Tag Archives: SIS

Secret Intelligence Service, MI6

Monday, 8 December 1941

Operation COD

P/O Gibson writes this sortie up as Operation COOL, but in fact it is Operation COD, caused by a typo somewhere along the clerical chain between SOE and Newmarket. On the Air Transport Form it is clearly COD, in the same group as PLAICE, TROUT and DACE.

Gibson takes off at 20.15, and heads via Abingdon and Tangmere for Pointe de la Percée, near the western end of the Normandy beaches. Heading south for Tours, via Le Mans, he drops to 3,000 feet underneath a sheet of 10/10ths cloud, but the moon is bright enough. Pinpointing on the Loire west of Tours at 23.03, he loses height further to 2,000 feet and heads for Châteauroux. Twenty minutes later he is over Châteauroux and alters course NNE for the target, his navigation no doubt aided by the ruler-straight Roman road to Vatan. The expected reception is not at the target, but the agents are dropped one mile west of Ménétréols-sous-Vatan, at 23.45.

They map-read their way back to Châteauroux, where they drop leaflets a few minutes before midnight. They set course for Pointe de la Percée, flying at 2,000 feet beneath the stratus cloud, but climbing to 6,000 feet shortly before reaching the coast they climb to 6,000 feet to get above any coastal flak. They return to Newmarket via Tangmere and Abingdon, flying at 1,200 feet.

COD is an operation for Dewavrin’s RF organisation, parachuting Lt Edgard Tupët-Thomé (imaginatively codenamed TOM) and his wireless-operator, Joseph Piet (TOM W), near Ménétréols-sous-Vatan, in the heart of SIS’s parachuting and pick-up area. This operation appears to have been organised by SIS, which would have been unlikely to permit an SOE operation to use the same location. (Freddie Clark misidentified the target as near Ménétréol-sur-Sauldre, north-east of the border town of Vierzon, in the Occupied Zone.) Apparently both agents are injured in their landing; Piet breaks his leg.

Operation CLAUDIUS/BERYL

Sgt Alvin Reimer flies this important SIS operation to Blois and Châteauroux. His customarily laconic report provides little colour to describe the sortie, but it must have been interesting: as his 2nd Pilot he is taking his new Commanding Officer, Wing Commander Farley, though Reimer will have had little choice in the matter. Sgt Reimer is ‘Mr Reliable’: he has rarely failed to deliver his agents, even dropping six in one sortie (though in two passes) in September, so Farley may have flown this sortie to learn the secret behind Reimer’s success. The crew also includes P/Os Atkins and Fisher, both experienced men who have been commissioned since joining 1419 Flight.

Reimer takes off at 20.35 and heads for Tangmere. They cross the Channel, but without getting a firm fix on their position they set course for Blois, up-Loire from Tours. Pinpointing on Blois, the first drop is to the east, with a reception committee waiting for them east of the village of Huisseau-sur-Cosson. The correct signals are exchanged and CLAUDIUS is dropped. Two parachutes are dropped: one ‘A’ type and one ‘X’ type, both with the large-size canopies. It’s likely that CLAUDIUS drops using the ‘A’ type, with a W/T set above his head, and another package is dropped using an ‘X’ type parachute.

Reimer flies back to Blois and drops leaflets to give plausible ‘cover’ to their presence, before heading for Châteauroux: BERYL is dropped nearby, though the Air Transport Form gives no details. Reimer then drops leaflets over Châteauroux before heading home to Newmarket, where they land at 03.44.

