Anne BRUSSELMANS (1905-1993)

Anne Brusselmans This Is Your Life

programme details...

  • Edition No: 43
  • Subject No: 43
  • Broadcast live: Mon 25 Nov 1957
  • Broadcast time: 7.30-8.00pm
  • Venue: BBC Television Theatre
  • Series: 3
  • Edition: 9

on the guest list...

  • Bronck Malinowski
  • Tom Reynolds
  • Fred Allen
  • Alfred Beard
  • Robert Clarke
  • Julien - husband
  • Yvonne - daughter
  • Jacques - son
  • Pastor Schyns
  • Raymond Itterbeek
  • Leopold Detinne
  • Maj Henry Sarnow
  • Lea Knops
  • group of friends - live link from Brussels
  • ACM Sir Ronald Ivelaw-Chapman
  • D Eldridge
  • Ken Garvey
  • G H Mellor
  • S Lawrence
  • Flt Lt Lamport-Newton
  • W Palmer
  • G Lorne
  • Sqn Ldr Bill Norfolk

production team...

  • Researchers: Nigel Ward, Ray Marler
  • Writer: Peter Moore
  • Director: unknown
  • Producer: T Leslie Jackson
  • names above in bold indicate subjects of This Is Your Life
related page...

Military Life

saluting the armed forces

Anne Brusselmans This Is Your Life Anne Brusselmans This Is Your Life Anne Brusselmans This Is Your Life

Photographs of Anne Brusselmans This Is Your Life

Anne Brusselmans biography

Sylvia and Peter Duncan recall this edition of This Is Your Life in their book, This is Your Life: Anne Brusselmans MBE...

Peter Duncan first met Anne Brusselmans when she broadcast on 'In Town Tonight', of which he was producer.

Feeling that tribute should be paid to her, he arranged for her to appear on the BBC Television programme This Is Your Life.

Some time later, the unsuspecting Mme. Brusselmans, spending a weekend with the Duncan family, was taken to the studios, ostensibly to watch her hostess, Sylvia, appear on television.

On stage she met some of the 176 men who had stayed in the Brusselmans' flat and others of the 600 who had got home through the escape line, in which she had played a leading part...

Five people sat in a dressing-room above the BBC Television Theatre at Shepherd's Bush awaiting a BBC production. They were Sylvia and Peter Duncan, Madame Anne Brusselmans, and two script writers.

Sylvia sat before the mirror renewing her lipstick. She was supposed to be appearing in a panel game, and Madame Brusselmans, who had spent the weekend with the Duncans, had been invited to watch the production.

Someone knocked on the door. A call-boy entered and said, 'They're ready now.' The four wished Sylvia good luck, the script writers escorted her downstairs, with Peter and Anne following behind.

At the entrance to the studio the script writers disappeared. Sylvia walked in first, closely followed by Peter and Anne, then she dropped to Anne's other side as Eamonn Andrews approached saying, 'Here is the lady we are waiting for. Madame Anne Brusselmans... This Is Your Life!'

Anne was confused. She muttered, 'No... no... not me...' and tried to push Sylvia forward.

Peter, supporting her with his arm, whispered, 'Anne... it's all right... all your friends are out there waiting for you.'

Still hardly able to understand what was happening, Anne followed Eamonn to lead her on to the stage. Almost at once he brought her husband, Julien, and her children, Yvonne and Jacques to stand by her side.

Viewers heard how she, an ordinary housewife and mother had helped a hundred and seventy-six Allied airmen to evade capture by the Germans during the war.

Many members of the RAF Escaping Society travelled from all parts of the country to be in the studio and acclaim her at the end of the programme.

Daily Mail article: Anne Brusselmans This Is Your Life

Daily Mail 14 March 2012

This is your life-line


In the mid-Sixties I found myself at the Seaman's Mission in Dunkirk. The lady in charge had been the subject of This Is Your Life and showed me a copy of the famous Red Book. She had saved a number of airmen during World War II. I can't recall her name: who was she?


The early series of This Is Your Life, hosted by Eamonn Andrews, mixed celebrity with real-life heroes, including business people, military personnel, the clergy and those who had performed outstanding community or charity service.

The lady in question here had performed an extraordinary act of courage. Anne Brusselmans was a key recruit to the Comet Line evacuation network, formed in May 1940 by another Belgian, Andree de Jongh – the Little Cyclone – with the aim of helping downed RAF airmen return to Britain.

The line started in Brussels, where the men were fed, clothed, given false identity papers and hidden in private houses. The network then guided the airmen south through occupied France into neutral Spain and home via British-controlled Gibraltar.

Brusselmans was a key player in the Comet Line. Fluent in English, she was invaluable in interrogating potential airmen to determine whether they were infiltrators.

Brusselmans and her husband Julien, who worked for the gas board, were also responsible for sheltering a series of 176 airmen in their Brussels flat.

For four years the Brusslemans family lived under constant threat from the Gestapo. If what they had been doing had been discovered, they would almost certainly have been executed.

Brusselmans appearance on This Is Your Life was organised by her biographers Sylvia and Peter Duncan. On November 25 1957, they brought her to England under the pretence she was going to watch Sylvia on a panel show.

While Duncan was pretending to prepare for the show, Eamonn Andrews appeared with his camera crew saying: 'Here is the lady we are waiting for. Madame Anne Brusselmans This Is Your Life!'

A confused Brusselmans muttered 'No... no... not me...' before being told what was happening.

The first people to greet her were her husband Julien and her children Yvonne and Jacques.

Many members of the RAF Escaping Society travelled from all parts of the country to be in the studio and acclaim her at the end of the programme.

For her outstanding bravery, she was awarded the MBE, Belgian Croix de Guerre with Palm Leaf and the Medal of Freedom with Silver Palm from General of the US Army, Dwight D Eisenhower – she was one of only 14 Europeans given this medal.

Series 3 subjects

Albert Whelan | Colin Hodgkinson | Vera Lynn | Arthur Christiansen | John Logie Baird | Richard Carr-Gomm | Jack Train
Edith Powell | Anne Brusselmans | Norman Wisdom | Victor Silvester | Jack Petersen | Lucy Jane Dobson
David Bell | Matt Busby | Minnie Barnard | Gordon Steele | Louie Ramsay | Tubby Clayton | Daniel Angel
Anna Neagle | 'Dapper' Channon | Frederick Stone | Paul Field | Noel Purcell | Barbara Cartland
Harry Secombe | Archie Rowe | Humphrey Lyttelton | Francis Cammaerts | A E Matthews