Janine de Greef, a Belgian and a leading figure in the wartime Comet Line escape organisation during World War II was a spirited, kindhearted and charitable person who used to feed the strays cat in her neighbourhood with the finest fillet steak. She must have been an animal lover and still a very young person because she was at school in the Belgian capital of Brussels, aged fifteen, when German forces invaded her country at the outset of WW2.
Janine de Greef was a founder member of the Comet Line, an army of volunteers operating in Brussels, Paris and Bayonne which helped almost 800 Allied airmen to evade German capture and return to England after they were shot down over occupied Europe. She was said to have great presence of mind and courage for a woman of such a young age. And her youth and naive appearance helped her succeed in ensuring that the airmen avoided capture. She helped the airmen escape France to Spain, a route that she took with her family at the end of the war when Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy on the morning of June 6, 1944.
Her mother was also involved in the Comet Line and her entire family survived the war without being arrested. There were 3,000 civilians helping the organisation of which 700 were taken by Nazi security forces. More than 250 of them were executed or died in concentration camps.
Janine de Greef’s mother Elvire received the George medal and Janine received the King’s Medal for Courage in the Cause of Freedom. Her citation outlined the many times she had helped American airmen evade the Germans in their journey to the Spanish frontier:
In all her work for the Allied Cause, Mlle Janine de Greef proved herself to be a most courageous, loyal and patriotic helper.
She was born in 1925 into a middle-class family. Her father was a businessman. She spent a large part of the war in the south west of France running the southern section of the rescue organisation. She returned to her family home in Brussels after the war and was employed by the British Embassy as a commercial attaché. In 1991 she moved into her mother’s downstairs flat after her death. She often attended the annual reunions of the Comet Line. Encouraged by her mother, she never married.