On the night of March 19th in 1943, just over two months before the first meeting of the council that would knit together the strands of resistance in France, a clandestine night flight from Britain - codenamed SIRÈNE II - delivered the personnel who would realise that promise.
RAF Tangmere was the forward operating base for 161 Squadron's 'Special Duties' Lysander aircraft and, as one of scores of daring moonlight operations, this flight by F/Lt John Bridger's Lysander enabled Jean Moulin, Christian Pineau and General Delestraint to return to central France.
The Lysander had landed in a field close to Melay (Saône-et-Loire) and so the commemorative programme opened with a video greeting from its Mayor, M. Jean-Claude Ducarre. This was followed by talks and discussion focusing on the details of the flight, the story of resistance hero Jean Moulin, and the lasting significance of operation SIRÈNE II.
There was also a screening of a special film, produced exclusively for this event by Martyn Cox, which featured excerpts from interviews with 161 Sqn squadron pilots Hugh Verity and Len Ratcliff, and two of Hugh's passengers - the SOE F Section agent, Lise de Baissac and the RAF evader Fred Gardiner.
Marking this 75th anniversary recognises the continuing importance of Franco-British bonds, and the wartime bravery of all those who helped liberate France from Nazi Occupation.
CLICK HERE FOR A MORE DETAILED ACCOUNT OF THE EVENT WRITTEN BY ITS ORGANISER DR. ANDREW SMITH. And click HERE to download Andrew's recent article for the European Review of History, entitled: Eclipse in the dark years: pick-up flights, routes of resistance and the Free French
The University of Chichester event took place on the anniversary of Jean Moulin’s departure from RAF Tangmere. On the following day there was a complementary event in Melay to commemorate the significance of his arrival there by Lysander during the night of 19th-20th March 1943.
For a short video about the restoration of the car seen in the photos below, please click here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=DcBYToDws6E
PROGRAMME: 4.00pm - 7.00pm
Dudley Hooley (Director, Tangmere Military Aviation Museum)
Martyn Bell (The Secret WW2 Learning Network) The Legacy:
Dr Andrew W.M. Smith (University of Chichester, Society for the Study of French History)
Film: "Resistance by Moonlight"
Edited & produced by Martyn Cox (The Secret WW2 Learning Network)
Images courtesy of: IWM, Tangmere Military Aviation Museum, Collection DMPA, Minefe, Andrew Smith, Bob Body & Martyn Cox
Web links for more information:
https://www.economie.gouv.fr/caef/christian-pineau https://asso-buchenwald-dora.com/temoignage-de-christian-pineau/ http://ufacbagnolet.over-blog.com/article-24811440.html https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Delestraint