Tag Archives: Denmark

Tuesday, 9 September 1941

Operation ESMOND/COLUMBUS

Thomas Sneum (ESMOND) has already achieved a considerable feat just in escaping Denmark by air to England. He has, with his friend Kjeld Pedersen, flown a light aircraft over the North Sea to the East Coast of Britain. At first they were disbelieved by MI5, and both fugitives spent an uncomfortable period under interrogation until their story was verified. Sneum has brought items of inestimable value: photos and sketches of the German Freya radar arrays. Sneum’s film has been wrecked by a developer’s incompetence, but the value of his drawings is immediately recognised by Dr R.V. Jones. Sneum is prepared by SIS to return to Denmark as an agent. He is paired with a wireless-operator, Sigfred Christophersen (COLUMBUS).

This first attempt to drop them is made by F/O Ron Hockey, with S/Ldr John Nesbitt-Dufort as his Second Pilot, with S/Ldr Cousens from 3 Group’s Training Flight as Navigator. Such an experienced crew would have found the target, if any crew could. They take off in foggy conditions and fly over the North Sea either in heavy cloud or above it. Hockey reports later that they flew through three separate fronts on the way over. When they judge themselves near the Danish coast Hockey drops to about 1,300 feet but they are still flying in thick cloud. To go any lower, even over the flatlands of Jutland, is asking for trouble. They climb to 10,0000 feet through continuous cloud, and decide to abandon the operation; they return, landing at Leuchars, Fife, as all bases further south are fogbound. S/Ldr John Nesbitt-Dufort, again flying as 2nd Pilot, writes after the war about their return:

Newmarket and Stradishall were right out; in fact the whole of the south part of East Anglia was covered with fog and we were advised to try further north. Wearily we headed for Waddington where the weather was closing in rapidly and just beat us, then on to Driffield which had also closed when we got there. Eventually at 7 a.m. we got down at Leuchars in Scotland exactly nine hours after we had taken off from Newmarket.

‘Black Lysander’, p.102.

Thursday, 11 September 1941

Operation ESMOND, COLUMBUS

The first attempt to drop Tommy Sneum (ESMOND) and Sigfred Christophersen (COLUMBUS) had failed due to atrocious weather. Just how much difference could be made by a piece of clear weather is seen from this sortie, flown by the comparatively inexperienced Sgt Reimer and his crew.

Taking off at 19.45, they get a ‘fix’ at Great Yarmouth and set course for Esjberg, the main port on Jutland’s west coast. They climb to 8,000 feet for the North Sea crossing, and descend on ETA to pinpoint at Esjberg, where they are greeted by searchlights and flak. They then fly on to the target near Brorfelde, where they drop Sneum and Christophersen shortly after 23.33. They land back at Newmarket just over three hours later.

Tommy Sneum told his story to Mark Ryan, and Ryan’s book ‘The Hornet’s Sting’ was published in 2008, the year after Sneum died.