Tuesday, March 13, 2012

An 'Escape Line' George Cross






















Photographs:
(Top): "For Gallantry": The George Cross medal (G.C.)
(Bottom): Lt.Cmdr. Patrick Albert O'Leary , G.C. 
(At a post-war commemorative service, Lille, France)
(Courtesy of Cumbria County Archives & Library Service)

For additional information click on 'Comments' below. 

3 Comments:

Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Additional information

Introduction

In 1946 Lieutenant Commander Patrick Albert O'Leary, RNVR, a Canadian, was awarded the George Cross. Earlier, in 1942, he had been awarded the Distinguished Service Order (D.S.O.). During the war 'Pat' O'Leary was involved with one of the underground 'escape lines' for escaped Allied POWs and aircrew. This escape line was named after him - the 'PAO' or 'PAT' line.

Except ..... his real name was not Pat O'Leary, nor was he Canadian. In fact he was really Captain Albert-Marie Edmond Guérisse, a doctor from a Belgian cavalry regiment!

The George Cross citation

Pat O’Leary’s George Cross citation was announced in the 'London Gazette' on 5 November 1946. It reads as follows:

"CENTRAL CHANCERY OF THE ORDERS OF KNIGHTHOOD.

St James's Palace, S.W.1

5th November 1946

The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the award of the GEORGE CROSS to:

Lieutenant-Commander Patrick Albert O'Leary, D.S.O., Royal Navy.

Lieutenant-Commander O'Leary was captured by the French police during operations off the south coast of France in April 1941. He escaped while on route to a French prison, and thereupon set up an organisation to help the escape of Allied prisoners of war and evaders. Through his skill and his sustained personal bravery, the organisation succeeded in getting away some 150 officers and men, many belonging to the Royal Air Force.

At increased risk to himself, Lieutenant-Commander O'Leary was soon forced to help an ever-increasing number of evaders. To keep the members working at full pressure, and to inspire their confidence, he travelled frequently between the Dutch border and the south of France through numerous German controls, himself escorting numbers of escapers. If any question arose of hazard greater than usual, Lieutenant-Commander O'Leary carried out the work himself.

In March 1943, he was betrayed to the Gestapo by a member of his group. Arrested, he was put into many forms of torture in an attempt to make him reveal the names, whereabouts and duties of the other members.

He was put in a refridgerator for four hours, he was beaten continually, but never did he disclose the information which could be of profit to the enemy. After more ferocious experiments, the Germans gave him up as hopeless, and sent him to a Concentration Camp where he was once again the victim of torture. He was a prisoner in Mathausen, Natzweiler, Neubremm and finally Dachau. He nearly lost his life in the Neubremm quarries, where he was beaten insensible.

Throughout his time in prison, Lieutenant-Commander O'Leary's courage never faltered. Numbers of prisoners have given evidence that his moral and physical influence and support saved their lives.

On his liberation from Dachau, Lieutenant-Commander O'Leary refused to leave the Camp, where he had been made "President" of all the prisoners (including some thousands of Russians), until he had ensured that all possible steps had been taken to ease the lot of his fellows. He was then given the opportunity to return to his family, but he insisted on returning to France, to trace the surviving members of his organisation, and to help them in any way he could.

From the time of inception until the end of the war, Lieutenant-Commander O'Leary's group was responsible for the rescue and successful return of over 600 British and American officers and men. It is now known that over 250 owe their safety directly to Lieutenant-Commander O'Leary, whose fortitude and determination matched every task and risk."
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Wednesday, 14 March, 2012  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Some further reading

To read the BBC "People's War" contributions about the Pat O'Leary escape line by WW2 researcher Keith Janes click on the following link:

Pat O'Leary escape line stories (Keith Janes)

The following website by Keith Janes, 'Conscript Heroes', is dedicated to the Pat O'Leary escape line:

Conscript Heroes by Keith Janes

The following website by Christopher Long includes photographs and articles about the Pat escape line:

Christopher Long Escape Line website

To read a biographical summary of Dr Albert Guérisse (Pat O'Leary) and the escape line click on the following link:

Albert Guérisse (Pat O'Leary)

Dedication:

This article is dedicated to Major-Gen Albert-Marie Edmond Guérisse (1911 - 1989), also known by the 'nom de guerre' Lieutenant-Commander Patrick Albert O'Leary.

Wednesday, 14 March, 2012  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

To read another article on the 2WW Blogspot with further information of "Pat O'Leary", the 'PAT' escape line and other escape line click on the following link:

True tales of the wartime escape networks
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Thursday, 02 August, 2012  

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