Tag Archives: Knowles

Edward Vincent Knowles

Wednesday, 6 August 1941

Operation THEOREM/VALIANT

From the point of view of John Austin’s crew this was a smooth, uneventful and successful operation to drop a pair of agents. The journey out is via Dives-sur-Mer, Tours, Chateauroux and Montluçon. The agents are dropped at 01.54, three minutes after reaching the target, near the village of St. Désiré, north of Montluçon. Austin probably pinpointed on Montluçon before backtracking to the target. On the way back pigeons are dropped near Argentan, and Austin lands back at Newmarket at 05.55.

For one of the agents it is a different story: although Jacques de Vaillant Guelis (VALIANT) a senior ‘F’ Section officer, lands without difficulty and is recovered by Lysander on the night of 4 September (Operation ‘Night Embarkation’ as the pilot, S/Ldr John Nesbitt-Dufort, entitles his report), but Gilbert Turck (THEOREM) is knocked out in an awkward landing. He wakes to find himself in a Vichy police station in Montluçon. During the Phoney War he had been a liaison officer between the sabotage-oriented Section ‘D’ of SIS and the similarly-tasked 5ème Bureau; his old boss, now working for Vichy’s intelligence service, has him released. Turck regains contact with de Guelis, and starts his mission.

(Operation ADJUDICATE)

Knowles and his crew take off at 22.07, quite late for a sortie heading for the south of France at that time of year. The rear gunner is a Squadron Leader Stephens, a gunnery instructor from 3 Group’s HQ Flight.

They fly a near-regular route: Abingdon, Tangmere, near-Cabourg, then Tours to Limoges, which they reach at 1.34. They find the target without difficulty, but they are greeted by the signal code ‘MD’, meaning that to land the agent would be dangerous. They circle for about ten minutes, but no further signals are seen. Headlights are seen on the ground and the Whitley leaves the area. Knowles offers to drop the agent elsewhere in Unoccupied France, an offer declined.

They fly back via Tours, landing back at Newmarket at 05.52.

The reason the operation name and agent are in brackets is that the evidence to identify them is circumstantial. In his operations report Knowles incorrectly ascribes it to the FELIX network, which did not operate in that area of south-west France. (Three nights earlier Knowles and his crew had flown an attempt to drop a W/T set to FELIX near Fontainebleau, but had turned back early with engine-trouble.) Characteristically Knowles does not include the date of the sortie in his report, but the take-off and landing times match those recorded in the Stradishall log for an otherwise unascribed sortie by Whitley (letter ‘D’) on 6th August. The target description in Knowles’s report, and the fact that the cargo is an agent not a W/T set, points towards another attempt to insert Count Dzieřgowski into the Unoccupied Zone near Limoges.

Operational cross-country

This Lysander sortie appears in Nesbitt-Dufort’s logbook, with a take-off from Tangmere at 23:00 hrs, and landing 5 hours 40 minutes later.

For all his other operational sorties, Nesbitt-Dufort records them as either ‘Ops as ordered successful or ‘Ops as ordered unsuccessful, and notes the number of passengers. This one is recorded merely as ‘Ops as ordered’, and as a solo effort, with no passengers.

This looks like a similar operation to the one described by Hugh Verity as an ‘operational cross-country’, in which Verity, soon after he joined 161 Squadron, was ordered to fly to a point in France, note what he saw, and to fly back and report. In Verity’s case the target was a brightly-lit prison camp in the countryside south of Saumur. Such sorties provided a realistic test of the pilot’s solo navigational abilities without exposing a valuable agent to any risk. Nesbitt-Dufort has flown several Whitley operations, and has proved himself as a competent map-reader, but those sorties are rather different from flying alone to a pinpoint on the map, several hundred miles into Occupied France. Next time he will do it with an agent aboard.

Sources

THEOREM/VALIANT

TNA AIR 20/8334, encl.53A

(ADJUDICATE)

TNA AIR 20/8334, encl.49A

Op X-country

Logbook, John Nesbitt-Dufort.

Monday, 7 July 1941

Operation TRIPOD

Knowles took off in Whitley ‘D’ from Newmarket at 22.26, and flew a normal route to France via Abingdon, Tangmere and Cabourg. Five minutes after crossing the French coast a Heinkel III passed overhead at right angles to their course. Front and rear gunners opened fire, but the Heinkel did not waver, and flew on. The Whitley carried on towards Limoges. They crossed the Loire ten miles west of Tours, and at this point the intercom decided to pack up. This left Knowles without a means of direct communication with the crew-member in the bomb-aimer’s position (whoever that was) responsible for dropping the containers.

