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Operations Envious and Felicitate
Twenty-one aircrew brought back from Brittany by RN Motor Gun Boat in 1943
This page first posted 28 July 2020 - updated 15 Sept 2020
On the night of 1-2 December 1943, eight US airmen were picked up from the north Brittany coast and brought back to England by RN Motor Gun Boat. However, the operation wasn't quite the success that figure may suggest, and the story of Operation Envious IIb, and the subsequent Felicitate operations, begins some time earlier.
Details of the MGB operations are taken from Sir Brooks Richards classic 1996 book “Secret Flotillas” (HMSO), with additional detail from Michael Pollard's 2004 memoire “A Stage in My Education”. Further information comes various files held at the National Archives at Kew and Maryland (including escape and evasion reports). Another important source has been Pierre Hentic's 2009 book “Tant qu'il y aura des étoiles”, and information attributed to him comes from that book.
“Pierre Hentic, who had gone into the field to organise Lysander pick-up operations for Dunderdale's “Jade-Fitzoy” intelligence network, arrived in Brest to try and establish means of shipping out that organisations's mail by sea. Hentic was a native of Quémeneven in Brittany and though known elsewhere as “Trellu”, he used the name “Maho” in Brittany. He was accompanied by his assistant Pierre Jeanson (Sarrol) and a radio operator who used the pseudonym “Jeannot”. Because bad weather so often prevented Lysander operations, Hentic got DDOD(I) to agree to a sea operation to the Aber-Benoit estuary, so that “Jade-Fitroy” mail could be sent to England by this alternative means. But when he and his two assistants followed up their initial contact with the Resistance in Brest, they found that all the local Resistance groups were preoccupied with trying to shelter and feed the many RAF and USAAF evaders who were hidden in Brest itself and at Landernau. Hentic/Maho therefore submitted a proposal, approved by Dunderdale and by DDOD(I), to use the gunboat he was expecting at the beginning of November to evacuate 15 evaders who could leave immediately.” (Secret Flotillas pg 184-5)
Operation Envious the night of 3-4 November 1943
The first Operation Envious took place on the night of 3-4 November 1943, when twelve airmen - Harold Nielsen, Thomas Adams, Lionel Drew, Duane Lawhead, James Wilson, William Dunning, Vernon Clark, Charles Bronner, Merle Woodside, Raymond Bye, Harold Thompson and Henry Rowland - were taken to the north Breton island of Guennoc (Guénioc), one of many small islands in the Aber-Benoit estuary, to be collected by RN Motor Gun Boat.
“The operation for Maho, code name ENVIOUS, was due to be carried out on 3-4 November, at which time 318 was still the only vessel of the newly formed 15th MGB Flotilla ready and available. Her new commanding officer was Lt Jan McQuoid Mason, South African Naval Force (Volunteer). Birkin [Lt David Birkin] was navigating and Davis [Cdr Ted Davis was Slocum's senior officer at Dartmouth] was in charge of the expedition, which was mounted from Falmouth.
The rendezvous that DDOD(I) [Deputy Director Operations Divison (Irregular), Cdr Frank A Slocum RN] gave 318 on this occasion was Rosservor, the most westerly of the three islets that flank the Aber-Benoit estuary. Like Ile-Tariec to the east of the approach channel, Rosservor is joined to the mainland at low tide, while Guennoc is a true island and can only be approached by boat.
Land was sighted at 0010 and five minutes later they anchored and lowered boats. Davis was doubtful of his position and no signal was visible from the shore, but he sent Sub Lt Uhr-Henry away in the boats to reconnoitre the land to which they were the nearest .. At 0245 Uhr-Henry returned with verification of the position and reported he could see no sign of life on either Rosservor or the nearby Ile-du-Bec .. At 0300 they started up one engine and reluctantly weighed anchor.
It subsequently transpired that the 15 evaders, along with two young men from Ploudalmézeau who were on the run from the German police, had waited for them on Ile-Guennoc and that Hentic's signal informing Dunderdale's Section [Cdr Wilfed Dunderdale], his London controllers, of the change of pick-up point had not been received in time to save 318 a fruitless sortie. The shore party had seen 318 in the distance and flashed the recognition signal in her direction to no avail.” (extracts from Secret Flotillas pgs 186 to 188)
Pierre Hentic describes how, as the date for the operation drew closer, they had their plans in place. Local seaweed fishermen would take the airmen from “Les Dunes” on the Sainte Marguerite penisula, and deliver them to Ile-Guennoc. In Lanillis, Louis Bodiger and his public transport company would be their local base, working with Amédée Rolland, Claude Tanguy (with his camion and camionette) and gendarme Jean-François Derrien, and brothers Job and François Mouden from Tréglonou.
On the afternoon of 3 November, Sarrol's plans had been carried out; Job and François Mouden had transferred the airmen to Guennoc, and that evening, everyone gathered at Amédée Rolland's house to compare notes on the day's activities. More airmen and agents had arrived from Reims, and also been delivered to the island, and that evening they heard the BBC message confirming the British gunboat was on its way. Next morning, assuming the operation had gone as planned, Hentic was about to leave when he heard that Job Mouden had seen figures on Guennoc. This could only mean that something had gone wrong, and they just managed to catch up with Jeannot who, having left on his bicycle, was returning to Landerneau to take the train for Paris.
Jeannot was unable to contact London by radio, and the November moonless period was about to end, which meant they would have to keep the evaders for at least another three to four weeks. There was also no easy way to get the evaders back from Guennioc, and it took some days to arrange for a local fishing boat to take them supplies.
Following the failure of Operation Envious, Pierre Hentic decided to go to London himself and discuss the problems with his London bosses. He took one of his own Lysander flights from a landing strip west of Reims on the night of 11-12 November (Operation Salvia), along with five others, who he lists as Paul Fortier, BCRA agent Henri Bertin, a senior railway engineer named Potelette and his (very) pregnant wife, and Georges Simorre (who they didn't know).
The Evaders
Eleven of the twenty-one evaders involved in Operations Envious and Felicitate, had been brought to Brittany by Jean-Claude Camors and his Bordeaux-Loupiac organisation, and first part of their stories is told in my article about Jean-Claude Camors and the Suzanne-Renée.
With the shooting of Camors in Rennes on 11 October 1943, and the departure of the Suzanne-Renée on 23 October, Bordeaux-Loupiac still had eleven evaders on their hands, and according to Paul Le Baron, it was Ghislaine Niox who contacted Pierre Hentic (possibly through Andrée Virot (Hentic's Agent Rose), or as Paul Le Baron suggests, Roger Feroc), for help in getting them back to England. Other people involved with Hentic's intelligence organisation included Jeanne Callarec, with most of the people who helped and sheltered the evaders in and around Brest being recruited by Mme Callarec or Mme Niox especially for this purpose.
Duane Lawhead, James Wilson, Walter Hargrove and William Rice had been taken to the Breton port of Camaret-sur-Mer but the Suzanne-Renée was so crowded (with 19 evaders on board) that when she sailed for England on 23 October 1943, they were left behind. Russell Brooke, Floyd Carl, Merl Martin and Allen Priebe didn't get as far as Camaret; they had been taken to Douarnanenz, while Harold Nielsen, Thomas Adams and Lionel Drew were being sheltered at Vannes when the Suzanne-Renée sailed.
Another five airmen had been helped by the MI9 Possum escape line (Mission Martin) in Reims: Vernon Clark, Charles Bronner and William Dunning from B-17 Wabbit Twacks III, and Raymond Bye and Merle Woodside from B-17 Dottie J III, were brought from Reims to Paris on 1 November, where they were passed on to Pierre Hentic.
