On Monday 19th March the University of Chichester, in partnership with the Tangmere Military Aviation Museum and The Secret WW2 Learning Network, hosted a unique and very special commemoration of a singularly important flight in the history of France and Britain.
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.
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.