Wheel Wrigt Operation by the RAF

Discussion in 'The War In The Air' started by HA96, Sep 22, 2018.

  1. HA96

    HA96 Member

    What is this?
    Apparently the RAF 138 Squadron was involved north of Toulouse on 20 September 1943.
  2. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Found this.
    RAFCommands :: Old Forum Archive
    also mentioned here.
    Cormeau, Yvonne Beatrice (Oral history)

    No. 138 Squadron RAF - Wikipedia
    The squadron dropped supplies and agents for the SIS and the SOE to Axis occupied territory

    The ''Wheelwright Circuit '' has been mentioned on the forum in the past.
    German retribution for Partisan activity in Figeac - "Free" France- anyone know about this?

    Michael Mcpartland - An Englishman in the Resistance

    Remembering Today 17/12/43 Flying Officer L.H.Thomas 132176 Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve 161

    Help to interpret ORB of RAF Sqd 138
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2018
    HA96 likes this.
  3. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    Wheelwright was a large SOE Reseau or Circuit headed by George Starr(field name Hilaire) based in SW France.A very successful circuit.it was never penetrated by the Germans and Starr was able organise the reception of agents and arms safely for his Circuit....the Circuit survived to be overrun when the German occupation collapsed in SW France.

    George Starr was able fuse all elements of the Resistance together....the de Gaulists and the FPT and with the latter was able to convince London that they should receive arms drops.The circuit was heavily involved in actions against the Germans to impede reinforcements to the Normandy bridgehead.

    The Circuit also supported escape routes over the Pyrenees to Spain.Starr was also able to assimilate as a Frenchman and became the Mayor or Deputy Mayor of the village of Castelnau in Gascony.

    WAAF officer Yvonne Cormeau (field name Annette) was his radio operator/courier from the summer of 1943 until the liberation and ensured a constant radio link with London.Many years later Yvonne Cormeau gave an oral account how she kept one step ahead of the Germans with her safety precautions for radio transmissions.

    Another WAAF officer in Wheelwright was Anne Marie Walters (field name Colette) who also acted as George Starr's courier.She settled in SW France postwar and appears to have been a very reserved person.Her account in Wheelwright was published as Moondrop to Gascony.

    George Starr's induction into the British Army was as an officer's batman.His brother.John Starr was also involved in SOE and was captured by the Gestapo but survived incarceration at Gestapo HQ in Paris....an intriguing account with some suspicion.

    No 138 Squadron was a Special Duties squadron based at Tempsford just off the A1 in Bedfordshire...the airfield was alongside the Kings Cross/Edinburgh main rail line and despite this, the airfield's role remained a secret during the war.
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2018
    HA96 and Tricky Dicky like this.
  4. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

  5. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    Yes .......the exchange between George Starr and CDG at Bordeaux after the liberation when CDG found he was the leader of SOE's Wheelwright and hence a representative of the British. CDG's priority was to establish his administration for postwar France as quickly as possible and said to Starr...."Your place is not here"

    Unfortunately George Starr died before he could record his account of Wheelwright so I would say that Wikipedia does not give a full account of his involvement in the clandestine activities.

    Indepth information on the Starr brothers are to be found in M R D Foot's "SOE in France" and E H Cookridge's "Inside SOE"
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2018
    HA96 and Tricky Dicky like this.
  6. HA96

    HA96 Member

    Thank you all for this very comprehensive information.
    Ever since we stayed in one of the Ex-Training Centers in Scotland, I have started to receive more and more info about SOE and SIS.
    When did SOE start to drop their agents into France/Belgium and Germany?

  7. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Last edited: Sep 23, 2018
    HA96 likes this.
  8. HA96

    HA96 Member

    Do you think it was a follow-up action of the Munich Agreement?

  9. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    It is 20 years ago today since Anne Marie Comert (nee Walters) died aged 75 at La Baum de Transit in the Dome Department.

    Anne-Marie Walters

    Her SOE Wheelwright 50 op drop along with fellow agent Claude Amault into the Gers on the night of 16-17 December nearly ended in total disaster when the No 161 Squadron Halifax, because of fog over the DZ at Gabarret. had to turn for home.Both agents were willing to be dropped blind but the pilot would not agree to it.After circling over the DZ looking through fog for 30 minutes, the skipper did want to get himself into a jam..."you might never know that there might have been a bust up down there and it wouldn't be a good job for you to land straight into the hands of the Germans"

    Homebound,the Halifax was diverted to Woodbridge on account of fog but unfortunately on its third attempt to land hit trees at 0505 and crashed at Tangham Forest,Capel St Andrew,close the SE edge of the airfield.The Pilot,Flight Engineer and Navigator was killed out of the crew of 6 and were on their 21 op together.

    Anne Marie Walters and Claude Amault escaped without injury but had to be cut out of the wreckage when help from the airfield attended.

    Apparently 6 aircraft had crashed at Woodbridge during the night

    Halifax V DK 206 MA-V
    F/L S N Gray +
    F/S P A Fry +
    F/O L H Thomas +
    F/O Shine
    F/O Craven
    Sgt Betts

    2 other No 161 Squadron Halifaxes,both on Wheelwright ops were lost on return.One also heading for Woodbridge clipped a 240 foot wooden tower at Bawdsey and then at 0525 crashed landed on to the upstream mudflats of the River Debden resulting in one death.The other was abandoned over Spilsby,Lincolnshire,probably lost in the bad weather being experience over the home airfields.Abandoned over land it crashed safely into the sea off Skegness.

    On January 3 January 1944 Anne Marie Walters and Claude Amault were successfully dropped into Gabarret to assist George Starr's Wheelwright and her time in SOE finished in November 1944 when she resigned her commission.

    Her aircraft this time was a brand new Halifax with a superior speed than the Mark V and after listening to her experience of the first attempt at infiltration,the pilot assured her that he had never dropped parachutists before but would deliver her safely....gave her a scare over Angouleme when he threw the Halifax about in evasive action to escape from a night fighter.
    HA96 and Tricky Dicky like this.
  10. HA96

    HA96 Member


    sorry for the delay. We were in the Loire valley for castles, wine and dine.

    Thanks for the info. When we were in Scotland in April, I think we passed Loch Morar near Mallaig.
    Ever since then I got really intersted in SOE matters.


Share This Page