Tribute to the Comète line evader Bob Frost
by Geoff Cowling - former Chairman of the Escape Lines Memorial Society (ELMS)
RAF veteran Bob Frost passed away at his Walmer care home during the early hours of March 14th. At 96, Bob Frost was one of the last (if not the last) of the tens of thousands who saw active service in RAF Bomber Command in WWII. As a Wellington bomber rear gunner, Bob was incredibly lucky to survive bailing out of his shot-down aircraft. Even luckier to be picked up by the Belgian Resistance, spirited across the Western Pyrenees into Spain and returned to the UK via and Gibraltar with the help of the British Consulate General in Bilbao and our Embassy in Madrid. As a founder member of The RAF Escaping Society and later the Escape Lines Memorial Society, Bob always had in mind the memory of the civilian helpers in occupied Europe, many of whom were executed for helping Allied escapers and evaders. Both widowed, Bob Frost and Mildred Schutz have been inseparable for nearly 20 years. Mildred herself served in the SOE in Italy. For the past 12 months, now 95, Mildred has made a thrice monthly rail and taxi trip from London to Walmer, spending days on end at Bob's bedside. Bob is survived by his daughter Joanne and son Geoffrey. Bob's loss will be greatly felt by Mildred who I hope will receive the support from us all she so richly deserves. Bob's funeral service will be held at 13.30 on Friday 12 April at St Bartholomew's Chapel, Sandwich CT13 0BP, before moving to the Crematorium. The Rev Bruce Lyons, retired Chaplain to the RAF Escaping Society, will officiate. St Barts is an easy walk from Sandwich Railway Station, and there will be a reception at The Bell Hotel afterwards. Anyone wishing to attend should email Bruce Lyons: email@example.com
The last veteran airman and the Basque Country
by Joe Linehan - President of the Basque Pyrenees Freedom Trails’ Association (BPFTA)
On March 14, 2019, the veteran English aviator Bob Frost died at the age of 95. On September 19, 1942, his plane was shot down over Nazi-occupied Europe and, after burying his parachute in Belgian soil, the ex-RAF rear-gunner found help with the Resistance who took him to Brussels. Four days later he travelled to Paris with a guide. From there, with three other aviators, two young women from the clandestine Comète escape line accompanied them to Saint Jean de Luz in the French Basque Country. From there the legendary passeur from Hernani, Florentino Goikoetxea, guided them to Gipuzkoa and Bob arrived in England, via Madrid and Gibraltar, on October 24, 1942. Comète was one of the Franco-Belgian escape lines that chose the Basque Pyrenees to cross for the clandestine passage over into Spain, and whose founder, and mountain crossing guide also was the young Belgian woman, Andrée ("Dédeé") De Jongh.
It is estimated that between 1941 and 1944 the network managed to repatriate about 800 fugitives. More than 3,000 civilian volunteers helped in the Line, of whom about 700 were arrested and, of these, 290 shot or otherwise killed on being deported to extermination camps. In a recent interview Bob recalled a conversation with Dedeé in Bidegain Berri the last safe house before making the night crossing of the Pyrenees: "I asked him why she was doing this work and she told me simply because “it had to be done." The veteran, as a occupied founding member of the Escape Lines Memorial Society, always emphasized the role of the civilian helpers in occupied Europe. Over the years, Bob participated in many tributes on both sides of the frontier in the Basque Country to thank the people for that help in those dark days in Europe. In recent years, when he was unable to travel, High School students from Hernani - a town where there is a monument in honour of the WW2 mountain guides - and as members of the Basque Pyrenees Freedom Trails’ Association, attended the ELMS annual event in York to return the thanks to Bob and the other veterans.
Full-length filmed interview with Bob Frost available here:
Countess Andrée de Jongh: "Belgian resistance heroine whose secret escape line saved 800" - obituaries:
More information about the WW2 escape lines including the Comète line: