German Rear Area Administration and Security
For the most part, the Jedburgh teams would not encounter German main force combat units, but rather the rear area security administration and supply units of the Military Governor of France, the military government directly responsible to the German Army High Command. The German security forces observed a noticeable increase in French Resistance activity early in 1944, particularly in nocturnal English parachute drops of arms. As early as January and February, the Military Governor of France reported that his major effort was devoted to fighting the French Resistance with his security units, East Battalions (composed of Russians) and military police.
By May, there was increased resistance activity in Brittany, which had earlier been rather quiet. The Germans believed that the major resistance activity was Communist inspired and centered in southeast France and Dordogne. German security forces knew the basic organization of the resistance, its radio links to London, and its mission to prepare for and assist the coming Allied invasion of France. They also concluded that the majority of the population sympathized with and provided support to the resistance. Furthermore, French police and security forces for the most part were merely going through the motions of tracking down the resistance and in some instances assisted the resistance.
The number of French who willingly provided information to the Germans was actually quite small and presumably known to the resistance. German security soon began to form the image of French Communists, professionals, former army officers, and students lined up shoulder to shoulder against the occupation force. The Third Reich considered all resistance activity to be terrorism, which was to be met with counter-terrorism : shootings, illegal arrests, and torture. To assist in the more unspeakable aspects of this policy, the SS provided Gestapo (Geheim Stadt Polizei) and other security offices in the larger cities across France.
Besides the garrison of Paris, the Military Governor of France divided France into four sectors, each with a military commander : northwest, northeast, southwest, and south. Each military commander possessed basically one Feldkommandantur headquarters for each French department, usually commanded by a colonel or brigadier general and from 2000 to 3000 personnel. Most of those personnel, however, were administrators and sometimes civilians or women. The sector military commanders also possessed several security regiments and on occasion one or two East Battalions.
The Jedburgh teams we shall examine in this study jumped into the sectors of either the Military Governor of Northwest France or Military Governor of Northeast France, the former’s headquarters located at Paris and the latter’s in Dijon. The experience of the Chaumont garrison indicated the inherent dilemmas of the German situation. The Feldkommandantur 769 governed the Haute-Marne Department in northeastern France from the city of Chaumont and maintained a smaller headquarters (Aussenstelle) in Langres. One of its senior civil servants, a Dr Achten, observed that Chaumont remained quiet and orderly through, the German occupation.
Since early August, the headquarters was responsible for constructing defenses behind the Marne River, its sector of the Kitzinger Line. Dr Achten reported that about 60 percent of the French males in the area helped construct the fortifications and assisted the Germans in moving livestock and grain north of the Marne. He noted that the only difficulty was a tendency of the German vehicles to break down. It would appear that as long as the area appeared quiet and orderly, the German occupation forces were satisfied.
In reality, the forced laborers along the Marne sabotaged both the German motor vehicles and fortification efforts. Many of those same workers weeks later helped guide the US 3-A units through and around the Kitzinger Line. In addition, by August 1944, the German occupation forces really did not want to know what was happening in the countryside. The threat of FFI ambushes led the occupation forces to send only large armed groups outside their garrison. In August 1944, there were vast stretches of France, particularly in the south, virtually unobserved by the Germans.
On the night of August 12 1944, the SFHQ dispatched the Jedburgh Team Jacob to the Vosges area north of Epinal as the twenty-sixth Jedburgh team to the Continent. They landed at about 0100 on August 13 near the village of La Petite-Raon. The SFHQ had previously been unable to support the eastern area of France and in mid-August resolved to send a Jedburgh team to the area. The SAS resolved to dispatch the ninety-one-man Team Loyton to the area also.
The Jedburgh Team Jacob was to assist the local Maquis, cooperate with the SAS, but to remain under the command of the SFHQ. They were to avoid open offensive action against Axis forces. Team Jacob consisted of Capt Victor Andrew Gough (British), Capt Maurice Boissarie (French) and Sgt Ken Seymour (British). Gough was a pleasant young man from Somerset, who before entering the service had been a cartoonist. It was Gough who created the design for the Special Forces wings that the Jedburghs wore on their uniforms.
On August 16, Team Jacob radioed the SFHQ reporting that they had landed safely and were with a Maquis two kilometers south of Vexaincourt. Sgt Seymour injured his ankle in the jump, but they expected him to be ambulatory in seven days. Meanwhile, the team used the SAS radio operator and hoped to meet the Réseau Planète in a day or two.
