Tag Archives: Poland

Intelligence organisation of Poland’s government-in-exile

Friday, 7 November 1941

This night is a busy one for the squadron: one Lysander pickup operation for SIS, one Whitley operation to Holland, consequential for SOE; another to Yugoslavia, a first; and the squadron’s first Halifax operation to Poland, flown by a Polish crew. The night is a heavy one for Bomber Command: it is a ‘maximum effort’ against Berlin, Mannheim, Cologne, Essen and Ostend. 392 aircraft set out, 37 do not return; many are casualties of bad weather over the North Sea.

Operation SAGA, BRICK, FITZROY

In the RAF argot of the era, Nesbitt-Dufort’s second attempt at this operation is a ‘piece of cake’. He takes off an hour later than last night, at 9.20 p.m. (GMT+1), possibly because the moon rises about 40 minutes later. Following the same R/T procedure with the south-coast radar stations, he crosses the French coast between Criel-sur-Mer and Le Treport at 8,000 feet, pinpoints at Compiègne, picks up the target lights inside seven minutes, and lands three minutes later in a field a couple of kilometres WSW of Soissons, close to the village of Ambleney.

He is stationary on the ground for about two minutes and twenty seconds, during which time the A.3. (Belgian section) agent SAGA is disembarked with his luggage, and Claude Lamirault (FITZROY) and Roger Mitchell (BRICK) are embarked with theirs. Take-off and the journey home are uneventful, and Nesbitt-Dufort crosses the French coast a little east of Le Treport. He is given homing instructions by MUNGA and lands back at Tangmere at 20 minutes after midnight, just three hours after take-off.

FITZROY and BRICK are both returning to the UK for debrief and a brief respite from the clandestine life: they will be dropped back on 8 December as CLAUDIUS and BERYL. Roger Mitchell, who has recently stood in for Roman Garby-Czerniawski as head of INTERALLIE during the latter’s own visit to London in October, will be on hand to assist in the assessment of the fallout from the capture of the INTERALLIE circuit in ten days time, specifically to interpret the bogus messages received from Mathilde Carré in her new guise as VICTOIRE, purportedly having evaded capture in the roundup.

Operation CATARRH

This operation has the most grave consequences for SOE, for the agents parachuted are Thijs Taconis and Huub Lauwers. Their capture will trigger the Dutch tragedy known as ‘Der Englandspiel’, the luring of several dozen agents to immediate capture, some to their eventual death.

From F/Lt Murphy’s report, there is nothing portentous about the operation: Murphy and his usual crew, with two Leading Aircraftmen aboard as despatchers, cross the Suffolk coast at Southwold. Half an hour later, over the North Sea, two aircraft close to within 500 yards, but Murphy loses them by turning sharply to port. Flying under a dense bank of cloud they cross the Dutch coast at Ymuiden and fly over the Zuiderzee to Meppel, reaching it at 23.57. From there they fly south-east to the target near Ommen, where they drop the two agents shortly after midnight. They return to Meppel, retracing their outward route, dropping leaflets along their homeward route from 100 feet up — only possible over Holland!

The story of Lauwers and Taconis is too well-known for me to repeat in detail. Lauwers was captured in March 1942 at his set, and was forced to transmit. He used his security-check, but this was ignored by SOE’s Dutch section, which transmitted details of agents to be parachuted. These were met by Major Herman Giskes of the Abwehr and his team. Soon Giskes had lured several agents and their W/T sets to Holland; in essence, he came to run SOE’s activities in Holland until he tired of the game in 1944. The RAF had ceased operations to Holland several months before, due to unreasonable losses.

I recommend reading MRD Foot’s ‘SOE in the Low Countries’ and Leo Marks’s ‘Between Silk and Cyanide’ for the British side of the story, and Herman Giskes’ ‘Operation North Pole’ for the German Abwehr’s side of the story. (Early editions of the Giskes book may also have Huub Lauwers’ own account in an appendix.) Giskes was a highly-experienced operator: before his posting to the Netherlands in October 1941 he’d had considerable success in Paris by infiltrating British-sponsored intelligence organisations.

