Operation Jericho: RAF breach Amiens prison walls

 Here, Mosquitos of No. 487 Squadron RNZAF clear the target at low level as the first 500-lb bombs to be dropped detonate near the south wall of the prison.

Here, Mosquitos of No. 487 Squadron RNZAF clear the target at low level as the first 500-lb bombs to be dropped detonate near the south wall of the prison.

FEBRUARY 18th, 1944
EMERGENCY FORM “B” (Copy)
HNO T 140 A/F
UGI T 11 GROUP
V GPB GPB 5/18 ‘O’ FORM ‘B’

FROM 2 GROUP 180940A
TO 140 WING/AIRFIELD
INFO 11 GROUP, HQ T A F MAIN, HQ A D G B, HQ A E A F
SECRET QQX BT

AO,241 18th Feb.
Information: Mosquitos of 140 Airfield are to attack the prison at AMIENS in an attempt to assist 120 prisoners to escape. These prisoners are French patriots condemned to death for assisting the Allies. This air attack is only part of the plan as other assistance will be at hand at the time.
Date and Time: 18th February, 1944.
Zero 1200 hours.
Route: Base – LITTLEHAMPTON – Via appropriate lattice to TOCQUEVILLE – SENARPONT – BOURDON – One mile South DOULLENS – BOUZINCOURT – 2 miles west south west ALBERT – Target – Turn right – ST. SAVEUR – SENARPONT – TOCQUEVILLE – HASTINGS – Base.
Bomb Load: 2 x 500lb M C Mk.IV fused T.D. 11 secs.
2 x 500lb S A P fused T.D. 11 secs.

Method of Attack: All aircraft to attack at low level.

1st Attack: Six Mosquitos as detailed by O.C. 140 Airfield.
Intention: To break the outer wall in at least two places.
Method: Leading three aircraft to attack eastern wall using main road as lead in. Second section of three aircraft when ten miles from target will break away to the right at sufficient height to allow them to watch leading three aircraft and then attack northern wall on a North-South run, immediately following the explosion of the bombs of the leading section.
Timing: Attacks to be made at Zero hours.

2nd Attack: Six Mosquitos as detailed by O.C. 140 Airfield.
Intention: To bomb the main prison buildings.
Method: Leading three aircraft to attack south eastern end of main building and second section of three aircraft to attack the north western end of building. Attacks to be carried out in a similar manner to first attack above.
Timing: Attack to be made at Zero plus 3 mins.

3rd Attack: Six Mosquitos as detailed by O.C. 140 Airfield.
Intention: This force is a reserve, and will approach the target as in the previous two attacks, one section from east and one from north, but will only bomb if it is seen that one of the previous attacks has failed.
Method: As in 1st attack. Target will be decided by leader on approach.
Timing: Attack to be made at Zero plus 13 mins.

Fighter Support: Each formation of six Mosquitos will have one squadron of Typhoons as close escort. Fighters will rendezvous with Mosquitos as follows:-
1st Attack: 1 mile east of LITTLEHAMPTON at Zero minus 45 mins.
2nd Attack: 1 mile west of LITTLEHAMPTON at Zero minus 42 mins.
3rd Attack: LITTLEHAMPTON at Zero minus 32 mins.

Signals:
1st Attack: Bomber call sign: D Y P E G.
Ground control call sign: A I L S O M E on 2 Group guard 1.
Bomber leader may call escort direct in emergency on 11 Group guard 1.
2nd Attack: Bomber call sign: C A N O N.
Ground control call sign: B E L L F I E L D on 2 Group guard 1.
Bomber leader may call escort direct in emergency on 11 Group guard 1.
3rd Attack: Bomber call sign: B U C K S H O T.
Ground control call sign: G R E E N S H I P on 2 Group guard 1.
Bomber leader may call escort direct in emergency on 11 Group guard 1.
Fighter call sign: D U N L O P.
General: Emergency homing to FRISTON on 2 Group guard.
A.S.R. on 2 Group guard.
Special V.H.F. codeword: RENOVATE.
Notes: (1) Following each attack sections of three aircraft of each formation are to endeavour to regain close company as soon as possible.
BT 180940A.
XS
BARON AS FOR K WITH R +

On the 18th February the RAF conducted one of their most successful low level raids, freeing large numbers of the French Resistance with their raid on Amiens Prison.

