Wednesday, 20 August 1941


F/Lt ‘Sticky’ Murphy’s first sortie as aircraft captain is unusual, as befits an extraordinary airman, for it is carried out in the middle of the dark period when the moon is on the sunlit side of the planet. At 11.30 a.m. the operation is to be DOWNSTAIRS only, and Ron Hockey is due to fly it, but at 14.50 the pilot is changed to F/Lt Murphy. At 17.00 Bomber Command cancels its planned operations to WHITEBAIT (Berlin) due to a poor weather forecast. Knowles is asked about the status of 1419 Flight and he replied that the operation would go ahead.

Murphy has several aids in the darkness: a red navigation beacon at Tours, poor blackout discipline so close to the Unoccupied Zone, no blackout once he has crossed the demarcation line (and not much close to it), and his own ability to fly an accurate course on instruments.

Murphy takes off at 20.40, and flies the regular route to Tours. It is a clear night, and Murphy’s crew sees the Tours beacon twenty minutes before they reach it. At Tours they alter course for Châteauroux, which they reach shortly before midnight.

They are, however, unable to see any signals over the target. They return to Châteauroux twice and try again, but no signals are seen on the ground, so they abandon the attempt and return via Tangmere and Abingdon. On the way back they overfly Caen aerodrome, where Sergeant Bramley shoots out two searchlights that attempt to pick them up. They land at Newmarket at 03.50, and five minutes later the airfield beacon is doused. At 04.05 a message is sent to 3 Group: ‘Operation “DOWNSTAIRS LUMOND” uncompleted’, with a similar message to Air Intelligence at the Air Ministry.

DOWNSTAIRS appears to have been either Ben Cowburn or Michael Trotobas. Of the operation-names listed by Sgt Reimer for his large, successful drop on 6 September, DRAFTSMAN, AUTOGIRO E, VESTIGE and UKULELE can be tied to Georges Bloch, the Comte du Puy, Victor Gerson and George Langelaan, but neither Cowburn nor Trotobas can be tied down to being DOWNSTAIRS or TROPICAL. Deducing the identity of DOWNSTAIRS would be valuable, for it might reveal the real LUMOND, who remains anonymous.

Thus ends the last operation flown by No. 1419 Flight.