Of the 800 FFI volunteers in the area, only 50 were armed. Some 600 were forced to remain as sedentary inactive in their homes. In two messages on August 26, the team requested a large supply drop and indicated that their radio set was not functioning. On September 5, Team Jacob reported that they had not yet received another radio but that they had contacted the SAS Team Loyton. It would appear that several days earlier Team Jacob and the SFHQ had attempted to conduct an arms drop that proved unsuccessful, resulting in numerous FFI casualties when Axis forces attacked them an the drop zone (DZ).
On the following day, Team Jacob canceled that night’s arms drop, reporting that Germans were on the DZ. The SFHQ next heard from Team Jacob on September 15, when it reported that Sgt Seymour had been captured on August 17 and was rumored to have been shot on the 20. In a recent battle, Capt Boissarie had been killed along with 100 Maquis. Another 100 Maquis had been captured with the remainder dispersed.
On September 16, Capt Cough (Jacob’s sole survivor) radioed the SFHQ stating that he had rallied 200 Maquis and with the SAS assistance had armed them. He also reported that the transmitter and radio set recently dropped had broken during the drop. Cough said he planned to continue using the SAS set. At 1900, September 18, Capt Cough sent his last message : have contacted 800 Maquis under Marlier. Sent message with the SAS yesterday for arms drop. Gave ground. The SAS will liaise [liaison] with you. Great difficulty working alone. Can’t come up an regular skeds [schedules]. Will come up on emergency when can. Please have your message ready for me on this channel. Have not had money yet. The SAS having personnel drop to team here tomorrow. Please send money addressed to me with one of their officers
The SFHQ continued to send messages to Team Jacob through September 28. Capt Gough was captured in the days following September 18 and executed on November 25 1944 at the Schirmek La Broque concentration camp in Alsace. He is buried at the Durnbach Commonwealth Cemetery near Bad Tölz, Bavaria. Capt Boissarie (alias Baraud) apparently died in a skirmish on September 4 1944 at the Viambois Farm in the Vosges. Sgt Seymour was captured by the Germans, survived incarceration in a concentration camp, and returned to England.
The SFHQ dispatched Team Aubrey as the twenty-seventh Jedburgh team to France from the United Kingdom. It was to assist the [SPIRITUALIST] network (code name for the organizer and circuit) in the Seine-et-Marne region east of Paris, providing an additional communication link to London, particularly for the delivery of arms and ammunition.
The team consisted of Capt Godfrey Marchant (British), Capt J. Chaigneau (French), and Sgt Ivor Hooker (British). They received their briefing in London on August 11 and left for Harrington Air Base at 1700. The team wore civilian clothes for the jump and took off in a modified B-24 from Harrington at 0015 on August 12, followed by two more B-24s carrying weapons, ammunition, and equipment.
At about 0155, the team parachuted without incident into a DZ near La Plessis-Belleville and were greeted by Major René Dumont-Guillemet, the leader of the [SPIRITUALIST] circuit, and a large reception committee from the village of Saint-Pathus. On the evening of August 12, the team cycled to the village of Forfry, where they established themselves in a safe house. The following day, Sgt Hooker developed a case of the mumps, and since there were no Germans in the village, he set up his radio and operated it from his sick bed throughout most of the remainder of the mission.
On the 14, the SFHQ approved Capt Marchant and Capt Chaigneau’s request to shift operations to the suburbs of northern Paris, where Major Dumont-Guillemet had identified some 1500 volunteers. The team believed it much safer to operate in the built-up suburbs than in the gently rolling hills of the Seine-et-Marne. Capt Marchant secured Spanish identity papers and traveled daily throughout the suburbs, instructing small groups (including Parisian gendarmes) on sabotage techniques. The local resistance group provided Capt Chaigneau with false papers and a motorcycle, and he served as a liaison between resistance groups.
On August 21, Chaigneau and Marchant decided that with the German Army retreating from France, it was time to move to the Meaux area. When Marchant and the [SPIRITUALIST] radio operator named Blaise, bicycled back to Saint-Pathus, however, they found an SS and a German Army field unit camped about the village. The Germans moved north on August 24, and the following day, Major Dumont-Guillemet, on his own initiative, instructed his forces to rise in revolt. Within hours, however, the SFHQ radioed to tell him that the revolt could not start until the SFHQ sanctioned the rising. Major Dumont-Guillemet and Capt Marchant then conferred and agreed that to call off the uprising would only create confusion. They decided to go ahead with the insurrection. Team Aubrey put on their uniforms again on August 26 and awaited the arrival of the FFI volunteers from northern Paris. The latter arrived the following morning in some twenty vehicles, having managed to avoid large German military convoys escaping to the north.
