Tag Archives: Schneidau

Philip Schneidau (aka Phillipson)

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.

Saturday, 6 September 1941

Operation STUDENT

Jackson’s first attempt to fly this operation is foiled by a faulty compass. This is his first sortie since crashing on take-off in July. For some reason not mentioned in Jackson’s report, Whitley ‘A’ has not been swung to establish the compass deviation, and there is no deviation card aboard when they take off at 20.31. With good visibility they might have been able to continue on this short-range operation to northern France, but tonight it is poor, with cloud-base at 1,300 feet. They decide to return to Newmarket after only 36 minutes in the air, and they land 78 minutes later, at 22.25. Control briefly mistakes Jackson’s Whitley for a ‘hostile’ and the runways are darkened; once the confusion is cleared up Newmarket switches its lights back on for Jackson to land.

Operations FELIX and DASTARD

The FELIX operation, last attempted on 3 August, is re-mounted. The original FELIX W/T set dropped with Philip Schneidau in March is now working well enough for a reception party to receive the set on the Plateau des Trembleaux, above Montigny-sur-Loing. This operation is to be carried out first.

DASTARD is Sergent-chef Raymond Laverdet, of the Gaullist BCRA. (Sergent-chef is approximately equivalent to Staff- or Colour-Sergeant in the British Army, nothing to do with catering.) He is accompanied by a wireless-operator, André Allainmat. They are to be dropped near Bray-sur-Seine, to the east of the Montigny drop and upstream of the easily identifiable river-junction between the Seine and the Loing.

Soon after takeoff F/Lt Murphy is faced with continuous cloud down to 1,000 feet, so he decides to climb above it. He breaks clear at 4,000 feet, but he has to climb to 7,000 feet to stay above the cloud while crossing the English Channel. Still unable to see anything, he changes course on ETA once he believed he had crossed the French coast, and descends through the cloud base. He emerges into clear air but heavy rain at an instrument-height of 1,000 feet, but he is only 300 feet above the ground.

Murphy laconically records: “I decided to climb again”. He sets course for the FELIX target area, where he descends on ETA but cannot identify a pinpoint. He perseveres, but during the search he experiences what he later describes as “an oleaginous bump”, and believes he has collided with another aircraft. The Whitley has hit something, or has been hit, but he can’t work out by what. Enough is enough, and they set course for Cabourg and Newmarket, where they land at 02.53. There they find that the Whitley’s rear wheel has been forced upwards into the fuselage.

Operations DRAFTSMAN, AUTOGYRO E, DOWNSTAIRS, VESTIGE/TROPICAL, UKELELE

The air operation

This operation is one of the notable air operations carried out by Sgt Reimer, RCAF; remarkable because of the number of agents carried in the single Whitley, and for the determination and accuracy with which Reimer and his crew carry it out. In particular it is a challenge for the two despatchers, Sgts Slatcher and Evans, who have an arganisational nightmare of organisation in the cramped, dark fuselage.

Reimer drops the six agents in two passes to avoid too wide a spread, though it necessitates an extra circuit of the landing-field.

The agents

Each code-name stands for an ‘F’ Section agent. They are all going to be dropped at the same target, from where most will go their separate ways. The target is a farm called Le Cerisier, just north of the village of Tendu, some 16 km south of Chateauroux. (Position 46°41’03″N, 1°34’27″E) It is owned by Auguste Chantraine, socialist ex-mayor of Tendu, who has been forced out of his post by the Vichy regime. He had already refused to join the Pétainist ‘Légion française des combattants’, which made him suspect in the eyes of the regime; in July 1941 he was forced to resign because of his hostility to Vichy’s programme of national renewal. He and his wife were recruited by Max Hymans and his friends; ‘Le Cerisier’ is his farm.

Some of the RAF operation codenames are the same as their SOE codenames (which differ from their aliases): DRAFTSMAN is André Bloch (from his SOE personal file), and AUTOGYRO is the Comte du Puy. The others’ codenames differ. In the early days, until late in 1941, the agent’s RAF codename was sometimes a word-association with one of his names; later, agents were given random code-names from a list of – for example – root-vegetables. So, Victor Gerson became VESTIGE, and Michael Trotobas became TROPICAL. A rather more tenuous link might be Georges Langelaan to UKELELE via George Formby, which would make Ben Cowburn DOWNSTAIRS

The reception party consisted of Georges Bégué, Max Hymans (Bégué’s contact in Valençay in May), and Auguste Chantraine. Chantraine continued his involvement with SOE-related activities until his luck ran out in December 1943. He was deported to Gusen concentration camp, where he died in March 1945.