Operation BULLSEYE (Yugoslavia)

On the morning of the 7th the submarines have arrived in Malta — probably sneaking in during the previous night — with the equipment for Jackson and Austin to drop over Yugoslavia. Jackson attends a morning conference chaired by the SASO, with two Army officers, the two experienced Serbian pilots who are to act as navigation guides, the officer i/c/ the Wellington Flight. The Serbian pilots claim that the winds in the mountains at this time of year make the operation too hazardous by night, and the Wellington Flight commander states that the pinpoints would be impossible to find. A signal was to be sent to the Air Ministry saying that any attempt would be made by day.

Only two containers are ready for dropping. Jackson has three crew off sick. Austin thinks a night attempt is feasible: he volunteers to make an attempt that night, and takes Jackson’s Z9158 up for a test flight at 11.00. He takes off for Yugoslavia at 21.50, and sets course for his first turning-point at Saseno (Sazan) Island, at the entrance to the Adriatic. The next pinpoint is at Cap Bodoni (Cape of Rodon), on the coast further north. From there he heads inland to Mitrovice, in modern-day Kosovo. Cacac is the final pinpoint, with the target in the nearby hills to the north-east.

In the event the weather is fine, with isolated cloud over the sea up to 6,500 feet. Austin flies at 10,000 feet to keep well above any high ground. The three or four signal-fires are clearly visible. Austin signals with the letter ‘R’, which is returned, and several more fires are lit. A green flare is fired from some fires in the form of a cross indicating the wind-direction. At 02.56 the containers are dropped from 3,600 feet to keep the Whitley well above the terrain; at this distance from base their instrument-height may be considerably inaccurate. The rear gunner sees a parachute open.

Austin and his crew immediately make their return to Luqa, arriving at 07.15, and they land 25 minutes later.

Operation RUCTION

RUCTION is the first operation to Poland carried out by an all-Polish crew, so there is a lot riding on it. General Sikorski has pushed hard for the Polish Home Army and underground to be supplied from the air by Polish crews. The aircraft are still British, but there is no doubt that, had Sikorski not agitated strongly for four-engined aircraft, 138 Squadron could have whistled in vain for the Halifax. The bomber is still very new: so far only No. 35 Squadron had been equipped with the type. On 23rd October the Poles have been sent to Linton-on-Ouse for three days’ Halifax conversion-training.

The agents are: Capt. Niemir Stanislaw Bidzinski (ZIEGE), 2/Lt Napoleon Segieda (WERA), and Lt Jan Piwnik (PONURY). There is no operation report on RUCTION, because the crew deliberately crash-lands in Sweden, near Tormelilla. Their version is that they have dropped their agents over Poland when the hydraulic system fails and the undercarriage is lowered. The crew cannot raise it. By now over Denmark, the crew realise that, with the undercart locked down there is no prospect of the Halifax making it back across the North Sea, so they turn towards neutral Sweden, and crash-land. The crew is taken into custody by the Swedish authorities, and they are eventually repatriated to the UK.

W/Cdr Farley’s comments on the operation, contained in an exasperated letter to the Air Ministry after another operation to Poland in January, is revealing:

It has now been established that the loss of the first aircraft was due to mishandling. Colonel Rudowski (sic), who accompanied the crew against orders, did not fully understand the undercarriage system. They have stated that they could not raise the undercarriage as there was no emergency hand pump. There is, of course, a hand pump and the fluid could have been lost only by leaving the selector in the “up” position instead of the “neutral” position during the flight.

As the Poles’ Commanding Officer, Farley has every right to enquire why one of his squadron’s rare and precious Halifaxes has come to a sticky end on its first operation. Though at the time of writing he has yet to fly the Halifax on operations, he will have familiarised himself with his squadron’s aircraft. He also has an experienced Halifax pilot in Sqn Ldr Ron Hockey, who has (by the time Farley writes this report) flown the ANTHROPOID operation at the end of December, and has a thorough knowledge of the Halifax’s controls and systems.

In his ‘Poland, SOE and the Allies’, Josef Garlinksi does not mention this episode, despite its importance.

Sources
SAGA, BRICK, FITZROY

TNA AIR 40/2579: Lysander Operations, 419 Flight & 138 Squadron.

CATARRH

TNA AIR 20/8334, Encl. 104A

BULLSEYE

TNA AIR20/8334, Encls 97A, 103A

RUCTION

TNA AIR 2/5203, Farley letter to DDI2 dated 13 January 1942.