The circumstances of this operation appear to fit the first drop of containers to an SOE circuit. In ‘Who Lived to See the Day’ (1961), Philippe de Vomécourt claimed that a container was dropped onto his estate at Bas Soleil, east of Limoges, on the night of 13th June 1941. In 1966 MRD Foot, taking de Vomécourt’s date as gospel, cited the Stradishall log in evidence that Sgt Austin had been the pilot. The problem with this was that Austin had been over Brittany that night, trying to parachute Norman Burley and Ernest Bernard near Mortaine. They were intended to become part of de Vomécourt’s AUTOGYRO circuit, and the operation name AUTOGYRO C may have persuaded Foot that it had been the container-drop. Nor were there any other sorties around that date which come close to matching purpose and place.

Knowles and his crew found the target easily. This container-dropping operation is described in detail: it was to a reception party which displayed a triangle of lights. The crew spent some 15 minutes over the target. With no direct communication possible between the the pilot and the ‘bomb-aimer’, it was impossible for Knowles to fly a course close enough to the lights. Eventually he used the bomb-jettison switch to make the drop. He wrote that the containers “should have landed within 200 yards of the circle of lights.”

It took them 42 minutes to reach Tours — about right for a 110-mile dash from Bas Soleil to reach the Normandy coast safely before daybreak — , and they reached Cabourg at 4.02, reaching Tangmere 40 minutes later, and Newmarket at 5.41.

A notable incident at Newmarket

An hour before Knowles landed, Newmarket witnessed the landing of a Wellington of No. 75 (NZ) Squadron. The Wellington had been attacked by a Messerschmitt Bf110 night fighter, which set its starboard wing on fire at the rear of the engine housing. Sgt Pilot James Ward climbed out onto the wing, kicking foot-holds in the geodesic wing-structure. He was secured – if that is quite the right word – to the aircraft by a rope taken from the Wellington’s dinghy, held by another crew-member. He beat out the flames with a canvas sheet. Newmarket, with its 3,000 yd landing-field, was one of Bomber Command’s emergency landing-fields. (Group informed Stradishall at 0400 that a ‘rocky’ 75 Sqn Wellington ‘R’ was going to land without flaps, so it needed the longest runway possible. Newmarket’s grass runway would also slow the Wellington down better than a concrete one. The flaps may not have been damaged, but the risk of a crash was much greater if only one side worked.)

Ward was awarded the VC for his gallant actions in saving the aircraft. He was killed the following September, taking part in a raid on Hamburg.

Operation SHE

The target for this operation is near Perigueux in the Dordogne; a long trip for the short nights of early summer. F/Lt Jackson and his crew are bedevilled with technical and other troubles on the way to the target area. First they run into a head-wind which reduces their ground-speed to 140 mph, which will delay their arrival at the target (though it will bring them back faster if it persists), but they also encounter trouble with the exactors, oil-filled hydraulics which control the pitch of the airscrews. Over France they find that petrol will not flow from the auxiliary tanks installed in the bomb-bay and fuselage, so after two more attempts to get the fuel flowing they turn back.

Twenty minutes later they managed to get the auxiliary tanks flowing, so they turned back for Perigueux. They then realise that they cannot reach the target area until 04.00. Crucially, they cannot reach their exit point on the Atlantic coast until 05.00, in daylight: a very unhealthy prospect with enemy fighters known to patrol the area. They sensibly decide it isn’t worth the risk, and return. They see an enemy aircraft spinning down in flames near Selsey Bill, and land back at Newmarket at 02.47.

Operation MOONSHINE – consequences

During the day, before flying the operation described above, Knowles, as the Flight’s Commanding Officer, has an immediate and pressing problem: he is now custodian of a corpse on English soil, the body of an agent whose existence, let alone his identity, can not be subjected to a coroner’s inquest. These, by law, have to be public. Knowles has already experienced similar circumstances: at Stradishall in April a French agent fell to his death when his parachute failed to open. After Austin landed Knowles is furious with him, and demands to know why he didn’t order the rear gunner to shoot the agent off; four machine-guns would have left nothing to bring back. (The episode is witnessed by the Orderly Room Chief Clerk, F/Sgt Stanley Matthews, related personally to the author in 2004, and subsequently confirmed by John Austin.)

