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Marguerite Langley, née Van Lier

Civilian

Peggy Langley was a link in the Comet Line, one of the most important of the resistance organisations which helped downed airmen escape from Occupied Europe. She helped gather airmen from the Belgian countryside and bring them to Brussels where they were passed on down the line to eventual safety. Her obituary in The Guardian describes how in 1942 she was apprehended herself in a close-run incident; she was interrogated by a '"fat, evil, rat-faced SS officer". She had taken the precaution of arming herself with photos showing her posing with German soldiers, and this helped to win over her captors, as did her perfect German.'
This near-fatal miss ended her work with the Comet line. She herself was evacuated out of the country through France and over the Pyrenees to Seville where she was reputedly transported to Gibraltar in a boat carrying oranges. Her son, Roddy, wrote an article for Escape Lines describing her experience:
'She left for Paris, continuing along the same route the airmen took with Comete to St Jean de Luz, a small fishing port in the shadow of the Pyrenees. It was here that Comete had secured the services of a tough Basque smuggler called Florentino Goicoechea, who was to become their most trusted and resourceful Pyrenees guide. (After the war, when he was awarded the King’s Medal for Freedom at Buckingham Palace, King George VI asked him what he did for a living, “I’m in the import-export business”, Florentino replied). Overnight, without any lights or hiking equipment, only espadrilles on their feet, Florentino took my mother and her companions up and down the French side of the Pyrenees, guided them to wade across the freezing cold River Bidassoa into Spain, up another steep climb before descending to a safe farmhouse were they collapsed, exhausted.'
Peggy married the man she met on the hardstanding at RAF Hendon on her arrival in England: James Maydon "Jimmy" Langley who worked for MI-9 and had lost an arm at Dunkirk. After the war, they ran a bookshop in Suffolk. She was awarded the MBE, the Belgian Croix de Guerre and the Netherlands Resistance Cross, but most importantly, she helped to save many lives.
Peggy is buried near the door of St Andrew's in the little village of Alderton. Her grave carries the motto 'Pugna Quin Percutias' which translates as 'fight without arms', the motto of the Comet line. It shows a small plane going down in flames.
Note from Belgian researcher Ed Reniere (April 2019) : Although she never helped any USAAF airman to evade (her activity in Belgium and France ceased soon after the first 8th AF operations over Belgium and The Netherlands), she would certainly have been of great help to any of them were they to parachute into occupied Holland, Belgium or France.
She was also awarded the US Medal of Freedom after the war.
See her page at http://www.evasioncomete.org/fvanliema.html

Events

Event Location Date
Born Johannesburg, South Africa 1 March 1915

Born Marguerite van Lier, the daughter of South African businessman J. L. Van Lier and Belgian Gretta Van Lier, née O'Reilly, of Irish origin.

Lived in 1941

Brusselsesteenweg 71, Halle (Brabant), SW of Brussels, Belgium

August 1941

called by Frédéric De Jongh, a Brussels schoolmaster involved in the Résistance, to help his group in organizing the evacuation of evading Allied airmen

May 1942

she started guiding Allied airmen inside Brussels

19 November 1942

arrested by the Gestapo in Brussels, but after a long interrogation, was set free the same day

2 December 1942

left Brussels by train for Paris together with other burned agents

6 December 1942

having traveled from Paris via Bordeaux, Bayonne, Dax and St Jean de Luz, she crossed the Pyrénées mountains into Spain, and was guided to Gibraltar

9 December 1942

left Gibraltar by air and arrived at Hendon, England

Buried 2000

Marguerite "Peggy" Langley-Van Lier rests at the Saint Andrew Church burial ground in Alderton, Suffolk, England

Died 20 July 2000

Alkderton, Woodbridge IP12 3DE, United Kingdom

Revisions

Date Contributor Update
02 April 2019 10:08:48 ED-BB Changes to media associations
Sources

Removed UPL 32910 - duplicate with UPL 34369

Date Contributor Update
02 April 2019 09:52:36 ED-BB Changes to events
Sources

added date to one of Biography events to respect the chronology

Date Contributor Update
02 April 2019 09:50:27 ED-BB Changes to surname, firstname, nickname, biography and events
Sources

Research for her page at http://www.evasioncomete.org/fvanliema.html
Belgian post-war ARA file
Book "Comète - Le réseau derrière la ligne DD" by Philippe Le Blanc (published by MeMoGrames, Arquennes, Belgium, 2015).

Date Contributor Update
18 April 2018 21:23:21 Jenny Changes to events
Sources

As before

Date Contributor Update
18 April 2018 21:22:12 Jenny Changes to biography and events
Sources

Same as above

Date Contributor Update
18 April 2018 21:14:18 Jenny Created entry with surname, firstname, nickname, nationality, biography and events
Sources

Grave details from a visit - see photo

Peggy's story from her obituaries:
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/1349750/Peggy-Langley.html
https://www.theguardian.com/news/2000/aug/17/guardianobituaries.ianjack

And the story from Peggy's son, Roddy:
http://www.ww2escapelines.co.uk/freedom-trails/trail-reports/

And her residency in Suffolk from a story in the East Anglian Daily Times about a theft from the church:
http://www.eadt.co.uk/news/we-re-all-devastated-missing-medal-donated-by...

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