This FFI group with Major Dumont-Guillemet and Team Aubrey attempted to set up an ambush position near Rougemont, between Oissery and Forfry. It was not a bad defensive position, resting upon a sunken road with a good field of fire to the south, protected on the west by a heavy wood and on the east by marshy ground impassable to armored vehicles. The problems were twofold : the Maquis were basically unorganized and untrained, and the men really had no idea what would be coming down the road into their ambush. Only two Bren guns were operational, and only the Jedburghs knew how to operate the four PIATS (a hand-held antitank rocket – Projectile Infantry Anti Tank).
Even as the FFI column unloaded at the sunken road, a German armored car opened fire on two FFI vehicles in Oissery. Seconds later, a German light tank opened fire on the vehicles in the sunken road. After about eighty minutes, at about 1230, with the arrival of additional Germans, Major Dumont-Guillemet directed a covering force to hold off the Germans while the remaining men dispersed. Capt Marchant said he would remain with the covering force and ordered Sgt Hooker to leave the field. Hooker moved east along the streambed, where he met Major Dumont-Guillemet. They spotted Capt Chaigneau about thirty yards ahead of them. Capt Marchant and the covering force held their positions for a short while until another German tank approached and opened fire at close range, whereupon the covering force also fled. Marchant was forced to crawl north to a lake, where he hid for the next eight hours.
The German armor continued to fire, killing Capt Chaigneau in the streambed with a high-explosive shell. The mud in the streambed was rather deep, so Hooker, Dumont-Guillemet, and the others crawled some two kilometers through the mud until they finally reached the shelter of the woods. From there, the group dispersed, with Hooker (who had discarded his codes) and Major Dumont-Guillemet making their way to a safe house in Nongloire-par-Puisieux.
Major Dumont-Guillemet and Sgt Hooker spent the next day at the safe house. On the morning of August 29, they awoke to the sound of machine guns and discovered a US VII Corps column advancing down the road to Soissons. They received a ride from the Americans to Meaux, from where they returned to Paris. On the 30, Sgt Hooker borrowed a jeep and drove to Forfry, where he found Capt Marchant, and the two returned to Paris, Major Dumont-Guillemet had already returned to London, and the two surviving members of Team Aubrey followed soon after.
The German armored unit that Team Aubrey encountered belonged in all probability to the LVIII Panzer-Corps, which was responsible to the German 1.Army on August 25-27. It consisted of the remnants of several severely battered divisions, including the Panzer-Lehr and the 9.Panzer-Divisions. The LVIII Panzer-corps concentrated its efforts on blacking the major road nets north of Paris until August 27, when it was forced to retire to the line Beaumont – Survillers – Dammartin-en-Goele – Meaux.
In the nineteen days it was in the field, Team Aubrey provided valuable information to London, particularly targeting data on a Luftwaffe airfields north of Paris. In addition, although the SFHQ probably knew of the withdrawal of the German’s Paris garrison, Team Aubrey’s confirmation of its departure on August 19 undoubtedly assisted in clarifying the situation. Capt Marchant estimated that the FFI lost eighty-six men and women killed in the August 27 engagement near Bougemont. Godfrey Marchant, originally from Buenos Aires, died in April 1945 when his B-24, bound for an SOE mission in Burma, crashed on takeoff near Calcutta. Ivor Hooker survived the war, returning to England to live in Suffolk County. He died in June 1988.
The SFHQ dispatched Team Augustus as the thirty-fourth Jedburgh team to the Continent on August 15 1944 to the Aisne region, where it was to assist the local Maquis and serve as an additional communication link to London. Major John H. Bonsall (USA), the team leader, was born on June 11 1919 in Morristown, New Jersey. After attending a number of preparatory schools, he entered Princeton University, where he was in the ROTC program. He was commissioned an Army second lieutenant upon graduation in 1941, although he planned to follow his father’s example and practice law. He was called to active duty in August 1941, arrived in England in December 1943, and was promoted to major in April 1944. Capt Jean Delwiche (French) and T/Sgt Roger E. Cote (USA) were the other members of the team. Delwiche was a professional officer born in Vivaise, a small village ten kilometers north of Laon. He was a profoundly quiet man, undoubtedly the result of the death of his wife and child to illness.
On the night of August 15, the team flew from England with twenty-four containers weighing 3 tons and with no other passengers. Landing near the hamlet of Colonfay, about fifteen kilometers south of Guise, they moved to Le Nouvion-en-Thierache, the local resistance headquarters. On the afternoon of August 16, they reached a farm near the village of Clary, which the resistance suggested would be much safer. The team radioed the SFHQ on August 17 that the reception had gone perfectly. Two days later, they reported that they had successfully contacted the local resistance leader. At that meeting, they apparently decided to follow the suggestion of the resistance to conduct operations to the south near Soissons. On August 20, the team radioed that the resistance movement in the Aisne Department was quite advanced, with 1100 men armed and trained and 4900 unarmed men.
