His head hitting the window with a dull thud woke Jim Evans as a pothole caused the truck to sway alarmingly. The tension in the air and the unique aroma of a French cigarette brought him back to the moment. He rubbed his forehead and exchanged a nervous smile with Eric while the driver stared intently ahead. Jim swept away the condensation that coated the side window with his sleeve to reveal a landscape cloaked in the early morning mist. In the far distance the snow capped peaks of the mountains seemed suspended in the cloudless blue sky like white sheets carelessly hung on an invisible clothesline. Crossing this mountain range was the final leg of their journey to freedom.
Eventually, the truck turned off the road onto a track that disappeared into a gloomy tunnel of pine trees to emerge in a clearing brightly lit by shafts of sunlight. The driver swung the truck in a circle and stopped. As the noise of the rattling Diesel engine died the utter silence reminded Jim of the moment when the bomber engines were switched off at the end of a sortie, but not he thought ruefully, of the rush of immense relief that followed. This was the not the end of a mission but the beginning.
Jim and Eric walked around to the back of the truck where the driver passed down their rucksacks. In turn they embraced the Frenchman who had risked so much, before starting the treacherous trek across the Pyrenees to Spain.
We were given the challenge of writing a piece about mountain climbing: to impart tension without resorting to cliches ………..My story is about the WWII escape route from Belgium to Spain created to help bomber crews return to Britain. The flyers were passed along a line of astonishingly brave civilians to eventually make the perilous trek across the Pyrenees to Spain. Jim Evans is the Lancaster skipper who appeared in my screen play ‘Worlds Apart’.