Thursday, 2 October 1941

Operation BRICK

‘BRICK’ is the codename of Lt Roger Mitchell, a 27-year-old French artillery officer who has been sent to France partly to arrange and manage landing sites and landings for Lysander operations. He has come to England via North Africa and Martinique, where he evaded via the USA, crossing to England in December 1941. Before his own parachute-insertion on 4 July Mitchell has been trained at Somersham by S/Ldr Nesbitt-Dufort, the pilot tonight. This Lysander operation is given his codename because he has arranged it for another agent.

Strictly speaking the operation should be called WALENTY, for the agent to be transported to England is the Polish intelligence officer Roman Garby-Czerniawski. Having escaped Poland after the 1939 invasion, like so many of his countrymen, during ‘la drôle de guerre’ (which must have seemed heavily ironic to any Pole) he had been based in Lorraine, where he had accommodated himself with a young French widow, Renée Borni. Following the French defeat, and adopting the bicycle and identity of her husband, Armand Borni, Czerniawski cycled to Paris unmolested. Almost immediately he started working for the Polish Intelligence organisation based in the ZNO (the Non-occupied Zone), travelling between Paris and Toulouse. Since late 1940 he has established the Franco-Polish intelligence circuit known as INTERALLIÉ in Paris, aided by the resourceful Mathilde Carré. INTERALLIÉ’s agents throughout Nazi-occupied France have specialized in gathering information about German military units in France, chiefly by observing uniform insignia and vehicle unit-signs. The circuit’s information was initially carried by courier to the ZNO, and from there to London, though W/T sets have increasingly taken over. As leader of perhaps the most successful intelligence circuits in France at this time, Garby-Czerniawski (whose codename with the Poles and SIS is WALENTY) has been called to London for consultation. Czerniawski is escorted by Mitchell and another F2 agent, Auguste Brun, known as ‘Volta’, to a disused airfield near Estrée St Denis, north of Paris. Czerniawski has stuffed papers into an old portable gramophone, and the three travel from Paris by train.

This is the second pick-up operation for S/Ldr John Nesbitt-Dufort. He flies Lysander T1770 from Tangmere, taking off at 21.15. Immediately he is airborne he makes contact with local radar control. The method is later described by Hugh Verity: the Lysander will be tracked by the Chain Home Low defence radar to within a few miles of the French coast. Its pilot can be given coded course-corrections by radio, but he maintains radio silence; thus his passive navigation aid cannot alert the enemy.

Nesbitt-Dufort arrives over the French coast at Le Tréport at 21.55, and sets course for the target, a disused aerodrome just north-east of Estrées St Denis, near Compiègne. Poor visibility means he has to fly an extremely accurate course. At 22.20, after 35 minutes flying on dead-reckoning, he sees the agreed signal lights. These are hard to miss: while two of the lights are torches, Mitchell has rigged up a battery-powered car headlights for signalling which is far too bright for the purpose; it dazzles the pilot during his approach and landing.

Nesbitt-Dufort’s landing, turnaround and take-off are completed within three minutes, facilitated by Mitchell and ‘Volta’. The Lysander crosses the coast somewhat south of track, near Dieppe at about 7,000 feet, high enough not to be threatened by the light flak; only after leaving the coast can Nesbitt-Dufort call up control and be guided home to Tangmere.

Czerniawski is met at Tangmere by his escorting officer Philip Schneidau, who introduces himself as ‘F/Lt Phillipson’, and is whisked up to London by car, where he is installed in the Rubens Hotel, debriefed by Polish intelligence and awarded Poland’s highest decoration for gallantry, the Virtuti Militari.

Mitchell takes over in Paris while Czerniawski is in London, as the fractious relationship between Carré and Borni threatens to destabilise the circuit’s operations.


S/Ldr Nesbitt-Dufort’s operations report, TNA AIR40/2579, Encl. 10A, also AIR20/8334, encl. 78A
Black Lysander, pp. 111-112
Czerniawski, The Big Network, Chapter 13, pp. 167-183