‘CLAUDIUS’ is Claude Lamirault, first parachuted in January as FITZROY, and originally scheduled for return to France on 29 November. His circuit ‘JADE/FITZROY’ is now a large intelligence-gathering organisation. ‘BERYL’ is BCRA Lt Roger Mitchell. As BRICK, Mitchell was parachuted in early July to help Lamirault’s FITZROY circuit as an early air landing officer (the RAF operation was called FITZROY) responsible for setting up Lysander landing-sites. Both Lamirault and Mitchell have been extracted by Lysander on November 8th for consultation, and are being returned to the field. Mitchell’s visit to London is opportune, for it helps SIS make some sense of the break-up of INTERALLIE after 17 November and its aftermath. In October Mitchell had acted as babysitter for the Polish F2 organisation INTERALLIE while its chief, Roman Garby-Czerniawski, was in London during October. Mitchell had the unenviable task of keeping Renée Borni, Garby-Czerniawski’s mistress, and Mathilde Carré, his second-in-command, at arms’ length from each other’s eyes.

Operation OVERCLOUD

OVERCLOUD is that rare thing, a seaborne SOE operation into Brittany. On 14 October 1941 Gerry Holdsworth’s launch RAF360 left the Helford river for the Aber Benoit estuary. RAF360 had been a seaplane tender and was unsuitable for cross-Channel operations, but it was all that Holdsworth could obtain. Aboard were Joël le Tac and his wireless operator, Comte Alain de Kergorley. They were to set up reception facilities for infiltrating SOE agents via Brittany, and were put ashore that night.

So where does the RAF come in, aside from supplying the craft? Brooks Richards’ account of the sea operation provides the context. The agents and their equipment were loaded into two collapsible Folboat canoes lashed together, and paddled ashore. The canoes could carry a very limited amount of kit, a W/T set and little more. The rest will have to come by air in a container-drop.

The purpose of the OVERCLOUD mission is rather greater than providing a shore base for SOE landing parties. Le Tac’s additional mission is to penetrate a number of possible targets as reconnaissance for sabotage:

  • Railways, port installations and shipyards
  • Electric power stations
  • Transformers and switching stations
  • Telecommunications
  • German aerodromes (essentially, all aerodromes)
  • R.D.F.(i.e. radar) stations

The RAF has also asked if the two agents can provide information about the two German battleships in Brest, for the smoke-pots that the Germans set off whenever aircraft are overhead effectively conceals the ships from the air. The agents are to restrict their activities to the western part of Brittany, as SOE already has another agent in the Ile de Vilaine, around Rennes. OVERCLOUD makes its first radio contact on 30 October.

Sgt Wilde’s sortie on 8 December is the first RAF attempt to supply OVERCLOUD, though it was originally scheduled for 27 November. He is also to drop an agent, codenamed CARP. (It can be impossible to trace the identity of agents on sorties that were not completed; the agent might be sent in later by another route; another may be sent instead; or the requirements may change and the agent is no longer required.)

Wilde’s Whitley runs into 10/10th cloud soon after takeoff, and is at 8,700 feet when it crosses the French coast on ETA. At 23.20 the crew briefly sees a flashing beacon which they cannot identify. They carry on to their turning-point, still cannot see to map-read, and so abandon the operation.

On the return leg they climb to 7,000 feet. Near the coast the weather clears and they get a fix on Bayeux. They are about 4 miles east of track. Wilde heads for Tangmere, dropping to about 1,000 feet in case the weather closes in again. They cross the coast at Selsey bill. The weather closes in again and, ‘discretion being the better part of valour’ (as he puts it in his report), Wilde lands at Tangmere.

Malta

F/Lt Austin is informed that his orders are to come directly from the AOC Malta.

Sources

COD

TNA AIR20/8334, Encl. 109A
TNA AIR20/8306: ATF for COD

CLAUDIUS/BERYL

TNA AIR20/8334, Encl. 116A
TNA AIR20/8306: ATFs for CLAUDIUS

OVERCLOUD

TNA AIR 20/8334, encl. 130A.
TNA AIR20/8306: ATF for OVERCLOUD I
SOE RF Section History

Malta

F/Lt Austin’s report, 16 February 1942

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.

