F/Lt J B Austin is gazetted with the DFC.
F/Lt J B Austin is gazetted with the DFC.
P/O Smith flies Whitley Z9275 to drop a package to ADJUDICATE, Count Dziergowski. According to the Air Transport Forms, the ADJUDICATE operation (near Cahors) is combined with a container drop called CLOAK, near Toulouse.
Smith crosses the French coast near Caen at 6,000 feet, but drops to 1,500 feet as he crosses France. According to the ORB the pinpoint is a wood near ‘Leoron’; the problem being that I can identify nowhere with that name. Smith drops the package from 600 feet. He searched the pinpoint area for about an hour, before finding it some 14 miles away. There is no mention of a further drop, so maybe CLOAK didn’t happen. He returns by the same route (whatever that is) and lands back at Stradishall at 02.49.
P/O Rymills takes off in Whitley Z9230 and crosses the North Holland coast north of Ijmuiden at 6,000 feet. He then drops to 2,000 feet, though the ‘Cannisen’/’Lanuisen’ hand-written in the ORB has no equivalent (or near-equivalent) on the map. They reach the pinpoint, which the ATFs inform us, is near Almelo, near the German border. The ground is covered by snow. The agents refuse to jump for a second time: while their tracks might not be a dead giveaway in a remote countryside where later snow is likely to cover them, in a densely-populated area they are likely to be discovered. This refusal is judged acceptable on their return.
On the return leg, as Rymills re-crosses north Holland he drops eight pigeons north of Doorn, and lands back at Stradishall at 04.10.
The agents are Leonardus Andringa (TURNIP I), stocky, fair-haired, and Jan Molenaar (TURNIP II), his wireless-operator. Their eventual dropping-point at the end of March is near Hellendoorn, a few kilometres west of Almelo. Molenaar breaks his back and both legs by landing awkwardly on a water-trough; as the wireless-operator he will have been wearing the ‘A’type harness, with negligible control over his landing. He takes his cyanide ‘L’ tablet. Andringa is picked up on 28 April due to some clever improvisation by one of Giskes’ Dutch policemen called Poos, who profits from information gained by Schreider’s patient questioning of Taconis.
Giskes reports to London that Andringa has died on 6 December 1942, having caught pneumonia after spending a night on reception-committee duty, and London believes it, informing his executor. A French agent who has managed to escape reports that ‘Akkerman’ (Andringa’s alias) has been seen in prison camp at Rawitz, Silesia in July 1944. Probably true, but in vain: Leo Andringa is one of the many Dutch SOE agents killed in the massacre at Mauthausen on 6 September 1944, two days after the fall of Brussels to the Allies.
Flight Sergeant Morrison takes off in Halifax L9618 at 18.38 and flies to Poland. He notes that the Baltic is frozen. He drops his load over the pinpoint from 900 feet, then returns to base, landing at 06.35.
This is quite a long trip to the south of France. P/O Anderle takes off in Whitley Z9158 at 20.27. He crosses the French coast at 2,100 feet, then climbs to 6,500 feet in order to keep above the Massif Central. He then descends to 600 feet above the ground to drop his passengers. The pinpoint is the Etang de Thau (Lake Thau), a coastal lake south-west of Montpelier; from there Anderle will fly north to the target. According to Lt Colonel Barry the agents have asked to be dropped east of the river Hérault, north of the railway line between Paulhan and Montpelier. This would place them the target somewhere near La Boissière or Montarnaud. Anderle reports that he ‘dropped three men and two packages, all five parachutes seen to open.’ Anderle then sets course for base and lands at 05.36.
All the agents are NKVD agents, part of the PICKAXE series of operations. One of the agents is a woman, Anna Frolova, 25 years old, whose alias is ‘Annette Fauberge’. Her companions are Grigory Rodionov (aged 40), ‘George Robigot’, and Ivan Danilov (31), ‘Pierre Dandin’.
F/Lt Outram flies this combined SIS/SOE sortie to Belgium, but the SOE operation is a container-drop only, albeit to a ‘blown’ agent. BERET and BRAVERY are dropped first: Outram takes off at 21.00 and crosses the French coast at Point Haut-Banc. He pinpoints on the Oise Canal and drops the two SIS agents from 600 feet. He then flies on to the PERIWIG 1 pinpoint, finds the triangle of lights and drops the containers accurately. He returns via the north bank of the Somme and Tangmere, landing at Stradishall at 23.51.
This is also the night of Bomber Command’s precision (for the period) attack on the Renault factory at Boulogne-Billancourt, the nearest to a full-on bombing raid that Paris will experience. Though it causes many casualties among the workers, many of whom live in the houses near the factories, most French view this positively, though German propaganda seeks to make the most of the carnage.