On August 21, the team moved south about 100 kilometers to the village of Rugny. Through August 24, the team sent London several reports on specific targets for the Allied air forces, mostly large German troop columns headed east for the German border or trains stuck between railroad demolitions.
On August 25, however, Augustus reported that there were so many German troops in the area that it would be unwise to form any Maquis and that hiding places were becoming harder to find. The following day, the team reported that the Germans were constructing field fortifications behind the Aisne River, although without minefields.
On August 28, they learned that American tanks were in the vicinity and moved north to Soissons. There, they briefed the staff officers of the US 3-AD on German defenses in the area. The American officers displayed particular interest in the German camp at Margival. The SFHQ, on August 30, sent Augustus the following message : have received order from Army commander for the FFI to take all possible steps to preserve following Somme River bridges from enemy demolition. All bridges in the Amiens area, also at Moreuil, Boves, Fiquigny, Conde, Longpré. You should attempt to preserve these bridges for about four days after receipt this message. This is important task. Count on you for fullest cooperation. If you need arms can drop from low flying typhoons.
Team Augustus presumably received this message. That same day, the team passed through the American lines north of Laon (south of Froidmont), an area well known to Capt Delwiche. A subsequent OSS investigation revealed that all three members were shot and killed on the night of August 30 at the village of Barenton-sur-Serre. Apparently, German troops stopped a horse-drawn cart and found the three occupants in civilian clothes, carrying false French identity cards, and equipped with weapons, a radio, and other equipment.
Since the German troops were the remnants of an armor unit interested mainly in escaping to the German border, they undertook no further searches but merely shot the team and soon departed in the rain. The horse, still towing its cart, returned on its own to its stable in Mr. Magnien’s barn, which was occupied by armed FFI volunteers. The return of the horse and empty cart created considerable consternation, Mr. Magnien and his colleagues found the bodies of the Jedburgh Team Augustus the following morning, buried the three men at the Barenton-sur-Serre cemetery, and subsequently erected a memorial in their honor.
Operations in eastern France and Belgium were particularly difficult for the SFHQ owing to the great distance from England and the proximity of German training areas and Axis security forces. In mid-April 1944, the SFHQ dispatched the first four members of the Operation [CITRONELLE], the code name for one twelve-man inter-Allied mission led by Col Paris de Bolladière into the Ardennes on April 12 and June 5 1944.
The mission’s leader, French Col Paris de Bolladière and seven more men parachuted into the area on June 5. Their mission was to contact and assist the Maquis on the French-Belgian border of the Ardennes. The Germans soon launched a series of attacks in the area, and an American member of CITRONELLE, Capt Victor J. Layton, radioed the SFHQ to report that a German attack on June 12 had scattered the resistance group. He reported 5 FFI members killed, 140 captured, and estimated that perhaps 100 remained.
The SFHQ, on the night of August 15, dispatched Jedburgh Team Andrew to the southern Ardennes in France, where they were to assist the FFI with arms deliveries and provide another communications link to London. The team consisted of Major A.H.S. ‘Henry’ Coombe-Tennant, (British), Lt Edouard Comte d’Oultremont, (Belgian), and Sgt Frank Harrison, (British).
Henry Coombe-Tennant was born on April 9 1913 in the Vale of Neath, South Wales, and subsequently became a career officer, serving in the Welsh Guards. As a member of the British Expeditionary Force in 1940, he was captured near Boulogne. In 1942, he and two colleagues escaped from their German POW camp near Warburg in Westphalia and were fortunate enough to link up with the [Réseau Comet] network in Belgium, which assisted their return to England.
Upon his return to England, Coombe-Tennant attended a staff college and in 1943 served on the SOE planning staff on Baker Street. Soon thereafter, he volunteered for the Jedburgh project. One of the members of the [Réseau Comet] network was Count d’Oultremont, born on September 27 1916 in Paris, a resident of Brussels, who was of medium height, well built, with blonde hair and mustache, and distinguished in appearance.
In 1943, d’Oultremont followed the [Réseau Comet] escape route, shortly before the Germans rolled up the network. The two men were rather surprised to meet each other again at Milton Hall and decided to form their own team. With d’Oultremont on the team, they guessed they would be inserted into Belgium. The team received their alert on August 8 and on the 10, traveled to London for their briefing. The briefer informed them that the resistance forces in the Ardennes had recently lost 200 men in an engagement, and only 150 remained. The SFHQ instructed Team Andrew to contact the [CITRONELLE] mission upon their arrival. Two French officers on a similar mission would fly with the team. In addition, a ten-man Belgian SAS force on an independent mission would parachute with them.
