Saturday, 10 May 1941

Operations AUTOGYRO D/E and JOLLY

AUTOGYRO D and E are circuit organiser Pierre de Vomécourt (Lucas) and Louis Lefrou de la Colonge (Bernard), sent by ‘F’ Section; JOLLY is Pierre Julitte, a Gaullist agent sent by Dewavrin.

Sqn Ldr Knowles, with F/Lt Murphy as 2nd pilot and navigator, takes off from Stradishall at 21.24, and takes the standard route to the coast via Abingdon and Tangmere, which they circle an hour later. They climb to 10,000 feet and cross the French coast at Isigny at 23.10. Twenty minutes later the rear gunner, Sgt Burgin, reports an aircraft approaching from the stern. The Me110 opens fire, and Knowles put the Whitley into a weaving dive to 2,000 feet. On the way down Sgt Burgin continuously shoots at the Me110 until it explodes. They resume their course to Tours, which they pass shortly after midnight.

They then head south-east for Chatillon. About 11 km south of the town, and approximately 40 km from both Valençay and Chateauroux, the agents are dropped on the pinpoint, somewhere between the hamlets of Fromenteau and Villiers. Large areas of woodland nearby would have stood out as dark patches in the moonlight. Though Georges Bégué has been cited as being present to receive them, this may be due to a misreading of Bégué’s original report in his personal file (see below).

Knowles then heads for Châteauroux and Le Châtre, passing over Châteauroux at 00.42. They circle Le Châtre for about ten minutes before dropping Pierre Julitte with a wireless set at 01.06, about one mile south of the town. In his operation report, Knowles headlines JOLLY as JOOLLY, which he corrects in the text. This may have been a subconscious mis-typing: Knowles may have met Pierre Julitte as one of Dewavrin’s staff from his time at the Air Ministry. Knowles mentions nothing about reception lights; Julitte is dropped blind.

Knowles and crew retrace their route to Châteauroux, where they drop leaflets before setting a return course via Tours and Isigny. However, they cross the French coast north of Caen, some way east of track. They then head for Tangmere and Stradishall, where they land at 04.44.


The Luftwaffe takes full advantage of the nearly full moon to launch a devastating attack on the West End and many other parts of the capital. London burned. Many years ago I read Richard Collier’s 1959 account of this night: ‘The city that wouldn’t die’. If you can get hold of a copy, read it. This attack was the last, flailing, all-out blow of the Blitz that had started the previous September. Hitler’s attention was now firmly fixed upon the east, on the Soviet Union.


TNA AIR 20/8334, encl. 11A
TNA HS9/115/2, Georges Bégué SOE personal file