Friday, 10 October 1941

The weather has improved enough for operations to be flown. With several nights already lost there is a considerable backlog. The following narrative demonstrates how the ‘press-on’ spirit (though never ‘press on regardless’) applies to these aircrews. They know the urgency of getting these agents to their destinations, but these cargoes are precious, and more valuable than they are: agents are not bombs to be just dumped when the circumstances dictate. If the weather is as described below, it gives an idea just how bad the previous nights must have been.

Operation MAINMAST

This trip of 11 hours 40 minutes is at the Whitley’s limit of endurance. Its duration is comparable with S/Ldr Keast’s effort to Poland the previous January, though Keast’s trip had been pioneering a new route eastwards, whereas this one flown by P/O Austin is over familiar territory. He crosses the French coast at Isigny, but cloud obscures the ground over France as far as Tours. They fly on dead-reckoning until the cloud clears and they are able to map-read to Toulouse, which they reach at half-past midnight. Austin circles Toulouse to get a good fix for setting course for the target, but although they see several lights in the target area, none fits the bill for a reception-party. They remain circling in the area, looking for the correct light-formation, but have to leave at about 1.15 without success. It’s a long way to come for no result.

Headed for home, they run into 10/10ths cloud almost immediately. They fly some 33° off-course for 15 minutes before Austin realises that he has not engaged the verge ring that physically locks the course into the compass. They cross the French coast at 4.48 but cannot identify precisely where. The wireless-operator picks up a homing beacon for Tangmere and Austin lands there shortly after six.

Operation PEAR

There is no SOE file on this operation, and no agent identified as PEAR, but F/O Hockey’s report tells us that the target was near Ménétréols. Hockey takes off much later, at 21.20, but his is a much shorter trip. He experiences much the same weather as Austin, but he takes a different approach, opting to fly rather low. East of Tours, he attempts to fly up the Cher river to Vierzon at about 2,000 feet beneath 9/10ths cloud, but as the river ascends the cloud descends. Hockey returns to Tours and has another go, this time at 500-600 feet, but has to flew up into the clag at St Julien. Undaunted, he retraces his course, picks up the river at Blère, just short of Tours, and tries again. This time he flies “just above the tree-tops along the river” (which must have been hair-raising for his crew in less-than-perfect visibility beneath cloud, at night; the moon is well past its full brilliance) and reaches Vierzon. He then flies to Neuvy, turns left to follow the Ménétréols road, and drops PEAR somewhere in between the two.

There are a few Ménétréols and Neuvys in the area. Most other SD operations in the area are south-east of Vierzon, but the Ménétréols and Neuvys in this area do not tally with Hockey’s account. The pair that do fit are located north-east of Vierzon: Neuvy-sur Barangeon and Ménétréol-sur-Sauldre.

Operation INTERALLIE, SUZANNE

INTERALLIÉ is the Polish agent Roman Garby-Czerniawski, working semi-independently in Paris for the Polish F2 organisation, based in the Non-Occupied Zone under Colonel Zembinski. SUZANNE is what Czerniawski called a ‘radio station’: one or more W/T sets parachuted to a reception committee near the Loire, but there’s no indication of who are the intended users. He is briefed on the use of the ‘A’ type parachute by his escorting officer, ‘Captain Philipson’. Czerniawski believes him to be a British Army captain, and even when writing his post-war memoir he appears unaware that Philip Schneidau has ‘been there, done that’ before him, twice. Despite living in France all his life except for his school years in England, Schneidau speaks French with an English accent; while it might pass without notice to a German (and perhaps to a Pole), it wouldn’t to a native Frenchman.

Sgt Reimer and his crew take off at 20.55 and head for France via Abingdon and Tangmere. On crossing the French coast, they head for Angers on the Loire. (Reimer mis-spells it as Angiers.) This is their pinpoint for the run-in to SUZANNE. The 2nd Pilot, P/O Smith, map-reads to the target, where they are met by a triangle of lights and the letter ‘K’ flashed by the reception committee. Operation SUZANNE is completed successfully. Reimer’s report indicates that two packages were dropped, both canopies being seen to open.

