BULBASKET

12 June -July 1944

          On June 12 at 0230 hrs No.3 Patrol SAS Phantom was dropped over the area BULBASKET at 600 feet and 240 miles from the Beachhead.

          The pilot had located the reception committee’s fires and had then lost them again owing to patches of low cloud which covered the target area. Our orders were to drop so after 20 mins searching of the area, the pilot chose what looked like a good DZ and out we went.

          The stick dropping consisted of 1 Officer, 1 Sgt, 3 Cpls and 6 O.Rs. Before leaving the airfield I had decided to have two sticks and two run-ins over the DZ but this was changed to one stick of of 11 stick over the Target Area, U.986412.

          On arrival on the ground I hid my parachute, steel helmet, jumping jacket and kit bag in the hedge and started to look for my stick. After half an hour I found Nos. 2 and 3 but was unable to find any of the rest of the stick. Both were unhurt so we collected our ruc-sacs and started off in a Westerly direction to find cover. We marched for over an hour and when dawn began to break we found ourselves on the edge of a cornfield, just beside a road junction which luckily had two sign posts so that I was able to find myself on the map. We took cover in the cornfield, Q.005395, ate some chocolate and I wrote message to send off by the pigeon which my No.3 was carrying. The message being duly written and attached to the pigeon’s leg, I launched the pigeon with perhaps more force than skill, for it circled us twice and made straight for the nearest big tree 50 yards where it alighted. I believe it may still be there.

          We then collected our packs and pushed on across country to a small river where I found a ruined mill behind which we spent the day, Q.030391. As no one came near us I decided during the afternoon to go up to the nearest farm (¾ mile away) which I had been watching through glasses, and ask if they would help. I contacted the cowman who was very valuable. He told me there were no Germans in the neighbourhood and offered to get his ‘Patron’ to bring us food. This they did. They also told me that they were getting in touch with the local Maquis for us.

          At 2200 hrs after much hand-shaking an elderly woman appeared who said that if we followed here we would be led to where the rest of the ‘parachutists’ were hiding. She took us a mile across the fields and crossing over a weir we were handed over to two men who were to be our guides. These two took us back to where our ‘chutes were hidden. Wanted to do this first to prove that we were bona fide paratroops and secondly to make sure that the ‘chutes were properly hidden. After a long march by small paths and side roads we eventually arrived at the farm, at 0330 hrs, where I found the rest of my stick under Sgt ECCLES, Q.019434. He was very relieved to see us. Sgt ECCLES 1st SAS is to be very highly recommended on the initiative he showed in organising search parties and himself going out in civilian clothes with the local Maquis chief to look for us. He was also responsible for getting the 8 men and 12 containers collected and hidden away.

13 June -16 June

We stayed 3 days in the farm, Q.019434, sleeping in the hay-loft and being fed by the farmer. We were visited by many locals and the Maquis chief who expressed great enthusiasm, gave us plenty of advice, accepted cigarettes and chocolate as if it came from heaven and all smelt to high heaven of garlic.

          We moved next to a wood 1 ½ miles, Q.028443, from the farm were we dispersed ourselves in small parties of 2-3. This wood was on the edge of an excellent DZ and I had my first resupply   The wireless was now working well so I decided to start sending back information.

17 June -22 June

          After 5 days here we moved to another location, U.976451, 7 miles away. The local Maquis Chief was by now very much on our side and arranged a truck for transport. We moved at 2300 hrs arrived at 2330 hrs, bedded down and moved into the camp at first light. Capt. TONKIN visited me here (this was his second visit) and told me where he was located and where he was operating.

23 June -25 June

          My contact man (JOSEPH) then proposed that a youth from his village should cook for me. This youth was not what I required as I sacked him and a more reliable type (ex-Sgt from the French Army) came instead and proved very satisfactory. JOSEPH also produced another friend of his named ANDRE, (a post office operator) an intelligent type to whom I gave the job of organising road watching parties and procuring news. I gave him a week and teold him to see what he could do. I was then resupplied and we received our first mail (U.974445).

          I had been just in three weeks in France by now so decided that we must become more mobile. I therefore asked ALBERT(local Maquis chief) to get me a car. This he did (a Lincoln Zephy) which served the purpose very well as I was able to transport the whole Phantom patrol and kit in one vehicle. We set up an MCR1 in the back and used the car as an office, for coding and for listening to broadcasts. We then moved another 8 miles to Q.073417.

1 July -12 July

          This new camp was the best we had. I went daily to contact my information man, make recces of new DZs and dumps and find out as much as I could about general conditions in the areas. I had no camp admin worries as the cook did my foraging and procuring and buying of fresh rations and the wireless worked well.

          Lt MORRIS from Capt TONKIN’s party came over and collected the remainder of the SAS personnel. Two days later I moved down to bside the Maquis camp, Q.018449, 6 miles away, as there were rumours that the Boche was starting to comb the area. This was beside a DZ about one mile from my first DZ. I was resupplied here with 48 containers and four panniers by two aircraft. I was asked to pass a message that the potential strength of the Maquis could be brought up to 1,200 if arms and amn could be supplied. I was also informed of the collection by another Maquis of two AAF aircrew.

          Lt MORRIS came over again to collect supplies from my dump and on the way to it the jeep we were travelling in turned over. Lt MORRIS’ left knee was injured in the knee and shoulder, Q.003469. I had to place them in a farm for some days after they had been inspected and treated by the local Dr of the town IZ DORA, Q. 0335. He was very relieved to hear that they had both had anti-tetanus inoculations as he confessed to me that he only enough of this inoculation for 20 people and he was the Doctor for a town of a population of approx. 2,000.

          I had by then arranged for the placing of the two AAF aircrew in a safe place at U.869483, and on my way over to see them some days later I ran into an ambush. No casualties were caused to my party in the car. I moved again two miles away from where I was located, to wood Q.025498.

12 July – 14 July

          Then came the news of the attack on Capt. TONKIN’s party and I spent 3 days interviewing the Maquis who had gone to his help and trying to find out whether Capt. TONKIN was alive and how many of his party had escaped and where they were located. Lt MORRIS who had recovered from his accident went to contact SHIPWRIGHT who had in the meanwhile found Capt TONKIN and had informed London to this effect.

15 July

          I then brought my W/T set and operators over to Capt TONKIN, went back and collected as much of the Dump as was possible, acquired four more civilian cars for Capt TONKIN and joined him myself.

          We stayed with Capt TONKIN just over four weeks, moving our location three time, the last time the day before we were evacuated by ‘plane.

          Details of the evacuation will no doubt be dealt with Capt TONKIN and Lt DANE. I should like to add to anything they may say that the pilots of the hudsons that brought us out deserve the greatest credit for the skill and nerve shown in landing and taking off of an unknown and flat field 200 miles behind the enemy lines.  

Source T.B.C.