Uncommon Courage by Douglas W. Jacobson–Part 3

Here is the final part of the article written by Night of Flames author and fellow WWII reading challenge participant Douglas W. Jacobson about the Belgian resistance during WWII.  (Read Part 1 and Part 2)

Uncommon Courage

Belgium’s Comet Line in WW2

by Douglas W. Jacobson

(con’t)

American author, Douglas W. Jacobson memorialized Andrée De Jongh and the Comet Line in his new book, NIGHT OF FLAMES: A Novel of World War Two. On December 3, 2007, Mr. Jacobson and his wife, Janie, had the privilege of meeting Andrée Dumon, Denise Claycomb-Villeneuve, Brigitte d’Oultremont, Claire Greindl, Martine le Grelle, and Victor Schutters in Brussels. They are members of Cométe Kinship Belgium, the organization that is keeping alive the memory of the brave young men and women to whom so many Allied soldiers owe their freedom. Here are their stories.

Jacque le Grelle, according to his daughter, Martine le Grelle, disappeared from their Brussels home one day and wasn’t heard from again until 1945. He had left behind enough money for Martine, her brother and cousin to travel to an uncle’s home where they lived throughout the war. Unknown to the rest of the family, Jacque le Grelle (code name Jérôme) spent nearly three years with the Comet Line escorting Allied aviators over the Pyrenees Mountains. After the arrest of Dédée, he served as Chief of the Paris sector. Unlike other Comet Line operatives who were independent of any foreign authority, Jérôme was also connected with British MI9. He was arrested and sentenced to death but survived a German prison and returned home in 1945.

Victor Schutters, as told by his grandson, also named Victor, was a truck driver for the Belgian National Railways and, after the war broke out, volunteered the use of his truck to the Comet Line for ferrying Allied aviators from one safe-house to another. Among the many aviators Victor Schutters helped was Bill Grosvenor, whose story was told in the acclaimed PBS documentary, “Last Best Hope”. Schutters barely escaped capture when he received a tip one day that the Gestapo were looking for him and quickly left his home. Late that night several Gestapo agents in long black coats banged on the door and woke the family demanding to know Schutters’ whereabouts. Not believing their story that they had no idea, the Gestapo agents charged up the stairs to the bedroom, ripped the blankets off the bed and felt the sheet next to where Schutters’ wife had been laying to see if it was warm. For the rest of his life, Schutters’ son (grandson Victor’s father) vividly remembers the German word kalt, meaning “cold”. Schutters evaded capture, continued to assist Allied aviators and survived the war, living until his 80’s.

Bob Frost was a nineteen year-old gunner in 1942 when his Wellington bomber was hit by anti-aircraft fire returning home from a raid on Germany. As the plane came down, Frost bailed out and parachuted into a field just outside the Belgian village of Kapellen. Surrounded by flat, open fields, Frost spotted a farmhouse. “I saw that house and my guardian angel told me to go for it.” Frost’s angel was working for him as the door was answered by a family who looked after him for three days before handing him over to Andrée De Jongh and the Comet Line. Interviewed in her tiny flat in Brussels in the year 2000, Andrée De Jongh, frail and nearly blind at age eighty-four, remembered Bob Frost, just as she did almost all of the 118 young men she led to safety during the war. “I loved them like they were my brothers, my children,” she said. “We all did. We would have done anything for them – even given up our lives – that wasn’t too high a price to pay.”

Andrée De Jongh’s memorial service in Brussels was attended by dignitaries of all the Allied nations of World War Two. It was a testament to the valor and sacrifice made by all the men and women of the Comet Line during the war years.

    In our hearts is the break of day

Whose brilliance shines in our eyes

The whole horizon is colored

By our radiant hope

We will climb the mountain

Dreaming of distant valleys

Our ideals will accompany us

Lighting the way

    Let us sing now gravely and clearly

Let us sing of the joy and the efforts

Of human beings and the mystery

Of life and death

The fervor of our youth

    Will feed our kinship
    As we search without cease
    For the vision of beauty
    Lyrics by Andrée De Jongh, written in prison by her sister, Suzanne Wittek
    • Translated from the original French which is to be sung to the tune of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”

You can visit the members of Cométe Kinship Belgium on the web at www.comete.kinship@skynet.be

Submitted by Douglas W Jacobson

All rights reserved

Here is a picture of Douglas W. Jacobson with members of the Comet Line.

doug-jacobson2Thank you, Mr. Jacobson for sharing the story of the Comet Line with us!

2 Comments

  1. Thanks for this fascinating series of posts. I’m always in awe of “the greatest generation”. It is a good reminder to us all that those folks we know who are now in their 80s and 90s truly lived during tumultuous times, and we would do well to listen to their stories while we can.

  2. […] Douglas W. Jacobson visited War Through the Generations in January to discuss the Comet Line, a real-life resistance organization that transported Allied soldiers out of Belgium. In Night of Flames, Anna goes on missions for the Comet Line. Click on these links to read Jacobson’s essay: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 […]


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