Tag Archives: Anderle

Leo Anderle, Czech Air Force

Thursday, 9 October 1941

RAF Newmarket Heath

P/O Leo Anderle arrives with his Czech crew from No. 10 OTU, Abingdon. His is the first Czech crew to be allotted to 138 Sqn for Special Duties work. There are also three Polish crews under training for SD work, and they will be converted to the Halifax. Bohemia, the western part of Czechoslovakia, is within the Whitley’s operating range, but Operation ADOLPHUS had shown the impracticability of using a Whitley for Polish operations. In 1939 the western border of Poland was considerably further east than it is now – much of what is now western Poland was then part of Germany.

Friday, 12 December 1941

Operation OVERCLOUD

P/O Anderle makes the second attempt at OVERCLOUD. He takes off at approximately 2045, according to the Stradishall log. He pilots Whitley Z9125 via Tangmere, Caen and Rennes. Crossing Brittany, he notes a lake north of Ploërmel, and crosses the shallow lake south of Vannes before heading north to pinpoint on Vannes itself before heading to the target.

At the target only two lights are seen, so he returns to Vannes. On the next pass the signal lights of the reception committee (which look like car headlamps) are faint and concealed by ground mist until the Whitley is almost overhead, by which time it is too late to drop the containers. He flies back again to Vannes. The aerodrome lights at Meucon are visible. On the next attempt at 00.40 Anderle gets a good sight of the reception lights and drops the OVERCLOUD containers from 1,000 feet. There’s no mention of the agent accompanying the four containers listed on the Air Transport Form.

On the return leg the Whitley’s port engine gives a flash and oil pressure is immediately lost. Anderle reduces boost and engine revs to nurse the engine, while applying extra boost to the starboard engine to compensate. The port engine’s oil temperature reduces slightly, and Anderle makes his way gingerly back to Newmarket via Tangmere, Abingdon and Stradishall, landing at 04.57.

Shortly after midnight Nesbitt-Dufort at Newmarket has let Stradishall know that Whitley ‘A’ (Anderle’s aircraft) is due to return to base at 01.30 instead of 04.00, though there is no explanation.

Sources

TNA AIR 20/8334, encl. 115A
Stradishall Ops Officers’ log, TNA AIR 14/2529

Sunday, 28 December 1941

Operation ANTHROPOID was the successful SOE-sponsored Czech resistance operation to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich. Though Heydrich was not in the second rank of the Nazi leadership dominated by Goering, Goebbels, Bormann and Himmler, he was definitely in the third rank. Respected and feared by most of those above him, Heydrich commissioned the methodical extermination that became the Holocaust. Operation ANTHROPOID is also notorious as the trigger for the Nazis’ revenge: the razing and erasure of the villages of Lidice and Lezacky, their populations liquidated or deported to concentration camps.

Operations ANTHROPOID, SILVER A, SILVER B

In September 1941 Konstantin von Neurath, Reichsprotector of Bohemia and Moravia, was replaced by Reinhard Heydrich as Acting Reichsprotector. In 1939 von Neurath had instituted a repressive regime in Czechoslovakia, but by 1941 Hitler regarded him as insufficiently zealous. Heydrich instituted a systematic programme of terror, with the wholesale arrest of political and resistance figures, many of whom were summarily executed. Almost immediately the Czechoslovak government-in-exile commissioned SOE to mount a coup-de-main operation to assassinate Heydrich, the man they saw as the cause of their country’s misfortune. Cut off the new head, they believed, and the situation might improve. But they mistook von Neurath’s regime to be the pattern for Nazi rule, unaware that Heydrich was Nazism unalloyed.

The operation was initially planned for October 1941, an instant response to the terror. Two soldiers were selected from the Czech forces in exile, Karel Svoboda and Jozef Gabcik, but ANTHROPOID had to be postponed following Svoboda’s injury in training; it took several weeks to prepare his replacement, Jan Kubis, and to furnish him with appropriate documents.

The sortie

For the pilot and crew of Operation ANTHROPOID it is an unusual sortie. Operations to eastern Europe are still rare, even in the winter months. The Whitley’s range is constrained by its low cruising speed (and therefore by the hours of darkness over enemy territory), and by its small payload when flown with a full complement of additional fuel-tanks. It’s a moot point as to whether the RAF would have permitted the operation to go ahead in September or October 1941; in a Whitley it would almost certainly have been a one-way trip.

