The Shelburn Freedom Trail
On the night of 16/17 November 1943, Operation Magdelen II took place for MI9, which involved a double pick-up operation by two Lysanders of 161 Special Duties Squadron, piloted by S/Ldr Hugh Verity and F/O Mac McCairns. Delivered to France that night were two French Canadians, Lucien Dumais and Raymond Labrosse. The landing ground chosen was in a field WNW of Soissons, 2km SW of Selens. The Landing Master that night was Count Georges d’Oultremont. Both aircraft returned to RAF Tempsford with passengers – Cdt Edgard Potier, organiser of the Possum Escape Line and five aircrew evaders. Both Canadians had escaped from France earlier and were now returning to set up The Shelburn Line in Brittany. Raymond Labrosse had been the radio operator for the Oaktree Escape Line in Brittany, which had been compromised in February 1943. The Shelburn Line was only active from December ’43 until August ’44, but in that short time returned over 130 evaders and other fugitives to England. The Shelburn Freedom Trail does not retrace any known escape line route. It follows the coastal path between a number of SOE / SIS / MI9 beach pick-up points, finishing at the main MI9 collection point at Plage Bonaparte where above on the cliff top is the Shelburn Memorial. The ‘going’ is fairly good, craggy in places; the ground is undulating and at times crosses some beach areas dependent upon the tidal situation. The walk does not involve climbing any significant heights. The route follows coastal and cliff paths. Including the GR34 coastal route. It must be noted that the Brittany coast has the highest tidal rise in Europe, thirty to forty feet in a very short time, so ‘short-cuts’ across bays are not an option. **************************** Day One – ELMS members arrive, settle into accommodation – briefing. Day Two – Walkers start the walk at 0930hrs from the car park east of Plougasnou and head eastward along the GR34 coastal path to the memorial of the SOE Var Line pick-up point at Beg-an-Fry. Briefing and ELMS wreath-laying ceremony. The walk continues to Les Sables Blanc near Locquirac for lunch. Following lunch the route continues to St Michel-en-Grave and then to the finish point at Pointe du Sehar. The ‘going’ is fairly good; no significant height gained; undulating terrain; beautiful scenery. Time taken: approx 8 hrs. Distance: approx 20 miles. Day Three – Walkers start at 0930hrs from Ile Grande, at the site of the Glover Operations for the ALIBI Intelligence network [BCRA]. The walkers head east along the GR34 coastal route, around the Cote de Granit Rose to the finish point at Perros-Guirec. Easy walking; no significant height gained; undulating ground. Time taken: approx 6 hrs. Distance: approx 10 miles. At the end of the walk there will be a visit to the WW2 safe-house of the Chateau Bourblanc and also to the grave of the Comtessa Betty de Maudit at Plourivo, where ELMS crosses will be laid. Day Four – Walkers start at 0930hrs from Buguels and walk via the DAHLIA safe-house, along the GR34 to Porz Bugale and the Pointe de Chateau with its view of the Ile d’Er, site of the SIS / BCRA Flannelfoot operations – lunch time stop. The walk continues in the afternoon to the finish point at La Roche Jaune. Easy walking; no significant height gained; undulating ground; spectacular scenery. Time taken: approx 6 hrs. Distance: approx 10 miles.
Day Five – Walkers start at 0900hrs from Abbaye de Plouezec car park and walk eastwards along the GR34 coastal path to Pointe de Plouezec, arriving at about 1100hrs. There will be a short ceremony at the monument to commemorate the SSRF Operation FAHRENHEIT and to remember F/Lt Stephan RAF. Walkers then continue on to the lunch stop at Brehet. After lunch walkers continue to the finishing point at Plage Bonapart for a wreath-laying ceremony, together with local people, at the ShelburnMemorial high on the cliff overlooking the beach.
After the ceremony walkers will visit the site of the Shelburn safe-house known as ‘La Maison d’Alphonse’ and retrace the route taken from the safe-house to the beach. Time taken: approx 7hrs. Distance: approx 14 miles. – cliff top route.
Maison D’Alphonse, the safe house on the cliffs of the Brittany coast was the holding area for evaders waiting to be picked up from the beaches below by motor gun boats of the Royal Navy 15th Flotilla. The pickups were always confirmed over ‘Ici Londres’, the ‘BBC Messages Personal service to our friends in France’ using the cryptic message ‘Bonjour tout le monde a la Maison d’Alphonse’. Following a very successful ‘Home Run’ fundraising event for the Royal Air Forces Escaping Society [RAFES] in 1994, Roger Stanton, who led the teams from Norway to Gibraltar in a race against the clock was presented with a stone from the ruined Maison D’Alphonse. The stone, which is inscribed with the historic call-sign, now hangs on the wall in the Chapel at Eden Camp Museum.