Monthly Archives: March 1941

Monday, 24 March 1941

Stradishall to Sumburgh

At 0915 S/Ldr Knowles requests permission to fly Whitley ā€˜Zā€™ Z6473 to Sumburgh via Finningley, Catterick, Grangemouth, Perth, Diss, Lossiemouth, Helmsdall, Thurso, Ross Head, Sumbro – 1430 hrs. Taking off 0945 hrs. The sortie information is passed to 3 Group; one assumes he is flying up to see what progress has been made with the Flight’s stranded Whitley P5029.

Sunday, 23 March 1941

RAF Stradishall

F/O Ron Hockey flies with P/O Willson and crew to Abingdon, then on to Ringway, in Whitley T4165. Stradishall learns that he has been given the incorrect colours of the day. The Ops Officers’ log records:

1605: Endeavoured to contact F/O Hockey in 1419 Flight Whitley, flying to Abingdon and thence to Ringway to inform him in possession of wrong colours & letters of day. Unable to do so having left Abingdon. Requested Sigs to contact Whitley but Sigs not in wireless touch.

This could easily have led to a tragic accident if he had been intercepted by a trigger-happy fighter-pilot. (See Oettle’s own experience the previous 5 August.)

Monday, 17 March 1941

RAF Stradishall

For reasons that remain unclear, on 17 March F/Lt Oettle writes a formal report on S/Ldr Keast’s attempt to drop Philip Schneidau on 10-11 February 1941. It would suggest that someone, either at SIS or at the Air Ministry, has asked for a report on the sortie, but Keast is now in a POW camp and unable to submit one. At the time of the operation (i.e. in mid-February) Jack Oettle had been stranded in the Shetlands after dropping an agent over Norway, so knew nothing of Keast’s sortie first-hand. Still, someone gets their report.

SECRET

From:- Officer Commanding, 1419 Flight, Stradishall

To :- Squadron Leader Knowles

Date :- 17th March 1941

Report on operation “Felix” – 11.2.41 – Unsuccessful

S/Ldr Keast (Captain)
S/Ldr Mulholland (2nd Pilot)
F/O Baker ( Pilot u/t )
Sgt Davies (W/T)
Sgt Bernard (Rear Gunner)
Cpl Cameron (Despatcher)

Sir,

I have the honour to report on the above operation :-
S/Ldr Keast took off at 00.30 hours and reached the French coast at 02.45 hours. The whole route, however, including the objective, was obscured by 10/10ths cloud extending to 5,000 feet, accordingly the operation was abandoned, and the aircraft returned to base, landing at 06.00 hours.

I have the honour to be, Sir,
Your obedient Servant,

A.J. Oettle, F/Lt Officer Commanding, 1419 Flight, Stradishall.

In fact Keast had submitted a report before he was shot down, as follows:

MOST SECRET

FROM: F/Lt. F.J.Keast, 419 Flight, Stradishall.

TO: S/Ldr. Knowles, Air Ministry.

Operations on Night 10.2.41.

Aircraft was airborne 00.40 hours and course set for Abingdon and Selsey. The night was clear and fine, but on approaching the French coast at Caen at 10000 feet cloud was seen to be forming ahead. A descent through cloud on E.T.A. was made approaching Chartres the cloud extending from 6000 feet to 2000 feet. It was impossible to locate position exactly due to poor visibility below cloud until we arrived at Chartres where we were engaged by light flak and machine guns and picked up by searchlights. We circled Chartres to locate position and then set off for Fontainebleau. At Etamps we were again picked up by searchlight and it took several violent alterations of course to shake them off. On approaching Fontainebleau visibility became extremely poor and it was found impossible to map read, whilst cloud was observed to be right on the ground in patches. After about 30 minutes search it was decided to abandon the operation, and course was set for Stradishall where we landed at 06.45.

Crew: Capt. & Nav. F.L. Keast.
Pilot S/Ldr Mulholland.
F. Gunner F/O. Barker
R. Gunner Sgt. Bernard
W/Op Sgt. Davies, Cpl. Cameron, 1 Pass.

(Sgd) F. J. KEAST.

Sunday, 16 March 1941

Stradishall

Whitley T4165 arrives from Dishforth. This is the second Whitley sent to 1419 Flight which had taken part in the Operation COLOSSUS raid. As they are already converted for dropping teams of paratroops, the modifications required for agent-dropping have already been carried out, and both aircraft are equipped with long-range overflow fuel tanks. (The first Whitley, T4166, arrived on 1 March, and has just been used on SAVANNA.) On the website for No. 102 (Ceylon) Squadron, Wally Lashbrook, T4165’s pilot on the COLOSSUS raid, describes how T4165 had been damaged in Malta during an air raid in the days after the operation, and had been repaired with a rudder constructed from non- Whitley parts. This get-you-home repair has presumably been rectified on T4165’s return to the UK.