The Goal of Operation Jericho
Operation Jericho is one of the most daring and bold raids of World War II. That Happened on February 18, 1944. The Raid was commissioned by the Royal Air Force (RAF) to retrieve the hostages taken by the Nazis who were being held in Amiens prison in France.
The Captives of Amiens Prison
In Amiens, there was a high-security Nazi prison which held 717 prisoners, most of the captives being resistance fighters that stood up and fought against the Nazi regime and political figures who did not support the Nazi’s and who supported and chanted for the rebellion uprising against the Nazi’s.
The Planning of The Raid
British Intelligence had suggested that the Germans were already rounding up inmates and executing some of them and that the next execution was scheduled for February 19, 1944, and that 100 prisoners were scheduled to be executed.
The mission was initially planned for February 10, 1944, and that the original group leader was supposed to have been Air Vice-Marshall, Basil Embry. However, Embry had to leave and was reassigned to working on the plan for the Invasion of Europe.
He was then replaced by Captain Percy Charles Pickard, who was an experienced RAF pilot but he lacked practice in low-level attacks. The plan was to attack the Prison using DH 98 Mosquito Bombers. Which were manned by a two-member crew with limited ammo capacity.
The size of the bombers worked as an advantage for the mission since their goal was not to flatten and destroy the compound but to precisely knockdown the northern and eastern walls to let the inmates escape.
Also to bomb the German mess hall while they were in lunchtime to try and achieve the most amount of casualties for the prison guards.
Going into Action
On the day of the raid, the weather conditions were bad since there was a thunderstorm on the 18th. With snow covering most of Europe on the day to but the mission had to continue since it was of an utmost importance since the prisoners were suspected to be executed the following day.
The RAF had also calculated that during the bombing that there was bound to be some friendly casualties but they decided to still press on since the prisoners were already sentenced to death so the prisoners had nothing to lose.
The main group of bomber planes consisted of 18 of the Mosquito fighter planes and even one Mosquito equipped with a camera onto it so it could record the whole raid.
Making this one of the few select times where a full mission was captured on film in World War II. The group is led by Captain Pickard who’s code name for when they talked over the radio was “Freddie.”
His job was to bring up the second wave of attackers and to access the damage that had already been done. So finally on 8:00 hours (military time) on February 18, the group was briefed and went over the mission one last time and then set off on the mission appointed.
So they finally leave and took off into weather that was worse than most of the crew had previously experienced. So this pretty early on lead to numerous setbacks before they even reached their objective.
Four of the Mosquitos planes got lost and left the formation and contact with them had been lost as well. Even one more had an engine malfunction which sounds pretty bad since one area where you don’t want the engine to malfunction is when your flying a plane in the air.
So then after all of this, they were all forced to return to base and this left them with only 9 planes in the initial attack force and only 4 more in the reserves.
So it just made an already incredibly daring and dangerous mission even more daring since they had to basically all do it now it one run. So then they finally get back up in the air and they reached the prison at 1 minute past noon.
So then they get to work with three of the Mosquitos aiming for the walls dropping bombs with 11-second delayed explosion fuses. So in the first attack, they managed to blow open the northern walls, but they had to circle around for another run since the two other Mosquitos bombed the railway station so it could give the prisoners a better chance of escape.
Then just 5 minutes after they first started the assault at 12:06 the eastern wall was still not yet breached. The bombers flew as low to the ground as 50 feet or (15 meters) and bombed it once again.
Then the other two Mosquitos circled around and dropped 500 pounds (23o kg) of bombs on the main prison facility, killing and wounding many of the staff that happened to be working at the prison then, even including some of the prisoners that were held captive. At this point, the prisoners started to escape.
So then they started to head back to base and Pickard judged the raid as a success. On the return back to base the Germans had already had their fighter planes in the air and one of them shot the plane holding Pickard and his navigator and they crashed and they both died instantly.
Out of all the 717 prisoners, 102, unfortunately, passed away in the raid, mostly from the prison guards trying to halt their escape, not even the bombs. The bombing of the railway gave the prisoners a really nice head start of about 2 hours before search parties could be organized to try and find them.
So out all the prisoners there only about 255 managed to escape the walls, including 79 resistance fighters but the remaining 176 were unfortunately captured within 48 hours of the incident.
I don’t even want to imagine the torture the ones who escaped went through when they were hauled back to the prison.
Here is a video about the raid if you are interested.
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If you are interested and want to learn about Operation Jericho and some other topics like the Secret Story of MI6, and the French Resistance. Then look no further this book should hopefully satisfy you.
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Budanovic, Nikola. “Operation Jericho – A Rescue Mission Which Turned Into A Bloodbath.” WAR HISTORY ONLINE, 21 Feb. 2018, www.warhistoryonline.com/world-war-ii/operation-jericho.html.
By Royal Air Force official photographer – http://media.iwm.org.uk/iwm/mediaLib//54/media-54735/large.jpgThis is photograph CL 2739 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24455433
By Devon S A (Flt Lt), Royal Air Force official photographer – This is photograph CH 12407 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21925672
By Canadian ForcesExpired crown copyright. All images made by canadian forces more than 50 years ago., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1627410
Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18282558
rockyraccoon61. “Jailbreakers.” YouTube, YouTube, 20 Feb. 2009, www.youtube.com/watch?v=VOAPx_VPi-A.