Clayton Burdick had been sheltered in Harfleur for two and half months before being brought to Brittany, apparently by a different route from the others. Harold Thompson and Henry Rowland had been sheltered in Sartrouville, and travelled on the same train from Paris as the five men brought from Reims. Only two airmen who actually began their evasion in Brittany, Joseph Quirk and Herman Shafer, whose B-24 Liberator was flying from north Africa to England on the morning of 17 November when it was shot down a few miles north of Brest.
S/Sgt Duane J Lawhead (#245) from Eaton Rapids, Michigan, was the 21-year-old tail-gunner of 305BG/366BS B-17 41-24591 Rigor Mortis (Halliday) which was returning from Stuttgart on 6 September 1943 and just short of Beauvais when they found, like so many others that day, they were running out of fuel. As they left formation they were attacked by fighters and the aircraft was abandoned to crash near Neufchatel-en-Bray (Seine-Maritime). Lawhead evaded with his co-pilot, 2/Lt Russell Brooke (#241) (see later) until the two men became separated at Douarnenez on 30 October.
S/Sgt James Godfrey Wilson (#289) from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, was the 27-year-old left waist-gunner, and S/Sgt William W Rice (#297) from Marshfield, Missouri the 22-year-old ball-turret gunner, of 92BG/407BS B-17 42- 30010 (Asher) which was on the way to Stuttgart on 6 September 1943. They had just crossed the French coast when something happened (it's not clear from either of their reports exactly what) that caused the crew to abandon the aircraft. Rice reports that after he bailed out, he saw that all four engines were working perfectly but then a wing came off, and as the aircraft headed for the ground, it exploded.
Both men were helped soon after landing, and on 23 September, taken by train to Auxi-le-Chateau, where they met Typhoon pilot Harold “Bob” Merlin (2432). That afternoon, they and RNZAF evaders Sqn/Ldr John Checketts (1495) and F/Sgt Terence Kearins (1498) were driven to Amiens station by Joseph Becker, who Rice describes as the “Chief of the French Gestapo and blackmarket”.
2/Lt Walter Hargrove (#293) from Huntley, Montana, was the 24-year-old bombardier of B-17 42-29635 Augerhead (303BG/358BS) (Monahan) which was recalled from a visit to Romilly on 31 August 1943 and diverted to Amiens. An engine failure dropped them out of formation and a fighter attack forced them to abandon the aircraft. Hargrove landed just north of Abbeville and set off walking north-east. He evaded alone for four days before he found help near Willencourt, staying there for two days until 6 September when he was collected by a Gestapo agent named Becker and driven to Auxi-le-Chateau.
The men who left on the Suzanne-Renée actually boarded on the night of 19-20 October (her sailing was delayed by bad weather), and it was the morning of 20 October when the four Americans left behind were taken a bakery in Crozon. Lawhead describes how Paul Le Baron, Pierre Philippon, “Pierre the fisherman” (Bordeaux-Loupiac organiser at Camaret, Pierre Merrien – query), Dr Jean Vourc'h and his son Yves, walked with him, James Wilson, Walter Hargrove and William Rice, from Camaret to Crozon, where he and Hargrove stayed in the back room of a merchant while Wilson and Rice stayed elsewhere (with what Rice describes as three “old maids”). On the third day (23 Oct), Pierre the fisherman took the four Americans to Chateaulin where he passed them on to Paul Le Baron, who took them (south) by train to Quimper. They went to Pierre Philippon‘s house, Le Roseraire on rue Kerlerec, where Lawhead and Wilson left Hargrove and Rice.
After waiting two hours for the train, Paul Le Baron took Lawhead and Wilson to Brest, leaving the train at Le Rody (on the outskirts of the city), and walking into Brest, and Colonel Scheidhauer 's house on rue Neptune, where Lawhead reports meeting Nielsen, Adams and Drew. That night, grocer named Salaun came for Lawhead and Wilson; Wilson being taken to to stay with Paul Priser and his wife Francis (they both spoke English), while a M. Salaun took Lawhead back to own house, where he met Mme Salaun, two sons, a baby and maid.
Sgt Harold L Nielsen (1649) from West Hartlepool, was the 23-year-old radio operator, and Sgt Thomas H Adams (1650) from Penge in south-east London, the 27-year-old flight engineer of 106 Sqn Lancaster DV196 (Wodehouse) which was returning from Milan on the night of 7-8 August 1943 and approaching Dijon when they were attacked by a fighter (McGourlick says that some incendiaries which had hung-up in the bomb bay, ignited and set the aircraft on fire) and the aircraft was abandoned to crash at Vandenesse-en-Auxois.
Nielsen and Adams (who Pierre Hentic says spoke excellent French) evaded with their tail gunner F/O Donald F McGourlick RCAF (1489), being joined by Lionel Drew on 18 August, as detailed in the article about the Suzanne-Renée, which left Nielsen, Adams and Drew at Vannes on 5 October after McGourlick was taken to be sheltered with Marcel Charles at rue Marechal Foch.
1/Lt Lionel Edward Drew Jnr (#288) was an American bombardier who baled out on 26 June 1943 from a 423rd Bombardment Squadron B-17 which then returned to England. Drew landed about four miles north-east of Pont l'Eveque (Calvados) and that evening, found shelter at La Raconciere with Hubert Caillaux and family. Several weeks later, Drew was being sheltered by Pierre Argoud at his home in Aillant-sur-Tholon, where on 18 August, he was joined by Harold Nielsen, Thomas Adams and their rear gunner, Donald McGourlick.
From Vannes, Nielsen, Adams and Drew were taken by train to Chateaulin where they were met by Mme Vve Christiane Aimee Magne who took them back to her house in the tiny village of Saint-Nic. On 21 October, they were moved from Saint-Nic because the Gestapo were looking for Mme Magne's sister, Ghislaine Niox – and Ghislaine and Paul Le Baron took them to Brest, where they stayed overnight with Mme Magne's parents, Colonel William and Mme Jeanne Scheidhauer at 1 rue Neptune. Next day, Nielsen and Adams were taken to be sheltered by Doctor Roger and Mme Yvonne de La Marnierre in their apartment on nearby rue Traverse, while Drew went to stay with an unnamed solicitor on rue Pasteur. Two weeks later (sic) they left for Landerneau and on to Ile Guennoc.
2/Lt Vernon E Clark (#290) from Baltimore, was the 27-year-old navigator, 2/Lt Charles P Bronner (#292) from the Bronx, New York City, the 22-year-old bombardier and T/Sgt William B Dunning (#296) from Auburn, New York, the 28-year-old top-turret gunner of 96BG/337BS B-17 42-30040 Wabbit Twacks III (Harmeson). They were on the way to Schweinfurt on 14 October 1943 when they lost #3 engine, and had trouble maintaining their place in the formation, despite droppping their bombs somewhere over Germany to reduce weight. Eventually they turned back for England but were then attacked by fighters, and the aircraft abandoned to crash near Bar-le-Duc (Meuse).
The only other successful evader from Wabbit Twacks III was S/Sgt Lester W Knopp (#1526) who evaded briefly with Merle Woodside, Raymond Bye and Kenneth Nice (#772) (from Dottie J III) before he and Nice were taken to Mailly-Champagne – both later helped by Bourgogne, and crossed the Pyrenees in June 1944.
Dunning's chest-type parachute had partially opened inside the aircraft, and after failing to repack it, he jumped with it in his arms, throwing out sections as he fell. He finally landed safely about 25 kms NE of Bar-le-Duc, where a gentleman farmer named Desmart immediately helped him and took him back to his farm, Bellefontaine, where Dunnning says there was an American airfield. An elderly shoemaker named Georges, a veteran of the last war, came from Bar-le-Duc with an English-speaking girl before returning to Bar-le-Duc to contact an organisation. That afternoon, Desmart and Georges introduced him to Robert L'Heurre (of 66 rue du Four), who spoke some English, and seemed to have organisation contacts in England. Another man, probably Jules Brion (of 46 rue de Couchet in Bar-le-Duc) brought him civilian clothes.
