Saturday, 12 July 1941

Operation FELIX

This is the first trip for Sgt Austin’s crew after navigator David Halcro has received his commission with effect from 3 July, though Austin’s operations on the 6 and 7 July still list him as ‘Sgt Halcro’. Though the target is south-east of Paris they chose to enter France by the usual route over Cabourg/Dives-sur-Mer. It is a cloudy and thundery night, but the weather clears as they approach the target area.

The purpose of the operation is to drop a replacement for the W/T set that Philip Schneidau had been dropped with in March. This set was damaged in the landing, and has never functioned fully, despite attempts to repair it.

Austin has been given the wrong target location. During Austin’s 50-minute search for the target, red lights attached to the nearby wireless masts at Videlles were switched on whenever the Whitley flies close. These masts are close to Barbizon, on the west side of Fontainebleau Forest. Barbizon had been the original target for dropping Philip Schneidau in January, but by the time Schneidau dropped in March it had been switched back to Montigny.

Austin claims to have found the pinpoint after searching for 50 minutes. He circles for a further ten, but sees no lights that can be construed as the prearranged signal. Hardly surprising: the reception party has been waiting for the drop more than a dozen miles away at Point ‘B’, in open country 4 miles south-east of the Bourron sand-pit and 4 miles north-east of Nemours. A handwritten instruction gives the precise coordinates, but it may not have been communicated effectively to the Flight. Someone has cocked up, a sortie has been wasted and lives risked.

Two unidentified operations

F/O Hockey flies his first operation as skipper. The sortie is recorded in Ron Hockey’s logbook, and is mentioned in the Stradishall Ops Officers’s log, but if Hockey wrote an operations report it is not on file. There is no mention of the operation name.

Hockey takes off at 22.35 but an hour later reports engine trouble. The Whitley lands successfully back at Newmarket at 23.48; Hockey records spending 1 hr 25 mins airborne. This was the same Whitley ‘D’ that had caused Knowles’s early return on the 10th, but Knowles used the same aircraft the next night. This time it had been the port airscrew’s exactor which had failed. Perhaps Knowles had been fortunate in that UPROAR was taken ill while airborne, and the sortie had had to be abandoned.

F/Lt Jackson plans to take off at 23.30 on another operation, also unidentified, in Whitley ‘A’ according to the Stradishall log. It has already been delayed by 45 minutes, but at 23.08 the operation is cancelled by the Air Ministry.