Reimer then sets course south-east for Berthegon, the pinpoint for dropping INTERALLIÉ. Reimer encounters cloud at 700 feet, but they carry on. Reimer admits that Czerniawski is dropped about three miles north-west of the actual target. (In his memoir Czerniawski is less than complimentary about the navigator: three miles from the pinpoint may be nothing in the air, but on foot it’s a big deal.) Without any real idea where he is, Czerniawski is lost. Eventually he finds a signpost:

The signpost is a beauty; it has three arms showing in three directions! I read the names of the localities, slide down into the roadside,and with a torch covered by my mackintosh try to find my position. Minutes pass, and no trace of even a similar name! I try the alternative area discussed with Phillipson, some thirty miles north. Again no trace of the names. Moving helplessly my finger on the map, by coincidence I find one name, then the second, then the third — just between the two indicated areas . . . I don’t like swearing but i do it now and do it wholeheartedly. I dishonour the navigator’s family for several generations back into the past and forwards onto the future . . . that gives me a bit of relief.

Reimer and his crew head for home, landing at 3.35. After burying his parachute equipment Czerniawski walks carefully in the moonlight, carrying his gramophone and stopping often to check he is not being followed. He reaches the edge of a small village and waits for the village to wake up. He risks asking a local about the next bus for Tours, and is told that he has half an hour to wait, time to enjoy an ersatz coffee. He reaches Paris the same afternoon. He carries two letters: one from a Major Heath written to his family in Paris; the other was handed to him by ‘Captain Philipson’, for delivery to his wife. The envelope is blank, so Czerniawski writes the dictated address in his diary ‘in a conspiratorial manner’. Phillipson’s letter is delivered to his wife’s apartment in Paris by Czerniawski’s mistress, Renée Borni.

Operation CORSICAN, TRIPOD, DIVINER, TRIPOD III, HICCUP

The CORSICAN mission consists of four ‘F’ section agents: CORSICAN (Jack Hayes), DIVINER (Daniel Turberville), and HICCUP (Jean le Harivel). Though TRIPOD appears – by deduction – to be 2/Lt Clément Marc Jumeau, a planter from the Seychelles, other TRIPOD operations have been container-drops. (In his SOE file Jumeau is frequently referred to as REPORTER, but REPORTER is his code-name for a later operation in 1943, not this one.) The codenames HICCUP and TRIPOD III are added in ink to Jackson’s report. TRIPOD III may refer to the two containers of weapons and sabotage materials.

F/Lt Jackson’s Whitley takes off at 18.12, and the French coast is reached two hours later, about 45 minutes after moonrise. Headed for Bergerac, the Whitley runs into thick layers of cloud: 10/10ths below 5,000 feet, and 9/10ths above 6,000. (Presumably they are flying between the layers to know this.) Heavy rain showers make matters worse. At 22.40 they incorrectly identify the town of Bergerac, on the Dordogne river, but return there after failing to see any identifiable lights at the target. (The pattern is a triangle of lights, two white and one red.) They then fly 40 miles south to Aiguillon (Jackson writes it up as ‘Augillon’), a pinpoint at the junction of the Lot and Garonne rivers, to verify their position. They return to identify Bergerac, this time correctly. Nine minutes later, at 23.50, they identify the target. The reception committee (Jean Pierre-Bloch, Edouard Dupuy and Albert Rigoulet) are near a cross-roads called Lagudal, in the commune of Beleymas. Jackson’s report states that they drop all four agents, but French sources indicate that only three went down on this first pass.

Another run to drop the containers is abandoned, for the crew loses sight of the lights, but the lights are seen again at 11.03 after circling the target area, and the containers are dropped three minutes later. However, Turberville is dropped with the two containers some 10 km north of the reception committee, and is completely isolated from the others. The Whitley then returns to England, experiencing similar poor weather across France.

There seems to have been two causes of the error: first, that the red light could be seen from only one direction, and in the absence of blackout the other two white ones didn’t stand out on their own; second, at low level the lights could easily be obscured by the area’s undulating hills, dotted with woods, as the Whitley circled the area. One wonders what lights the crew saw just before they dropped the containers and Turberville.