General Sikorski has relentlessly lobbied for a Polish Air Force Flight equipped with faster, long-range aircraft to make feasible regular air contact with the Polish homeland. The RAF has unbent sufficiently for 138 Squadron to have received its first Halifaxes. The squadron has been augmented with Polish and Czech aircrew. One operation (RUCTION) has already been carried out with a Polish crew, with a mixed result: the operation successful, the aircraft crash-landed in Sweden through aircrew error. F/Lt Ron Hockey has undergone Halifax conversion training with a new crew, the training provided at Linton by 35 Squadron, the first operational Halifax squadron. The Canadian pilot Richard Wilkin is Hockey’s 2nd Pilot. ANTHROPOID will be combined with operations SILVER A (a three-man team) and SILVER B (two agents), both of which have failed on earlier attempts.

Before mid-day, Hockey and crew fly to Northolt and back; they may or may not have landed at Northolt. There is no explanation for the flight in Hockey’s logbook; it may have been only an extended air-test for Hockey and his crew to check out the complex aircraft thoroughly.

Stradishall’s runways are too short for a fully-fuelled Halifax, so Hockey flies to Tangmere before taking off, fully-fuelled, from its extra-long runway at about 22.00. The Halifax has a crew of eight (the Halifax’s normal bomber crew of seven, plus a Despatcher), seven agents for the three operations, plus Major Sustr of SOE’s Czech Section as Accompanying Officer: a total of sixteen souls, plus two containers for ANTHROPOID. Hockey’s take-off run is about 1,300-1,400 yards into a 15 mph head-wind. The meticulous Hockey records his take-off weight as 59,800 lbs. He and his crew cross the French coast near Le Crotoy, at the mouth of the Somme estuary. He then sets course for the German town of Darmstadt, possibly because the Rhine has a distinctive configuration to the town’s south-west.

But the weather is against them. Snowfalls have softened the recognisable features of the land beneath, and despite the good visibility the Rhine is not easily seen. Nevertheless Darmstadt is reached at 00.42 and course is set for the ANTHROPOID pinpoint. As they fly east at about 10,000 feet the snowfalls cover the landscape, making accurate navigation using ground features impossible: “the heavy snow . . . blotted out all roads, railways, rivers, and small towns” — the major types of ground-feature used to identify a pinpoint. It is bitterly cold at that height: oxygen has to be used to help keep the crew warm and alert. Twice they encounter enemy aircraft, which nevertheless leave them alone. Low cloud increases to 10/10ths, and they lose height gradually from their cruise height of about 10,000 ft. At 02.12 they see flak ahead, and identify its source as Pilsen. According to Freddie Clark, the target area is near Borek aerodrome, south-east of Pilsen and some 80 km south of Prague. (This I have yet to check against the SOE file, currently on loan to Paris.) Instead the agents are dropped blind near the village of Nehvizdhy, some 22 kilometres east of Prague. Hockey may have flown over the capital, Prague, without realising it.

Hockey then sets course for the SILVER A and SILVER B target. From Hockey’s report it is clear that he is unaware of his location. As he is way off course, it follows that the second and third sets of drops will also be off-target. Moreover, in his report Hockey hints that his orders, at least regarding SILVER A & B, are to drop these teams regardless of whether he can find the precise target: ‘Both the two latter operations were completed under difficult conditions owing to their urgent nature and according to instructions received before take-off.’

Having completed all three operations, Hockey sets course for Darmstadt, but does not see it on the return leg. His account implies that they realise their true position only when fired-at over Brussels. They fly over Lille, and cross the French coast near Fécamp at 07.20. As they cross the Channel the cockpit’s overhead hatch flies open, and Dick Wilkin has to hang on to it until they land, to stop it coming adrift and fouling the tailplane controls; Hockey reduces speed to 140 mph. They cross the English coast near Selsey Bill at 08.07, and land back at Tangmere twelve minutes later.

This operation shows that the Special Duties crews, when faced with similar conditions to those faced by the main force bomber crews, fared little better. Their ability to find a pinpoint deep in enemy-occupied Europe depended on pinpoint-to-pinpoint navigation at relatively low level. At 10,000 feet the ground beneath, if it is visible at all, appears very different from the detailed view available at 2,000-4,000 feet; under deep snow, even a city is rendered almost invisible at that height in poor visibility. By the time Hockey arrived over Czechoslovakia there was heavy cloud; had he not encountered flak he and his crew might have had little idea of where they were.

Sources

TNA AIR 20/8334, encl. 128A
Clark, ‘Agents by Moonlight’, pp. 34-38
Logbook, G/Capt. R C Hockey.
‘Assassination; Operation ANTHROPOID, 1941-1942’, by Michal Burian and others, Prague (2002).

