Express Delivery
The men brought back by the Shelburn escape line, and the people who made it possible
This is the story of the 119 Allied servicemen brought back from occupied France in 1944 by the Shelburn escape line. Some of the evaders had spent many months in enemy-occupied territory but once in the hands of Shelburn, the men (generally referred to as parcels) were returned to England within days Express Delivery.

Shelburn differed from other escape lines in France in that rather than taking men across the Pyrenees to Spain, it sent them direct to England from the north Brittany coast by RN Motor Gun Boats.

Evaders who embarked from Plage Bonaparte near Plouha came from as far afield as Germany and Holland, and their helpers came from organisations and groups ranging from MI6 to the royal family of Monaco.

Express Delivery places Shelburn within a brief history of WW2 escape lines, explaining how it fits into that overall story, why it couldn't have existed earlier in the war, and why it was so successful. While the book follows the experiences of each individual evader, it also describes in detail the organisations in Paris, l'Oise and Brittany that made Shelburn possible, because it is the helpers who are the real heroes and heroines of this story, many of whose contributions, and eventual fates, have been sadly forgotten.

Helpers, the totally inadequate term used for such extraordinary people, came from all walks of life, with men and women of all ages, and even teenagers and children taking the kinds of risks to help foreign servicemen that would be hard to believe today and the penalties for them if caught were harsh. Captured servicemen could expect to be sent to a prisoner of war camp but the civilians who helped them were liable to be executed or deported to Germany, along with their families and friends.
Click here to buy a copy of the book, price £15.00, from publisher Troubador
or you can contact me to buy a copy - signed on request - post-free to UK addresses
Please note that the book (141,000 words) is quite heavy so overseas postage is expensive
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This page is intended to raise interest and awareness about the book but also to provide corrections and updates to the printed version as and when further information becomes available - a sort of on-line errata - plus things I wish I'd known earlier ..
With that in mind, purchasers of "Express Delivery" may care to update their copies with the following notes
Latest update 31 Dec 2020
On 10 September 2019, I received an email from Jean-Yves Thoraval who had been researching Robert Southers story on behalf of Southers family, who visited the area in May 2019. Whilst I don't seem to have made any major errors in my account, Jean-Yves has added some useful information, and answered some of the queries that I had about some of the American reports.
Page 111  The young man who first helped Marion Hall was probably Joseph Le Denmat.
Page 132 The Frenchman with the young boy who first helped Southers was Auguste Le Goff. The lieutenant's "aunt" who sheltered Southers overnight was Yvonne Bellac.
Page 133 Mme Tinis (query) and her son were Yvonne Tévis (née Le Hénaff) and her son Donald of Saint-Nicolas-du-Pélem. The priest to whom Noel Cozic took Southers was l'abbé Morellec at Caniguel. Bijoutier Louis Michel lived at 20 rue de Verdun in Rostrenen. Jean-Yves says that the two men (one of whom I assumed was Jean-Guy Barou) were Yves Loyer and Pierre Sibiril.
Page 140 The two (assumed) brothers who helped Church and Blye were Valentin Le Stang (of Paule) and Robert Le Tort - and Valentin went to collect civilian clothes from Edouard Le Jeune of Kermoisan, Paule. From this you can also see that "Stephen Le Tour" is actually a combination of Le Stang and Le Tort.
Page 311 The woman (Mme Thevis - query) who sheltered Brennan and his crew was obviously Yvonne Tévis.
Some other things that I wished I'd known ..
Page 35 I've said that James King was taken to a chemists shop in Armentieres - this was Georges van Kemmel (born April 1907) at 32 rue d'Ypres (now rue des Déportés), who lived with his wife Nelly (born July 1910) at No 28 rue d'Ypres.
Page 229 Alfred Logeon .. and his wife Simone .. and their middle daughter Ginette Marguerite (born July 1925) .. The youngest daughter Monique was still at school but their eldest daughter Paulette (Lubineaux) also convoyed aviators.
Page 186 I've said that on 7 Feb 1944, there was no answer when Joe Birdwell and Bernard d'Havrincourt went to Mme Vve Marie Maziliat's apartment to warn her about the arrest of Marie Rose Zerling. There was no answer because Mme Maziliat was away guiding another evader - she and the unnamed evader were arrested at Dijon on 9 Feb. However it would seem that Mme Maziliat was already under suspicion because on 1 Feb, the Gestapo had asked her neighbour (in the same building), Jean Chevallier, for the key to her apartment. He refused, and on 15 Feb, Jean and his wife Bridget (the Irish lady that Birdwell left a message with) were arrested - Bridget (born 27 Feb 1887) was released two days later but Jean was deported, and died in Germany on 25 April 1945.
Page 22 I've said that Gilbert Thibault was recommended for an MBE. As a soldier, this was the highest award for which he was eligible but I believe he was actually awarded a well deserved OBE (Civil).
Page 50 "John Brace says .. (assume Mmme Trumelet) .. along with a famale representative of the organisation .." should read " .. (Mme Trumelet) .. along with a representative of the organisation .. who took them to Ruffec next day by himself."
Page 90 I've said there were seven evaders returned to the UK on Operation Envious IIb when in fact there were eight.
Page 108 I've said that the crew of B-17 42-30200 Slo Time Sally were returning from Cognac-Chateaubernard aerodrome on 5 January 1944 when they were shot down. They were actually returning from Bordeaux-Merignac.
Page 164 I've said that Maurice and Marguerite Cavalier returned from deportation to Germany. Sadly that is not the case - neither survived.
Page 240 I've said that Buland Khan was helped by a woman called Lise La Rider - that should read Lise Le Rider - and gives her address as 17 rue d'Oleron in Paris, and address that does not seem to exist. The website says she was married to a Mons Wieselthier, and IS9 lists Mme Lise Wieselthier at 60 rue Madame, Paris VI.
Page 281 "Mme Jules Henry" should read "Mme Jules Henri" - she lived at 16 Villa Said, Paris XVI.