On the night of August 15, the group flew to the Ardennes skirting a storm with high winds. The SFHQ dispatched two bombers to the Ardennes that night carrying thirteen parachutists and forty-eight containers weighing approximately 6 tons total. Upon approaching the DZ, the landing lights were clearly visible, and the SAS team jumped first, about two kilometers east of Revin, France. The aircraft turned around to make a second pass, but this time the landing lights could not be spotted. Upon being informed that they would either have to jump ‘blind’ or return to England, Major Coombe-Tennant decided to risk the jump. The strong wind scattered the team, but during the remaining hours of darkness, they located each other and buried their chutes.
The Belgian SAS team had disappeared to conduct its own mission. At dawn, Team Andrew marched through the forest until they found a woodsman’s cottage, where they were offered shelter. On August 17, a Maquis lieutenant arrived and took them to meet Colonel de Bolladière’s [CITRONELLE] mission. Along with some other equipment, Team Andrew lost its radio crystals in the drop and was therefore dependent upon [CITRONELLE]’s radio for contacting the SFHQ.
On August 25, the de Bolladière group received a request for help from a Belgian resistance group about five miles to the east that was in a skirmish with a German convoy. Col de Bolladière took about sixty men with him and found the ambush site. Upon spotting women in the convoy, he ordered that it not be attacked; but it was too late, and a firefight ensued.
The following day near noon, a German company from Belgium found and attacked the [CITRONELLE] group as they were having lunch. The Germans’ use of 50-MM mortars proved particularly effective, and the [CITRONELLE] mission lost eight men killed and twelve wounded, including Col de Bolladière and Lt d’Oultremont. The Germans, however, had not expected such firepower, and both forces simultaneously retired – the [CITRONELLE] group to a camp south of Tourbillon.
The following day, Coombe-Tennant and Capt Layton returned to the scene of the engagement and observed that the Germans had not removed their dead. The [CITRONELLE] group subsequently remained deep within the forest about two miles north of the French border. Their main link to the outside world was a Capuchin friar, Anton Hegelmann, who periodically visited their camp. Since they had little ammunition, they remained at their hideout the following week.
Around September 1, the group learned of the advance of the US Army and decided to move south toward Charleville. Upon reaching the city, they discovered that the US Army had already seized the town. The group did, however, set up an ambush and managed to intercept a group of Germans retreating east. The US 1-A’s 10th Secial Force Detachment picked up the team on September 8 at the V Corps headquarters and gave them a ride to Paris. Major Coombe-Tennant and Lt d’Outremont left for Brussels to rejoin their regiments, leaving Sgt Harrison to file the final report.
Team Augustus was in the field for slightly more than three weeks, working with the [CITRONELLE] inter-Allied mission. The [CITRONELLE] group obviously undertook direct military action prematurely and consequently was forced to spend one critical week in hiding. If the [CITRONELLE] mission materially assisted the advance of Allied ground forces, it was only indirectly by tying down German forces and constituting yet one more possible threat to German forces retiring east. Major Coombe-Tennant returned to the Welsh Guards, served in the Middle East, and retired in 1956. In 1961, he joined the Benedictine Order. On November 6 1989, he died at Downside Abbey. Edouard Comte d’Oultremont survived the war and returned to Brussels, where he died on February 3 1988. The Jedburgh community subsequently lost touch with Frank Harrison.
The SFHQ planned to dispatch Teams Benjamin and Bernard on the night of August 19 1944 to the Meuse-Argonne area of northeastern France to assist the local FFI. Team Benjamin consisted of Major A. J. Forrest, (British), Lt Paul Moniez, (French), 2/Lt H. Kamiraski (France) and was to operate east of the Meuse River. Team Bernard consisted of Capt J. de W. ‘Jock’ Waller (British), Capt Etienne Nasica (France), and Sgt Cyril M. Bassett, (British). Each team parachuted with the standard Jedburgh radial set, with which they were to contact the SFHQ in London to arrange the delivery of additional weapons and supplies.
Following a request for such supplies, it would take an estimated eight days for delivery. The two teams received a joint briefing on August 17 that proved suspiciously brief. Information on the state of the resistance in eastern France proved sketchy, and the teams were not provided with detailed maps of the area. The planned jump for August 19 did not transpire, but on the following night, each team took off in a bomber from Fairford Air Base. Both bombers found their way to the DZ, several kilometers south of Clermont-en-Argonne, but could not spot the landing lights until directly above them. As the six Jedburghs parachuted, they suspected that something had gone wrong in the reception committee.