For the RAF, it shows the way forward, leading to the creation of the Pathfinders: experienced crews are used to drop flares on the target, and the moonlit Seine shows the crews just where they are. Needless to say, the Germans had pioneered the technique over Coventry.
138 Squadron ORB
Air Transport Forms, February 1942
MRD Foot, SOEILC p.122, 153, 474, and other minor references.
TNA HS9/37/6: Andringa PF
TNA HS9/1048/4, Molenaar PF
138 Squadron ORB
138 Squadron ORB
138 Squadron ORB
The report for Sergeant Thompson’s sortie to drop three agents is almost too short to appear worth recording. Thompson takes off in Whitley T4166 at 22.50, crosses the French coast near Abbeville, drops all his passengers successfully, and returns to base. End of story for Sergeant Thompson.
The three agents cannot be dispensed with so quickly.
TIGER is Roger Cerf, a Belgian upper-class twerp whose social ego is his downfall. As soon as he lands he just goes home to his parents and tells all his friends exactly what he is doing. His self-importance leads, unsurprisingly, to his almost immediate arrest. Despite some heavy aristocratic lobbying on the young man’s behalf, the Germans shoot him in August 1942.
COLLIE is Philippe de Liedekerke, a 27-year-old engineer, the son of a count. Intended to work with Cerf, he separates from his unreliable partner almost as soon as he lands. Somehow he has kept enough about himself back from Cerf for the Germans to be unable to find him. His mission is to contact the various existing organisations in Belgium, such as the Legion Belge, and ascertain their loyalties and intentions. COLLIE is highly successful. Not only does he return to London with one of the legion’s leaders, Charles Claser, he returns to Belgium twice more on clandestine operations. He is awarded the Military Cross; after the war he becomes a distinguished diplomat.
Jacques van Horen (or van Hoven) is TERRIER. He is dropped into deep snow somewhere south-west of Marche-en-Famenne, not far from where the Abbé Jourdain had been dropped in July the previous year. So far I have been unable to find out where the other two agents are dropped. The brevity of the ORB entry about this sortie might lead one to believe that the agents were dropped together, but in ‘SOE in the Low Countries’, MRD Foot appeared unaware that TERRIER had been dropped from the same aircraft as TIGER and COLLIE.
Van Horen is intended to be a wireless-operator for Jean Pierre Absil, who was still in France and inactive thanks to a warning from Maurice Simon, a Section D agent whose circumstances had forced him to become a Gestapo agent. He takes up his pre-war occupation and lived with his parents; on finding out that Absil’s replacement was in prison, van Horen plans an escape: the hour-long W/T conversation leads to his arrest and severe interrogation. Placed in St Gilles prison in Brussels, he learns that Cerf is two cells along, but the occupant of the intermediate cell is a stool-pigeon. Somehow van Horen survives the war.
This is a container-drop to André Fonck, the wireless-operator for OUTCAST (Jean Nicolas Léon Maus). Sergeant Peterson crosses the French coast south of Abbeville at 5,000 feet, and drops to 2,500 feet on his route towards Sedan. His only description of the target is that he flies between woods to the aiming point. After an hour circling the area he sees a white torch carried by a man, who presumably gives the correct Morse signal to persuade Peterson to drop the six containers, which he does in one pass. (The Whitley’s observer (or the pilot) can drop them all at once by selecting ‘Salvo’ on the control panel.) Peterson then returns to base, landing at 23.30.
Both agents have broken one of SOE’s cardinal rules, to stay away from one’s family. They have each returned home, Maus to his wife near Namur, Fonck to his parents at Grapfontaine. Perhaps Fonck disposes of the container casings by donating them as raw materials for his father’s forge. Fonck always transmits from home, and ‘la goniométrie’ gets him on 2 May. Maus is picked up, only indirectly through Fonck, on 13 May, and is tried and shot less than two months later. Fonck survives the war — just — as a slave labourer in Sachsenhausen, Auschwitz and Buchenwald.
S/Ldr Davies, DFC, has a more successful attempt at dropping the two SIS agents that Sgt Peterson had attempted to drop on 28 January. (The 138 Squadron Summary identifies it as an SIS operation.) Several other SIS operations for northern France appear on the same Air Transport Form (ATF): MORRIS/COWLEY, BEAUFORT, BOON and BURR, about which nothing is known.
Davies takes off at 18.56 in Whitley Z9230 and flies via Tangmere to the French coast north of the Somme estuary. Half-way to Douai he drops down to 800 feet over the pinpoint, which is ‘clearly visible’. The agents are dropped and Davies returns to base and lands at 00.22.
Davies and his crew will be shot down in the same Whitley on 29 July, by a night-fighter over Holland while approaching the LETTUCE target. All are killed. Freddie Clark was sure this was linked to ‘der Englandspiel’.
