Sunday, 3 August 1941

The August moon period starts with three operations. F/Lt Jackson is non-operational after his crash, but F/O Hockey now has his own crew and the Flight is still able to field three crews.

Operation PERIWIG

‘PERIWIG’ is Armand Campion, about 31 years old. In 1940 he served with the French Foreign Legion in the Norway campaign, where he earned the Croix de Guerre. He is a trained wireless operator, so does not need to be dropped with one.

Hockey and his crew, which includes the Flight’s Lysander pilot F/Lt Nesbitt-Dufort, sets off for Belgium via Aldeburgh and Nieuwport. Unsurprisingly they meet with severe searchlight and medium flak opposition. Once the coast is behind them they release their quota of pigeons for Operation COLUMBA and head for Ath, but above cloud. Eight pigeons, re-dispatched from Belgium, appear to have returned to the UK from this drop.

After reaching the dead-reckoning position for Ath they alter course for the target to the east, but continuous low cloud makes it impossible to see what’s beneath them. They abandon the operation, and leave Belgium about three miles east of Nieuwport. If they hope to avoid the searchlights and flak they fail, and are picked up by a blue master-searchlight; the other lights fasten on to Hockey’s Whitley. They are coned and the flak is fierce and close. They make it home unharmed, despite being fired on by shipping off Harwich as a final indignity. Nesbitt-Dufort writes a vivid account of this flight on pages 98-102 of ‘Black Lysander’, but he confuses some of the details of this operation with another sortie he will fly with Hockey on 9 September, to Denmark. But writing after the war Nesbitt-Dufort will not have the benefit of looking at the contemporary pilots’ reports, and has to rely on his logbook to jog his memory. Memories tend to be precise about what happened, but ‘when’ and ‘where’ are different matters entirely.

Operation MILL

‘MILL’ is Adrien Marquet and his wireless Operator René Clippe. (Clippe seems to have been codenamed MILLSTONE, according to Verhoeyen.) They are the vanguard of a Belgian Intelligence Service operation sponsored and facilitated by SIS. As with the failed Leenaerts operation of mid-August 1940, Marquet’s task is to make contact with Belgians recruited by the ‘La Dame Blanche’ veteran Anatole Gobeaux during the ‘Phoney War’ period, when Belgium remained stolidly neutral. The agents are to be dropped near Chimay.

The first attempt is thwarted by low continuous cloud over the target area. Sgt Austin flies to the the target area via Orfordness, and crosses the enemy coast at Veurnes, between Dunkirk and Nieuwport. A 25-minute square search of the target area does not reveal a gap in the low cloud cover, so they are forced to abandon and return to Newmarket.

P/O AGW Livingstone (W/Op) joins Sgt Austin’s crew for his first Special Duties sortie. He has already completed a bomber tour with 115 Squadron.

Operation FELIX

The first attempt to drop a replacement W/t set to the FELIX intelligence circuit had been made on 12 July by Sgt Austin. The target has been changed to the Plateau les Trembleaux, about three miles north of the earlier target, just north of Montigny-sur-Loing. This is the clearing where Philip Schneidau had been parachuted in March, though on that occasion he had been carried by the wind, missed the clearing, and landed half-way up a tree in the dense woods to the west.

The drop is scheduled for between 23.15 and 23.45 GMT on 3-4 August. The ground party, made up of Schneidau’s father-in-law Paul Schiffmacher and his Montigny neighbour Henri Glepin, is expected to lay out a triangle with two white torches and one green at the apex, pointing into wind. Morse ‘U’ was to be signalled by one of the white lights.

All the ground-party’s efforts are in vain. Knowles takes off at 22.18 (UK local Double Summer Time) and sets course for Abingdon. At 22.47 both exactors start to give trouble (which probably means that the airscrews cannot be put into coarse pitch after the initial climb), so Knowles abandons the operation; they wouldn’t have got far with the airscrews in fine pitch. They have difficulty finding Newmarket again, but pick up the Newmarket flare-path at 23.30 and land back at base at 23.48. It will be another month before the FELIX circuit receives its new set.