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THE SHELBURN NETWORK – WHEN FRENCHES HELPED THE ALLIES

INTRODUCTION




During the Second World War, several escape networks of allied pilots or secret agents are created in the European territories occupied by the Nazies. In France, one of them, the “Shelburn” Network is created in 1944 on the north coast of Brittany, near the small village of Plouha at the cove “Anse Cochat”, codename “plage Bonaparte”.


One of the Royal Navy’s speedboats used by “Shelburn”

The “Shelburn” network is imagined by the major Langley of the English MI9 services and is placed under the responsibility of two Canadians, the Lt Lucien Dumais and the radio operator Raymond Labrosse. To convince Dumais, Langley states that the training of a single pilot, that is about 40000 dollars, is enough to cover the cost of the entire operation. Seven months after the first operation, one hundred and thirty five aircrew members will be escaped using Shelburn in seven operations.



The 1944 map of “la plage Bonaparte” (NARA, Le Cornec)

The first operation, with codename “Bonaparte 1”, occurs in the night of January the 28th and 29th 1944, it is announced to the French resistance on the BBC radio by the coded message “Bonjour tout le monde a la maison d’Alphonse”, 16 aircrew members are evacuated plus 2 agents. The men are retrieved thanks to the Royal Navy’s 15th Motor Gun Boat Flotilla (MGBs 502 & 503). Then, on February the 26th 1944, the second operation,“Bonaparte 2”, evacuates 21 aircrew members, 30 on March the 17th 1944, 25 on March the 19th1944, 19 plus 2 agents on March the 23rd 1944, 22 on July the 12th 1944, then 5 agents are evacuated on July the 24th 1944 and finally the 2 last pilots on August the 8th 1944. In total, 94 American and 41 English aircrew members are back in England to continue the fight against the tyranny.



“la plage Bonaparte”, the house is represented on the map at the level of the arrow

From all over the France, tens of French civilians participated to the organization of the network, at the risk of their life. Some of the pilots shot down in France, sometimes several hundred kilometers from Brittany were convoyed, through Paris, to be evacuated at the beach “Bonaparte” with. After the war, the US government will participate to the creation of the monument of the “Bonaparte” beach to honor the courage of all these men and women that helped in the “Shelburn” network. And to notice the importance of this event in France, a new film will be brought on the screens in 2019 to commemorate and keep the memory alive.


2nd from right at 2nd row is Sgt Leonard F. Bergeron evacuated by the operation “Bonaparte 4”

References:

« Le réseau Shelburn” – Eric Rondel – Editions Astoure

« Les Mémoires de l’Histoire » – projet Shelburn

http://www.conscript-heroes.com/escapelines

http://www.ww2escapelines.co.uk/belgium-france/shelburn/

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