That night Robert L'Heurre and Georges took Dunning through the fields and across Béhonne and Bar-le-Duc where they were met by Jules Brion and went to his house for a drink. Robert L'Heurre then took him to a suite in a hotel, apparently the organisation HQ., where he met three men and three women, and spent the night there.
The next morning (16 October), Dunning went to Georges' house, and was to leave for Reims but then stayed when they received news of Clark and Bronner, and Dunning spent the day with Georges, his wife and son Jean. That afternoon a man came and took Dunning's picture, and that afternoon, Robert L'Heurre came with a paper showing Clark and Bronner's names, numbers, etc. which Dunning recognised immediately - they were also in Bar-le-Duc. Later, Robert returned with the names of their ball-turret gunner, S/Sgt Jay B Jolly, and waist-gunner S/Sgt Lester Knopp (#1566), who were also safe in Bar-le-Duc, although Jolly had a bad ankle and Knopp was badly shaken up. Dunning went to visit Clark and Bronner at Brion's, and stayed with Georges until the following Tuesday, being joined on the Sunday by Jolly, who was with still at Georges' house when Dunning left.
Clark landed in a tree, which broke his fall but then he struggled to get his parachute down from the tree before burying it. He was soon spotted by a local man, who disposed of the rest of his flying gear, before Clark hid himself again in the wood when some Germans arrived. That evening, he approached a women tending some cows. She told him to stay where he, and fetched her husband, who gave him a pitchfork and took him back to their house, where they gave him a meal, and from where, his journey was arranged.
Clark spent the night at the farm, and next day, a man took him to another house, about half an hour away, and Clark spent that night at the man's mother's house. He also received a note from Bronner, and Clark was taken to where Bronner was being sheltered. That afternoon, two men took them by car into Bar-le-Duc. Clarke mentions Brion and Robert at this point, saying that Brion (who was a widower) could supply meat and sugar etc. He also mentions a man who owned a bakery, and visiting a shoe maker where Dunning had stayed. Clark thought that he spent five days in Bar-le-Duc before Brion took him and Bronner to the railway station, where they joined Robert and Dunning.
Bronner comments on Dunning accidently picking up his parachute by the ripcord, and leaving the aircraft with it in his arms before jumping himself. He says his parachute failed to open but then saw the handle which he must have missed, pulled again and the chute opened, allowing him to survey the country and seeing that he would land in a wood. As soon as he had burried the parachute and got under cover, he started looking Clark, who he says could not have fallen more than a hundred yards away. Having failed in that, he ran through the woods for about fifteen minutes until hearing voices which sounded German, and hiding himself in some brush.
He spent a cold and uncomfortable night, and at sunrise set off, if only to get some circulation back in his feet, and enjoyed a “delicious” breakfast of apples he found on a tree. He them “stumbled” into an elderly woman who took him back to her house and gave him some bread and cheese before telling him to move on, fast. Using the sun for guidance, he headed south-west, and at about two o'clock that afternoon came to a farmhouse on the edge of a village. He settled down to watch the house but a dog gave his position away to a young boy who took him into the barn. He was later taken into the house, where he slept for a few hours, waking again to receive some civilian clothes. He was then taken by horse and cart into the village, Bronner being allowed to do the driving, and a house where he was told there was another American in town. Dunning says he was too tired to care at that stage, and went to sleep but the following morning, he wrote a note “to whom it may concern”, and an immediate reply came back from Clarke. Later, an armed man came to the house, cut the labels from his GI clothing, and, at the point of his gun, took Dunning's dogtags. Later that same day, the man took Dunning by bicycle the house where Clark was staying (although Clark says the other way around), and their arranged journey began.
On the afternoon of 19 October, Robert L'Heurre took Dunning to the railway station, where they joined Clark, Bronner and their guide, Brion. A woman also went with them for part of the way. Dunning says that Robert was very nervous and accept for his English, would not have been along. Robert took Dunning and Bronner off the train at Sillery, just before Reims, while Clark went on with Brion. After drinking a bottle of Champagne with station master Roger Mangenot and wife Augustine, Dunning and Bronner were taken to a nearby farm. The following night, they had dinner with the station master and his (beautiful) wife, before a short, self-assured brunette who spoke no English, but who also had no nerves (possibly Raymonde Beuré) collected them and took them by train to Reims.
At Reims station, the brunette turned Dunning and Bronner over to a man they knew as “The Canadian” (this was Conrad Lafleur) who took them to 117 rue Lesage, home of baker Gaston Bruno. The Canadian had a strong New York accent, and used a lot of slang, and they understood that he was head of the organisation around Reims.
The following day, a man they came to know as “The Belgian” (this was Jean Lorgé) brought Clark in. On their arrival in Reims, Clark and Brion had been met two women, one of them Mme Renée Weigel, who took Clark back to her one-room apartment at 21 rue Marlot, where he stayed overnight. The next morning, he was taken to a café, where some “well to do” Swiss people gave him a suit. After a second night at Renée's apartment, “The Belgian” took him to a bakery, where he saw Dunning and Bronner, before going to stay with André and Suzanne Lecombe on rue de Brimontel. Clark says that he later visited Dunning and Bronner, and met Raymond Bye (#287) and Merle Woodside (#244) there.
When Gaston Bruno's aunt, who was at death's door, moved in, Dunning and Bronner were taken to stay with Fernande Mondet (born April 1897) at 161 rue Lesage. Dunning describes her as “a beautiful widow with three daughters” (Simone, Joanne and Germaine), who lived with her mother. On 29 October, Raymond Bye and Merle Woodside came to dinner - they were staying with a veteran who was a bookbinder and had been a professor.
The Canadian (Lafleur) told them they would fly out on 11 November (the night that Pierre Hentic left from a field just west of Reims) and were just waiting for a full moon but on 1 November, the Belgian (Lorgé) came to look for them. The Canadian had left instructions that absolutely no-one was to see them and the Belgian was apparently trying to tell them that they were going straight away but was told that they had already left. Clark came to join them, and then the Canadian came and said they were catching a train at 1700 hrs.
2/Lt Raymond F Bye (#287) from Prince Bay, Staten Island, New York, was the 22-year-old pilot, and 2/Lt Merle Elsworth Woodside (#244) from Oakland, California, the 25-year-old navigator of B-17 42-3348 Dottie J III (96BG/337BS) which was returning from Schweinfurt on 14 October 1943. Flak over the target had damaged #2 and #4 engines and as they dropped out of formation, they were attacked by fighters. The badly damaged aircraft (described by Woodside as a sieve) was crash-landed between Metz and Nancy.
All ten crew survived the landing although several of them were injured. They split into groups to evade, but only two other Dottie J III crew did so successfully; waist-gunner S/Sgt Mike Olynik (#431) was evacuated by MGB 503 from the beach near Plouha at the end of February on the second Shelburn Operation Bonaparte, and radio operator T/Sgt Kenneth H Nice (#772).
Bye, Woodside and Kenneth Nice walked to Richecourt (Lorraine) where they spent the night and following day in a deserted hayloft. During the following night they walked to Saint-Mihiel where (at the second time of trying) they were helped and their journeys arranged. They were found at dusk by the local priest, Abbé Mougeneve, who fed them, then took them to a M. Rouyer, who directed them to Saint-Mihiel. The Abbé Galhaut was reluctant to help, but he took them to Gilbert Morlet, who in turn took them to a safer place on the outskirts of Saint-Mihiel. The following day, they were taken via Lavallée to Bar-le-Duc, where they were separated.
Woodside was sheltered for the next twelve days by a Captain Langlois in his house at 4 rue Popey in Bar-le-Duc - he says that plans had been made to take them to Reims by truck but the roads were blocked, and they went by train, the captain taking them to the station. Bye was sheltered by insurance agent Charles Mangin and family at 96 rue Saint-Mihiel until 25 October when Captain Langlois took him back to his own home for the night. Next day, Langlois took him and Woodside by train to Reims.
