Operation Jericho

This was a British low-level air attack on Amiens prison in German-occupied France undertaken by 19 de Havilland Mosquito FB.Mk VI aircraft led by Group Captain P. C. Pickard (18 February 1944). 

Taking part in the mission were 18 aircraft of the RNZAF’s No. 487 Squadron, RAAF’s No. 464 Squadron and RAF’s No. 21 Squadron, which were all part of Pickard’s No. 140 Wing of Air Marshal Sir Arthur Coningham’s 2nd Tactical Air Force, together with one unarmed Mosquito of the Photographic Reconnaissance Unit. The Mosquito fighter-bombers were escorted by Hawker Typhoon fighter-bombers of the RAF’s Nos 174, 198 and 245 Squadrons, and the Mosquito PR aeroplane circled above the prison, filming the attack and reporting results to the attacking force.

The aim of ‘Jericho’ was to free members of the French resistance forces, 12 of whom were scheduled for execution on the following day, as they were considered vital for the implementation of the Allied plans for sabotage in the Normandy area by French resistance forces immediately after the implementation of ‘Overlord’ in June 1944.

The attacking warplanes’ bombs breached the prison’s walls and damaged the guards’ quarters, and although 102 of the 717 prisoners were killed and another 84 injured during the bombing, 258 others escaped, this latter figure including 79 resistance fighters and political prisoners including Raymond Vivant and the 12 resistance members scheduled for execution on the following day.

The British lost four aircraft (two Mosquito and two Typhoon machines) in the raid, and the aircrew losses were three men killed (including Pickard) and another three captured.

This was the last flight of a man who had become very well known during the war years. Wing Commander Percy ‘Pick’ Pickard, who had come to public notice after featuring in the 1941 documentary film ‘Target for Tonight’. His record stretched back to the early years of the war, when he had fought in Norway and over France. He had earned a DSO for his role in the Bruneval Raid in 1942. Unfortunately his luck ran out on this most notable, and successful, raid. As he was leading the raid Pickard spent more time over the target than any other aircraft. After the bombing he waited for the smoke to clear before he could see prisoners escaping from the prison. His last words were to announce the code words for success “Red Daddy, Red Daddy” – he was then attacked by two FW190 fighters, evading them for a while before his tail was blown off and the plane crashed, killing Pickard and his operator. 

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