It was January 1944, and the mood in London was somber, as chilling as the cold January air that permeated the damp, dark cells of the Gestapo-held prison in Amiens. Among those incarcerated behind the 3-ft thick, towering prison walls were several hundred members of the French Resistance, all condemned to death for their role in assisitng the Allies. Some had been betrayed, some had already been shot and the future of the others, including two Allied intelligence officers, looked bleak.
London has now received information that more executions were set to be carried out at dawn on Saturday 19 February. The prisoners needed help, and fast, before the entire Resistance movement in northern France, whose involvement was crucial to Allied plans for the forthcoming invasion, was finished.
What followed was one of the most daring low-level bombing operations of World War II; codenamed ‘Operation Jericho’, it would involve a force of 19 de Havilland Mosquito’s. Led by Wg Cdr ‘Black’ Smith, the Mosquitoes of 487 Sqn RNZAF would first breach the 20-ft high outer wall, followed closely by 464 Sqn RAAF – led by Wg Cdr Bob Iredale – whose task was to hit the main building and demolish the guards’ quarters in the hope that the cell doors would be sprung open, allowing the prisoners to make a dash to freedom. The operation, under the command of Gp Capt ‘Pick’ Pickard, required precision flying of the highest order.
If the task ahead wasn’t difficult enough, on the morning of Friday 18 February snow was falling from murky skies as the Mosquitoes left RAF Hunsdon and headed south towards Amiens to liaise with their Typhoon escort en-route.
Gerald Coulson’s powerful painting depicts the moment when Group Captain Pickard, the last over the prison, departs the scene just as the first time-delay bombs begin to explode. Within seconds the walls will be breached, the barracks destroyed and the cell doors flung open as planned, allowing the prisoners to clamber through the debris into the surrounding fields. More than 150 men will escape to re-join the Resistance.
Published in 1994, each print is personally signed by a staggering collection of EIGHTEEN veterans who were directly involved in ‘Operation Jericho’ including two of the escapees, creating a truly remarkable collector’s piece and a fitting tribute to all those who took part in such a daring mission:
Flight Lieutenant GEOFFREY ATKINS
Pilot Officer ARTHUR DUNLOP
Flight Lieutenant BRIAN ‘TICH’ HANAFIN DFC
Flight Lieutenant IAN MALLETT
Flight Lieutenant TOM MCPHEE DFM
Pilot Officer FRANK REDGRAVE
Pilot Officer DON BURTON
Pilot Officer BOB FOWLER
Wing Commander BOB IREDALE DFC
Flying Officer HARRY MARKBY DFC
Squadron Leader IAN MCRITCHIE DFC
Flight Lieutenant TED SISMORE
Wing Commander ‘BLACK’ SMITH DFC
Pilot Officer MAXWELL SPARKES
Flight Lieutenant ‘BUCK’ TAYLOR DFC
Flight Sergeant FRANK WHEELER
Flight Lieutenant ARTHUR WHEELER DFC
Amien Prison escapee ANDRE PACHE
THE ARTIST PROOFS
Exclusively limited to just one hundred copies worldwide, this edition was released in in 2019 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the mission. We are delighted to have a small number available, giving collectors the opportunity to acquire an Artist Proof for the first time.