On the train, they met Renée Wiegel, who Bye describes as being aged about 32 to 35 years old, brunette, quite tall, medium build, with pleasant features and two gold teeth. On arrival at Reims, Renée took them to her apartment, five blocks from the cathedral, where they met her mother Lucienne, aged about 50 and very small, and learned that Renée was a cashier at a collaborator's restaurant. She took them out every night to a butcher's house, an immense man, about 300 lbs, almost six feet tall, red-faced with pleasant features. Bye says they were four days in Reims before the organisation, which was run by a man they knew as “The Canadian”, picked them up, after a nineteen-year-old called Jean contacted him, and a big Belgian man (about 6 foot 3 inches tall, well built) took them to meet Charles Bronner and Bill Dunning. Three days later they were told they would leave by air but on All Saints Day, they were taken by train to Paris.
On Monday 1 November, Conrad Lafleur took Vernon Clark, Charles Bronner, William Dunning, Raymond Bye and Merle Woodside to the railway station with a guide who had come from Paris. He was very well dressed and very quiet, and they understood that he was very high in the Paris organisation. He never smiled so they called him “Smiling Jack” (this was capitaine Henri Bertin of the BCRA). Dunning says they were joined at the station by the Belgian, and left the Canadian but Conrad Lafleur was certainly on the train to Paris with them.
In Paris they were taken by Metro to Chateau-Rouge (Paris XVIII) and walked to an apartment at 7 rue du Chevalier de la Barre, where they were fed and spent the night. Dunning describes the apartment as an organisation clearing place, and that nobody lived there although two women came to do the cooking - it was actually managed by Mme Suzanne Bastin who did live there, at least some of the time. They were also visited by an Irish school teacher who lived in Paris and had been a German P/W but was not a member of the organisation – this was Mlle O Mallet, who lived next door to Suzanne Bastin (at No 6), who used her as a translator. Their ID cards were collected to be stamped deaf and dumb, and they were taken to a photomaton to be photographed for their Ausweise - Smiling Jack (Henri Bertin) returning them that night along with the Ausweise.
It was the Belgian, Smiling Jack and “the two women who did the cooking” who took the five Americans by Metro to the gare Montparnasse, Dunning saying that they were “awfully confused in the Metro and only made the train by plowing through a crowd of Germans”. They were led by Maho (Pierre Hentic) who had met their train at the gare de l'Est the previous day.
Hentic says that Martin, head of the Reims organisation (Edgard Potier) saw them off from Paris, and that they travelled with him (Maho), Pierrot (Pierre Tissier), Fanfouet (Robert Champion) and Jeannot (Eugene Lorion). Two of Potier's men were also on the train - Jean Lorgé and Belgian ex-SOE agent Walthère Marly - both of whom were planning on going to England but returned to Paris after the operation failed, somewhat disillusioned by Hentic's organisation.
They had tickets for Brest but got off at Landernau (about 20 kms before Brest on the railway), their papers being checked while gendarmes stood on either side of them. The Americans were five “deaf mutes” travelling together but Maho stepped up and said he was an engineer working for the Germans and that they were members of the Organisation Todt and working for him. They didn't know at the time that Harold Thompson and Henry Rowland (see below), also posing as deaf mutes, were on the same train.
Maho took them to a house where he told them he had received a B.B.C. message, and that they were leaving that night. They were collected by truck and taken to the shore near Ile-Guennoc, stopping on the way and picking up various people, once stopping in the middle of a village square, where Maho left them.
2/Lt Harold E Thompson (#242) from Palmer, Massachusetts, was the 25-year-old co-pilot, and 2/Lt Henry Cabot Rowland (#243) from Arlington, Massachusetts, the 23-year-old navigator of B-17 42-30362 Wee Bonnie II (388BG/561BS) (Porter). They had just reached their IP for the Benz works near Paris on 9 September 1943 when they were attacked by a lone fighter, and shortly afterwards, the aircraft was abandoned. Three other crew also evaded successfully: tail-gunner Sgt Ivan L Schraeder (#312), and waist-gunners S/Sgt Rosswell Miller (#582) and S/Sgt Clement Mezzenotte (#688), were all helped by the Bourgogne organisation to cross the Pyrenees.
Thompson says that he bailed out from the escape hatch at about 23,000 feet, delaying opening his parachute until about 15,000 feet, and landing in the back garden of a house in Sartrouville (north-west Paris). A young French boy helped hide his flying gear before Thompson made his way to another garden, opposite where he had landed. That afternoon, a man brought him Rowland's AGO card and a note saying that he hoped to see him soon. The man then took Thompson to “another place” where he was given some food and civilian clothes, and next day, taken to join Rowland.
Rowland says that he followed their bombardier (2/Lt Vernon Adams) out of the escape hatch, also delaying his jump to about 15,000 feet, and landing in a carrot patch in a field outside Montluçon (which is clearly wrong). A group of French people gathered around him, and Rowland set off for some nearby houses, with two of the men following behind. They only just managed to avoid German soldiers, one on a motorcycle being directed in the opposite direction while Rowland hid in some undergrowth. About an hour later, a man threw him a sack full of civilian clothes and then another man brought him a sandwich and four cigarettes before taking him by bicycle to a place where he later met Lt Thompson, Rowland adding that he had French identity papers within four hours of landing.
It was Camille Giroud (of 14 Avenue de la Republique) who took Thompson by bicycle to his café, where Thompson met his wife and mother, before going on to 4 Avenue Maurice Berteaux, where batchelor André Fournier sheltered him and Rowland for the next eight weeks. Thompson mentions Adolphe Legros (of 19 rue de Seine), and having dinner every Sunday with M et Mme Lapersonne (at 11 avenue Jules Ferry).
On 2 November, André Fournier took them to Paris, and a rendezvous near Montparnasse station, where Thompson mentions two Belgians, something about Reims, and Pierre, a “nice looking chap”, 5 foot 8 inches tall, black hair, about 170 lbs, who spoke fair English - “the fellow who finally arranged (their) escape”.
They left Paris by train at ten o'clock that evening, arriving at Landerneau at about nine-thirty the following morning. On the train, they were given passes to say they worked for the Todt Organisation, the story their guide gave the gendarmes at Landerneau station.
Operation Envious the night of 3-4 November 1943
Details of the first Operation Envious have already been described from both the naval reports and Pierre Hentic's book. Here T/Sgt William Dunning (#296) continues his version of events from the point when Hentic left him and the other evaders shortly before “Les Dunes” on the Sainte Marguerite peninsula.
“There were now 19 in the party. In small groups, we went across the beach, clambering in city clothes, right under the noses of the Germans. A little boat took us out to Guennoc and the Breton fishermen were very helpful and eager. We had a red flashlight and were to signal Z three times over fifteen minutes from 2400 to 0300 hours. This part was very muddled and no-one seemed to be in charge. No boat came.
Towards dawn we broke up into small groups and hid on the island. All food had been left on the truck. Thursday night we signalled again without results. Friday, food was brought out to us with a note saying that the boat was coming that night. Morale shot up again but nothing happened. Saturday morning the fishermen brought 5 gallons of wine and took off one of the Frenchmen. We remained feeling marooned as we knew the fishermen we not allowed out on Sunday. Sunday night however, a boat got through with food and a note saying we would be taken off the next morning.
Monday morning a sailing boat took us back to shore, and we went “clambering” between the pill-boxes and Germans on manoeuvers. We hid on a farm until a truck picked us up and took us to the Chateau de Qirois [Kerouartz]. Here we were met by Mme Yvonne de la Marnierre of Brest who owned the chateau. She has four daughters, and her husband the Count, is a wealthy Brest doctor. They were not in the organisation but 17 of us spent the night here.”