138 Squadron ORB
MRD Foot: SOEILC, pp. 279-83 (TERRIER), 285-6 (TIGER, COLLIE)
138 Squadron Ops Summary
ATFs for Jan-Feb ’42.
MRD Foot, SOEILC, pp. 265-6
Freddie Clark, ABM, p. 80
138 Squadron ORB,
138 Squadron Ops Summary
Sergeant Wilde, a new aircraft captain with 138 Squadron, flies this short-range sortie to Belgium, although the destination is recorded as ‘France’ in the operations summary book. For some unknown reason Sgt Wilde files two separate operations reports which are entered on separate pages in the ORB; this confuses matters further.
Wilde takes off at 18.48. He crosses the French coast north of the river Somme, at about 8,000 feet, pinpoints on Douai at 2,000 feet and descends to 400 feet over the PERIWIG 1 target; in the ATF for PERIWIG 1 it is given as ‘Mons’. He circles the target area from 21.50 to 22.40 (which rather seems to be asking for trouble), but nothing is seen. His PERIWIG report states that he then returns to base, landing at 01.50.
In fact he does no such thing: he goes on to the second target. CANTICLE is originally supposed to have been dropped near Arlon with a W/T set for Joseph Vergucht (DUNCAN). Vergucht, a Belgian merchant navy officer who knows Morse, has been waiting for the means to contact England since autumn of the previous year, having arrived via Lisbon. MASTIFF and INCOMPARABLE are to be dropped to a reception organised by PERIWIG, but a long way south-east from the drop-site for PERIWIG 1.
MASTIFF and INCOMPARABLE are dropped near their target about a mile south of the village of Gondregnies. This is close to the village of Silly, where Armand Campion (PERIWIG) parachuted in August 1941. CANTICLE drops with them. One of the two pigeons he is carrying becomes detached, and travels back in the aircraft. CANTICLE is reported as needing a helping shove down the chute, which may contribute to the pigeon becoming detached.
The Whitley drops leaflets over Douai before returning to Stradishall, landing at 01.50.
Farley takes off from Stradishall in Whitley K9287 at 18.32, and crosses the French coast near Caen, flying at 8,000 feet to be above the light & medium flak defences. He pinpoints on the Loire at about four miles east of Blois. By his own account he drops MOUSE about ten miles SSE from the planned dropping-point, somewhere close to the village of Meillant (Cher), but he gives no explanation as to why he drops the agent so far from the dropping-point. Farley returns to Tangmere rather than Stradishall, and lands at 03.27.
Given that Farley knew where he was, and was not pushed for time, it would seem to have been slapdash not to have drop the agent at the correct place, but it’s possible (though nowhere mentioned) that the agent may be concerned that if they fly north the pilot might drop him in the Occupied Zone; they are less than 30 kilometres west of the demarcation-line, a mere hiccup away in air navigation terms. MOUSE is therefore dropped a short way from the road between Vitray and Meaulne. He makes his way to Meillant the next day, getting a lift in a car to Saint-Amand-Montrond and walking the rest. The crow-flying distance is about 20 kilometres (13 miles), but the agent later says it is thirty; along the road it is 26km.
MOUSE is Edmond Courtin, in his early twenties, intelligent and keen. He may, at Douglas Dodds-Parker’s request (16/1/42), have been given training in laying out Lysander landing-fields during the interval between mid-January and this attempt. He is dropped with two W/T sets, one for himself to work for Jacques Detal (GYPSY), the other set for Detal’s wireless-operator Frederic Wampach (VERMILION) who, as we have seen, is a mental wreck; it’s not his set that has gone wrong. Courtin succeeds in contacting Wampach and passes him the second set.
Courtin’s debriefing report in February 1943 gives valuable information about life in the unoccupied zone. Châteauroux is not a healthy place for an agent to be: Germans ‘double’ with the French police, and two Alsatian policemen are most diligent. The police at Châteauroux check the hotel registers at 7 a.m., and they haul in and interrogate anyone who arouses their least suspicion. Courtin is caught two weeks into his mission through just such a check, red-handed with his wireless antenna laid out round his room. Detal and Wampach are arrested the next day. Detal and Courtin escape from Bergerac prison and Courtin makes it back to the UK in February 1943. Though slated for another mission in April 1943, Courtin’s prospective organiser chooses another wireless-operator.
The Anson that F/Lt Murphy flew to Tangmere on the 25th is now used for perhaps the type’s only operation over enemy-occupied territory. Ansons have been used during the Battle of Britain for anti-invasion patrols over the North Sea close to shore, but this is different.
S/Ldr Nesbitt-Dufort’s month-long absence-without-leave in France is about to come to an end. The agent he was to have brought out in January, Maurice Duclos, has been in charge of his hospitality, hidden by the Issoudun railway station-master and his family. The landing has been arranged by Lt Roger Mitchell, BCRA, who is also needed in London for debriefing. In addition, General Kleeburg of the Polish F2 organisation is to be evacuated. Hence the need for a larger aircraft than a Lysander. In any case, the other Lysander pilot is out on another trip this same night, landing not many miles away.
