Almost seventy-five years ago, MI9 dreamt up the most audacious escape and evasion plan of World War Two. Formulated by Airey Neave, one of the first men ever to escape from Colditz, this plan was one of subterfuge, concealment and deception on a scale never seen before. With numerous downed RAF and Allied pilots on the run in Europe and with the fabled Comete Escape Line having been infiltrated by double agents, Neave’s plan was to hide these men right under the very noses of the Nazis rather than risk repatriation. Choosing a forest in the heart of France, right next to one of the German Army’s largest ammunition bases, Neave, Belgian agents and the French Resistance would secretly transport and hide Allied pilots and soldiers within feet of the enemy. Nobody thought it would work, but such was the success of the secret camp that a whole community of over one hundred and fifty Allied escapers lived within the forest for three months in the run-up to D-Day. Despite numerous close shaves, they were never discovered and this outrageous plan, brilliant in its simplicity, saw the Allied evaders make their home in the forest, cooking and hunting to survive – and even setting up a golf course in the forest using branches for clubs – without discovery. This operation remained absolutely secret, to the point that the inhabitants of the villages surrounding the forest were unaware, until the end, of the existence of that allied force so close to them. Told through interviews with evaders, members of the Resistance and the children charged with smuggling food into the forest, this book tells the compelling story of one of the most audacious operations in World War Two. A story that has, until today, remained as secret as the Hidden Army of Freteval.
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