Thursday, 6 November 1941

Operation OUTCLASS, FABULOUS II

This operation for the Gaullist French (RF) section of SOE, is flown by Sgt Wilbur Reimer, with P/O Smith, new to the squadron, as his 2nd Pilot. They take off at 18.20, cross the coast at Tangmere, and climb to 8,000 feet to avoid any low-level flak as they crossed the French coast. They then drop to 1,500 feet to map-read their way to the Loire, but run into low cloud as they approach Limoges. Flying above the cloud they set course for Toulouse by DR, and arrive there at 23.15. They find the reception committee almost immediately, for the operation is completed fifteen minutes later. The two containers are dropped by one of the cockpit crew from the bomb-aimer’s position, but the packages, heaved out one at a time through the ventral hatch after the agent, are unlikely to have made a tidy group.

Reimer and his crew retrace their route to Limoges and re-cross the French coast (presumably Normandy) at 02.40, flying on D/R, unable to map-read because of low cloud and ground-haze. Routing via Tangmere and Abingdon they land back at Newmarket at 05.05.

OUTCLASS is Marie Léon Yves Morandat, known as Yves Morandat. A pre-war trade-union official, Morandat is an emissary of de Gaulle. His task is to use his excellent union contacts to foster political resistance in south-west France. FABULOUS is actually FABULOUS II, a drop of two containers and six packages to Henri Labit’s nascent circuit based in Toulouse. The FABULOUS II drop is scattered. The RF Section history puts it thus: ‘they were dispersed over such a wide area that it was decided in future to limit the number of packages rather than endanger the security of agents and reception committeees who collected them.’

Labit himself will be returned to London by sea on the night of 6th January 1942, together with 6 other agents from various réseaux. They are taken off by MGB 314 from the Aber-Benoit estuary in Operation OVERCLOUD. Labit’s detailed debriefing leaves us with a clear picture of his activities since July 1941.

Operation FIREFLY

Murphy flies this operation to the Bergerac region of south-west France. He takes off at 18.31, and he follows the normal route to Tours via Abingdon, Tangmere and Cabourg, before heading further south to Limoges, which they reach at 23.15. From there they set course for Périgueux. Due to ground-haze which obscures the ground, especially close to rivers, they mistake the river l’Isle for the Dordogne, and they waste half an hour flying along the much smaller river before realising their mistake.

Murphy and his crew pick up the lights as 23.36, and two minutes later they have completed the drop. The target is listed as being ‘Bergerac’. The date points to a parachute drop to the SIS-organised ALLIANCE circuit: in ‘l’Arche de Nöe’, translated into English in 1973 as ‘Noah’s Ark’, the ALLIANCE leader Marie-Madeleine Fourcade recalls the second parachute drop to the circuit, dropped at the village of Saint-Capraise d’Eymet, about 15 km south of the town of Bergerac: two wireless operators, Julien Bondois and another destined for another circuit, six W/T sets (at least one damaged on landing), and a case with gleaming locks that looked as though it has just arrived from a West End store; it contains a considerable fortune to fund the circuit. Fourcade’s lieutenant Maurice Coustenoble (‘Tiger’ in the ALLIANCE menagerie) has been in charge of the reception.

Murphy immediately heads back for Cabourg, and crosses the English coast at Tangmere at 03.12, with touchdown at Newmarket at 04.21.

Operation EMERALD

There’s no aircraft captain’s report for this operation. Three 138 Squadron Whitleys are out this night (Whitleys ‘F’, ‘A’, and ‘B’). Comparing the take-off and landing times with the Stradishall log, and the intervals between, ‘A’ is Sgt Reimer, and ‘B’ is F/Lt Murphy, so ‘F’ is F/O Hockey in Whitley Z6728. The list of operations accompanying the pilots’ reports misleadingly states the target location as ‘Verdun’, which leads one to believe it is in eastern France, but the dropping-point is Verdun-sur-Garonne, about 33 kilometres up-river (NNW) from Toulouse. Hockey writes up his route as ‘Tangmere, Cabourg, Tours, Toulouse, Base.’ An Air Transport Form for the 28th October is more precise about the target: ‘VERDUN GRENADE’. The correct target is near the small town of Verdun-sur-Garonne, about 11 km down-river from the equally small town of Grenade. The ATF also confirms that this is a ‘C’ operation, and that the agent is to be dropped with a W/T set under a large ‘A’ type parachute. (‘A’-type parachutes came in several sizes, the choice of which depended on the combined weight of the agent and the package above his head.)