Wednesday, 7 January 1942

Operation MOUSE/VERMILION

This attempt to drop Edmond Courtin (MOUSE) was the first SD sortie by a wholly Czech crew. P/O Leo Anderle took off from Stradishall at 23.37 and headed for Tangmere and the French coast at Port-en-Bassin. The target was probably near Châteauroux. However, the Whitley soon ran into very wintry weather. Anderle’s report is dominated by the weather: at 01.13, two minutes after his ETA over Port-en-Bassin he flew into an intense snowstorm at 8,000 feet. Over the Channel the cloud tops had been about 5,000 feet, but over France it extended to ground level. Anderle was plagued by severe icing and static storms. A few minutes later he set course for somewhere quite illegible; the only extant copy of Anderle’s report is a very blurred carbon flimsy, and even the clerk compiling the 138 Sqn ORB entry gave up and wrote a brief summary.

At 01.27, at a DR position of 49 degrees North, 0 degrees 12 minutes West (about 30 miles south of Le Havre), Anderle decides to call it a night. (The reliance on DR positioning makes clear that visibility was bad.) At 01.41, DR position Port-en-Bassin, course is set for Tangmere; at this point they are at 3,000 feet. They activate their IFF, and at 2.38 see searchlights and flares roughly ahead; these guide Anderle towards Tangmere, and he lands there at 03.15, the airfield covered by ground haze.

Edmond Courtin is a wireless operator sent out by SOE’s Belgian section, apparently to assist Julian Detal (GYPSY) and Frederic Wampach (VERMILION). (These have already been sent out in September.) In reality Detal has asked for a replacement for Wampach, whose nerve has gone. Nevertheless Courtin is being sent out with a set for Wampach, hence the dual operation name.

It will be March before MOUSE is dropped.

Kabrit to Malta

F/Lt Austin flies back to Malta with a crew of four and four Yugoslav trainee parachutists. His return to Malta has originally been intended for the 2nd, but poor weather prevented it for that night; intensive bombing of Malta has since kept them in Egypt.

A P/O Munroe (about whom no more is known, not even whether he is in 138 Squadron) has been sent out to carry another four Yugoslavs to Malta. F/Lt Austin has refused to carry all the Yugoslavs in his aircraft as having so many in the rear fuselage would risk the Whitley’s centre of gravity. He takes off from Kabrit at 22.50, and lands at Luqa at 10.30 the following morning. There’s no record of P/O Munro’s flight in the other Whitley, so it has to be assumed that his trip is similar.

Sources

MOUSE/VERMILION

TNA AIR 20/8334, Encl. 132A
MRD Foot, SOE in the Low Countries, pp. 259-263

Kabrit to Malta

TNA AIR 20/8504, JBA report dated 16/2/1941
Logbooks: S/Ldrs Austin and Livingstone

Sunday, 25 January, 1942

Operations DACE, HORNBEAM, CYPRUS

P/O Leo Anderle takes on the operations that P/O Smith was unable to complete on the 10th. Anderle takes off at 19.15, and is over the target areas near Le Mans from 21.40 to 22.35. DACE is dropped two kilometres south of Mulsanne, and the other two are parachuted one kilometre south-west of Vermeil, stated by Anderle as eight kilometres north-west of Vaas. Four canopies are seen from the aircraft, but no-one sees any sign of a reception committee. This is unusual, for the normal procedure at a drop with a reception committee is to abandon and return another night. However we don’t know the orders for this particular sortie; as the previous attempt has failed, the pilot may have asked the agents what they want to do.

Anderle returns to Stradishall and lands at 01.30.

Operation OVERCLOUD II

OVERCLOUD is a Gaullist SOE RF operation to supply its agents in Brittany. The first OVERCLOUD was to drop an agent and some containers in December, first attempted on the 8th but flown successfully by Leo Anderle on the 12th.

Sgt Wilde is the aircraft captain for tonight’s sortie. The ATF indicates that the cargo consists of two packages and four containers. Otherwise, very little is recorded about his sortie: Wilde takes off at 19.20 in Whitley T4166. Poor weather conditions cause the operation to be abandoned, and Wilde lands back at Stradishall at 22.15.

Postings

Pilot Officer W.R. Austin is posted in to 138 Squadron from No. 51 Squadron, Dishforth. He should not be confused with F/Lt J.B. Austin, currently on detachment in Egypt.