Monday, 12 May 1941


Despite the mis-spelling, this may be one of the few military operations named after a horse race. The Cesarewitch is a race run at Newmarket as part of the October festival, finishing at the Rowley Mile grandstands. During the next ‘dark’ period 1419 Flight is to be moved to RAF Newmarket Heath, taking over the Rowley Mile Grandstand area and the gallops on its north side, though the race course was left relatively undisturbed. The grass ‘runway’ formed from the northern gallops is over 3,000 yards long, making it useful as an emergency landing ground for damaged bombers.

The operation is to parachute Emile Tromme, an agent recruited from the Belgian Army regiment the ‘Chasseurs Ardennais’. Vielsalm appears to be the intended target for dropping CEZAREWITCH, but the operations goes almost entirely awry. The night is clear, but mist and industrial haze – a significant problem over northern Europe before post-war smoke-control measures – makes it impossible for S/Ldr Knowles to be certain of the target.

After a half-hour search, Knowles returns to the Meuse to try and pick up a pinpoint, but haze and searchlights make this impossible. The crew thinks they are near Namur. They have another go at finding Vielsalm, spending 45 minutes in the search.

Eventually Tromme is asked if he wants to return to England or be dropped in a field. He chooses to be dropped. Knowles estimates that, based on his course after dropping the agent, Tromme appears to have been parachuted about 30 km north of the target, about 7 km south-east of Verviers, into some woodland. Both the target, and the place where he appears to have been dropped, are within the borders of an expanded Germany after its annexation of part of Belgium. As with MARINE/ALBION, it’s a moot point as to whether Tromme’s masters in London are aware of the annexation.

According to Tromme, he is dropped thirty miles to the north-east, near the German town of Düren. He claims to have landed inside a prison-camp from which he appears to find it remarkably easy to escape. It is probably fortunate that finger-trouble on the part of F/Lt Murphy (2nd Pilot acting as ‘container-aimer’) prevents the container from dropping; he had forgotten to switch the bomb-release circuit from ‘Safe’, and by the time he realises his mistake they are long past the spot where they have dropped Tromme.


TNA AIR20/8334, Encl. 12A