Operation MARBLES

Austin, his crew (less Pulton) and Nesbitt-Dufort, fly over the North Sea, pausing briefly before proceeding to the Belgian coast and the Ardennes. Near Chimay they drop the 43-year-old Paul Jacquemin to join the ‘Clarence’ intelligence circuit. On his return Austin writes a sparse report on operation MARBLES, but omits to mention what Nesbitt-Dufort  writes in his post-war memoir: that on the outward journey the body of Armand Leblicq, wrapped in a weighted tarpaulin, is gently dropped with a silent prayer over the North Sea.

Aftermath

Dodds-Parker confesses the grisly truth to Paul-Henri Spaak, Foreign Minister of the Belgian government-in-exile, as soon as he returns to London.

After the war, Leblicq’s widow, Elizabeth Maréchal, contacts the Belgian authorities and demands to know what has become of her husband. She is told that he has died on special operations, and she is put in contact with the rump of SOE responsible for tying up its loose ends. SOE consults Harry Sporborg, Gubbins’s deputy. Sporborg pays a visit to the Registrar-General, and tells him of the circumstances. Sporborg emerges with a death-certificate for Armand Leblicq. It gives the date of his death as 7 July 1941, and the place as Great Bradley, the nearest village to 1419 Flight’s base at Newmarket Heath. The certificate enables Madame Leblicq to get a widow’s pension.

Sources

TNA AIR 20/8334, Encls. 30A, 32A, 41A
SOE War Diary, July 1941
Personal interviews: Sir Douglas Dodds-Parker, John Austin
Douglas Dodds-Parker, ‘Setting Europe Ablaze’, pp.93-5
John Nesbitt-Dufort, ‘Black Lysander’, p.102
MRD Foot, SOE in the Low Countries’, pp 247-8, and personal correspondence
Stradishall Ops Officers’ logbook, 5-7 July 1941.
CEGESOMA, Leblicq PF

Saturday, 5 July 1941

The next three nights are a bit of a tangle, with a tragic accident at their centre. Disentangling which operation was flown on which night, and by whom, has been a challenge.

When 1419 Flight’s operations went according to plan there was little for the pilot to write about in his official report. He was left with recording the bald facts of take-off, the route out across the English Channel and the enemy coast, the pinpoint and the target, dropping the agents and cargo, and of the journey home. As there is no Operations Record Book, these reports are often the only record that the sortie took place at all. When events failed to go according to plan – when the crew was thwarted by low mist, cloud, or the absence of a reception committee, or made errors of navigation or decision-making – these events are more interesting, for they show the pilots’ and crews’ actions under stress, and the decisions they made. In the case of three consecutive sorties for the 5th, 6th and 7th of July nothing went quite according to the book, but the pilots’ reports give little away. It would be misleading to say that the events were hushed-up, for they took place in an environment where everything was hushed-up, but the pilots’ reports which formed the RAF’s official record of events omitted important information, the effect of which was to avoid any mention of operation MOONSHINE / OPINION in the RAF’s only extant official record. The pilots’ reports were compiled near the end of the moon period, normal practice within the Flight: Austin waited until the 12th July before writing his reports for the 6th and 7th, and Jackson wrote his account for the 5th July on the 14th. From several eyewitness accounts, correspondence with MRD Foot, and Belgian academic works I have been able to piece together a logically coherent scheme of events. But I am open to the suggestion that this might still not be the final version.

According to the pilots’ near-contemporary operations reports, F/Lt Jackson flew Operation MARBLES on the night of 5 July, without completing it. Sgt Austin flew an un-named operation the following night, the 6th, during which one of the agents in a two-man team died in a parachuting accident, thankfully rare. This agent is known to have been flown out over Belgium the previous night, unsuccessfully, so it was logical to deduce that these two agents were collectively known as Operation MARBLES, despite each agent having his own code-name (MOONSHINE and OPINION, MOONSHINE being killed and OPINION being dropped successfully). Operation MARBLES was flown again the following night (the 7th), by Sgt Austin, this time successfully.

However, the agent dropped by Operation MARBLES was a completely different agent, Paul Jacquemin. While we will probably never know for certain, I believe that the operation Jackson flew on the 5th was Operation MOONSHINE/OPINION, not MARBLES. (It’s possible that Jackson attempted both operations, but his report describes only one operation; it tallies with the first attempt at MOONSHINE/OPINION.) It is therefore more likely that the real MARBLES was dropped at the first attempt on the 6th.

