At 10.12 one of 419 Flight’s Whitleys took off for Henlow, though the reason is not known.
An exchange between Stradishall and 3 Group shows that 419 Flight kept its cards close to the chest, so far as operations planning went: at 2045 No.3 Group phoned Stradishall to ask that information about 419 Flight’s proposed operations should be provided ‘at an earlier hour’. The Ops Officer replied that Stradishall didn’t know themselves until late. The Ops Officer was told to instruct the Officer Commanding 419 Flt that information about proposed operations must be passed on as soon as the Flight knew it.
Bomber Command raids on Germany operated to a very tight schedule. Within an overall bombing strategy the targets were chosen the morning of the operation. Orders were passed down to the stations and their squadrons, and by early afternoon the aircraft were being prepared and the crews briefed. 419 Flight was dependent on orders received from the Air Ministry, often delivered in person at Stradishall. As the Air Ministry was dependent on SIS and/or SOE providing the necessary information, which was rarely forthcoming until the afternoon, 419 Flight could provide only a provisional estimate until mid-afternoon, or even early evening, that they would be operating that night.
Oettle and Keast took off at 23.05 on an operation to ‘Luxembourg, Belgium’. The weather was poor, and they abandoned and returned, landing after four hours.
At 17.45, Stradishall reports to 3 Group that one aircraft is possibly going on operations tonight. At 23.40 Stradishall records Whitley T4264 (which Stradishall notes as a/c ‘X’) is airborne.
This is another attempt at the operations abandoned the night before, for it is recorded as ‘Luxembourg, Belgium’ and ‘Completed’. The flight time recorded in Keast’s logbook is 4 hours 25 minutes, which ties in with Stradishall’s reported landing time of 04.01.
No agent has been positively identified for this operation.
A bombing target is issued for Stradishall’s resident Wellington squadron, No. 214 Squadron, but this is changed during the day, and the squadron is warned for an early evening start. A further order is received from Group at 16.32 that no aircraft is to leave the aerodrome until further notice.
At 20.07 F/O Oettle tells the Ops room that a planned operation for 419 Flight has been cancelled.
The Air Ministry, London
The Flight Commander of No. 419 Flight is informed in London that the Flight will be asked to fly an operation on the following night, and is assured that the target is within the agreed operating radius of 750 miles.
With perfect timing, the December moon period ends and 419 Flight is no longer on standby for operations. The next Moon Period starts on the 4th January 1941. Several agents are being prepared for despatch to Nazi-occupied Europe, but winter weather can play havoc with schedules.