The Château de Kerouartz, which is about 25 kms north of Brest, overlooking the Aber Wrac'h river near Lannilis, was owned by the marquis of Kerouartz, who loaned it to the de la Marnierre family for their personal use.
Dunning also says that “There was to be another attempt the next day, with room for 5 Americans. We cut cards for the places. The French were afraid to let the English go on the boat because they could not see the boat coming back again then to pick up Americans and French.”
Paul Le Baron explains that this was a plan arranged by Ghislaine Niox to send him and a small group of airmen to England in a fishing boat but when they went to meet the boat, not far from Ile Guennoc, the fisherman in question backed out of the arrangement, and they returned to the chateau.
“The next morning, those of us who were unlucky on the draw, drove into Brest in a car. The Germans all stared but it was a German car with a German permit, and the driver waved at all the sentries. When we got to Brest, Lt Bye, Sgt Wilson and I were to follow a school teacher, Mlle Fayette [this was Mlle Marie Madeleine Fayet (aka Cactus) of 47 rue Victor Hugo, Brest] whom we had met at the chateau. When we arrived however, Mme Niox (Col Scheidhauer's daughter Ghislaine) told us to follow her. She has a son of 6 years and her husband in P/W. Her brother, the Col's son is a P/W in the RAF. She led us to the colonel's home at 1 rue Neptune. We stayed here until the Gestapo began to suspect Mme Niox's espionage activities (she is Jo who came out with us).”
Dunning goes on to say that on 12 November, Harold Thompson joined him, Raymond Bye and James Wilson. He also reports a B-24 Liberator crashing on 17 November, and two of the crew being brought to Brest, one to Mme de la Marnierre, and that they helped to confirm Herman Shafer's identity.
Thompson (who had previously been sheltered with Mme Jouetre) seems to say (the writing is very hard to read) they were transferred to M. Clech (assume Joseph Clech at 21 rue Chateaubriant, Brest) but only stayed overnight before Mme de la Marnierre returned him (at least) to the colonel's house.
Harold Nielsen and Thomas Adams describe how they and Lionel Drew, having arrived in Brest on 21 October and stayed overnight at the Scheidhauer home at 3 rue Neptune, were then moved to 17 rue Voltaire with the de la Marnierre family. Two weeks later, they left for Landerneau and on to Ile-Guennoc, where they were supposed to contact a “British boating party”. They were in a group of about twenty French and Americans, remaining on the island for five days without any form of shelter, and food for one day only, until Mme de la Marnierre “heard of our position and made arrangements to bring us back to Lanillis where we stayed in her chateau for the night”. The following day, they and Drew were returned to the de la Marnierre home but “there was so much talk amongst the inhabitants .. that after four days we had to leave, and were moved to a restaurant”. The restaurant was the “Au Bon Goutier” at 56 rue Jean Macé, owned by Mlle Marie-Anne Piriou (born 1897) and run by her and her sister Marie. Mme de la Marnierre says that she brought them back eight days later, along with Clark and Bronner, who had been sheltered by M. Allanic [the pharmacist (aka Le Renard) of place Wilson who had driven them back from the island in his truck] .
Duane Lawhead says that they expected to leave on 31 October but that was called off. Five of them (presume Lawhead, Wilson, Nielsen, Adams and Drew) had been moved to Landerneau (meeting Harold Thompson and Henry Rowland (fresh off the train) there), where they spent the night. Next morning, they were taken by truck to somewhere near the island of Guennoc before returning to Brest five days later. Lawhead was taken back to the Salaun family, where he was sheltered until 20 November, when he moved to a M. Deleason (nf) in Brest, until 24 November, before returning to Salaun. On 30 November, the colonel took him back to his house, where he “joined Brooke and boys” .
Harold Thompson says that when they were finally taken off the island, they went to a farmhouse [this was Guillaume Le Guen's farm, Prad-Ar-Lann at Landéda], before being taken by car to the Château de Kerouartz. They met Mme de la Marnierre and three of her daughters, who set up a big meal for all nineteen of them, and they spent the night at the château. Next day, Thompson (and five others) were taken by car to Brest, where Thompson stayed with a Mme Jouetre and her two small children until 12 November, when Mme de la Marnierre took him to the colonel's home, where he joined Raymond Bye, William Dunning and James Wilson.
By the end of November, the twelve evaders involved in the first Envious operation - Harold Nielsen, Thomas Adams, Lionel Drew, Duane Lawhead, James Wilson, William Dunning, Vernon Clark, Charles Bronner, Merle Woodside, Raymond Bye, Harold Thompson and Henry Rowland, had been joined by Walter Hargrove, William Rice, Russell Brooke, Floyd Carl, Merl Martin, Allen Priebe, Clayton Burdick, Joseph Quirk and Herman Schafer.
Walter Hargrove and William Rice had stayed on in Quimper after Paul Le Baron took Lawhead and Wilson to Brest on 23 October. They were sheltered with a shoemaker for five days until Pierre Philippon's aunt, Genevieve Philippon (of 69 rue de Douarnenez) took them about 4 kms outside Quimper, to a large chateau owned by a Mrs J P Hodges (of 942 Lexington Avenue, NYC). Mrs Hodges' sister, Marguerite Fayou at the Manoir de Ker'Yen, was head of the house, and they stayed with her mother, brother, sister-in-law and child. Rice says that he and Hargrove stayed at the chateau for a little over a month before being taken by train to Brest “on the 10th” (although this date is wrong). They were supposed to leave that night but a message was received to cancel that, and they were taken to Colonel Scheidhauer's house.
Hargrove says that he and Rice stayed at the chateau from 1 November until 5 December (which also has to be wrong) when “Pierre the fisherman” took them back into Quimper. Pierre turned them over to Paul Le Baron, who took them, along with Merl Martin and Allen Priebe, by train to Brest and Colonel Scheidhauer – Hargrove adding a note to his report saying that he met Maho (Pierre Hentic) there. They stayed with the colonel for two days before being taken by cattle truck to Lanillis.
2/Lt Russell M Brooke (#241) from San Francisco, California was the 25-year-old co-pilot of 305BG/366BS B-17 41-24591 Rigor Mortis (Halliday) which was returning from Stuttgart on 6 September 1943. As already mentioned, Brooke evaded with tail-gunner Duane Lawhead (#245) until the two men became separated at Douarnenez on 30 October.
S/Sgt Floyd M Carl (#246), from Mount Jewett, Pennsylvania, was the 20-year-old ball-turret gunner of 92BG/ 327BS B-17 42-30000 (Bogard) which was returning from Stuttgart on 6 September 1943 when it was attacked by fighters and abandoned west of Troyes. Carl landed about a quarter of a mile south of Estissac, some twenty kms west of Troyes, and a few moments later, was joined by his right waist-gunner, S/Sgt Herschell L Richardson (#176). The two men evaded together until 1 October, when they were separated at Vannes - Carl (along with Merl Martin and Allen Priebe) being taken to stay with Mme De La Ray at rue Alain Legrand, and Richardson with Jean Allaniou before his departure for Camaret, and the Suzanne-Renée.
T/Sgt Merl Eugene Martin (#294) from Rockville, Indiana, was the 21-year-old top-turret gunner, and T/Sgt Allen Joe Priebe (#295) from Milwalkee, Winsconsin the 22-year-old radio operator of 388BG/563BS B-17 42- 30222 Lone Wolf (Swap) which was returning from Stuttgart on 6 September 1943 and north-east of Troyes when they were shot down by fighters. The two men evaded together, being joined by Floyd Carl and Russell Brooke in Paris. In Vannes, Brooke was sheltered with Dr Joseph Marie Audic but rejoined Martin, Priebe and Carl on the train to Quimper, before Pierre Philippon took all four airmen to Douarnenez, where they were sheltered by Marcel Laurent and Marguerite Seznec at 3 rue Emile Zola.
