161 Squadron, RAF Graveley: Operation MACKEREL
Sergeant Peterson is one of the pilots and crews transferred from 138 Squadron to 161 Squadron. He has the prvilage of carrying out its first Whitley operation. It’s more likely to be an SIS operation than anything for SOE, for the new squadron has been formed specifically to provide SIS with a dedicated air-transport resource in the face of increased demand from SOE. While 138 Squadron will be dedicated solely to SOE operations, 161 Squadron will carry out a share of SOE operations, but not at the expense of SIS.
The target is about 6 miles south-east of Arles. He takes off from Tangmere to get as far south before atarting this long-range sortie; it’s also unlikely that Graveley has any of the infrastructure required for handling agent departures. Flying on ETA over France, Peterson’s pinpoint is near ‘L’Etang d’Or (Golden Lake) on the French coast, but he crosses the coast about 20 miles west, somewhere near the town of Sète. He flies eastward along the coast until he picks up the correct pinpoint, and then sets course for the target, nearly thirty miles away in the flatlands that border the mouth of the Rhône.
Sgt Peterson submits the following report, which is reproduced in the 161 Squadron ORB:
Airborne TANGMERE 2045 hrs, set course for CAEN and crossed the French coast on course at 2138 and set course for Tours. I crossed the River Loire at 2229 hrs and altered course for point ‘A’, position 43 degrees 32 minutes N, 04 degrees 08 minutes E. On ETA 0021 hrs broke cloud 2000 feet over Southern French coast. Pinpoointed 20 miles west of Point ‘A’, followed coast to Point ‘A’ and map read to target. Pinpointed target 43 degrees 36 minutes N, 04 degrees 42 minutes East at 0050 hrs.
Decreased height to 500 feet, airspeed 100 mph and made run upwind 250 degrees T. Despatched the passenger and the package which were observed by the rear gunner to land safely on the target. Made second circuit at same height and air speed and despatched two other passengers again observed by rear gunner to land on the target. Crossed English coast at 0610 hrs and landed at 0630 hrs.
Operations Record Book, 161 Squadron: AIR 27/1068, p.20