9th June 1941

The next major event as far as the ANTIQUARIAN network was concerned was the disastrous airdrop of 9th June 1941. It was another full Moon, and with the SOE agents aiding the partisans it should in principle have been even easier than the first drop. However, the combination of the weather over the woods abruptly becoming turbulent and what seemed (based on what Patricia had heard over the radio, which she was operating to keep in contact with the pilot) to be another strange sonic/gravitational attack focused on the plane itself, disaster struck; the package of supplies and SOE agent Belson were blown wildly off course to the south, whilst the plane itself suffered catastrophic engine failure and ended up crashing to the north of the forest.

Realising that the Germans would come south to investigate whether anything had been dropped once they realised that it was a lone RAF plane that had crashed, the partisans and SOE agents headed back into the village to try and find the supplies first, trusting that Belson would fall back on his training and stay hidden until they could find him. Eventually it turned out to have fallen in the back garden of a village home – thankfully, most of the villagers were still sound asleep.

The major exception was Jean Leandres. Son of the local librarian (Adele Leandres), Jean was known to the SOE agents thanks to his local infamy as the village troublemaker, regularly in one form of trouble or another with the authorities. As the ANTIQUARIAN network arrived at the garden, they saw Jean fleeing, and Douglas gave chase. Weighed down by the rifles and ammunition he’d stolen from the crate, Jean was caught by Douglas, who after a tense confrontation convinced him to hand the materials over. Jean clearly assumed that Douglas was involved with the resistance, but also clearly realised that the authorities would be more inclined to believe a respectable doctor than someone who’d already been butting heads with them.

After tasking the partisans with concealing the materials dropped in the crate – guns, ammunition, equipment and chemical precursors suitable for setting up a small explosives production operation, and a camera which had broken in the fall- the SOE agents headed south to attend to Belson. Having come down in a vineyard, Belson had suffered a rough descent, breaking his right ankle and spraining his left leg and left wrist. Belson had managed to cut himself free from his parachute and crawl to a roadside ditch to hide. Finding him in a delirious state, the agents decided to avoid going back to the town and instead haul him to the Toulon orchards, where the Toulons could look after Belson.

It took a good while to cut across country quietly enough to avoid unwanted attention – either from Germans or territorial farmers! – but they were eventually able to make it to the orchards, where Pierre and Albert readily agreed to look after Belson. For his part, Belson was rambling about the sensation of a giant eye fixing itself on the aircraft from the centre of the forest. But there was no time to worry about that: the next morning, the party were informed that their absence had been noted by the Germans who had come to search the town – and an impromptu search of their house had caused the Germans to comment both on Patricia’s reading material and Douglas’ extensive collection of watches. Though Belson and the dropped materials had been saved, the party now had the Germans’ attention…


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