Monthly Archives: February 1942

Friday, 27 February 1942


Pilot Officer D.J. Simmonds takes off in Whitley Z9232 at 21.38, on a sortie to the eastern Netherlands. He is to complete two operations attempted two nights earlier by two aircraft. First he crosses the Dutch coast north of Alkmaar at 5,000 feet and crosses the ZuiderZee to Harderwijk, which in 1942, before the post-war creation of Flevoland from the Ijsselmeer, was on the southern coast of the inland sea. The agent is to be woken 15 minutes before the drop, and given some food and drink; he is not being met, so it may be the last time he eats for some time. Over the Ijsselmeer Simmonds has dropped to about 1,500 feet, then 500, before dropping CARROT somewhere near Harderwijk. CARROT recognises the spot, so the crew are confident he has been dropped in the right place. Simmonds then returns to Harderwijk before setting course at 2,000 ft for Meppel, which in 1942 is also only just inland. From Meppel he flies up a railway line; the target is a clearing in a wood. The reception torches are seen, and the two containers are dropped to the CATARRH group, which is yet to be rumbled by the Abwehr.

Simmonds and his crew return to Stradishall, landing at 02.50. Unusually, the crew includes a Flight Engineer, not normally part of a Whitley crew. This consists of P/O Simmonds as skipper, Sgt Harvey as 2nd Pilot, F/Sgt Howard as Air Observer (i.e. Navigator), Sgt Flint as Flight Engineer, Sgt Ramsay as Wireless Operator, F/Sgt Todd as Rear Gunner, and Sgt Farquharson as Despatcher. None of these appear in any other 138 Squadron operations records.

CARROT is George Dessing, a thirty-two year old, independently-minded Dutchman accountant who has lived in Vienna and South Africa. His independent spirit is what saves him, for he is given a solo mission. He is therefore unusual among Dutch agents in that he avoids becoming entangled with existing circuits. He makes contact with trade-unionists and underground writers, gathers some useful intelligence, and returns to London successfully, though MRD Foot does not say when he returns.

Operation BOOT

Hockey flies towards Poland to drop six agents, 1 package and four containers; originally planned for a month earlier, priority ‘A’ (high). He takes off at 18.55, but encounters 10/10ths cloud 50 miles from the English coast. This persists over Denmark and the German coast, with icing, too. He returns to base with his load, and lands at 04.05.

For 26 February the 138 Squadron Operations Record Book notes: ‘No. 532269 Corporal D.F. White, Fitter IIa, killed in taxying accident.’ After the war Hockey remembered the accident happening as he was taxying on an icy runway after landing from Operation BOOT: the unfortunate fitter was somehow beneath the aircraft, out of Hockey’s field of vision; and of course it was dark. He rolled instinctively outward, falling under one of the undercarriage wheels. While a fading memory cannot be relied on for a firm date, neither can the ORB; it got Corporal V.F. White’s initials wrong, too.

Operation COLLAR

Sergeant Pieniasek is the pilot, but in the Operations summary book the name against the sortie is F/O Vol — possibly short for Voelnagel, as there is no ‘Vol’ listed). The Polish Air Force follows the continental practice of the Navigator as aircraft captain, the pilot’s role being that of a chauffeur. The target is given as RADOM but, as with BOOT, the pinpoints are stated on the ATF as changed daily. The Poles are wary of British security, which is surprisingly since they report visiting the Air Ministry Air Intelligence section and seeing a wall-map littered with target flags.

Pieniasek takes off in Halifax L9618 at 18.50. He reaches the Danish coast at 21.23, but turns back owing to engine trouble. They return to Stradishall with their load, landing at 00.45. The ‘five X-type’ indicates five agents, with four containers. It’s also likely that they take off from RAF Lakenheath, as also stated in the ATF.

Though the ORB lists Pieniasek as a Flight Sergeant, this is another indication that the ORB is constructed later, for several aircrew are given ranks that they attain only some months afterward.

161 Squadron: Operation BACCARAT

Another twelve men, probably the entire complement of 161 Squadron, arrive at Tangmere Cottage and join F/Lt Murphy and the squadron’s CO, W/Cdr E.H. Fielden.

Murphy flies 161 Squadron’s first pick-up operation. On the outward journey he takes out a female agent known only as ‘ANATOLE’. In Lysander V9428 (a new one) he takes off from Tangmere at 21.45. Fifteen minutes later he is over Beachy Head, and sets course for Abbeville. This should involve flying over the Somme estuary and up the river. Met by 10/10th cloud over the Channel, he climbs above it to 8,000 feet. Three minutes before his ETA for Abbeville he loses height through the cloud. He should be near Le Crotoy, but when he emerges there is no sign of the coast. He is at less than 1,000 feet with less than two miles visibility. He heads north-west to cross the coast, but when he reaches it there is nothing to be recognised. The cloud-base has dropped to 700 feet, and the weather is closing in.

Murphy then does something that is definitely against standard procedure, which is to call up Tangmere on his R/T and request a fix. Normally an SD Lysander pilot is instructed never to use the R/T until he is clear of the enemy coast on his return journey. The Chain Home Low radar system can track Murphy nearly all the way over the Channel, but not inland; by flying in a certain identifiable pattern he can be identified, then given a bearing which will enable him to pinpoint his position. I can only think that Murphy’s action is justifiable because of the poor weather and low visibility. Ten minutes later he gets his fix and sets course for Abbeville, which he reaches at 23.43. He then flies the nearly 40 miles south-west to the village of Saint-Saens, where nearby at midnight he is met by the torches of the reception party, and lands.

