaut, “In the Footsteps of Monique”): https://magazine.vab.be/reizen/mooiste-wandelroute-2019/?utm_source=Mailchimp&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Club-mooistewandeling-201907.
- Link to app that walkers can access on their cell phones as they pass landmarks along the trail: https://www.cirkwi.com/en/circuit/239025-in-monique-s-footsteps .
Book About Charles Carlson on This Website
- “The Road Home” by Anne Jacobson Robertson
Decorations of Members of the Resistance
Decoration of Odile de Vasselot, Jan. 28, 2022
French Citation of Odile de Vasselot de Regne
English Translation by Google of the French Citation of Odile de Vasselot de Regne
Order of Liberation
By decree of November 8, 2021, the President of the Republic
promoted Second Lieutenant Odile de Vasselot de Regne to the rank of Commander in the National Order of the Legion of Honor. Odile de Vasselot wished that the General of Vision (2S) Christian Baptiste, national delegate of the Order of the Liberation would give her this insignia.
The ceremony took place on Friday, January 28, 2022 at the Order of the Liberation in the presence of the recipient’s family. The national delegate, during his speech, recalled in particular the resistant course of Odile de Vasselot de Regne who celebrated her centenary on January 6th. Odile de Vasselot will do us the honor of testifying during the next cultural evening at the museum, on February 17.
9 thoughts on “Memorials to and Citations of Comete Line Helpers”
The statue, Le passage de la Frontière, honoring the Comète guides, allied evaders and resistance fighters active during WWII will be dedicated in Bachy, France on May 12, 2018.
Hi,would it be possible to purchase one copy of your book what is in this story.Hope you can help,zDavid.
Dear Mr. Leedham,
If you are referring to the booklet, “Henriette Hanotte, nom de guerre “Monique”, A guide to the “COMÈTE escape line 1942-1944”, you may be able to get a copy from one of the tourism offices listed toward the end. If not, I suggest you just print out a copy from the website. [Six weeks later I found a copy of the booklet and mailed it to Mr. Leedham.]
Thank you very much Bruce,the book is first class I hope you have a lovely Christmas and a great New Year.
Speaking of memorials to the Comète Line, I was amazed when I realised last year that there isn’t a single memorial in the Pays Basque to those brave souls who stepped forward to help Comète.
I’m pleased to tell you that the Mayor of Anglet announced during our 3 day commemorative weekend (organised by “The Friends of the Comet Line”) that he had approved this long-overdue project.
Andrée De Jongh used to emphasise to all prospective helpers that they could expect to operate for no more than 6 months before being arrested. As they were non-combatants, the Geneva Convention did not apply to them and so they were exposed to all the grisly provisions of the German security services. At this point, I always ask myself the unanswerable question: what would I have done?
This memorial will serve to remind local people of a glorious chapter of their history that few seem to be aware of.
I am very pleased to hear of it. Thank you for letting us know.
MANY thanks for generating this page commemorating ‘Monique’ – a fascinating account of an important part of Belgian resistance history. If she had not hurt her ankle in the parachute training, she would have undoubtedly have joined Elaine Madden,
Denise Leplat, the ‘anonymous Belgian blonde, Olga Jackson and Frédérique Dupuich to be the fifth Belgian women infiltrated into Belgium during the Second World War. (O’Connor, Bernard, ‘Return to Belgium’, http://www.lulu.com)
Congratulations on the booklet too – an invaluable resource.
I am very glad to discover the AFEES and, in particular, the YouTubes. And the article with «Monique’s » [Henriette Hanotte] story of accompanying airmen from Rumes to Bachy to Lille to Paris. The reason is because I am preparing for a Book Club presentation of a diary/memoir of « An American Heroine I the French Resistance » named Virginia D’Albert-Lake, edited by Judy Barrett Litoff. Virginia’s story takes up where Monique’s story leaves off …: at the Paris train station. Virginia often went to fetch the airmen, housed them briefly in her and her husband Philippe’s house, assisting the veracity of their identity, teaching them mannerisms to avoid or adopt to avoid arrest. As Andree de Jongh predicted could happen to Helpers, after a certain amount of time, Virginia was arrested and sent to a concentration camp for 9 months. She survived and luckily, Ms Litoff was allowed to edit Mme d’Albert-Lake’s diary from before her arrest and the memoir she wrote a year after her return about her experience in the various prisons and concentration camps.
This website has been so helpful in giving me a feel for the harrowing and courageous experience of downed airmen and their helpers. May we remain in awe and admiration of such courage and would that we would act in the same way. With much gratitude to all who have shared in creating and contributing to this website.
PS: My book club is part of the AAWE, Association of American Women of Europe. The Founder of the club, Phyllis Michaux, became friends with Virginia D’Albert-Lake and invited her to join which she did. Members alive today did not know Virginia but some early members did know her and suggested we make her an Honorary Member of the club which we did in 1992 when she was still alive. I learned of this book about her and decided we younger members OUGHT to know who she was and we can proud to honor her memory for her courage and kindness. I learned from Margaret Rossiter’s book that Julien Miller attended the 1980 AFEES event in Orlando FL where they were honored guests. He said he admired her for staying in France when she could have returned home.
Thank you for the information. I have added the book to our list of escape and evasion books. See https://airforceescape.org/book-list/ on this website.