According to new claims, a daring low-level air raid on a French prison that took place exactly 70 years ago today was part of an elaborate plan to mislead the Germans about the location of the D-Day landings. The raid on the prison at Amiens, which was codenamed Operation Jericho, became one of the most celebrated RAF missions of the Second World War despite the fact that 102 French civilians were killed.
At the time, the War Office stated that the raid was ordered because the Gestapo were planning to execute 120 captured members of the French Resistance being held in the prison, but research by Jean-Pierre Ducellier has found no evidence of impending executions and revealed that the vast majority of inmates were petty thieves and criminals, not members of the Resistance. He believes that the raid by Mosquito fighter bombers was part of Operation Fortitude, the plan to convince Hitler that the Allies were planning to invade Europe via the Pas-de-Calais.
Soon after the raid, stories were spread in France that it had been carried out to stop the Gestapo questioning a captured secret agent who knew the date of the invasion. Part of the plan was to feed misinformation to the Germans as to where the D-Day landings were going to be. The British couldn’t say that they had been prepared to sacrifice the lives of 100 French men, so they instead fed the idea that they were saving the lives of the French Resistance. In his book, Ducellier says “It is highly improbable, given the level of security surrounding the planning for D-Day, that anyone with highly classified knowledge would have been placed in a position where he might risk capture”.
A plaque at the prison is dedicated to those who died in the attack, and a general airfield memorial is at Hunsdon Airfield, the Mosquito’s base.