Russell Brooke describes how he, Floyd Carl, Merle Martin and Allen Priebe spent three weeks at 3 rue Emile Zola in Douarnenez, all four men in one room, until 30 October, when the Gestapo (sic) caught two of Marcel Laurent's friends, who were working for another organisation, and Brooke and Carl were driven to Plomodiern. They were taken to the home of Mme Marguerite Vourc'h (born June 1893), mother of Yves Vourc'h, who gave them dinner. That same day, they were visited by Pierre Philippon, and he and Doctor Jean Vourc'h took Brooke and Carl back to Quimper, where they stayed at Pierre's house at La Roseraire, rue de Kerlerec. They stayed with Pierre Philippon for three weeks, Brooke commenting that Walter Hargrove and William Rice, having missed the boat from Camaret, were living near them. During the fourth week, Brooke says that they went into the country and stayed with a lawyer named Jean Baneau (query spelling).
On 27 November, they left “Jean B” for Quimper – a lady had come with a letter from Lionel Drew, and she said they were going to Brest and be taken out by boat. In Quimper, Brooke and Carl again stayed with Pierre Philippon, and on 29 November, Mme Joe (Ghislaine Niox) took them to Brest, and a house where they met Harold Thompson, James Wilson, Raymond Bye and William Dunning. Brooke says they should have left earlier but on 1 December, they were taken by truck (23 aviators and 12 Frenchmen), Paul Le Baron and Pierre Philippon (who seemed to be head of the organisation after Raoul) to Lannilis.
Allen Priebe says that he and Merl Martin stayed on at Douarnenez with Marcel Laurent and Marguerite Seznec (where Claude Hernandez, often came to see them), until 20 (sic) November, when Paul (Le Baron) took them by train to Quimper. They were joined at Quimper by Pierre Philippon before taking a train for Brest, along with William Rice and Walter Hargrove. The four Americans were taken to Colonel Scheidhauer's home on rue Neptune, where they stayed for two days before making their first attempt to leave by boat - Operation Envious II(b) the night of 1-2 December.
T/Sgt Clayton H Burdick (#240) from Racine, Winsconsin, was the 24-year-old radio operator and top-turret gunner of 386BG/554BS B-26 41-34971 Pay Off (Caldwell), which was returning from the Luftwaffe fighter base at Beaumont-le-Roger on the afternoon of 22 August 1943 when they were attacked by fighters. With the left fuel tank hit, and the bomb bay *a mass of flames”, the order to bail out was given, and the aircraft abandoned – Burdick says that shortly after he jumped, the aircraft exploded and broke into two pieces.
Burdick landed near a small village, and after burying his parachute, ran for about two miles to a farmhouse he had seen during his descent. He waited until dark before approaching the house, where he was taken in and given a meal. Before he could even start eating, two Frenchmen arrived with civilian clothes, and as soon as Burdick had changed into them, rushed him off to a “place where his journey was arranged”. The only other succesfull evader from Pay Off was co-pilot 2/Lt Andrew G Lindsay (#389) who says that he landed north of Bernay (Eure), and as he was soon helped by Marie-Madeleine Hamidou from Malleville-sur-le-Bec, it seems reasonable to suppose that both men landed somewhere near there.
Burdick came down near a farmhouse, where he found a lady and two small children. He declared himself as an American, and she gave him some food but five minutes later, two Frenchmen arrived on bicycles. Neither man spoke any English but they took Burdick to another farmhouse, where he stayed the night with a man, his wife and two teenage sons, aged about 16 and 18. Next morning, the man and his elder son took Burdick by train for Rouen, getting off at a small town shortly before the city. He was taken to an apartment, where he was given a suit of clothes, and stayed the night with someone called Guy, aged about 32, and his younger brother Roger (21). The following day, he was taken by train to Harfleur, where Mme Carmen Lopez (of Quai Prosper Godefroy) and her 19-year-old son Raymond sheltered him for the next two and half months.
His report is very hard to understand but I think that he was taken to Paris on about 5 November, where he stayed with an English officer he calls Claude, and the people that Claude was staying with. On 8 November, Burdick was taken to Rennes, and an apartment a few blocks from the station where he was told about a boat. Next morning, he was moved to another address, where he stayed for about ten days until someone called Paul arrived, who told him he would be moving again. A guide, aged about 24, seems to have taken him by truck to Montfort (Ille-et-Villaine), and then by train to another town that Burdick couldn't identify, where he stayed at the guide's house with his father, mother and their three other sons. He also mentions the middle son (aged about 21) bringing two young Frenchmen who were also hoping to go to England.
Burdick's report doesn't seem to make sense at this point – Paul coming to the house and them listening to the radio waiting for a message, which they finally heard on 26 November, at which point one of the sons took Burdick to a beach – this would have been the night of Operation Envious II(a) – see later. They must have returned to the house, because on the Tuesday (sic) night (Wednesday 1 December) Burdick says they heard another BBC message to say the boat was coming back, and they returned to the beach, where Burdick and four (sic) others were picked up by boat, and taken out to a larger boat.
Two men from the Liberator
Sgt Joseph Francis Quirk (#247) from Collingdale, Pennsylvania, was the 23-year-old tail gunner of B-24 42-7640 (446BG/707BS) (Fowlkes) on a flight which took off from Marakesh at 0100 hrs on 17 November 1943. They were bound for England in a brand new aeroplane, with four military passengers (one lieutenant and three sergeants) on board.
About half an hour into the flight, they started having trouble with their radio, and were considering turning back but then the pilot decided to carry on, and Quirk was later told by the navigator (Herman Shafer - see below) that they were following the coastline. Quirk comments that they were accompanied part of the way by two brightly illuminated aircraft – I am guessing that these were civilian flights from Lisbon, lit up so as not to be confused with military aircraft that were liable to be attacked by German fighters based in France .
Despite trying (and generally failing) to get radio fixes for their position, when they began passing over the Brest peninsula at low altitude, they assumed this was south-west England, and began circling. They only realised their error when they came under heavy anti-aircraft fire from the defences around Brest but by then they had been hit several times, and the aircraft was abandoned.
There doesn't sem to have been much order in the aircraft, and Quirk simply says that “a man in a helmet told us to open the latch on the rear escape hatch and go out”, and he followed two other men out at about 2,000 feet, landing in a field with the wind knocked out of him. He could still see the aircraft circling above him with two propellers feathered and being hit by flak before disappearing into cloud with other aircraft that he couldn't identify following it. He thought that he had landed in England and says that he couldn't figure out what the firing was about or what the “English” fighters were doing.
Quirk gathered up his parachute and walked to a nearby farmhouse to ask the occupants where he was but found their accents “awfully thick” and couldn't understand anything they said. It was only after a similar experience with an elderly man, whose wife and daughter then told him that he was near Brest, that he realised why their aircraft had been fired upon. Having now accepted that he was in enemy territory, he followed the man's instructions to hide his parachute and Mae West before heading off for cover. He soon came to a farm where a man and woman beckoned him over and gave him some still warm bread and butter wrapped in brown paper. The farmer then led him up a nearby hill, and Quirk hid himself in some bushes. That evening, Quirk set off to try and find someone to help him, approaching a farm but being sent away before settling down for the night in some undergrowth. Next day, he was found by two men who took him to another hiding place and brought him food, and from there his journey was arranged.
Quirk was taken to a house in Lannilis and sheltered with Louis Bodiger at Venelle, 3 rue Neuve where he stayed overnight and was given a complete new set of clothes. His report is almost impossible to read but quite soon Quirk was taken into Brest, where the de la Marnierre family gave him a meal. That afternoon, Paul Le Baron moved him to the Scheidhauer home at rue Neptune, where he met other evading airmen, and that evening (I think) to another house. He mentions Mlle Rose (Mlle Andrée Virot (born February 1905), named by Hentic as one of the principle logeurs in Brest), and going to Jeanne Callarec's house where he joined the navigator from his aircraft, Herman Shafer, and Merle Woodside, and seems to have stayed there for the last four or five days of his time in Brest. Pierre Hentic says that Quirk was “found and transported from refuge to refuge as far as Lannilis, staying with Louis Jestin, Amédée Rolland and Louis Bodiger before finally meeting his comrade Schaffer (sic), who was being sheltered by schoolteacher Madame Callarec.”