Operation MOONSHINE/OPINION

The first attempt to carry out this operation is flown by F/Lt Jackson. Delayed by technical trouble with their original aircraft, they jump ship to T4166. Take-off is delayed by only half an hour, so T4166 must have been fuelled-up and almost ready to go; it may have been a normal precaution. T4166’s intercom is not working effectively: microphones are swapped over, and the wireless operator is still struggling to provide a functional intercom as they headed for Belgium. They overfly Aldeburgh at 3,000 feet, but climb to 5,000 ft to cross the Belgian coast between Ostend and Dunkirk at 00.41 hrs. Jackson’s report continues:

On crossing the enemy coast we were held by searchlights and shot at by A.A. fire. At 01.07 we altered course to 134 degrees magnetic for Dinant at a height of 6,500 feet and at 01.12 commenced dropping the pigeons. We passed over several aerodromes, some with the flare path alight. At 0040½ we passed over Charleroi and lost height to 3,000 feet.

With the intercom still faulty, the navigator can still pass written course instructions to the pilot immediately to his right, but instant communication between all parts of the aircraft is vital during the operation itself. All members of the crew search for pinpoints during the approach to the target, and in the target area the pilot depends on the second pilot and navigator to position the aircraft right over the dropping point; only the despatcher and rear-gunner can provide confirmation of the agents’ departure from the aircraft.

En route for Dinant, on the Meuse, they fly over Charleroi: like all industrial areas of the time this coal-mining centre produces dense industrial haze, which obscures the ground beneath and spreads up and along the river valleys. After Dinant it is clear that the navigator F/Lt Romanoff, is having trouble. Whatever their target, they become lost. They retrace their route to pick up the river Meuse and pinpoint at Givet. They then follow the river north to Namur where, at 2.40, Jackson decides to abandon the operation. Already delayed by the technical trouble, and again after becoming lost, they have run out of time. Hockey records the route in his logbook as Nieuport, Charleroi, Namur, St Hubert (the last about 12 miles south of the MOONSHINE/OPINION target).

Fifty minutes later they clear the Belgian coast, and land back at Newmarket at 04.34. Jackson writes in his report that it had been the navigator’s first experience, but in fact F/Lt Romanoff had been out over Holland the previous night with Sgt Austin, and they had become lost then, too.

The accounts of the MOONSHINE / OPINION operation make clear that there was an attempt to drop this pair of agents over Belgium on the 5th, and Jackson’s report of their getting lost tallies with the known facts of MOONSHINE/OPINION. The Stradishall log confirms that there were only two 1419 Flight Whitleys out that night, and the other sortie is described below. It is possible that MARBLES was also aboard Jackson’s aircraft on this night, with no attempt made to drop him; but I doubt it. The MARBLES target was a long way west of the area covered; Jackson’s route only makes sense if they were trying to find the target for MOONSHINE and OPINION, in the hilly countryside south of Marche-en-Famenne.

Operation TORTURE

The target is only about twenty miles inland from the Normandy coast. Accompanying the crew was an RAF psychologist, F/Lt Roland Winfield, who later writes about the operation.

S/Ldr Knowles flies a normal route out via Abingdon and Tangmere, but the navigator must have underestimated the drift, for they make landfall only a mile west of Le Havre. Anywhere near the The port town is definitely unhealthy, and they are immediately attacked by the German ground-defences. Fortunately for Knowles and his crew, another aircraft had flown ‘slap over the middle of Le Havre’ as Knowles put it. It was higher, at about 10,000 feet, and drew the defences’ attention. Knowles discreetly headed south-west and crossed the coast at Merville.

The target was in the Forêt de Cinglins, a large wooded area about ten miles south of Caen, surrounded by arable land. It was easy to find, and the dropping operation took about four minutes.

After dropping the two agents ‘blind’, Knowles and his crew found ‘a German camouflaged tent encampment’ about 12 miles south of Caen, which would place it just south of the Forêt de Cinglins. Knowles’s crew shot it up from both turrets, and headed for the coast. There they found a German staff-car driving along a coast road with its headlights blazing. The rear gunner gave the car a four-second burst (a lot of rounds with four machine-guns) and the lights went out. They crossed the coast at Cabourg, and flew via Tangmere to Stradishall, landing at 03.33.

