For this sortie Wodsicki’s Halifax is substantially overloaded by more than 1,000 lbs (61,198 lbs).
The aircraft is flown to Lakenheath for embarkation and fuelling befpre taking off at 1955 for Esjberg. Wodsicki reports the take-off hazardous: the runway is slippery and (for some reason not explained) the take-off has to be out of wind. They cross the English coast at 20.26 and course is set for the Danish west-coast port of Esjberg.
They arrive over Esjberg 23.07 and cross Denmark and the Baltic sea, pinpointing on the Swedish island of Bornholm at 00.25. At the target there is no sign of a reception committee, but the agents are dropped anyway. In fairness to the crew, it is still an achievement to have reached Poland and the target area, so the normal procedure for a sortie to France, of returning to base with the agents to try again another night, may have seemed a poor option. Of course we don’t know exactly what Wodzicki’s orders may have been.
He lands back at Attlebridge, short of petrol. The next day he takes off for Stradishall, apparently without informing anyone without gaining permission, despite his instruction to awairt orders from Stradishall.
The Air Transport Form identifies the target for both SHIRT and JACKET as ‘RADOM?’, which is some 100 km south of Warsaw. A likely candidate for the forest where the agents are dropped is the Kozienicki Park, a substantial area to the east of Radom.
In March 1942, Major Perkins, based in Room 96, Horse Guards, writes to Lt Colonel Rudnicki, the head of the VIth Bureau (Polish Intelligence) for details on the RUCTION, COLLAR, SHIRT and JACKET drops, especially their accuracy. Rudnicki’s reply, in Polish but helpfully translated, shows that the JACKET drop was made about 36 km west of the target, on the border between the German Reich and the General Government (in German hands but administratively separate from the areas annexed in 1939). It appears that there was no reception committee for this drop. The agents landed on a forest, and were immediately spotted and engaged by a German patrol, with consequent casualties to both sides. Though the Poles gave more than they got, the area was compromised for future activity.
For SHIRT the Halifax arrived an hour later than specified, by which time the committee had dispersed. The drop was made 5-6 km from the correct point, right over a village; three containers fell into German hands, which rather gave the game away. Though the agents and the money that was dropped with them was recovered by the Poles, this district also had been compromised and could no longer be used.
Operation to Saumur area
Ron Hockey’s logbook shows a sortie to the Saumur area. Based on previous sorties to the area, it’s a fair chance that it was to Marie-Madeleine Fourcade’s ALLIANCE circuit, also known as ‘Noah’s Ark’.
Hockey takes Sgt Wilde as his 2nd Pilot. Sgt Wilde is a new pilot to the squadron, flying a few trips as ‘Second Dicky’ to gain experience before taking on sorties as skipper.
Hockey takes off from Stradishall in Whitley Z6728, and flies a route via Tangmere and Cabourg to Saumur, on the lower Loire (lower than Tours, anyway) and from there to the target. There is no report for this sortie on file or in the 138 Squadron Opersations Record Book. Hardly surprising as the ORB for the entire four-month period for 1941 is compiled later, taking direct transcriptions of the pilots’ reports. Reports from January to March 1942 appear now to exist only in the ORB, the original pilots’ reports having been lost.
Hockey returns via Cabourg, but flies a westerly course to land at St Eval after a six-and-a-half hour trip. St Eval is rather a long way out of the way; but the station had been warned to expect him. Coltishall reports that their airfield is ‘out’ due to weather, so we can assume that poor weather is to blame.
On the same night several agents of the SOE RF Section OVERCLOUD team are extracted by MGB 314 from Ile-Guénnoc. Several of these agents have previously been parachuted in: Forman, Labit, Chenal, Paul Simon, and Joêl and Yves Le Tac. The episode is fully described by Brooks Richards (who was in MGB 314’s crew) in ‘Secret Flotillas’.
TNA AIR 20/8334, Encl. 135A
Operation to Saumur area
Ron Hockey logbook
Sea evacuation OVERCLOUD III
Brooks Richards, ‘Secret Flotillas Vol. I’, pp 115-116; Appendix A, p.313.