Monthly Archives: November 1940

Thursday, 14 November 1940

Morlaix, Brittany

F/O Oettle (as skipper) and F/Lt Keast fly the first RAF insertion operation for SOE (or SO2 as it is known for several months after its formation).

Whitley T4264 is airborne from Stradishall at 21.00. Its target is near the town of Morlaix, in Brittany. The agent comes from de Gaulle’s Free French, from what will later become known  as SOE’s ‘RF’ (Republique Française) Section.

The Whitley arrives over the target, but when it comes to the moment for the agent to jump, he refuses. He certainly isn’t the last, but he is the first. Later refusals are sometimes for valid reasons, such as snow on the ground, which would reveal the agent’s tracks leaving the DZ, but the reason for this refusal remains unknown.

The crew has no choice but to return to base. The agent is returned to staff duties. In his SOE in France, Professor MRD Foot saw no reason to identify the agent, saying that he later ‘did well’. Foot was an SAS parachutist himself, dropped into France in 1944, so he knew what he was about.

Tuesday, 19 November 1940

RAF Stradishall

At 19.20, information about a planned sortie is passed to 3 Group by phone. At 2300 Group is informed that a Whitley may take off at 23.15, but that a decision cannot be made due to the weather. At 23.20 Whitley ‘L’ takes off, and Group is informed.

According to a summary written in February 1941 the destination is Leiden, Holland. Keast’s logbook says that he and F/O Oettle fly a 4 hour, 45 minute operation in Whitley T4264. The Stradishall Ops Officer’s Log says that they land at 03.57.

The agent appears to have been Cornelius ‘Kees’ van Brink, a Dutchman who had been in Australia in 1939. He arrived in England at the end of July 1940. He was recruited by SIS and parachuted in November. Though the date given by Dutch sources is 18-19 November, there was no sortie on that night.

Van Brink was the second agent parachuted in to Holland. He was dropped near Kippenburg, about 15 Km west of the Tjeukemeer where Lodo van Hamel had been arrested the previous month. Finding that the contact addresses he had been given in London appeared to be under surveillance by the Germans, he made his way to Rotterdam. Though after sending several messages and apparently completing his task he wanted to return to the UK. He appears to have pre-arranged to be picked up by Heije Schaper, the Dutch Air Force pilot who had attempted to pick up van Hamel and only narrowly escaped. But London wanted van Brink to remain in place, possibly because of the previous debacle. Instead, he made his way to Marseille. From there he travelled via Spain, Portugal, Curaçao, the USA and Canada, and from thence to England, where he arrived on 18 September 1942. He was unusual: he had survived.

RAF Ringway

A fatal accident results from a failure of the strop hook, the end of a parachutist’s ‘static line’ attached to a frame inside the aircraft. The other end is attached to the bag containing the parachute canopy and lines. As the paratrooper leaves the aircraft his weight pulls the canopy and lines from the bag, leaving the bag streaming beneath the aircraft under the tail. If the hook becomes detached from the frame there is nothing to pull the parachute out. There was no reserve ‘chute, and no method for the parachutist to deploy the canopy manually. A strengthened strop is quickly developed and tested.

Sources

Dutch Wikipedia entry for Cornelis van Brink
RAF Ringway ORB

Wednesday, 20 November 1940

RAF Stradishall

Shortly after midnight (i.e. in the early morning of the 21st) Oettle and Keast take off in T4264 and complete an operation to ‘Brussels, Belgium’. The aircraft returns at 05.59 and Keast’s log reports the flight took 5 hours 40 minutes. According to several sources this operation coincides with the insertion of Emile Hingot, a wireless operator to assist Constant Martiny, dropped in October.