2/Lt Herman A Shafer Jnr (#291) from Bridgeport, Ohio, was the 27-year-old navigator of B-24 42-7640, and he says that everyone was gathered ready to jump except the pilot (2/Lt Samuel E Fowlkes) and when he asked Fowlkes if he was going out, he said yes and indicated that Shafer should leave, which he did, through the bomb-bay at about 2,000 feet.
He doesn't say where he landed, only that it was near a farmhouse, where he received a cold reception from the occupants. He then tried another farm, about a quarter of a mile away, where he found a group of people who greeted him “warmly” and took him into the house for some food. The farmer then went and brought a young man (aged about 22) to the house, who arranged Shafer's journey.
That evening, after dark, the young man and a girl aged about 18, took Shafer about a mile and a half to another farmhouse, where I think that Shafer spent the night in their barn. Shafer's report is very hard to read at this point but next day, he seems to have decided to head for Brest. He was following the road through Bourg-Blanc when he was picked up by a man in a car who took him to a small garage in the city. He was told to wait, and ten or fifteen minutes later, two teenage girls, Monique (blonde) and Maryse (brunette) de la Marnierre, took him to their apartment. At the de la Marnierre home on rue Traverse, Shafer met Mme Yvonne de la Marnierre, evaders Lionel Drew, Harold Nielson and Thomas Adams, and Christiane Magne. After Shafer had bathed and changed clothes, Christiane took him her father's home on rue Neptune where he met Colonel William and Mme Jeanne Scheidhauer, Kenneth Bye and William Dunning. From rue Neptune, he was taken to be sheltered by Mme Jeanne Callarec on rue Victor Hugo, where he joined Merle Woodside.
Operation Envious II(a) the night of 26-27 November 1943
There had been no reply from Brittany to radio messages sent to confirm the operation but Envious II(a) was carried out anyway, by the same gunboat and crew as the first operation. They made their way to Ile-Guennoc under a heavily overcast sky with low cloud and intermittent drizzle, and sent their boats (loaded with supplies) away at midnight. Uhr-Henry returned at 0115, reporting there was no-one on Ile-Guennoc, and with the dinghies back on board, MGB 318 weighed anchor and made her way to Rosservor. They finally anchored off Rosservor at 0222, by which time the rain had become continuous, reducing visibilty dramatically, and there was a heavy swell. The dinghy set off to land a cheerful but rather seasick Pierre Hentic (who was no sailor) on the mainland, and he was duly put ashore (deliberately leaving behind the cumbersome rubber boat he had planned to use later) at Ile-du-Bec, which is joined to the mainland at low tide.
Operation Envious II(b) the night of 1-2 December 1943
“A further attempt to evacuate the airmen and accumulated mail from Jade-Fitzroy was due to take place five nights later, with the pick-up point in Ile-Guennoc. However, Job Mouden, who had been involved in Envious I, persuaded Maho that it would be better on this occasion to concentrate them on Ile-Tariec, which could be reached on foot at low water. Since Maho knew that the gunboat would be expecting them on Guennoc, 600 metres offshore, he got Mouden to land and hide a Folboat collapsible canoe on Tariec which had been among the stores that Uhr-Henry had placed on Guennoc when Maho returned from England via Ile-du-Bec on 27 November. Maho planned to paddle himself to Guennoc and warn the gunboat of the changed rendezvous.
In fact two gunboats were engaged in Envious II(b); DDOD(I) had decided that in view of the number of evaders awaiting evacuation, 318 should be joined by a sister ship, MGB 329, which he had borrowed from Coastal Forces for this one job.
The weather reports were promising, and the receipt of Maho's signal confirming the men were on the island set hopes running high. By the time they were half-way to Brittany, the wind had increased to Force 5 but it was from the south-west, which would offer the prospect of working in the shelter of a weather shore. MGB 318 set course down the Aber-Benoit channel at about midnight, lowering her praam dinghies and trailing them astern. They suddenly spotted 329 heading in to the Grande-Fourche rocks, which was stopped by an S-phone message, and their sister ship then followed them to the anchorage. There was a delay when 318 found she was dragging her anchor but the dinghies finally left at 0225, with Uhr-Henry and two ratings in the first and Sub Lt Pollard, first lieutenant of 318 in the second, also with two, The third boat was crewed by the coxwain of 329 with two ratings, and between them, they carried stores and and one S-phone.
Maho's plan of paddling to Guennoc and redirecting the boat crews to Tariec failed when he set off late, and then, having no experience of small boats, got hopelessly lost for an hour before spotting a red light flashing from Tariec, and so returned there. Meanwhile, Uhr-Henry, having landed on Guennoc, reported back to the gunboat by S-phone that there was no-one on the island, but at 0130, reported he could see a red flashing light from Tariec, and was ordered to investigate. At 0155, Uhr-Henry reported that there were 20 people to be embarked, and that he was unloading stores. At 0220, Uhr-Henry reported that they were leaving, with all the passengers, and then closed down.
The sea was getting worse by the minute, and with no sign of the returning boats, at 0428, Davis decided they had waited long enough, and that the dinghies were probably sheltering at Guennoc. At this point, one dinghy was spotted astern of 318, making very little progress against the heavy seas, and MGB 318 cut her anchor and went to their assistance. It took a massive effort, with all hands dragging the men out and finally hoisting the sinking praam dinghy on board as they drifted towards the reefs, before MGB 318 finally got under way at 0440, and instructed 329 to follow.” (Lightly edited extracts from Secret Flotillas, pages 191 to 194)
Hentic confirms the arrangements agreed with London, and says that Jacques (Jean Bougier) had moved into Amédée Rolland's attic with his radio, and that the airmen had been brought to Lannilis, Tréglonou and Landéda, close to the embarkation point. Then they learnt that the Germans would be testing their coastal artillery that day, which meant the fishermen would not be able to drop the airmen at Ile-Guénioc. However, they had considered that possibility, and Job Mouden had made plans to walk the airmen from Pointe Sainte Marguerite to Ile-Tariec at low tide. The idea then was to signal to the boats crews when they landed on Guennoc, and just to make sure, Hentic would paddle to Guennoc and meet the boats himself.
In the event, Hentc found paddling what he calls it the kayak, beyond his skills, and after getting himself completely lost in the total darknes and confusing tides, was only saved when the air defences at Brest lit up the night sky and gave him some idea of where he was, at which point he returned to Tariec.
“At 2300 hrs on 30 Nov 43 (sic) the two M.G.B.'s 318 and 329 anchored off the island of GUENNOC. Three small boats were sent away to pick up a party of evaders on the island. The evaders were not contacted here, but a light was seen flashing from TARIEC island, about 2 miles to the East. The boats made for the island and took aboard a party of about 25 evaders, and made to return to the M.G.B.'s.
In the meantime a head wind and sea had got up, and only one boat arrived back to the M.G.B.'s. The boat with Sub.Lt POLLARD on board made for the leaward side of GUENNOC where he landed about 0500 hrs on 1 Dec 43 (sic). POLLARD crossed the island to try and contact the M.G.B.'s. He made signals but these were not answered. The M.G.B.'s were just getting under way.
POLLARD then took his small boat back to TARIEC, but fetched up on a sandbank to the East of the island. Here they stayed till 1000 hours when PIEROT, who was in this boat, contacted local fishermen. The party was taken ashore to a farm, where they met the other boat's crew who had been taken there by a Frenchman from the shore. The party now consisted of six boats crew and about eighteen Air Force personnel.