Contemporary newsreel explaining the raid:

This was the last flight of a man who had become very well known during the war years. Wing Commander Percy ‘Pick’ Pickard, who had come to public notice after featuring in the 1941 documentary film ‘Target for Tonight’. His record stretched back to the early years of the war, when he had fought in Norway and over France. He had earned a DSO for his role in the Bruneval Raid in 1942. Unfortunately his luck ran out on this most notable, and successful, raid. As he was leading the raid Pickard spent more time over the target than any other aircraft. After the bombing he waited for the smoke to clear before he could see prisoners escaping from the prison. His last words were to announce the code words for success “Red Daddy, Red Daddy” – he was then attacked by two FW190 fighters, evading them for a while before his tail was blown off and the plane crashed, killing Pickard and his operator. His old school Framlingham has an extended tribute to him with more details of his service.

Today there is speculation that this raid was part of the “Fortitude” deception plans for D-Day, see the Times 18th February 2014.

The strain of command and operational flying is apparent on the faces of Group Captain Percy Pickard DSO and Bar, DFC (left), Squadron Leader William Blessing DSO, DFC, RAAF, and Group Captain Geoffrey Leonard Cheshire DSO and Bar, DFC, at an investiture at Buckingham Palace, 28 July 1943.

The strain of command and operational flying is apparent on the faces of Group Captain Percy Pickard DSO and Bar, DFC (left), Squadron Leader William Blessing DSO, DFC, RAAF, and Group Captain Geoffrey Leonard Cheshire DSO and Bar, DFC, at an investiture at Buckingham Palace, 28 July 1943.

Amiens Jail, France on 18 February 1944. Shown here is the 12 foot wide breach in the south side of the prison's outer wall, through which 258 prisoners escaped.

Amiens Jail, France on 18 February 1944. Shown here is the 12 foot wide breach in the south side of the prison’s outer wall, through which 258 prisoners escaped.

Part of a vertical photographic-reconnaissance aerial showing the damage to the jail at Amiens, France, following the daylight raid by De Havilland Mosquito FB Mark VIs of No. 140 Airfield, No. 2 Group, 2nd Tactical Air Force, on 18 February 1944, (Operation JERICHO).

Part of a vertical photographic-reconnaissance aerial showing the damage to the jail at Amiens, France, following the daylight raid by De Havilland Mosquito FB Mark VIs of No. 140 Airfield, No. 2 Group, 2nd Tactical Air Force, on 18 February 1944, (Operation JERICHO).

Wing Commander I S Smith, Commanding Officer of No. 487 Squadron RNZAF, at Hunsdon, Hertfordshire. Wing Commander Smith led the Squadron on a number of notable raids, including the attack on Amiens Prison on 18 February 1944.

Wing Commander I S Smith, Commanding Officer of No. 487 Squadron RNZAF, at Hunsdon, Hertfordshire. Wing Commander Smith led the Squadron on a number of notable raids, including the attack on Amiens Prison on 18 February 1944.

 Low-level oblique photographic-reconnaissance aerial taken two days after the raid, showing the damaged prison from the north, and with the breach blown in the north wall visible in the right foreground.

Low-level oblique photographic-reconnaissance aerial taken two days after the raid, showing the damaged prison from the north, and with the breach blown in the north wall visible in the right foreground.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Morten February 18, 2014 at 2:56 pm

I doubt it was any kind of deception effort. RAF did the same thing twice here in Denmark (Operation Carthage, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Carthage , had much the same goal) and there has been some discussion of these raids. The general consensus I think is that sensitive prisoners would either be free or dead after such a raid, both cases being considered an improvement. Harsh, but such is war…

Editor February 18, 2014 at 2:13 pm

Erik

I have added some details.

Martin

Erik February 18, 2014 at 10:27 am

“Unfortunately his luck ran out on this most notable, and successful, raid.” So, what happened?

Nigel Thomas February 18, 2014 at 9:02 am

Today’s (London) Times reports (http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/defence/article4008578.ece?CMP=OTH-gnws-standard-2014_02_17 – subscription) that this raid was really part of the deception plan to convince the Germans that the invasion would be in the Pas-de-Calais. The claim is made in book The Amiens Raid Secrets Revealed by Jean-Pierre Ducellier published by Red Kite.

Interesting theory…

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Earlier in the war:

Later in the war: