Stradishall – Châteaumeillant – Operation FITZROY
Oettle and Keast drop Claude Lamirault a little south of Châteaumeillant, Cher. Keast’s target map (a British reproduction of the French pre-war large-scale 1:80,000 series) has survived. It shows the likely drop site on a ridge. Some farm buildings nearby are also indicated in red crayon; Lamirault may have made for these after landing, though it has not been possible to establish a definite connection due to the farm having changed hands since the war.
P/O Baker is also aboard for this operation. As the Flight’s Lysander pilot he is expected to fly a pick-up operation to extract Lamirault when the need arises, so needs to be familiar with the area.
They take off in Whitley P5029 at 22.15, and are routed via Abingdon and Tangmere. On their return they are diverted to Digby because of fog, landing at 07.20.
Claude Lamirault is a controversial figure: only 22 in 1940, before the war he had been involved with ‘Action Française’, a right-wing direct-action group of the 1930s that nowadays would rightly be considered a terrorist organisation. On the outbreak of war he was recalled to the army, serving with the Chasseurs Alpins. Escaping to Britain in October 1940, he met Lt Henri d’Estienne d’Orves, soon to be landed in Brittany to form the ‘Nemrod’ organisation. He was soon recruited by SIS: after his insertion he made contact with the left-wing activist Pierre Hentic.
Some sources have it that Lamirault was parachuted near Rambouillet in December 1940; they may have been confused by one of Lamirault’s later drops as CLAUDIUS – codenames were sometimes laboured puns on real names – most insecure – in December 1941.