J is for… Operation JERICHO

Operation JERICHO was a daring low-level raid on the Amiens Prison in Northern France on 18 February 1944.[1] The objective of the operation was to release the French Resistance and other political prisoners who were being held in the prison, many of whom were to shortly to be executed.[2] The Amiens raid is one of great controversy. Some believe that the raid was controlled by the Secret Intelligence Service, and the RAF crews who flew the mission, some of whom even gave their lives, were merely pawns in a political game.[3]

Across the war years, but particularly in 1943, many members of the French resistance movement were caught by the Germans and imprisoned in Amiens prison. It was learned by intelligence that more than 100 members of the resistance were due to be shot on 19February 1944, so Dominique Penchard, a resistance activist, decided to send information about the prison to London. His correspondence included details of the layout of the prison, its defences and even duty rosters.[4] However, it wasn’t until two Allied intelligence officers were captured, who possessed possible knowledge of the D-Day invasion plans, that a precision air attack on the prison was finally requested.[5]

Still from film shot by No. 1 RAFFPU following the the second-wave attack by aircraft of No. 464 Squadron RAAF, showing smoke pouring from the partially demolished north and east wings

The mission was delayed considerably due to poor weather conditions, however by 18 February it was no longer possible to wait for weather improvement and a force of nineteen Mosquito bombers from No. 140 Wing of the RAF 2nd Tactical Air Force approached the prison. On the flight, four Mosquitos lost contact with the formation and had to return to base, and an additional one had to turn back due to engine problems.[6] This left only nine bombers to carry out the main attack, and additional five in reserve.

Part of a vertical photographic-reconnaissance aerial showing the damage to the jail at Amiens, France

Dropping down to treetop height they caught the enemy by surprise, and managed to successfully breach the prison walls and destroy part of the main building.[7] 258 prisoners managed to escape the prison following the raid, several of who had knowledge of the upcoming D-Day operations.[8] However, this does not make the raid the success that was hoped for, with 102 prisoners sadly losing their life, 74 wounded, 700 prisoners re-detained during the raid itself and another 182 recaptured after escape.[9]


[1] RAF Museum, ‘Prison Busting’ exhibition, last accessed 31 July 2021, https://www.rafmuseum.org.uk/research/archive-exhibitions/freedom-liberty/prison-busting/

[2] RAF Museum, ‘Prison Busting’ exhibition, last accessed 31 July 2021, https://www.rafmuseum.org.uk/research/archive-exhibitions/freedom-liberty/prison-busting/

[3] The People’s Mosquito, ‘Operation Jericho – Mosquito Attack on Amiens Prison – 18 February 1944,’ last accessed 31 July 2021, https://www.peoplesmosquito.org.uk/2014/02/17/operation-jericho-mosquito-attack-on-amiens-prison-18th-february-1944/

[4] The People’s Mosquito, ‘Operation Jericho – Mosquito Attack on Amiens Prison – 18 February 1944,’ last accessed 31 July 2021, https://www.peoplesmosquito.org.uk/2014/02/17/operation-jericho-mosquito-attack-on-amiens-prison-18th-february-1944/

[5] The People’s Mosquito, ‘Operation Jericho – Mosquito Attack on Amiens Prison – 18 February 1944,’ last accessed 31 July 2021, https://www.peoplesmosquito.org.uk/2014/02/17/operation-jericho-mosquito-attack-on-amiens-prison-18th-february-1944/

[6] The People’s Mosquito, ‘Operation Jericho – Mosquito Attack on Amiens Prison – 18 February 1944,’ last accessed 31 July 2021, https://www.peoplesmosquito.org.uk/2014/02/17/operation-jericho-mosquito-attack-on-amiens-prison-18th-february-1944/

[7] RAF Museum, ‘Prison Busting’ exhibition, last accessed 31 July 2021, https://www.rafmuseum.org.uk/research/archive-exhibitions/freedom-liberty/prison-busting/

[8] RAF Museum, ‘Prison Busting’ exhibition, last accessed 31 July 2021, https://www.rafmuseum.org.uk/research/archive-exhibitions/freedom-liberty/prison-busting/

[9] The People’s Mosquito, ‘Operation Jericho – Mosquito Attack on Amiens Prison – 18 February 1944,’ last accessed 31 July 2021, https://www.peoplesmosquito.org.uk/2014/02/17/operation-jericho-mosquito-attack-on-amiens-prison-18th-february-1944/

[Image 1] Imperial War Museum (IWM), “Royal Air Force: 2nd Tactical Air Force, 1943-1945,” C 4735, https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205023420

[Image 2] IWM, “Royal Air Force: Operations by the Photographic Reconnaissance Units, 1939-1945,” C 4738, https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205023422


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