"Le Chemin de la Liberté" with Discover Adventure
Escaping to Freedom on the Liberté trail - A combination of old and new
During the early years of the occupation the Ariège was still in the free zone and although under the control of the Vichy police, many evaders succeeded in reaching Spain by their own means, often following easier routes such as the "Ports" of Aula and Salau which were high above above the villages of Couflens and Seix. These, however, were quickly abandoned after November 1942 and from then on it became imperative to be helped by one of the clandestine escape networks and led over the mountains by local guides.
From the 11th of November 1942, the date on which the Germans occupied the free zone following the Allied invasion of North Africa on the 8th of November, the Nazi noose tightened and surveillance increased dramatically. Frontier guards, mainly Austrians, were posted along the whole length of the mountain chain and enemy patrols intensfied. A forbidden zone twenty kilometres deep was also set up along the Pyrenees into which access was only allowed with a special pass.
Our route took a combination on the commemorative "Le Chemin de la Liberté" in Scott Goodalls book via Aunac and Subera refuge until reaching the beleagured Halifax bomber and then escaped over the formerly used Porte d'Aula to drop down to Borde de Perosa and freedom in Spain.
Together with Discover Adventure Leader Victor Titorenko we set off after a visit to the fabulous museum Maison du Chemin de la Liberte in St Girons. Luckily Paul Broué featured here and gave some personal accounts of his own escape stories.
Moving from La soumiere we trekked up to the passeur Louis Barreau memorial to hear of his untimely death at the age of 19 and felt for him next to where he took shelter before being discovered and shot by a German patrol and a contingent of Vichy police. Expecting a party of refugees Louis had been betrayed.
Image: Ian Spare
After some spectacular views of the Bois du Cos on the way to Aunac via the camp de Peyrot.