The FFI reception committee had no previous experience working with parachuted men or materiel so consequently had not selected or prepared a suitable DZ. They had picked a very small field surrounded by the Argonne Forest. Thus, five of the Jedburghs, along with sixteen packages and about thirty containers, landed in the trees. The reception committee had selected a DZ that was far too small and complicated the problem by placing the landing lights too close to the tree line. Furthermore, they had only fifteen men, so it took two days and three nights to assemble the scattered containers and parachutes.
On August 21, two local resistance leaders escorted the Jedburghs to their camp on the edge of the Argonne forest, three miles south-southwest of Clermont, where at 0630, they established radio contact with the SFHQ. They used Team Bernard’s radio, since the other radio had been destroyed in the drop. They also decided to remain together in one large team until another radio could be supplied. It was not until August 23 that two senior FFI officials, Col Aubusson and Col Angelet (assistants of Planète), arrived to brief them on the local situation.
They reported that Planète was in Nancy planning for a major operation in the Vosges and that he desired the FFI to harass the Germans in the Argonne region east and west of the Meuse. To accomplish this, there were about 600 men scattered about this rural area and another 300 in Saint-Mihiel. The Franc Tireurs et Partisans (FTP) had an estimated forty men in Stenay, 200 in Spincourt, and 50 in Souilly. To confuse the situation further, about 3000 Russian POWs worked as miners in Bassin-de-Briey.
The two team leaders decided, therefore, to split up and return to their original plan. They would call for six priority parachute-supply drops at the beginning of the new moon, three in the Bernard sector west of the Meuse and three in the Benjamin sector east of the Meuse. They planned to arm a nucleus of 200 men in each sector. They consequently began preparations, contacting the local FTP leader to arrange his cooperation and to prepare for Team Benjamin to cross the Meuse. Then disaster struck.
The following morning, August 24, the Gestapo and the French Milice, posing as FFI Maquis at the town of Les Islettes, arrested the local FFI leaders. The two Jedburgh teams learned of this several hours later and began to carry off as much of their equipment as possible to a new camp. Later in the afternoon, 150 Axis troops led by an SS captain raided the Jedburgh camp evacuated only hours earlier. Through coincidence, an FTP patrol from Souilly, desiring to coordinate with the Jedburghs and secure more arms, arrived at the camp to find not Maquis but a large enemy force. The FTP fled, losing ten men and, no doubt, some measure of confidence in their FFI colleagues. The Jedburghs abandoned their earlier plans, knowing now that they were being hunted. They consequently moved again that same night through the heavily wooded Argonne forest to the western side of the Biesme valley into the Foret Domaniale-de-Chatrices.
The move to the western side of the valley took three days, during which scouts attempted to determine the level of damage done by the Les Islettes incident. On August 28, they learned that one of the FFI leaders had been captured with a map showing the planned supply DZs. The following day, the group met with Major Rooney’s SAS group Rupert, both groups having selected the same DZ for that night’s supply drop. After coordinating for a joint drop, the SAS canceled the drop later that evening. Probably on this same day, the SFHQ informed Team Benjamin of the imminent arrival of American ground forces and requested that Benjamin send guides through the German lines to meet them.
On August 30, the guides dispatched by the Jedburghs contacted the advancing American force (US 3d Cavalry Group, US XX Corps), providing them with an estimate of the local situation. In the morning, the Jedburghs made three offensive patrols on the Sainte-Menehould – Les Islettes – Clermont road, hoping to cut off retreating German forces. They also desired to prevent the destruction of the railway tunnel and bridges of Sainte-Menehould. The road patrol encountered no German forces. A second patrol found the railway tunnel abandoned and not rigged for detonation. The third patrol (consisting of Lt Moniez, Commandant Dulac, and six men) entered Sainte-Menehould, killing four Germans, but later withdrew at the approach of German troops. A party of eighty FFI that was supposed to assist at Sainte-Menehould proved unable to fight through German forces.
The US XX Corps began its advance on Verdun on August 30, led by its 3d Cavalry Group and the 7th Armored Division. The cavalry seized Sainte-Menehould at 0545 on August 31, and Combat Command A of the 7th Armored Division moved toward Verdun to capture a bridgehead over the Meuse River. The Germans had destroyed all of the Meuse River bridges in the area except the main bridge at Verdun, which was rigged for demolition and defended by a rear guard with two Mark V Panther tanks. As units of Combat Command A entered the town shortly after noon, a number of FFI volunteers ran under the bridge and managed to cut the wires to the explosive charge before the German sentries opened fire. Minutes later, the tanks of Combat Command A arrived, knocked out the two Panthers, and proceeded east to secure the bridgehead.
