This moon-period has not only been started slightly early, it has been extended slightly to include this sortie slightly after the Last Quarter. The long night allows a relatively short-range sortie to the Le Mans area of northern France, in an attempt to complete several outstanding operations. The urgency may explain why an SIS operation (TENTERHOOK) is flown in the same Whitley as two SOE agents (HORNBEAM and DACE). TRIPOD II is a two-container drop.
Operation TENTERHOOK, HORNBEAM, TRIPOD 2, DACE
P/O Smith takes off in Whitley Z9287 (‘K’) at 01.05, in the early hours of 11 January. After overflying Tangmere at 02.14 Smith climbs to 9,000 ft over the Channel. Encountering thick 6-8/10ths cloud en route, he crosses the French coast at Pte de la Percée at 03.00. He reduces height to 2,000 ft., but there is mist up to about 3,000 ft, giving him horizontal visibility of about 800 yards. He reaches the area of the first target, about 40 km south of Le Mans, at about 03.40.
The first target is for SOE agent HORNBEAM. HORNBEAM was originally intended to go in in October-November, and with another agent, MULBERRY, but he is now to be dropped with Sergeant-chef Bourdat (DACE), the wireless-operator intended for Laverdet (DASTARD). There is also a two-container drop called TRIPOD II.
The target is not identified by the 2nd Pilot, who is map-reading. They fly south to the Loire, where they get a fix at 04.00 and map-read back to the target. Both the 2nd Pilot and HORNBEAM positively identify the target but the expected reception committee is not there.
The precise target for TENTERHOOK is described as being about 1.5 miles ((2.4km) south of Vaas, in the centre of a triangle formed by the larger towns of Le Lude, Château-du-Loir, and Château la Vallière. This operation is unusual in that we have precise instructions on the TENTERHOOK target, reception committee, and signals from the ground. More unusual is that these instructions come from A.I.1(c), so TENTERHOOK is an SIS agent. The ground signal is to be a triangle of red torches, with the Morse letter to be signalled from a lamp at the windward end. But P/O Smith says so little about the second target that it is not clear whether he even makes an attempt to find the second target. Some time after their return to Stradishall, three quarters of an hour after Ron Hockey reports it, a signal is sent to the Air Ministry that TENTERHOOK has been unsuccessful.
P/O Smith writes a report for Operation DACE separate from the others. It is not clear why; it would have been understandable for a separate report to be required for TENTERHOOK, but not DACE.
TENTERHOOK, HORNBEAM, TRIPOD 2, DACE
TNA AIR 20/8334, Encls. 133A (TENTERHOOK, HORNBEAM, TRIPOD 2) & 134A (DACE)