Friday, 11 April 1941

CARTWRIGHT pick-up operation

This is the second Lysander pick-up operation. F/O Gordon Scotter, on loan from No II(AC) Squadron, is to extract SIS agent Michel Charles COULOMB, commissioned into the Intelligence Corps in October 1940 as Lt Michael James Cartwright. Coulomb has already completed at least one mission, inserted by sea in early August 1940 and recovered by the same means in October. He was parachuted on the night of 15th January, and is now being recovered.

Scotter takes off from Tangmere at 2300 hrs, and climbs steadily over the Channel until he crosses the French coast at Fécamp at about 13,500 feet; this is rather higher than the 7,000 ft necessary to avoid the light flak on the coast. He also flies an unusual course, taking him east of Le Havre. He sets course for Blois, where he changes course for Levroux. From Leveroux he sets course south-east for the target. There he sees Cartwright’s torch, and lands.

According to Hugh Verity, but not included in Scotter’s later report, the agent climbs up to the cockpit and tells Scotter to take off smartly, without the luxury of turning downwind before making a proper take-off run into wind. Two suitcases are thrown into the rear cockpit, and Scotter takes off using full boost, which is only to be used for an emergency take-off. Car headlights are seen approaching the field as they leave. Scotter has seen several enemy aircraft on the way out, and they see more on the return leg, but he is easily able to avoid them by diving away.

In June 1941 Scotter will be awarded the DFC for this operation.

On 28 May 1942, more than a year after the events he describes, F/Lt Gordon Scotter will submit an operations report. Scotter has since been posted to 161 Squadron, and it appears that he has been asked to write a report, though who asks him is not known. It is typed on the now-standard operations-report proforma for 161 Squadron, so W/Cdr Fielden, 161 Squadron’s Commanding Officer, may have asked him to record the details of his action as a guide for the squadron’s Lysander pilots. (S/Ldr Nesbitt-Dufort has been posted away after his involuntary holiday in France.) Scotter gives the position for the pick-up as about a mile WSW of the village of Brion, north of Châteauroux.

Sources

TNA: several versions of the Army List from late 1940
TNA AIR 20/8455 Pikot reports for 161 Operations (Lysander)
‘We landed by Moonlight’, by Hugh Verity, Ch. 3