Hugh Verity oc ‘A’ Flight 161 Squadron
No.161 Special Duties Squadron RAF was responsible for supporting SOE and other agents working in occupied France and pilots flew alone in a slow, single engine Lysander aircraft which was unarmed and had an extra fuel tank bolted between the undercarriage to allow them to fly deeper into France and return to England. Pilots used moonlight to identify land marks whilst also watching out for night fighters and ground defences and had to find remote farmland to pick up or deliver agents.
When Hugh Verity was asked why he decided to make one pickup in pitch darkness and no moon he replied, “I wanted to see how frightening it was and that’s why I never did it again”. The truth is, he volunteered to take the mission after being told an SOE agent was attempting to escape the Gestapo and if he was not extracted he would very likely be captured, tortured then executed. Verity was the OC of ‘A’ Flight? and because it was not known whether it was possible to complete this sortie without moonlight and it was widely acknowledged it could be a one-way trip, due to the additional and unknown dangers Verity would not contemplate ordering one of his pilots to fly the sortie and decided to do it himself. After over eight-hours of fear and uncertainty Hugh Verity successfully rescued the agent.