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Daring Escape

The story of the rescue of Allied airmen during the Halyard mission is well known today, and it testifies to the friendship between Serbs and Allies.

However, it is not so known that there was more Allied personnel who escaped German capture early as 1941 and sought refuge in occupied Serbia. Some of them, with the help of Guerrilla movements, spent almost three years hiding, until they were rescued with the help of Allied missions.

The story of the daring escape of Australian officer Francis Barrett, born in 1911, has not been published until now, and we are honored to present it to the public for the first time. Data we found in his military records show a very interesting story.

Among many Commonwealth soldiers, he was captured in southern Greece in late April 1941. They were transferred through PoW camps in Greece and finally sent to Germany in early July. While they were changing trains in Austria, he managed to jump into a train going in the opposite direction.

After 25 hour's ride, he arrived in Belgrade. In the evening, he got out into the southern suburbs, and went to a small cluster of houses, knocked on the door, and was received with open arms. He spent four days here, was given food and civilian clothes, and was taken to another family where they could speak English.

He spent another fifteen days with them and was able to wander freely over Belgrade in their company and to witness conditions after German occupations. Finally, he was taken to marshaling yards, hidden under a tarpaulin, and sent to Greece. There he was connected with underground and other escapees, and after some failed attempts, they managed to get to Turkey in September.

Officer Barrett returned to duty. Sadly, he was killed during fighting in New Guinea in November 1943. If it is not for his statement preserved in his military records, this story could be forgotten. It is a strong testimony of how Serbs in occupied Belgrade helped an escapee, even when they could face grave consequences.

Attached are photos of Franciss Barrett, and pages with his Escape statement.


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