The target for EMERALD is only about 23 miles north of Sgt Reimer’s target for SOE’s OUTCLASS/FABULOUS – see above. One aircraft could have carried out both operations, but whenever possible (and, officially, never) SOE and SIS agents are not carried in the same aircraft. There is even an instance where a pilot writes up two reports of the same sortie, one for SIS, the other for SOE. Hockey’s sortie takes him 10.5 hours. When he flew to the same area in the summer, Hockey had to leave France via the west coast and fly across the Bay of Biscay to St Eval; now, with November’s long nights, he can come straight home.

Operation SAGA, BRICK, FITZROY

This is Nesbitt-Dufort’s third Lysander operation. This time he is to bring Claude Lamirault (FITZROY) and Lt Roger Mitchell (BRICK) back to the UK for consultation. Dufort is also to land an agent for SIS’s Belgian section, code-named SAGA. Nothing more is known about SAGA. Agents are normally parachuted, so SAGA, like SOE’s Gerry Morel, may have an essential role but is not fit enough to be parachuted.

From a midday weather forecast Nesbitt-Dufort judges that the operation might be feasible, and asks for SAGA to be brought to Tangmere from London, and for FITZROY and BRICK to be warned by W/T signal. (It is too late to arrange for a coded BBC message.) By 5 p.m. the forecast weather doesn’t look so good, but as he has warned the agents in France that he is coming, and knows they’ll be waiting for him, he feels he ought to try.

Nesbitt-Dufort takes off at about 8.20 p.m. and aims for the French coast at Criel-sur-Mer, a town almost directly in line with his course for Compiègne, his reference pinpoint. In this he receives guidance via R/T from radar stations on the south coast code-named BEETLE and MUNGA. (The procedure is described by Hugh Verity: it allows Lysander pilots to be tracked almost to the French coast; the radar station gives coded instructional ‘nudges’ to the pilot. The pilot does not transmit; that might reveal his presence and position.) He plans then to head up the Aisne on a compass-bearing eastwards towards the target, a plateau of slightly higher ground between Pernant and Saconin-et-Breuil (recorded as SIS landing site No. 5). He follows a compass-course set at Compiègne, the last pinpoint, with the river Aisne an additional reference. As Verity will write two years later in his guide to Lysander operations:

But once in the air, don’t forget that map reading must never take precedence over the D.R. and that even when you decide to follow a definite feature you must check the course of this feature with your compass.

Unfortunately there is heavy cloud as Nesbitt-Dufort crosses the French coast. He enters the cloud-base at 1,500 feet and flies on instruments until five minutes before his ETA over Compiègne. He descends to emerge below the cloud base at 1,300 feet and finds himself sandwiched between two layers of continuous cloud. Though visibility is still good – it is only two nights after full moon – it is very dark and he can make out nothing on the ground. He sets course for Soissons, to the east, and flies along that course for five minutes during which he should see any signals. But he sees nothing. (The agents beneath hear the Lysander overhead, but see nothing.) Nesbitt-Dufort flies methodically over the target area for about an hour before he gives up and heads home.

Sources

OUTCLASS, FABULOUS II

TNA HS 7/123 History of SOE RF (République Française) Section

FIREFLY

TNA AIR 20 / 8334, Encl. 105A.
l’Arche de Noé, by Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, p. 116; Noah’s Ark (translation), p.77.

EMERALD

Logbook, G/Capt R.C. Hockey
TNA AIR 20/8334, Summary list of operations for October/November moon period, 1941

SAGA, BRICK, FITZROY

TNA AIR 40/2579: Lysander Operations, 419 Flight & 138 Squadron.
‘Black Lysander’, John Nesbitt-Dufort, Whydown Press, p.111.
‘We Landed by Moonlight’ (WLBM), by Hugh Verity, pp.23-24.
‘Some RAF pick-ups for French Intelligence’ by Hugh Verity: article in ‘War, Resistance & Intelligence: Essays in Honour of M.R.D. Foot’, ed K.G. Robertson (1999, Leo Cooper), p. 172.

