The Open Door

Operation Rob Roy: John White

This operation took place on the night of June 6/7 1944. It was mounted by 46 Group RAF from RAF Blakehill Farm, RAF Broadwell and RAF Down Ampney. Fifty C 47s (Dakotas) were used. It was a re-supply mission to the 6th Airborne Division in Normandy. The Despatchers were provided by 63 Coy RASC. Attached to 63 Coy were 36 Despatchers from 398 Coy RASC.

As at Sicily. The aircraft ran into friendly fire and five Dakotas, failed to return. The crash site of two is known and it is presumed that the other three crashed into the sea. Sixteen Despatchers were lost and six survived. Of the sixteen, nine are recorded on ‘The Bayeux Memorial’, six Despatchers are buried at Hermanville and one at Tilly-sur-Seulles. It is interesting to note that there were two supernumeraries, (presumably along for the ride). Dakota KG329 crashed in the estuary of the River Orne. Dvrs Cullen and Duffy survived and became POW.

Dakota KG424 crashed by Giberville. All survived, although a little battered and bent. The Pilot Sqn Ldr Wright, the Navigator PO Cowie and Dvr Alexander (because of injuries), remained with the aircraft and were speedily captured by the Germans to become POW. FO Semple 2nd Pilot, FO Williams W/O, Cpl Owens RASC, Dvrs Ackley RASC and Allen RASC, evaded capture by the Germans and remained as evaders until the night of June 28/29 1944, when they attempted to return to British lines. On the night of June 9/10, they were joined by CSM Jones of the 8th Bn Parachute Regiment, who had been shot down the previous night and was the only survivor from his aircraft.

The exploits of the party are contained in a Chapter of the book ‘The Evaders'. The chapter deals with the period from 6/7 June until the night of June 28/29 1944.

On the night of June 28/29, the party accompanied by three French Guides attempted to cross over into British Lines. The party bumped into a German position. FOs Semple and Williams plus a French guide became separated and successfully reached British Lines.

Dvrs Ackley and Allen were captured by the Germans and became POW. Their French guide, one Jean Roger was captured at a later stage and executed by the Germans. Dvr Ackley, because of injuries sustained in the crash was admitted to a POW Hospital in Rennes. The Hospital was captured by American Troops and Dvr Ackley was repatriated in August. FO Semple wrote to Dvr Ackley whilst in Hospital in England.

Cpl Owen, CSM Jones and a French guide evaded capture on the night of June 28/29. On the 14th of July 1944, Cpl Owen and CSM Jones were caught by the Germans, but managed to escape. Their evasion continued and they joined up with the Maquis. They were employed on weapon training and Sabotage work in the Bordeaux area. They were repatriated to the UK on the 13th of September 1944.

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