On August 31, before the arrival of American forces, Capt Nasica was wounded in a skirmish with a German patrol at Futeau in the Biesme valley. The Maquis advanced along the Biesme valley, taking Les Islettes on September 1. On September 2, the group, about 100 men, entered Clermont and began to intercept German stragglers, killing or capturing about fifty men. The Jedburghs had turned over command of the Maquis to Commandant Dulac and on August 31, moved east across the Meuse toward Verdun. Upon reaching that historic town, they discovered troops of the US XX Corps in force and decided to contact the US 3-A headquarters to receive new instructions.
On the return drive as they approached Clermont, a German outpost opened fire on their truck, wounding everyone except Capt Waller and Lt Moniez. The Jedburgh team fled, losing its truck, radio, and the last of its personal equipment. During the previous night, a regiment of the 15.Panzer-Grenadier-Division had driven the Dulac Maquis out of Clermont and occupied the town. The Jedburgh group infiltrated through the German lines and reached Epernay on September 2, where Capt Waller met them. On the following day, they reported to Lt Col Powell of the 11th Special Force Detachment at the US 3-A headquarters in Châlons.
The Jedburgh group rested and reequipped over the week. Capt Nasica and Sgt Bassett were evacuated from local hospitals to England. On September 11, Col Powell directed the group to assist the [PEDLAR] (Pedlar was an Intelligence Circuit led by Maj Bodington in the Châlon-sur-Marne area) circuit in the Chaumont area (Team Arnold report on PEDLAR). The group subsequently participated in a daylight supply drop at Garganville on September 13 and, following the capture of Chaumont, assisted Major Bodington in the demobilization of his Maquis.
From September 18-22, Teams Benjamin and Bernard stored excess parachuted arms at Nancy. They returned to England on October 2, observing that they should have been deployed at least two months prior to August 20. They also noted that the SFHQ had basically ignored the Meuse-Argonne region until August 1944, by which time it was too late to create an efficient organization. Teams Benjamin and Bernard served in France for roughly six weeks, although only nine days before the US 3-A overran the area. Effective Axis security forced the two teams to hide from August 24-30. Between August 30 and September 2, four of the six Jedburghs were wounded, with two requiring evacuation.
In many ways, the story of Teams Benjamin and Bernard provides more questions than answers. Their after-action report makes no reference to the FFI of Verdun and the capture of the Verdun bridge, even though Verdun was only some thirty kilometers to the east. In similar fashion, US Army records fail to mention any Jedburgh teams operating in the area. We also know that on August 30, the SFHQ directed Jedburgh teams to seize the bridges in front of the US 1-A to assist the advance of the ground forces. There is no indication, however, that similar messages, were sent to the SOF teams in front of the US 3-A. How it came to pass that an FFI group knew when and how to cut the wires of the demolitions on the Verdun bridge remains open to question.
The SFHQ dispatched Team Alfred on August 24 1944 to the Oise River valley north of Paris to assist in organizing the local FFI, particularly through providing them an additional radio link to London and assisting in the delivery of arms. The team consisted of Lt G. Herenguel, (French), Capt L. D. MacDougall, (British), and Sgt Albert W. Key, (British). The team left Milton Hall in somewhat of a rush on the morning of August 9 for London, after which they prepared for their jump. It was not until August 23 that they received a rather hurried second briefing on the FFI and German situation in the Oise sector. They were also informed that it would take about eight days for the delivery of arms drops.
The briefing officer told them that if they found themselves within forty miles of the battle zone, they were to recruit fifteen volunteers and move toward the Allied army, gathering tactical information along the way. Upon landing in France, they were to contact the local FFI chief DuPont-Montura. The team was instructed to avoid open combat.
That night, at 2300, Team Alfred departed on a two-hour flight through a rather severe storm for the DZ at Moulin-sous-Touvent (about 15 kilometers northeast of Compiègne), where the pilot dropped the packages and containers with some difficulty. He then gained altitude for a second pass so the team could safely jump, but amid fierce winds, he could not spot the landing lights and was forced to cancel the jump. The following night, they tried again, and after a fifty-minute search for the DZ in Moulin-sous-Touvent, the RAF bomber dropped both the Jedburgh team and their packages and containers. It proved an excellent drop, and it took little time for the reception committee to assemble the team and equipment and take them to the safety of a nearby quarry. As it turned out, the reception committee had secured the containers and packages dropped the previous night but had moved the equipment to a village some twenty kilometers away. Thus, the team would have to do without their personal kits for some time.
have contacted Chef FFI departmental. Five to six thousand partisans in area poorly organized but very enthusiastic and demand arms and yet more arms. 400 of total armed in area Compiègne – Clermont. Area Beauvais destitute of arms.