Through PIEROT a lorry was arranged to pick up the whole party at a point 2 miles East of LANDEDA at 2000 hrs the next day (3 Dec). The lorry took them to LANNILIS where POLLARD, BARTLEY, SANDERS and some of the Air Force personnel stayed at a small garage for half an hour, then were taken to LANDERNEAU. Here they stayed with M. LE GALL till Christmas Eve, with the exception of Sub.Lieut. POLLARD and Sgt.Pilot ADAMS (S/P.G.(-)1650), who were taken to PARIS with a view to returning to the U.K. by air. This did not materialise and they returned to LANDERNEAU on 23 Dec with a new guide (name not known) also an English agent PHILLIP. In PARIS the party stayed with Mme. MORY, 175 Avenue St. ANTOINE.
The other party in the lorry with COLES, WILLIAMS and SHEPHERD continued on 3 Dec to the factory district of BREST, where they were put up by COL. WILLIAMS for two nights, and for the remainder of the time with M. CARRARC and DR. DELOMIERE.” (Appx C SPG 1651-1656)
The “English agent Phillip” was was Jade-Amical agent Philip Keun . He had an English father and French mother, went to school in England and college in France, and held dual nationality.
The one surf-boat that made it back to MGB 318 (Lt Uhr-Henry RANVR and two ratings) on the morning of Thursday 2 December, had eight American evaders on board - Clayton Burdick, Russell Brooke, Harold Thompson, Henry Rowland, Merle Woodside, Duane Lawhead, Floyd Carl and Joseph Quirk. The other two boats crews, six men in all, were left behind, and they joined the remaining thirteen aircrew, who returned to be sheltered once more by their helpers in and around Brest.
A (not entirely accurate) summary in the de la Marnierre file at NARA says “At eleven o'clock at night, eleven boys appeared plus two English sailors. Drew, Clark, Bronner and the 2 Englishmen stayed here whilst the rest were again distributed. On 18 December, Hargove and Wilson joined the party, and the seven stayed until 25 December when the doctor drove them to the boat in the ambulance.”
Harold Nielson and Thomas Adams report that after they were forced to return to Guennoc (their party being themselves and five Americans), they stayed for another two days before managing to return to the mainland. They then “sought shelter once more with Mme de la Marnierre”.
On about 10 December, Pierre Tissier (Pierrot) took Adams and Michael Pollard (from MGB 318) to Paris, where Pollard and Pierrot stayed with Mme Céline Mory (at 175 Saint Antoine, Paris IV – query), and Adams “elsewhere”, hoping to have them flown to the UK by Lysander but bad weather forced the plan to be abandoned, and they returned to Landerneau on about 22 December. Meanwhile, Nielsen had “remained in Brest with a party of fifteen Americans and British personnel”.
Herman Shafer also went to the de la Marnierre apartment, before being sent to Mme Callarec at 82 bis rue Victor Hugo, where he joined William Rice. Two days later, Rice was moved to 56 rue Jean Macé where he says that he was sheltered by Mme Bizien. This was one of the names used by Ghislaine Niox, and the address at rue Jean Macé was the restarant “Au Bon Goutier”, where Mme Niox worked .
Raymond Bye, James Wilson, Walter Hargrove, Merl Martin, Allen Preibe and William Dunning were taken to Colonel Scheidhauer's home on rue Neptune. There was a “Gestapo scare” on 19 December, and Bye and Dunning were moved to Mme Callarec, Wilson and Hargrove to Mme de la Marnierre, and Martin and Priebe to Mlle Piriou (Preibe says Mme Bizien) at rue Jean Macé.
The three RN sailors from MGB 329, PO James Cole (1654), AB Victor Williams (1655) and AB Desmond E J Shepherd (1656), were also taken to the colonel's house on rue Neptune but left after two days to be sheltered with Mme Callarec on rue Victor Hugo. The three sailors from MGB 318, Michael Pollard , AB Roger Bartley (1652) and AB Clancy John Crawford Sanders (1653), stayed (as already mentioned) at Landerneau where (I think) they were sheltered by René Louis Le Gall (born Dec 1900).
Operation Felicitate II(a) the night of 24-25 December 1943
“On 24 Dec Sub.Lieut. POLLARD with his party left LANDERNEAU at 1730 hrs by lorry, and alighted some distance from the farm where they had originally landed. From here they crossed to TARIEC where R/T contact was made with M.G.B. 318, but the sea was too rough to take them off.
The party returned to the mainland, were picked up by lorry, and lodged at various houses in LANNILIS for the night.” (Appx C SPG 1651-1656)
Richards says they had been hoping to carry out the operation on the evening of 22 December, and had received a radio message from Michael Pollard saying there were twenty-four people to collect. However the weather conditions forced them to postpone until the following day.
MGB 318 set off from Falmouth at four o'clock in the afternoon of 23 December, and despite a very slow crossing in a heavy westerly swell, finally anchored off Ile-Guennoc at 0050 hrs. They used their walkie-talkie radios to establish contact with Pollard on Ile-Guennoc, Uhr-Henry on the sweep oar of the first PD1 praam and four men rowing, with a second praam dinghy in tow, duly sent off for the island. The gunboat kept in touch with the island but nothing was heard from the surf boats until Uhr-Henry called at 0420 hrs to report they couldn't make any headway against the combination of wind, swell and tide, and McQuoid Mason ordered him to slip, and ideally sink, the second praam, and return to the MGB. With the PD1 and crew safely back on board, MGB 318 was underway at 0445 hrs for the long and slow return to Cornwall.
Operation Felicitate II(b) the night of 25-26 December 1943
Following the failure of Operation Felicitate II(a), Hentic sent an urgent message to London requesting a new operation be mounted as quickly as possible before the moon period ended. He says that he received an instant answer; a new operation would launched on Christmas Day.
Then a new and unexpected problem arose. The airmen had been returned to be sheltered in Brest but then the Germans had banned all traffic on the roads for Christmas Day. There was however a provision for emergency relief services, and it was Roger de la Marnierre who telephoned Red Cross ambulance driver, Maguy Mestre. Her only condition for helping was that she would leave for England as well, and with that agreed, she arrived at rue de Traverse in her ambulance within minutes.
“The next evening they again made their way to TARIEC arriving there at about 2230 hrs when they met the other party from BREST who had been brought to the farm by a Red Cross van.
Contact was made with M.G.B. 318 by R/T at about 2330 hrs. Two small boats [a 20 foot boat borrowed from the SOE base at Helford, complete with four-man crew, along with Uhr-Henry in 318's surf boat] came ashore and embarked the evaders from the island soon after midnight. Five members of the organisation were left on TARIEC, the evaders numbered about 25.
M.G.B. 318 got under way at 0230 hrs on 26 Dec arriving Helford 2230 hrs (sic) 26 Dec.” (Appx C SPG 1651-1656)
Others taken off that night included Pierre Tissier (Pierrot), Eugene Lorion (Jeannot), Pierre Jeanson (Sarrol), Philip Keun (Amicol), Ghislaine Niox, and Marcel Jaffrot (from Brittany).
Following Operation Felicitate II(b), Pierre Hentic travelled to Paris, and was arrested there on 6 January 1944. He was liberated from Dachau on 10 May 1945. SIS officer Tom Greene says of Pierre Hentic (in a letter dd 1 September 1945 to MI9 boss Norman Crockatt) “that of all the agents I have come into contact with during this war, none ran more risks, had more successes, was more honest, and certainly less assuming, than Hentic.”
 
My apologies for not giving more information about the helpers in Brest but some details are included in my book “Express Delivery”, about the Shelburn escape line, where the Scheidhauer and de la Marnierre families, along with Jeanne Callarec and the teenage Paul Le Baron, played such major roles. Much more information is available from Roger Huguen's 1976 book “Par les nuits les plus longues”. Special thanks to Fred Greyer for sharing some of his intimate knowledge of the Possum escape line .