ANATOLE is disembarked. Some time is then spent on the ground while bags of ‘courier’ (i.e. intelligence-related documents) are loaded aboard, and two agents clamber aboard. They are BCRA agent Pierre Julitte (JULIE) and film-maker Gilbert Renault-Roulier, better-known by his code-name (and the name under which he wrote a series of post-war memoirs, ‘REMY’. Nothing appears to be known about ‘ANATOLE”, only Rémy’s comment that: “She laughs, very happy to be back in France. I understand that she totally vanished.”

The landing-site is about 32 kilometres SSE from Dieppe, near the village of Saint-Saens. It is such a short trip that it could have been flown by the short-range Lysander R2626 had it still been operational. The reason for Murphy to fly via Abbeville, well east of a direct route to the target, I initially put down to Dieppe being an unhealthy place to be at any height. His strange route may have more to do with the Bruneval raid which takes place on the same night, north of Le Havre, enforcing separation to minimise the chance for any interference.



Dessing PF: TNA HS9/428/3
138 Squadron ORB
138 Squadron Ops Summary
MRD Foot, SOEILC, pp. 119-20


Hockey logbook
138 Squadron ORB


138 Squadron ORB
Air Transport Forms for Feb ’42.


Verity, WLBM p.46.
TNA AIR 20/8455
Noguères, HRF Vol 2, p. 359 (as quoted in Verity notes, p. 224.)

Wednesday, 25 February 1942

The February-March moon-period starts with one sortie to Norway, two to Holland, and a Polish Air Force sortie to Poland.

Operation CATARRH

F/Lt Davies flies an operation to drop two containers to Thjis Taconis, who had parachuted in November with his wireless operator, Hubertus Lauwers. Taking off at 20.59, Davies encounters nothing but cloud beneath him, so he abandons the operation and returns, landing at 01.20.

Operation CARROT

P/O Smith has no more luck with the weather than F/Lt Davies. Taking off at 21.08, he flies via Southwold, past the offshore island of Vlieland, then across the Zuidersee to Zwolle. The crew is unable to distinguish detail on the ground beneath due to cloud, and so the operation is abandoned. They return by the same route, and land fifteen minutes behind F/Lt Davies.

Operation COLLAR

This an altogether more ambitious sortie, to Poland, with F/Sgt Pieniszek noted as the Captain of Halifax L9618. Like the others, he runs into continuous cloud along the route which persists until he is in the target area. He therefore abandons. He encounters heavy flak over Stettin (now the Polish city of Szczecin), Kiel and Sylt, but no searchlights. He lands back at Stradishall at 06.25.

It cannot be overstressed how hazardous it was for these Polish crews flying over Germany to their homeland. If shot down and captured, not only would their own lives be forfeit, but those of their families in Poland.


At 0950 a warning order is issued: ‘Clairvoyant “on” tonight’. At 11.00 plans are made for two 138 Squadron aircraft to use Lakenheath, which has longer runways for a fully-fuelled Halifax. They plan to arrive there at 13.00.

At 18.57 S/Ldr Hockey takes off from Lakenheath in his Halifax L9613 ‘V’ for the Kjosnesfjord, inland from the west coast of Norway. But the target area was obscured by 10/10ths cloud and in freezing conditions it was only prudent to abandon the operation. They return to Stradishall, landing at 03.26.

Operation CLAIRVOYANT appears to have been a large programme intended to sabotage power supplies, targeting the water-pipes that supplied the hydro-electric stations. It appears to have never been carried out.

Newmarket: 161 Squadron

At 14.58 Stradishall Ops is warned by Newmarket that at 19.45 S/Ldr Murphy is to take off from RAF Newmarket in an Anson, letter “L”. It is routed via Abingdon to Tangmere, aiming to land there an hour later. Murphy actually takes off at 20.07, landing at 21.35.


Newmarket: 161 Squadron

TNA AIR 14/2530 Stradishall Ops Officers’ logbook

Sunday, 22 February 1942

Bomber Command

Air Marshal Sir Arthur Harris is appointed to command Bomber Command.

He has spent the previous nine months in the United States, where he has been heading the RAF delegation to the USA to purchase American aircraft for the RAF. His previous hostility to SOE, when Deputy Chief of the Air Staff, was not directed towards SIS, the gathering of intelligence being a legitimate activity of war. He, like many of his contemporaries, regards SOE as an impostor, but his main beef is that the demands for bomber aircraft as the only aircraft that can deliver agents to Occupied Europe – no specification for armed transport aircraft having been issued, let alone any aircraft built – weaken the RAF’s offensive capabilities.

The demands of the clandestine services are not his only foes: Coastal Command also pinches his Whitleys and Wellingtons which, though by now obsolescent, are still in front-line service until the new ‘heavies’ reach the squadrons. The RAF’s possession of a strategic bomber force, the only force that can currently carry the fight to the Germans where it hurts them, the Fatherland,  keeps the Navy and Army from being able to divide the RAF between them: the Navy wants control of Coastal Command which guards the sea-lanes and the convoys within air-patrol range, and command over the bomber force to force it to attack German battleships. The Army would subordinate Bomber Command to tactical needs, as will in fact happen in the lead-up to D-Day and during the Normandy campaign.