'Jailbreak! Operation JERICHO - Amiens Prison, 18 February 1944', watercolour, 74 x 53 cm
Two Mosquito FB-6s of No 487 Squadron Royal New Zealand Air Force fly their attack run on Amiens Prison during WW2. The attack had been requested by the French Resistance as the German SS and Gestapo had corralled hundreds of French Resistance prisoners in this prison, where they were being executed daily. In order to achieve the chance of a breakout, it was requested that the prison be bombed. Resistance people would be on hand to help prisoners escape after the bombing - they were only informed on the day of the raid.
The plan was for 487 Sqn RNZAF to attack in the first wave. These aircraft were to break the walls of the prison (hence the operation name which has grown around the mission - it was really RAMROD 564). The first attack was from the east (from the right in the painting); the leader's bombs went straight through the eastern wall and, as luck would have it came to rest against the southern wall - you can see the fire and hole in the wall produced at the bottom of the painting. Bombs also hit the prison itself as can be seen at right. The last 3 of the aircraft in this first wave were to break off and attack from the north (the top of the picture) a few seconds after the rest of the first wave. Here we ride with the aircraft of Pilot Officer Merv Darrall (at left) and Pilot Officer Bob Fowler as they complete this attack, breaching the northern wall in two places (which you can see at top). The third aircraft (of Pilot Officer 'Titch' Hanafin had to turn back only a few miles from the target after his engine caught fire (for the second time in the mission!). The aircraft have had to drop their bombs from below the level of the walls (only 20 feet) and at a very low speed to avoid them doing too much damage to the prison (and therefore prisoners) after going through the walls. The two aircraft are now accelerating hard after pulling up over the prison roof to escape from German Fw 190 aircraft circling in the combat air patrol area directly over the prison.
The second wave, of 464 Squadron RAAF, were to bomb the SS barracks at either end of the prison in order to kill or incapacitate as many guards as possible (the attack was timed for 1200 which was lunch time for them) - they did this most successfully and few prisoners were stopped or challenged at first.
The last wave, which was to be called in if needed by the raid commander, was turned back for home when the attack was obviously successful. By the time a photographic Mosquito left the target, prisoners could be seen streaming from the prison across the snow.
The story is complex but, in big handfuls, roughly 1/3 of the prisoners were killed or incapacitated by the bombing. Most of the other 2/3 escaped, though several bravely and deliberately gave up their own chance of freedom to attend to the wounded. Roughly half of the escapees were later recaptured. However, many were still free to take part in sabotage and intelligence work for the up-coming D-Day landings, so were able to directly contribute to the liberation of their country.
The raid commander, Group Captain 'Pick' Pickard and his navigator were killed after being intercepted by an Fw 190 as they left the area. Another Mosquito and an escorting Typhoon were both also lost in the mission with their crews.
The original painting is sold by commission.
A limited edition of 500 prints are available. The prints are available in our medium or large sizes (with only one print -whichever size - for each number):
Medium: Image 37 x 25 cm, £32 unmounted or £39 mounted to fit a 20 x 16" frame.
Large: Image approx 55 x 35 cm - £40 unmounted or £54 mounted to fit a 70 x 50 cm frame.
Please note that we can only provide framed prints for customers who can pick up from us in Mosstodloch - we are unable to post framed prints.
Medium framed print: £64
Large framed print: £89