Sqn Ldr Winfield’s expertise was in the psychological stresses experienced by aircrew and paratroops. His postwar book gives a sympathetic, romantic portrait of W/Cdr Knowles, but his account of the operation itself provides real insight, bar a few errors of fact. His description of Knowles looking for trouble after completing the parachute operation rings true, as does his description of landing a Whitley ‘on’ instead of trying for a three-point landing. This was a solution to the problem of SD Whitleys stalling and crashing when their fuel was low and with undelivered agents still aboard. There would be several more instances of this particular type of accident.

Cartigny and Labit

On 29 April 1941 two twenty-year-olds, Denys Boudard and Jean Hébert, steal a Bucker Jungmeister biplane from a large fighter base at Carpiquet, just south-west of Caen, and fly it to England. SOE’s ‘F’ Section is taken with the airfield’s abysmal security, and despatches two agents, Henri Labit and Jean-Louis Cartigny, on a reconnaissance mission with a view to sabotage.

The French historian Philippe Bauduin appears to believe that they were dropped near the village of Rots, just to the west of Caen and about 12 miles from the Forêt de Cinglins, but this is unlikely: far too near the fighter base at Carpiquet for comfort, and very different country from the woodland where Knowles supposedly dropped them. (Baudin may have mistaken ‘Rots’ for Ryes; see below.) Labit wrote that they were dropped in a cornfield, where they left unmistakeable traces, and could not bury their parachutes in the hard dry earth. They carried the rest of their equipment to trees and covered it with leaves. Cartigny and Labit then separated, to meet up later. MRD Foot believed that Cartigny and Labit betrayed themselves by trying to catch a train the next day, a Sunday: passenger trains had ceased to run on Sundays some months before, but the agents had been poorly briefed. Not so: frustrated by the non-existent train service, Labit started walking the 35 kilometres to a farm near Ryes owned by a M. Frémont. (Labit’s accurate distance between the Forêt de Cinglins and Ryes confirms that the agents had been dropped at the correct spot.)

On the way Labit decides to call in at a ‘safe’ contact he had been given, a man called Dodin. Labit quickly realises Dodin was ‘un parfait crétin’, for he mis-takes Labit for a Gestapo agent come to question him about the two French airmen, and greets him with a effusive praises for the Germans. After pondering whether he should laugh it off or box the man’s ears, Labit leaves him in order to make contact with M. Frémont as fast as possible, to warn Cartigny against approaching Dodin.

Labit has walked no more than a kilometre before he is stopped by a Gendarme on a bicycle who asks for his papers. Labit asks the policeman why he’s been stopped, and is told that M. Dodin has denounced him as suspicious.

Labit arrives at Ryes, where he has to make five enquiries before finding the Frémont farm, in a different commune. M. Frémont takes him in, subject to a confirmatory broadcast message from London, but three hours later Frémont’s son wakes the agent as the Germans were outside. Labit hides in a bush, then returns after they have left. Frémont tells him that the Germans have discovered the parachutes, knows about both him and Cartigny, and of his presence in the locality. Frémont proposes himself as an intermediary for Labit’s surrender, but the agent takes off. He finds a courageous peasant woman who hides him for a few days, then makes his way in a peasant’s disguise to Caen, then Paris, and from there to Toulouse. Once there, Labit is given a new mission, FABULOUS.

Cartigny is captured separately, is tortured and eventually executed by firing squad on 4 February 1942.

Friday, 13 June 1941

Operation AUTOGYRO

Sgt Austin and his crew make the second attempt to drop SOE ‘F’ Section agents Norman Burley and Ernest Bernard near Mortaine, in Normandy.

This night is near the end of the moon period, with light only during the second part of the night. They took off later, at half past midnight, and two hours later pinpointed at Isigny. They dropped pigeons at St Lô en route for Avranches, and when they reached Avranches they flew west ot the coast to check their position. At this point they were flying at about 3,000 feet, with a layer of cloud beneath them at 1,000 ft. They then headed for the target, but ran into 9/10ths cloud. 6 miles before Mortaine they pinpointed St Osvin through a break in the clouds, and pinpointed again at 4 miles from Mortaine by flying around another cloud-gap. But over Mortaine there were no gaps, and as the top of the cloud layer was 500 feet, 100 ft lower than the safe parachuting height, they abandon the operation, and headed for home.

This night is cited by MRD Foot (in SOE in France, page 163) as the delivery, by Austin, of two parachuted containers to Pierre de Vomécourt’s chateau, ‘Bas Soleil’; as Foot put it, ‘the very first supply drop of warlike stores to be made to France’. His information came from the Stradishall Operations Record Book. At best an incomplete source, this was probably all that was made available to him in the early 1960s about air operations. Austin could not have been in two places at once, and his logbook is clear; his five hours in the air were insufficient for a sortie to Limoges.