All this effort is in vain. Turberville is arrested the next morning by the Gendarmerie, and the containers are found a little later. The others don’t stay free for long, but their capture is due to other factors. Gilbert Turck has rented a ‘safe house’ in Marseilles called the Villa des Bois. London has given this address to the CORSICAN agents, including Turberville, and thus to the Vichy police, who lay a trap and net, in rapid succession, Clément Jumeau, Jean Pierre-Bloch, Jack Hayes and Georges Bégué. They are incarcerated until the summer of 1942, when they all escape in a mass breakout engineered by Bégué and resourced by Pierre-Bloch’s gallant wife Denise.

In December 1941 Turberville jumps from the train as he is being transferred to Lyon, and is hidden for over a year by farmers in a village near Roanne. He makes his way to England via the Pyrenees and Spain, and reaches England in April 1943.

Lieutenant Jumeau, commissioned into the Intelligence Corps, is promoted to Captain shortly before he leaves on another mission on 12 April 1943, now codenamed as REPORTER and destined for the Lyon area. The Halifax delivering him crashes at Douvres-la-Délivrande, north of Caen. Jumeau and another agent, Lt Louis Lee-Graham (SURGEON), a Durham Light Infantryman, survive the crash but are captured almost immediately in civilian clothes. To protect Jumeau’s relatives in France, Lee-Graham loans him part of his name, so Jumeau becomes Captain Mark Graham and Lee-Graham becomes Captain Louis Lee.

They are taken to Germany for interrogation and are imprisoned in a civilian prison in Frankfurt under terrible conditions of solitary confinement. Jumeau contracts tuberculosis, and Lee-Graham also becomes seriously ill. In March 1944 they are force-marched to the military prison at Torgau. After a short spell in a prison hospital without treatment Jumeau dies on 26 March 1944. Lee-Graham survives.

Thursday, 2 October 1941

Operation BRICK

‘BRICK’ is the codename of Lt Roger Mitchell, a 27-year-old French artillery officer who has been sent to France partly to arrange and manage landing sites and landings for Lysander operations. He has come to England via North Africa and Martinique, where he evaded via the USA, crossing to England in December 1941. Before his own parachute-insertion on 4 July Mitchell has been trained at Somersham by S/Ldr Nesbitt-Dufort, the pilot tonight. This Lysander operation is given his codename because he has arranged it for another agent.

Strictly speaking the operation should be called WALENTY, for the agent to be transported to England is the Polish intelligence officer Roman Garby-Czerniawski. Having escaped Poland after the 1939 invasion, like so many of his countrymen, during ‘la drôle de guerre’ (which must have seemed heavily ironic to any Pole) he had been based in Lorraine, where he had accommodated himself with a young French widow, Renée Borni. Following the French defeat, and adopting the bicycle and identity of her husband, Armand Borni, Czerniawski cycled to Paris unmolested. Almost immediately he started working for the Polish Intelligence organisation based in the ZNO (the Non-occupied Zone), travelling between Paris and Toulouse. Since late 1940 he has established the Franco-Polish intelligence circuit known as INTERALLIÉ in Paris, aided by the resourceful Mathilde Carré. INTERALLIÉ’s agents throughout Nazi-occupied France have specialized in gathering information about German military units in France, chiefly by observing uniform insignia and vehicle unit-signs. The circuit’s information was initially carried by courier to the ZNO, and from there to London, though W/T sets have increasingly taken over. As leader of perhaps the most successful intelligence circuits in France at this time, Garby-Czerniawski (whose codename with the Poles and SIS is WALENTY) has been called to London for consultation. Czerniawski is escorted by Mitchell and another F2 agent, Auguste Brun, known as ‘Volta’, to a disused airfield near Estrée St Denis, north of Paris. Czerniawski has stuffed papers into an old portable gramophone, and the three travel from Paris by train.

This is the second pick-up operation for S/Ldr John Nesbitt-Dufort. He flies Lysander T1770 from Tangmere, taking off at 21.15. Immediately he is airborne he makes contact with local radar control. The method is later described by Hugh Verity: the Lysander will be tracked by the Chain Home Low defence radar to within a few miles of the French coast. Its pilot can be given coded course-corrections by radio, but he maintains radio silence; thus his passive navigation aid cannot alert the enemy.