That night, the team vainly awaited an arms drop at the DZ. The following morning, word arrived that there were parachutists nearby at Francières, so Capt MacDougall went to investigate. He returned later with five Special Air Service men. Their aircraft could not find the DZ, so the team dropped blind, although the pilot did not drop the arms containers. The following day, Team Alfred radioed London, reporting the non-arrival of their arms shipment and stating that large bodies of disorganized German troops were moving north through Montdidier toward Lille. A coded BBC broadcast heralded another drop for that evening, so once again, the team assembled at the DZ. This time, they waited until 0230, when a heavy thunderstorm struck. Team Alfred later learned that the arms shipment had been dropped some fifteen kilometers away, where the local Communist-Party-sponsored resistance group had retrieved it.
At this time, German activity forced Team Alfred to seek a safer location each day. On August 28, they took shelter in a cave located in a small wood. That same day, the team sent the SFHQ at least three messages, reporting that the Germans were destroying their air base at Creil, preparing bridges for demolition, and at several locations erecting antitank obstacles and minefields. The team also reported that it had dispatched five volunteers toward the Allied lines to gain tactical information. That same day, the team received its first message from the SFHQ, enigmatically requesting exact map references-information the team was certain that agent Pasteur had already sent to London.
On August 29 and 30, the team informed the SFHQ that the Germans were preparing the Oise bridges for demolition and suggested that to prevent their destruction, London should send arms and an SAS group if possible. Team Alfred also reported that the Oise valley remained heavily congested with German troops and gave the location of forty tanks south of Compiègne. The team still hoped to set up several ambushes, even though it would have to use aged rifles and shotguns. Then at 1100, August 30, it received the following message from the SFHQ : would like you to take all possible steps on receipt this message to preserve following Somme River bridges from enemy demolition. All bridges Amiens area. Also at Moreuil, Boves, Fiquigny, Conde, Longprè. Try to keep bridges in state of preservation for about 4 days. This target of highest importance. Can drop arms to you from low flying typhoons if you need them.
Team Alfred had still not received any arms drops, so attempting to stop the German Army from blowing up a number of bridges proved a rather difficult task. On August 31, the team radioed London twice requesting arms drops and that evening set off to conduct two ambushes. Lt Herenguel and Sgt Key remained with the ambush party, while Capt MacDougall took the radio with a horse and cart and attempted to contact the FFI in Amiens.
When he arrived in Ferrières at the same time as an American armored column, an American staff officer provided him with a vehicle so he could rapidly reach Amiens. But just as he was preparing to leave Ferrièes, word arrived that the British Army had already captured the town. Team Alfred’s ambushes went rather well, at Francières shooting up a German column while receiving few losses. The second ambush killed a small group of Germans while liberating thirty American prisoners of war. The following day, large US Army forces overran the area. Team Alfred subsequently remained in the area working with the FFI attempting to locate German stragglers. After spending three days in Paris, the team returned to the United Kingdom on September 27.
The team concluded its after-action report with the following paragraph : this was the tale of the Team Alfred, not a very glorious one but not through any fault of the team. If we had been dispatched when we were first alerted some two weeks previous to our actual departure (team was alerted and briefed on August 9 but did not leave until August 24) we could have done something useful.
Team Alfred spent four weeks in France, but only eight days before US Army conventional forces overran the area. Perhaps their own postmortem was too critical, for the team did provide valuable information on German troop movements and defenses. Lt Herenguel died on September 8 1945 in Nape, Laos. Albert Key died shortly after the end of the war. The Jedburgh community subsequently lost contact with Capt MacDougall.
You have probably see the quality of the work in this archive. The quality of the layout and the images as well. This is only possible because some of you takes the time to put some coins in the Juke-Work. Remember that the whole thing is a one-man work. Not even some kind of US 501-C etc …! I am doing alone, a remake of Rio Bravo, just when Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, Walter Brennan and John Wayne are singing “Just my Rifle, Pony and Me”. In fact I could sing “Just my Keyboard, my Brain and your Donations”. That’s what keep this site alive and online. One last very important point! For God’s sake, if you have anything relevant to this archive, and I repeat – anything – do not leave that treasure in the dust of an old cardboard box in the shadow of an attic. If it’s a few photos, papers, badges or whatever, send them to me. If it comes to more important things contact me.
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Gunter ‘Doc Snafu Gillot
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