Friday, 31 October 1941

Operations LOUIS/BEAVER and EMILE

Murphy and his crew take off in Whitley ‘B’ from Newmarket at 18.45, and Murphy flies via Abingdon to reach Tangmere an hour later. Pinpointing over Abbeville at 20.50, they soon find navigation difficult: unseasonable heavy snowfalls have rendered the roads and rooftops almost invisible. They find the Marne and follow the river to Chalons-sur-Marne, from where they set course to the target. Map-reading is still impossible, and the agents are dropped about 8 miles south-west of the target pinpoint at 22.14.

On their return journey they drop leaflets and some of their pigeons over Noyon, in what Murphy calls ‘our usual diversion’, then drop the rest of the pigeons over Abbeville before heading for Tangmere. After landing back at Newmarket at 01.15, they find that one of the pigeons has ‘hung-up’, his tiny parachute-canopy lodged in the tail-wheel. The pigeon, ‘although somewhat shaken, was released the next morning and returned to its cote’.

There is little information available about this SIS operation for the Belgian intelligence service. The target is near Chalons-sur-Marne, and all are to be dropped together; it is safer to drop agents outside Belgium due to the high probability of informers in both Low Countries. Murphy’s report is headed ‘EMILE, LOUIS’, but Farley’s first summary (which accompanies the October/November reports and identifies EMILE/LOUIS as SIS) pairs LOUIS with BEAVER, with EMILE as a separate operation. This accords with the Air Transport Form, which also pairs LOUIS with BEAVER, but it is originally scheduled for the 28th, with ‘Cancelled’ against it in pencil.

LOUIS/BEAVER is the third pairing of agent and wireless-operator to be sent in, the success of the MILL pairing in August having shown the way forward. The identity of EMILE and LOUIS remained a mystery to me until Pierre Tillet emailed me with details about Maurice LAFRIQUE, a wireless operator dropped as EMILE. From his personal file at SHD, Vincennes (which dates his insertion to 30-31 October), it appears that all three were dropped near Vitry-le-François, to the south-east of Chalons-sur-Marne, which accords with Murphy’s account. Lafrique goes to Lille, but his file does not indicate which organisation he worked for. Most likely this was an SIS-sponsored intelligence circuit, so far unidentified. He realises that the Germans are after him, and attempts to make his return to England via Spain. On 7 March 1942 Lafrique is arrested by the Gestapo while attempting to cross the border into the ZNO at MOULINS. Ten days later he is transferred to Dijon, then to Fresnes, Romainville, and Compiègne before being deported to Germany at the end of April 1943: to Sachsenhausen, then Falkensen. Liberated by the Russians almost exactly two years later, he is returned to France in June 1945.

Pierre has also pointed me towards Belgian historian Emmanuel Debruyne who had turned up the name of Wladimir (or Vladimir) van Damme as BEAVER. Before the war, van Damme had been a policeman in Schaerbeek, a north-eastern suburb of Brussels. Debruyne believes that BEAVER was dropped on 17 November 1941, but this may have been when BEAVER and LOUIS made it to Belgium. They proceed to establish an intelligence service, but don’t last long: they are arrested on 14 February 1942. Debruyne points out that the date is grimly appropriate, for van Damme is arrested at 19 rue du Lac, Ixelles, betrayed to the Germans by a woman jealous over van Damme. This denunciation leads to the arrest of a dozen people, including Edmond Desnerck and Victor Louis.

Sources

TNA AIR20/8334, encl. 98A
TNA AIR 20/8306 (ATFs)
Debruyne, La Guerre Sécrète des Espions Belges, p.28
Debruyne, La_maison_de_verre: agents et reseaux de renseignements en Belgique Occupée 1940-1944, p 129.

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.