Nesbitt-Dufort arrives over the French coast at Le Tréport at 21.55, and sets course for the target, a disused aerodrome just north-east of Estrées St Denis, near Compiègne. Poor visibility means he has to fly an extremely accurate course. At 22.20, after 35 minutes flying on dead-reckoning, he sees the agreed signal lights. These are hard to miss: while two of the lights are torches, Mitchell has rigged up a battery-powered car headlights for signalling which is far too bright for the purpose; it dazzles the pilot during his approach and landing.

Nesbitt-Dufort’s landing, turnaround and take-off are completed within three minutes, facilitated by Mitchell and ‘Volta’. The Lysander crosses the coast somewhat south of track, near Dieppe at about 7,000 feet, high enough not to be threatened by the light flak; only after leaving the coast can Nesbitt-Dufort call up control and be guided home to Tangmere.

Czerniawski is met at Tangmere by his escorting officer Philip Schneidau, who introduces himself as ‘F/Lt Phillipson’, and is whisked up to London by car, where he is installed in the Rubens Hotel, debriefed by Polish intelligence and awarded Poland’s highest decoration for gallantry, the Virtuti Militari.

Mitchell takes over in Paris while Czerniawski is in London, as the fractious relationship between Carré and Borni threatens to destabilise the circuit’s operations.

Sources

S/Ldr Nesbitt-Dufort’s operations report, TNA AIR40/2579, Encl. 10A, also AIR20/8334, encl. 78A
Black Lysander, pp. 111-112
Czerniawski, The Big Network, Chapter 13, pp. 167-183

Sunday, 7 September 1941

Operation STUDENT

The sortie

Jackson and his crew set off at 1954, about half an hour earlier than the previous night and in a different aircraft (Whitley ‘D’ according to Stradishall Ops). They follow the Bomber Command ‘lane’ via Abingdon to avoid the London area, and cross the coast at Worthing on their way to northern France. Jackson is headed east-south-east, and crosses the French coast at the mouth of the River Authie, near Berck-sur-Mer. The crew can see Boulogne under attack from a bombing raid, and a little flak is squirted in their direction, though they are twenty miles further south.
They encounter a low layer of cloud at 22.28 and drop to 3,000 feet to get below it.
At about 22.50 they find the target on the first run, which they complete at about 500 feet. Based on time & flying-speed the target would appear to be somewhere south of Mons, for on the way back they drop pigeons over Valenciennes. Thirty minutes later they recross the French coast at Berck, from where they return to Newmarket via Shoreham and Abingdon.

The agent

Pierre Tillet has identified STUDENT as Sgt Carl Godenne, a wireless-operator sent to join the ‘CLARENCE’ intelligence organisation. According to Emmanuel Debruyne, Godenne addressed his reports to Major Page, who ran SIS’s Belgian section. Tillet claims the target to have been Valenciennes, but Jackson’s report indicates that he dropped the agent and the pigeons some ten minutes apart; at, say 120 mph the separation would be about 20 miles; possibly inside Belgium. Peter Verstraeten has confirmed the identification by definitely linking Carl Godenne with STUDENT and the ‘Clarence’ intelligence network, but is unable to provide a clear indication of the target location where he was dropped.

Operation GLASSHOUSE

P/O Austin and his crew have a go at dropping Cornelis Sporre (‘Cor’) and Albert Homburg (‘Ab’) five nights after their CO’s attempt. W/Cdr Jack Benham from Ringway is acting as the agents’ Conducting Officer. At about 1700 the two agents asked him whether the operation could be delayed so that they would arrive over the target after curfew time in Holland; a reasonable request which would lower their chance of being seen to land in this densely-populated country. Benham cannot contact W/Cdr Knowles until after they arrive at Newmarket; but Knowles refuses to allow take-off to be delayed.

Austin takes off at 20.15. On their way out over the North Sea, the crew spots a light on the water which proves, as they circle it, to be an aircraft’s dinghy. The wireless-operator signals an SOS giving the position (53° 04′ N; 1° 52’E); this is acknowledged by Hull M/F D/F (Medium Frequency Direction-Finding) Station. At 22.55, and having thus delayed their arrival at the target, Austin and his crew resume their course to Terschelling, then to Zwolle. In 1941 Zwolle is much closer to the coast of the Zuider Zee.

