Helena Marusarowna and Polish Resistance during WW2

Helena Marusarowna was born in 1918 and between 1936 and 1939 she was famous in Poland as a skier after winning nine Polish championships.

After Germany invaded Poland on 17 September 1939 she joined the Polish Resistance and began taking messages to other members of the resistance network and guiding people through mountain passes.

In March 1940 she was caught by the Slovak Police and handed to the Gestapo and whilst being tortured refused to provide information about other members of the resistance. It has been said the Gestapo found in her possession a letter from Stefania Hanausknowy who was known to be a member of the resistance and this possibly sealed her fate.

On 12 September 1941 Helena Marusarzowna was condemned to death by the Gestapo and shot near Tarn. Another version states she was shot on 23 July 1943 in Krukowski Forest with five other female members of the resistance and among them were Stefania Hanausknowy and Jania Bednarka.

RAF Wireless Deception 1943

op corona

Operation Corona was a wireless deception strategy used by the RAF to confuse German night fighters during RAF Bomber Command raids on Germany during WW2 and was first used during the attack on the industrial centre of Kassel, Germany on the night of 22-23 October 1943.

The RAF used German Jews who fled to England from Germany to countermand orders from German Air Defence Headquarters to their pilots: they redirected fighters away from bombers or ordered them to land at various distant airfields.  The Luftwaffe responded by replacing their male fighter controllers with women and the RAF countered this by using members of he Women’s Auxiliary Air Force.

Halifax bomber supporting SOE Operations in Denmark

BB375 crew

Crew of Halifax BB378

On the night of 10-11 December 1943, a Halifax II bomber (BB 378) of No.138 Special Duty Squadron took off from RAF Tempsford in Buckinghamshire to commence Operation Tablejam 18 and Tablejam 19 to support the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and the Danish Resistance.

Tablejam 18 was the dropping of SOE agent Flemming B. Muss by parachute near Ringsted Gyldenløves before proceeding to another remote location (Tabletop 19) to drop nine containers of weapons near lake Tisso where members of the resistance were waiting delivery. Whilst approaching the first drop zone (Tablejam 18) the Halifax was intercepted by a night fighter said to be a JU 88 and during the attack the Halifax caught fire and at  01:54 hours crash landed on farmland near   Ugerløse.

Halifax BB 376

The wreck of Halifax BB 378 (Federal German Archives)

The  crew were unhurt and after freeing themselves from the wreckage decided to split up to evade German forces, but another account states the SOE agent was successfully dropped and the Halifax was shot down whilst approaching the second drop zone (Tablejam 19).

  With help from Dutch civilians and later by members of an escape line the pilot Peter Barter, navigator Joe Fry and wireless operator Bill Howell eventually reached the safety of Sweden.

Although flight sergeants Nick Anderson (engineer), Brian Atkins (second pilot/bomber), Sydney Smith (mid upper gunner) and Ralph Riggs (rear gunner) received assistance from members of the local community they were eventually denounced by a farmer and were fortunate to be taken into custody and questioned by the Luftwaffe not the Gestapo which had responsibility for countering resistance and special duty air crews came under their jurisdiction.

SOE agent Flemming Muss is know to have continued his resistance work and was later SOE’s senior agent in Denmark. His wife Varinka was also a member of the resistance and his mother Monica is thought to be the first Danish woman executed by the Germans for being a member of the resistance.  

muss

Flemming B. Muss

RAF Short Stirling which failed to return after raid on Berlin discovered along with the remains of its crew 65-years later

Stirling short

On 30 March 1943 a Short Sterling bomber (BK 716) of No.218 Squadron which was also known as the Gold Coast Squadron after the Governor of the Gold Coast (modern-day Ghana) and the people of the Gold Coast who adopted the squadron, was shot down by German fighter pilot Werner Rapp. The entire crew was killed and there was no trace of the aircraft which crashed somewhere over the Netherlands.

BK 716 training

No source but said to be the crew of BK 716 during training

In 2008 the Stirling was accidently discovered after part of its undercarriage fouled the anchor of a boat on Lake Markermeer, Netherlands, and in 2019 a cigarette case bearing the initials of Flying Officer John Michael Campbell was recovered and human remains of the crew were identified through DNA. The crew are now remembered at the Bos der Onverzettelijen Memorial Gardens in the Netherlands.

   Research and recovery was coordinated by Johan Grass a volunteer who investigates crash sites in the Netherlands and founded the Aircraft Recovery Group.

The Crew of Short Stirling BK 716

  • Sgt Charles Armstrong Bell, 23 from Langley Park, County Durham
  • Pilot Officer John Michael Campbell, 30 from Golders Green, London
  • Flying Officer Harry Gregory Farrington, 24 from Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada
  • Flying Officer John Frederick Harris, 28 from Swindon, Wiltshire
  • Sgt Ronald Kennedy, 22 from Newcastle-upon-Tyne 

138 Special Duty Squadron Supporting the Dutch Resistance 1943

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Halifax bomber (IWM, for illustration)

     On the night of 21-22 May 1943, a solitary Halifax bomber thought to be BB 229 NFZ took off from RAF Tempsford in Bedfordshire for occupied Netherlands  on Operation Marrow 35 and 36.  Their sortie was to drop seven parachute containers packed with weapons and ammunition and two agents from the Dutch Section of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) to members of the resistance waiting on remote farmland at Putten and then a further seven containers and two agents at a similar field in Elspeet. The navigator   Warrant Officer Leslie Tomlinson later said both fields were easily identified by bicycle lamps pointing skywards which the resistance used to mark the drop zone (DZ) and after the two successful drops the Halifax headed for home.

    At around 02:00 hrs the Halifax was hit by heavy flak and caught fire and Tomlinson said either by luck or great skill the pilot flew the crippled aircraft through a narrow gap between two farmhouses before crashing into a field.

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Drawing by WO Tomlinson

 

Two members of the crew were killed, and the five others suffered serious burns which meant any attempt to evade German forces was impossible and local farmers gave first aid to the crew inside one of the farmhouses the aircraft narrowly missed. When the Luftwaffe examined the burnt-out Halifax, it was apparent the aircraft was not a standard bomber and was being used for special duties to support the resistance which meant the crew came under the jurisdictions of  the Gestapo.  According to an MI9 report, after the crew were in Gestapo custody they were refused medial treatment whilst being interrogated for six hours during which they were threatened with execution if they refused to tell their interrogators how many agents were dropped and the contents of the parachute containers.

138 crew Leslie William Tomlinson

Three members of the crew (source unknown)

The crew were eventually split up and sent to different prisoner of war camps. Only after the war  did they became aware the four Dutch agents had been dropped to German troops after their network had been infiltrated and their wireless ‘played back’ to London by a German operator and all were quickly executed. This German wireless deception cost the lives of many agents from the Dutch Section and members of the resistance throughout the Netherlands and is sometimes called the Wireless War.  

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