The Freedom Trail: World War II Escape Route Over the Pyrenees
Here in Ariège Pyrénées, a group of people have remembered and saluted the bravery of those involved in the many escapes over the border from France into Spain during World War II. They walked for four days, re-tracing the steps of the men and woman who relied on and respected each other in times of great danger, resisting and outwitting the hated occupying forces.
Acknowledging the courageousness of both escapees and their guides, remembering the dignity and bravery of those involved, the marathon four day ‘walk’ took place, as it does every year in July, retracing one of the greatest escape routes used during the war. It is possibly the most dangerous route of all; the one they call Le Chemin de la Liberte — the Freedom Trail. The walk began from my nearest town, St Girons.
|Great War Memorial St Girons|
Using trails through the forests, crossing rivers, scaling massive granite boulders, then higher and higher into the mountains, the walkers eventually go over the Pyrenees and into Spain, via Mount Valier.
This group of people walk by day, usually sunny days. They carried essential equipment, had possession of compasses, survival food and sun tan lotion and all wore the very best of climbing gear. The relevant authorities; the mountain rescue teams, the Gendarmerie and the office of the Mayor were aware that the big commemoration walk was taking place, should anyone had needed assistance. Even with all this backup, it is a gruelling, exhausting four-day affair.
Consider then, the young men of the Second World War, fleeing from the enemy, who attempted this astonishing journey under cover of darkness. Most were exhausted, weak from lack of food. Some were injured, but had received little or no medical help. As to equipment, they only had the clothes they stood in. Without the luxury of compasses or climbing boots they faced one of the most treacherous parts of the Pyrenees; it was their only chance of freedom. That final climb to reach the border and over into Spain seems quite beyond belief now.
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