Sunday, 3 August 1941

The August moon period starts with three operations. F/Lt Jackson is non-operational after his crash, but F/O Hockey now has his own crew and the Flight is still able to field three crews.

Operation PERIWIG

‘PERIWIG’ is Armand Campion, about 31 years old. In 1940 he served with the French Foreign Legion in the Norway campaign, where he earned the Croix de Guerre. He is a trained wireless operator, so did not need to be dropped with one.

Hockey and his crew, which includes the Flight’s Lysander pilot F/Lt Nesbitt-Dufort, sets off for Belgium via Aldeburgh and Nieuwport. Unsurprisingly they meet with severe searchlight and medium flak opposition. Once the coast is behind them they release their pigeons and head for Ath, but above cloud. After reaching the dead-reckoning position for Ath they alter course for the target to the east, but continuous low cloud made it impossible to see what’s beneath them. They abandon the operation, and leave Belgium about three miles east of Nieuwport. If they hope to avoid the searchlights and flak they fail, and are picked up by a blue master-searchlight. They are coned and the flak is fierce and close. They make it home unharmed, despite being fired on by shipping off Harwich as a final indignity. Nesbitt-Dufort writes a vivid account of this flight on pages 98-102 of ‘Black Lysander’, but unfortunately he confuses some of the details of this operation with another sortie he will fly with Hockey on 9 September, to Denmark. But Nesbitt-Dufort will not have the benefit of looking at the contemporary pilots’ reports, and has to rely solely on his logbook to jog his memory. Memories tend to be precise about what happened, but the ‘when’ is a different matter entirely.

Operation MILL

‘MILL’ is Adrien Marquet and his wireless Operator René Clippe. (Clippe seems to have been codenamed MILLSTONE, according to Verhoeyen.) They are the vanguard of a Belgian Intelligence Service operation sponsored and facilitated by SIS. As with the failed Leenaerts operation of mid-August 1940, Marquet’s task is to make contact with Belgians recruited by the ‘La Dame Blanche’ veteran Anatole Gobeaux during the ‘Phoney War’ period, when Belgium remained stolidly neutral. The agents are to be dropped near Chimay.

The first attempt is thwarted by low continuous cloud over the target area. Sgt Austin flies to the the target area via Orfordness, and crosses the enemy coast at Veurnes, between Dunkirk and Nieuwport. A 25-minute square search of the target area does not reveal a gap in the low cloud cover, so they are forced to abandon and return to Newmarket.

P/O AGW Livingstone (W/Op) joins Sgt Austin’s crew for his first SD operation.

Operation FELIX

The first attempt to drop a replacement W/t set to the FELIX intelligence circuit had been made on 12 July by Sgt Austin. The target has been changed to the Plateau les Trembleaux, about three miles north of the earlier target, just north of Montigny-sur-Loing. This is the clearing where Philip Schneidau had been parachuted in March, though on that occasion he had been carried by the wind, missed the clearing, and landed half-way up a tree in the dense woods to the west.

The drop is scheduled for between 23.15 and 23.45 GMT on 3-4 August. The ground party, made up of Schneidau’s father-in-law Paul Schiffmacher and his Montigny neighbour Henri Glepin, is expected to lay out a triangle with two white torches and one green at the apex, pointing into wind. Morse ‘U’ was to be signalled by one of the white lights.

All the ground-party’s efforts are in vain. Knowles takes off at 22.18 (UK local Double Summer Time) and sets course for Abingdon. At 22.47 both exactors start to give trouble (which probably means that the airscrews cannot be put into coarse pitch after the initial climb), so Knowles abandons the operation; they wouldn’t have got far with the airscrews in fine pitch. They have difficulty finding Newmarket again, but pick up the Newmarket flare-path at 23.30 and land back at base at 23.48. It will be another month before the FELIX circuit receives its new set.