Murphy takes off from Tangmere in Anson R3316 at 21.00, passing over Cabourg an hour later. Murphy takes P/O Cossar as his wireless-operator/air-gunner. They have good visibility until about 40 miles north of Tours, when they encounter heavy rain, thick low cloud. They have difficulty pinpointing on the Loire, which indicates how poor the weather is. At 23.15 they set course for Châteauroux, which they find with difficulty at 23.55 before heading north-east towards Issoudun. (Châteauroux is much easier to find than Issoudun, being much larger, with a radial road-system.) From Issoudun they fly SSEast to a disused aerodrome where Mitchell, Duclos, Nesbitt-Dufort and General Kleeberg are waiting. (The airfield is now used by the Aero-club Issoudun-le-Fay.) The lights laid out by Roger Mitchell are picked up at 00.10. (There is a slight irony here; eight months before, Nesbitt-Dufort had trained Lt Mitchell in laying out Lysander landing-fields.
When Murphy tries to take off, the Anson becomes bogged down in the soft, now-soggy ground. (He does not mention this in his official report.) Nesbitt-Dufort encourages the other passengers to jump up and down in sympathy, to bounce the aircraft out of the soft ground, while Murphy applies full throttle. This rather unconventional approach works.
Nesbitt-Dufort, in his ‘Black Lysander’, writes another account of his month in France and of the air operation. Both he and his friend Sticky Murphy take a light-hearted view of their adventures, but Murphy’s new CO takes a dim view of their mutual levity in official correspondence. Nesbitt-Dufort, now in possession of too much knowledge about the people who looked after him in France, is posted to the Central Landing School at Ringway, where he flies tug and glider combinations, an experience which frightens him more than being on operations. He is then posted to Fighter Command HQ.
Flying Officer Guy Lockhart takes off from Tangmere at 20.25 in Lysander V9428. Lockhart has been a fighter pilot. Shot down over France while serving with No. 74 Squadron in July 1941, he evades and returns to the UK in October. Apparently posted to 138 Squadron soon after his return, no record of his serving there exists, though the first page of 161 Squadron’s ORB records that he has been posted from 138 Squadron; he becomes F/Lt Murphy’s other Lysander pilot.
Just under an hour after takeoff Lockhart crosses the French coast at about 9,500 feet, slightly west of Cabourg, but soon loses height to stay under the thickening cloud. He has difficulty finding the landing site; having to stay low would have reduced his range of vision, but once he sees the lights he is down and away within two minutes, having taken aboard two Gaullist agents, Louis Andlauer and Stanislas Mangin. He flies back to the coast at low-ish level, the cloud base between 1,000′ and 3,000′ with patches even lower. He crosses the French coast east of Cherbourg at 1,500 feet and is homed back to Tangmere by R/T once he is over the Channel.
Louis Andlauer writes an account of this pick-up operation from his perspective. It is reproduced in full in Verity’s book. The location of the pick-up is in the small area north of Châteauroux used by SIS for many of its operations; these included its sorties, like this, for Dewavrin’s intelligence- gathering agents; SOE agents were picked up from elsewhere, and at this stage of the war, rarely.
138 Squadron ORB
CANTICLE file: TNA HS6/58
MASTIFF personal file: TNA HS9/351/1
INCOMPARABLE operations file: TNA HS6/113
MRD Foot, SOEILC, pp. 270-1, 274-5
138 Squadron ORB
TNA AIR 20/8334, Encl. 132A
John Nesbitt-Dufort, ‘Black Lysander’, pp 133-4
Verity, WLBM, pp. 47-48.
TNA AIR 20/84554 Lysander operations reports, 161 Squadron
No. 161 Squadron is transferred from RAF Newmarket Heath to RAF Graveley, about eight miles NNE from Tempsford. So far as I can tell, it does not acquire any Whitleys at this stage, and Graveley is its administrative base for the non-moon period.
S/Ldr Boris Romanoff is posted to 138 Squadron from the Parachute Training Squadron at RAF Ringway. He has spent the past 18 months flying Whitleys at the Parachute Training School (now the Combined Landing School), dropping trainee parachute troops over Tatton Park. He has been at Ringway since June 1940, arriving only two days after Louis Strange. Before then he had served with Ron Hockey in No. 24 (Communications) Squadron. Hockey believes his own transfer to 419 Flight in November 1940 was due to Romanoff’s recommendation (though it’s more likely to have been Strange’s), and now Hockey returns the favour.
138 Squadron ORB: TNA AIR 27/1068
161 Squadron ORB: TNA AIR 27/1068
Hockey papers, Imperial War Museum