The weather is fine and clear past the Dutch coast. They find the target without difficulty (which the wireless-operator records in his logbook as Smilde, north-east of Zwolle) and drop the agents; presumably they have flown up the canal from Meppel. The rear gunner sees the parachute canopies opening, and the crew believe they have seen the agents on the ground before they return to base, landing at 01.45.

Several aircraft, including a Wellington ‘K’ from Stradishall, are despatched to the area of the North Sea, but no dinghy is found, despite the calm sea and good visibility. There are several convoys in the area, and it is assumed by the Stradishall log that whoever signalled has been picked up.

Operations FELIX and DASTARD

After F/Lt Murphy’s encounter with his ‘oleaginous bump’ the previous night, everything goes well on his second attempt. Murphy and his crew set off at 20.00, and cross the French coast at Cabourg at 21.45. They set course for Fontainebleau, which they reach an hour later. They picked up the nearby Seine and a pinpoint is easily found. This is most probably the Seine-Loing junction near Moret, less than five miles from the target. Murphy’s crew find the triangle of lights on the Plateau de Trembleaux, and drop the W/T set to the FELIX reception party at 22.53.

Murphy retraces his tracks to the Seine-Loing junction, then heads east up the Seine, following the straight road from Marolles, and drops Laverdet and Allainmat near Bazoches-Lès-Bray at 23.02. Murphy returns to the Seine-Loing river junction, pinpoints again over Fontainebleau, and sets course for the Normandy coast. Conditions are bright and clear in the moonlight. Some Special Duties crews are keen to carry the fight to the enemy once they have carried out their main tasks. Murphy is disappointed to find no targets for the Whitley’s machine-guns as they fly across the French countryside at 50 feet. Instead they drop pigeons over Caen before leaving the French coast. They land back at Newmarket at 2.25.

Operation FENGLER

This is an operation for SIS related to the Polish intelligence organisation ‘F2’ in Unoccupied France run by General Zarembski (TUDOR), but the agent has not been identified. His escorting officer is F/O Philip Schneidau, whose presence at Newmarket allows him also to supervise the loading of the W/T set for his family’s circuit FELIX, above. The target is near Carcassonne, as recorded in Ron Hockey’s logbook.

At this time of year Carcassonne is about as distant as a Whitley can operate and still reach the relatively safe skies of the Bay of Biscay before daybreak; by day the Bay is regularly patrolled by Luftwaffe seaplanes. Accordingly Hockey is airborne at 2000, and flies via Abingdon, Tangmere, Selsey Bill, and crosses the Normandy coastline at 21.53. They fly southwards via the Loire and Toulouse. South of the Loire they have to fly below 800 feet to stay underneath the cloud. At the target they drop the agent between 01.15 and 01.19.

After leaving the target area they head north-west for the Atlantic coast. They exit France just south of Lac Biscarosse, over the giant sand-dunes. (Hockey records the exit-point as nearby Arcachon.) Out over the Bay of Biscay they frequently encounter thick fog, and above them 10/10th cloud at 4,000 feet. They pass Ushant and make landfall over The Lizard, landing at St Eval at 06.37 (Strad Log), with visibility at 4,000 yards. The Stradishall Ops Officer’s log lists this as ‘Operation No. 7’, and notes that Hockey’s aircraft has landed back at Newmarket at 10.40.

S/Ldr Nesbitt-Dufort is flying as 2nd Pilot on this operation. Though he had been posted in as a Lysander pilot, he has more than sufficient hours on twin-engined aircraft flying 23 Squadron’s Blenheims and Havocs.

Tuesday, 2 September 1941

Operations had been scheduled for Monday 1 September, but these had been cancelled at 1430 hours. There is no explanation in the Stradishall log, but from the foul weather experienced the following night, that is a likely explanation. No Stradishall-based bombers are out either.

At 1115 on the 2nd, W/Cdr Knowles informs the Ops room that 138 Squadron will be operating four aircraft tonight. At 1130 W/Cdr Knowles is to be reminded that he has not informed the Station Commander of 138 Squadron’s upcoming operations. This is a requirement stretching back to October 1940.

