R. The desire to honour
the gallantry and bravery of a member of your family in
this way is admirable. However, there are now no
Since the Society no longer exists and the
assets of the RAFES Charitable Fund have been
distributed, there is now no way of providing any new or
replacement plaques as a means of recognising the
gallantry of helpers, even to those with a verifiable
claim. How families word inscriptions on headstones and
memorials is of course entirely a private matter for
Q. I am researching a
member of my family who served in one of the Royal Air
Forces and escaped or evaded during WWII. How do I find
out more about his escape or evasion?
R. In London the Public Record Office
(PRO)and Air Historic Branch (AHB) have files of
debriefing reports conducted by IS.9 of many (but not
all) who successfully escaped or evaded.
These debriefing reports were originally designated
'Secret' for the protection of the escape lines. Later,
they were restricted as there was also the possibility
that in the uncertainties of the Cold War, the Helper
systems and networks might one day be needed again.
The information provided varies in the detail provided,
but at best covers:
- service number, rank, name, unit
- date left Europe, date arrived UK
- date of birth, RAF service date,
whether at an OTU, Post in Crew, Conversion Unit
- peacetime profession, Private
- other members of crew and believed
- where took off from, target, cause
of loss of aircraft
- chronological account of what the
evader did, who they contacted up to the point at
which MI.9 took them over.
Helper names are usually omitted and
accounts often end with the remark 'I was then put in
contact with an organisation' or 'From this point my
journey was arranged for me'.
The website editor has a listing of all such reports
found at the PRO in the WO208 files or in the books held
by AHB. The list was compiled by Raymond Glynne-Owen in
1994 with a little help from the editor. I will be happy
to look for references for the person you seek, for which
I will need:
- surname (must have)
- forenames (must have)
- unit (ideally)
- date missing (ideally)
Not all those who escaped or evaded are
in the listing but it is a good start. I regret that I am
unable to undertake research at PRO or AHB on your
A bibliography on RAF Escape and Evasion is linked to
Basic information on how to research someone in your
family who was in the RAF is available via Useful
Sources at this link Royal Air Forces
Register of Associations (RAFRA)
Q. I am researching
the activities of a group who assisted evaders and
escapers in a particular location/ using a particular
R. Look at the bibliography to see if
your interests are covered. It is likely that unless you
are very fortunate, published accounts will not cover
your specific interests in the detail you require.
The RAFES files are now in the care of the Imperial War
You should also contact your relevant national or
Christopher Long has some excellent information on the Pat O'Leary Line in which his family were among the pivotal
A detailed and authoritative account of escape and
evasion on several lines, including Pat, Comet, Burgundy
and Shelburn is in 'Silent Heroes:
Downed Airmen and the French Underground', based
on a thesis by Mrs
published by the University Press of Kentucky in April
Q. Are there people
willing to come and talk to groups and organisations in
the UK about RAF Escape and Evasion?
R. "Maybe" - most are now in their
Please write to Mrs D Morgan, 2 Jasmin Road, West Ewell,
Epsom, Surrey, KT19 9DZ with:
- the name of your group
- where you meet
- your address
- your telephone number
Q. I wish that there was a way to
continue the work of the RAFES and at the very least I
would like to make a donation.
R. The RAFES thought long and hard about whether
to continue. It was a sad step after all that has been
put into the Society's activities over so many years.
However, it was felt it was the right course to take
while the Society still had the energy to wind up its
affairs in a business like and dignified manner.
The general charitable work of the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund, or the equivalent in your own country, would
appreciate the support provided by any donation you
wished to make.
Many members of the Society keep in touch with their
Helpers. These contacts in many cases have continued
between the families even though the Helpers and the
aircrew they aided have now died.
The Royal Air Force Benevolent
Fund, 67 Portland Place, London W1N 4AR .. and please
mention that you were directed to the RAFBF by the RAFES
Q. What does the
motto Solvitur Ambulando
on the RAFES crest mean?
R. Saved through Walking, though this is
probably not the pure translation.
Q. How do I contact
the editor of this website?
R. by email via Frank