HomeWorld NewsMonique Hanotte, Savior of Allied Airmen, Dies at 101

Monique Hanotte, Savior of Allied Airmen, Dies at 101

Monique Hanotte, who greeted border guards as associates as she smuggled about 140 Allied airmen out of German-occupied Belgium throughout World Warfare II, died on Feb. 19 in Nivelles, Belgium. She was 101.

The dying, at a hospital, was introduced by the federal government of Nivelles, the place Ms. Hanotte lived.

Ms. Hanotte was a very efficient member of the Comet line, a Belgian Resistance operation in the course of the conflict that gathered, sheltered, fed, disguised and liberated a whole bunch of Allied airmen who crashed in Belgium throughout missions to assault German forces.

Comet brokers directed the airmen on a path that led to France, then throughout the nation to the Pyrenees, past the mountain vary into Spain, throughout Spain and eventually to the British territory of Gibraltar, from which they had been flown to England.

Ms. Hanotte was one of many final surviving Comet brokers.

Her profession within the civilian Resistance started in Might 1940, the identical month Germany invaded Belgium. Two British troopers who had been despatched to that theater of conflict arrived on the Hanotte household house begging for assist in getting throughout the French border.

The lads had been in luck. Ms. Hanotte’s father, Clovis, was a patriotic World Warfare I veteran who, with the assistance of his spouse, Georgette, ran a customs company in addition to a lodge and restaurant going through the railway station in Rumes, a Belgian city bordering the northwest French city of Bachy. The household dressed the officers as coal retailers and escorted them into France on foot.

Quickly thereafter, that they had one other customer: an officer from MI9, the British conflict workplace charged with serving to prisoners of conflict and downed airmen. Over espresso, he requested Ms. Hanotte’s mother and father if they might lend their daughter, then simply 19, to the conflict effort.

He picked effectively. Ms. Hanotte had lately graduated from highschool in Bachy, crossing the border day by day for her commute. She knew the border guards personally, some as associates, and he or she knew the hidden paths that reduce via the border’s hedgerows.

She turned a part of a bunch of ladies, most prominently Andrée de Jongh, who smuggled folks and items as a part of the Belgian Resistance. Ms. Hanotte had been born Henriette, however now she had a code title: Monique. She would go by that title for the remainder of her life.

Her household sheltered one or two troopers at a time of their lodge. Monique’s cousins labored on forging official signatures on pretend identification playing cards. Her mom cooked for the troopers; supplied them with props, like French or German journal clippings; and ordered them to repeat their French aliases till their pronunciation was convincing.

Monique’s job was to escort the airmen, code-named “parcels.” Generally she merely handed them off to a different agent throughout the border. Different missions referred to as for her to information them round Belgium, bicycling by the quilt of evening after curfew, which was tantamount to risking dying. She realized the way to lead her wards greater than 100 miles, all the best way to Paris.

By late 1942, “we had been bursting on the seams,” Ms. Hanotte was quoted as saying in her obituary in The Occasions of London. “We didn’t know the place to place them any extra, and my mom mentioned to me, ‘Hurry up.’ There have been two of them who had been leaving and two who had been arriving.”

Border guards apprised Ms. Hanotte of the actions of German troopers, and if she bumped into any whereas attempting to cross into France, she handed off her companions as new boyfriends.

Evading seize on French trains and buses proved harder.

Ms. Hanotte purchased tickets for herself and the airmen at separate counters to keep away from being related to them. The airmen, at a distance, adopted her actions — trailing her whereas strolling and presenting their identification playing cards when she did so. She carried a loaf of bread to offer her a canopy story about purchasing within the nation.

On one event, a German soldier on their prepare tried to strike up a dialog with two disguised airmen. Ms. Hanotte, concealing her concern, repeatedly interjected and answered the soldier’s questions herself.

In the future, in 1944, she arrived in Paris solely to search out that the folks at her meant protected home had been gone. She would later be taught {that a} Belgian collaborator had denounced her group. Ms. Hanotte’s British handlers determined that it was time for her to flee, and he or she fled to Gibraltar, following the identical route her many airmen had.

Martin Conway, a professor on the College of Oxford and an skilled in wartime Belgian historical past, mentioned in a telephone interview that the Comet community was penetrated by double brokers and Gestapo operatives, resulting in mass arrests.

“She was uncommon in getting fortunate — with the ability to stick with it working — after which with the ability to get out herself,” Professor Conway mentioned.

Henriette Lucie Hanotte was born in Sépeaux, in north central France, on Aug. 10, 1920, and moved along with her household to Rumes as a child. Her mom, Georgette (Lauret) Hanotte, was half French.

Shortly after the conflict, Monique married Jules Thomé, a Belgian policeman who had been her fiancé since its outset.

After the conflict, she labored at a Belgian lodge owned by the son of a former Comet line comrade. She is survived by two youngsters, Bernadette Thomé-Renard and Bernard Thomé; six grandchildren; and plenty of great-grandchildren.

After she handed off her airmen to the subsequent agent of the Comet line, Ms. Hanotte typically by no means heard from them once more.

That was the case with H.C. Johnson of Tennessee, a technical sergeant whose B-17 was destroyed on Nov. 5, 1943, by German fighter planes, depositing him and his silk parachute in a subject of sugar beets across the Belgian metropolis of Lokeren.

In the midst of his 54 days on the run, Sergeant Johnson relied on Ms. Hanotte to information him via the woods throughout the French border. They parted methods, and he reached Gibraltar safely.

After the conflict, Mr. Johnson managed film theaters in Tennessee and had two youngsters and three grandchildren. He died in 1984.

Greater than 70 years after Ms. Hanotte served as his information, in 2015, Mr. Johnson’s sister, Sue Roark, and a niece, Anita Roark, traveled to Belgium for a celebration of Ms. Hanotte’s profession within the Resistance.

Upon assembly, Ms. Hanotte and Sue Roark hugged. Then, whereas nonetheless near this American stranger, Ms. Hanotte turned towards her to make eye contact. Ms. Hanotte’s smile vanished.

She had a query to ask: “Did he make it house?”



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