Operation Outhaulle

Knowles flies his second attempt to drop Pierre Vandermies near Montluçon. This sortie shows how different the same operation could be when flown under the right weather conditions with good visibility.

Knowles, with Murphy as navigator, take off at 22.23. The route flown is via Abingdon and Tangmere. At 23.25, after an hour’s flying, they set off across the Channel, reaching Cabourg just after midnight and Tours 40 minutes later. They find Châteauroux and Montuçon without difficulty. Near the target area a car is seen on the main road, so Vandermies is dropped about three miles further on. The agent’s parachute is seen to open and he appears to have made a good landing, at 01.33. On the return journey they reach the French coast about three miles west of Cabourg, and cross the English coast at 04.00, landing at Newmarket at 05.13 (05.15 according to the Strad log). There is no mention of heights flown or other data.

It is possible that Knowles dropped the two containers to de Vomécourt, but he is specific about coming home immediately after dropping Vandermies. He mentions no additional task in his report. It would have added at least another 45 minutes to his sortie, assuming perfect navigation, and the time aloft (6hrs 45mins) fits a trip to Montluçon and back. In any case Knowles would not have wished to tarry, given the short nights of June.

Wednesday, 11 June 1941

Operation OUTHAULLE

Almost as soon as W/Cdr Knowles’s Whitley leaves the English coast it runs into thick cloud. It is only a few nights after Full Moon, so it is possible to fly at 1,0000 feet under 10/10ths cloud and still see. Enough, it seems, to identify Tours, but as they fly south the weather deteriorates; they are now flying under two thick layers of cloud at 1,200 feet. In the gloom they cannot identify their next pinpoint, somewhere between Chateauroux and Montluçon, so Knowles abandons the operation.

There’s no longer any point in flying low, so they attempt to climb into clear air. Shortly before 03.00 they encounter heavy icing and the port engine cuts. With the other engine running roughly they descend to 4,000 feet, at which the port engine picks up and runs normally. They head back towards England, obtaining a QDM (homing bearing obtained by W/T) from Tangmere. From there they fly back to Newmarket, where they land at about 05.30.

Several sources attest to OUTHAULLE as the operation intended to deliver Pierre Vandermies to the Zéro intelligence group in Belgium, notably Emmanuel Debruyne. The peculiar spelling of the operation comes from Knowles’s report; Knowles is not of a nautical disposition.

Operation FITZROY

F/Lt Jackson and his crew take off at 22.34. (The Ops Officer’s log records 22.45, the difference probably due to Jackson taking his timings from engine-start.) On the first leg to Abingdon they find that the Met. winds are from the opposite direction to the forecast. They climb to 6,500 feet to cross the Channel above thick cloud, but cross the French coast above Le Havre, which has a heavy concentration of searchlights. Flying south, they find Tours at 01.19 but, after finding no improvement in the weather, and knowing a front was approaching, they abandon the operation. The experience of S/Ldr Knowles on OUTHAULLE points to the wisdom of Jackson’s decision.

On the return leg they drop pigeons and leaflets just east of Le Havre, but are held over Newmarket for 48 minutes; Stradishall’s 214 Sqn was operating that night, and several land out at Newmarket. The poor weather has affected bombing operations; the returning bombers take priority.

Operation AUTOGYRO C

The purpose of this operation is to drop two SOE ‘F’ Section agents near Mortaine, in Brittany, to work for the AUTOGYRO circuit. The two agents are Norman Burley and Ernest Bernard.

Sgt Austin and his crew cross the coast near Littlehampton, hoping to make landfall at Isigny. Cloud and rain builds up, so that by the time they are due to reach the French coast it is invisible. On ETA Isigny they change course southwards for Avranches, flying at 6,000 ft. On ETA Avranches they drop to 2,500 ft and set course eastwards for Mortaine. On ETA Mortaine, and still unable to see anything, they start a box search at 3,000 ft. They abandon the attempt and return, dropping pigeons between St Sever and Vire on the way. They land at Newmarket after passing Tangmere and Abingdon.

Sources

OUTHAULLE

TNA AIR20/8334, Encl. 24A
Debruyne, LGSEB, p. 146

FITZROY

TNA AIR20/8334, Encl. 22A

AUTOGYRO C

TNA AIR20/8334, Encl. 26A