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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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Keith Janes
User ID: U236191

I have two particular reasons for contributing to this site. The first is to promote the publication of my father's diaries (now available as Conscript Heroes) which come complete with photographs and myriad detail my father could not have known at the time. The second is to add detail to the history of the Pat O'Leary Escape Line. I have gathered a considerable amount of data on the Line, and welcome enquiries from interested persons, but I always want more as this was not only the first and probably the biggest of all the escape lines of the second world war but also the least well documented

All I knew about my father's experiences during the early part of the war were a few (mostly apocryphal) anecdotes that sketched a rough story of him being captured at a place called St Valery, escaping from captivity and living in the north of France before making his way south disguised as a priest, almost dying crossing the Pyrenees and then being imprisoned in a concentration camp at Miranda del Ebro before getting to Gibraltar and home. It wasn't until 1999, more than a year after he died, that I found diaries and resume he had written in France and Gibraltar about his time in the army, his capture, his subsequent rescue and eventual escape to Spain. I spent the winter of 2000 writing up the diaries and then began some research into the actual events. I began with the military situation and found one of my father's officers still alive and well who very kindly provided me with maps and the battle diary of the action immediately before St Valery. I also found one of the other soldiers mentioned in the diaries, now married to the eldest daughter of the family who sheltered him, living in Scotland. Then I decided to find out more about the French civilians who had sheltered my dad for so long in Auchel. I went to the address given in the diaries as the first place he lived and soon made contact with the youngest son of the family, now living in nearby Marles-les-Mines, and have since traced several survivors who remember my father well. I also started searching the internet for information about the escape line and the party's courier, the British traitor Paul Cole, and I was soon introduced to the present-day escape line community

Today I am a committee member and archivist for the Escape Lines Memorial Society (ELMS) and an active supporter of the Freedom Trail walks held each year to commemorate some of the escape lines - to date I have walked across the Pyrenees ten times following various escape routes and will be going back for more

For more details of my work, my father's story and details of the Pat O'Leary Escape Line please visit

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