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OPERATION ECLIPSE REMEMBERED AT THE MUSEUM

On the night of 24 February 1943 a lone Special Duties Lysander of No 161 Squadron flown by Squadron Leader Hugh Verity took off from RAF Tangmere for a field near Issoudon, south of the Loire nearBourges. Verity’s ‘Joe’ (passenger) was Jean Moulin, the former Prefect of l’Eure-et-Loire at Chartres. Moulin had recently met with General De Gaulle in London who had appointed him as his representative and co-coordinator of resistance inFrance. Verity found the landing ground fogged out and on returning with Moulin to Tangmere found the same weather conditions. Realising that his passenger did not have a parachute, Verity decided to land and made eleven approaches without seeing the runway. On his twelfth attempt, still in fog, he estimated his height as about right, closed the throttle and adopted a landing attitude.  He was thirty feet too high. The Lysander crashed but did not catch fire. Fortunately, both occupants were uninjured and Moulin’s response after Verity apologised, was to thank him for “a very agreeable flight”.

Moulin was later successfully flown out from Tangmere to France a month later by another pick-up pilot, Flight Lieutenant John Bridger, but was caught by the Gestapo soon after and, it is believed, died under torture three months later.

On Sunday 24 February 2013, seventy years to the day since the Verity/ Moulin flight, a remembrance service was held in the Museum’s memorial garden to remember the agents who were flown out of RAF Tangmere and the pick-up pilots who flew them.  The sixty strong congregation included civic leaders from Chichester and Chartres, the families of SOE agents, three former agents and one of the pilots, Flight Lieutenant Bob Large DFC. The short service was conducted by the Reverend Canon Tim Schofield, Chaplain to the Mayor of Chichester.

A tour of the Museum’s Special Duties area followed before attendees departed for the Chichester University campus where lunch was served prior to an afternoon of talks and presentations on Hugh Verity and his pick-up pilots.  The day’s events were the product of several organisations and conducted under the auspices of Chichester City Councillor, Martyn Bell.

The photo shows Group Captain David Baron OBE, Chairman of the Tangmere Military Aviation Museum Trust addressing the congregation at the service of remembrance in the museum’s memorial garden. To his left are the Reverend Canon Tim Schofield, Chaplain to the Mayor of Chichester, Mr Dudley Hooley, Director of the Tangmere Military Aviation Museum and Councillor Anne Scicluna, the Mayor of Chichester. (Photo courtesy Colin Marsh)

 

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