Operation PORTER

Little is known about this operation to Belgium, except that two agents were dropped near Virton, after Austin had pinpointed on Bruges. My father’s logbook and Austin’s shows that take-off in Whitley Z7628 was at 20:40, and they returned 6 hours 10 minutes later. Five of these hours were spent in cloud, so weather is likely to have been a factor in the previous night’s cancellations. I have been unable to find any reference to the operation-name, so presume it was for SIS. The agents’ parachutes were seen to open, but they weren’t seen on the ground once they had landed.

On the return leg Austin takes pity on their pigeons, and they are not dropped into the filthy weather to walk home. (Austin called it ‘unfavourable’.)

Operation ADJUDICATE

This is Count Dzieřgowski’s lucky night, for he ends on the ground, in France. The Whitley takes off at 2000, course is set for Abingdon and Tangmere, but at 21.07 the coast is crossed near Selsey Bill in poor visibility at about 3,000 ft.

They cross the French coast at Grandcamp, after climbing to about 5,000 feet to avoid any light flak that might get a lucky hit through the 10/10th cloud beneath the Whitley. By the time they reach the Loire the cloud has thinned, and they follow the river downstream to Saumur. (This is a more logical course of action than flying upstream hoping to find Tours.) They then set course for Limoges. They could have followed the Vienne river all the way there, but it’s more likely they rely on accurate straight-line navigation and course-flying; Limoges is large enough and well-lit to be seen from some distance. They reach there just after midnight.

Jackson’s report indicates that they have flown a direct course from Limoges to the target. This doesn’t work, for although they see several flashing lights – a regular bugbear for crews trying to find reception-parties in the Unoccupied Zone – but none are for them. Jackson retraces his course to Limoges, and this time he flies up the Vienne, first north-east, then south-east after the river forks at Saint-Priest-Taurion. The target is close to the village of Saint Léonard-de-Noblat, close to where the SIS agent ‘Lt Cartwright’ (Michel Coulomb) had been dropped on 7 May. The de Vomécourt estate of Bassoleil is only four kilometres away, but this is a Polish Intelligence operation, and most unlikely to have involved the de Vomécourts.

This time the crew sees the triangle of lights and the prearranged flashed signal-letter ‘D’, which disproves Professor Foot assertion that Dzieřgowski was dropped ‘blind’. He is dropped at 01.37 from 800 feet.

They return to Limoges to get a firm ‘fix’ before setting course for the coast. On the return leg visibility is poor, and when they reach the French coast at 02.27 on ETA it is invisible beneath them. They return via Tangmere and Abingdon, and touch down at Newmarket at 04.13.

Operation GLASSHOUSE

Albert Homburg, and Cornelius Sporre his wireless operator, are being sent to Holland by R.V. Laming, head of ‘N’ Section, SOE. Several attempts have been made during the summer to land agents on the Dutch and Frisian islands by small boat, but they have all failed. This pair are the first Dutch section SOE agents to be inserted by parachute. M.R.D. Foot says they were dropped near Utrecht, but the pilots’ reports for both attempts make it clear that the target was east of the Ijsselmeer. (Squadron reports still referred to the Ijsselmeer as the Zuider Zee.)

W/Cdr Knowles and his crew take off at 20.15. Their course is via Cromer and the island of Terschelling, then over the Zuider Zee. (Knowles reports that they pinpointed over the Zuider Zee, which is somewhat imprecise.) The eastern side is covered by 10/10ths fog, which makes it impossible to find the target, so they abandon the attempt. The Whitley is illuminated by searchlights and fired on as they pass over Den Helder; they then set course for Cromer. Twenty miles out from Cromer, as the Whitley overflies a British coastal convoy the Royal Navy upholds its tradition of firing at anything within range: in his report Knowles drily notes that ‘it was observed that we were by no means welcome’, thus putting the passive tense approved by the Air Ministry for official reports to effective use.

W/Cdr Knowles’s previous boss from his days at the Air Ministry, Group Captain Bradbury, DFC, is along on this sortie for the experience. In one way this is sound practice, to ensure that staff officers understood the nature of the tasks they were commissioning, but allowing Bradbury over enemy territory is highly risky for SIS and SOE security: had Bradbury been captured and his role discovered, his knowledge of SIS and SOE activities would have compromised much of Britain’s clandestine activity.