Tonight the weather is better: fine and clear. Take-off is earlier, at 21.45 according to Farley, again flying as Second Pilot to F/O Oettle. The crew is probably the same as the night before. So is the Whitley.
This time there is no mist over the Fontainebleau forest. The target, the sand-quarry, is found easily and Philip Schneidau is dropped successfully, His ‘A’ type harness has a wicker-basket container, which sits between his head and the canopy. In the container is a rucksack with two pigeons inside, immobilised by socks placed over their bodies, their heads poking out from holes cut in the toes. The ‘A’ type harness is an adapted cargo parachute with 11-foot strops beneath to carry the agent. It cannot be steered by the parachutist, and Schneidau drifts towards the edge of the bowl and the dense surrounding forest.
He lands just inside the lip, and tumbles headlong in the steep sloping sand, but he is down. He hides his parachute harness, canopy and wicker basket in the scrubby forest surrounding the quarry. He dons the rucksack and walks across country towards his father-in-law’s house in Montigny, the last minutes of moonlight at his back guiding him.
The Whitley and its crew return to Tangmere, landing at 04.05.
With the new Moon period, a fresh attempt is made to parachute Philip Schneidau into the Bourron-Marlotte sand-quarry. Take-off is scheduled for 23.00.
The Flight is using its new Whitley, P5025, which has arrived on the 6th. The revised establishment for 419 Flight is for two Lysanders plus two in reserve, and one Whitley with another in reserve. (The Flight will actually have only three Lysanders, because the one lost on 17 August has not been officially declared lost; R2625 will remain on 138 Squadron’s books for several months until it is quietly dropped.) There is only one Whitley crew: P/O Jack Oettle, with F/Lt Farley as 2nd Pilot. Sergeants David Bernard and Dai Davies are almost certainly aboard as Wireless Operator and Rear Gunner, and the navigator will be identified by Hugh Verity only as ‘Jacky’ Martin. S/Ldr Ross Shore flies as a ‘passenger’, in his role as coach to Philip Schneidau.
They take off at 2300 hours, and land back at Tangmere seven hours later, foiled yet again by bad weather.
Tangmere — Fontainebleau, France
The third attempt to parachute Philip Schneidau: F/O Jack Oettle makes his debut in 419 Flight as Whitley P5029’s skipper. F/Lt Walter Farley is his Second Pilot, with Sergeants Bernard and Davis as Wireless Operator & Air Gunner, and S/Ldr Ross Shore as Despatcher. Other crew remain unidentified.
Taking off from Tangmere at 23.00, they fly in bright moonlight until 20 minutes from the target, where they run into thick mist. Oettle flies as low as he dares over the target area, but still can’t see the sand pit. Yet again they abandon. On their return to Tangmere, it’s planned to give the agent and crew a night’s rest, then try again the following night. This is the last possible night of the September moon period, but Knowles knows that the weather forecast for the next few days is against them. The next attempt is postponed until the start of the next moon period, probably on 10th October.
After several days of poor weather as forecast, the second attempt to drop Philip Schneidau is made on the night of 20-21 September. F/Lt Walter Farley, who had flown as Second Pilot on the first attempt, appears to be the skipper this time. He does not record the Second Pilot in his logbook. Sgt Savile, listed as Navigator, may also have been the navigator on the first attempt, even though Knowles had assured SIS after the first attempt that the NCO navigator would be replaced by a commissioned officer. S/Ldr Ross Shore and Sergeants Davis and Bernard are all in Farley’s crew. A crossed-out entry in Farley’s logbook lists Sgt Cameron in the crew; he would become the Flight’s first Despatcher, but at the time he was a corporal. (Farley’s logbook for this period appears to have been filled in several months later.)
This time they reach the target area, only to find it wreathed in low cloud. As anyone who has visited the Spa Francorchamps Formula 1 circuit can tell you, elevated forest land in early autumn tends to attract its own low cloud-system even when the surrounding countryside is in bright sunshine (or moonlight in this case). Though the target, a large quarry of white limestone sand, is visible from afar in clear weather, mist or fog renders it invisible within a few feet. even from above.
Farley’s logbook records the sortie as lasting 3 hours 55 minutes, and although Ross Shore’s logbook records a sortie lasting 8 hours (dated incorrectly to the 19th) with Farley as skipper, a reliable source states that take-off was at midnight on the 20-21st, with the aircraft returning at 04.30, after descending to 300 feet over the target area, a risky business given that the analogue altimeter would have been set at base; lower pressure over the target would have caused it to misread upwards. It is not stated where this sortie was mounted from, but it was probably from Tangmere.
RAF North Weald
F/Lt Tony O’Neill flies S/Ldr Ross Shore to Dishforth in Lysander R2626. This Lysander is non-operational: like R2625 (lost on 17-18 August) it is a standard-range Lysander, without the underslung Harrow-derived fuel tank, so cannot be used on operations. It becomes 419 Flight’s unofficial liaison aircraft, but it is also used for training agents in the selection and and laying out of landing-fields in Occupied territory.
According to its AM78 record card, R2626 continues serving with 138 and 161 squadrons until mid-March 1942, when 138 Squadron moves to Tempsford.
Shortly afterwards F/Lt O’Neill is posted away to another squadron within Fighter Command, where he excels as a fighter pilot.