Operation Patrick

This was an Allied special forces operation to parachute an Office of Strategic Services operational group, eventually numbering 25 men, into the Indre area of German-occupied France to aid local resistance forces (14 August/13 September 1944).

This was the fifth of eight OSS parties assembled in the UK for despatch into the more northern part of German-occupied France to aid the local resistance forces. Under the command of Lieutenant Colonel S. Obolensky, the party was delivered in two drops (14 men on 14/15 August and 11 men on 15/16 August) to aid the resistance forces in preventing the destruction of fixed installations by the German forces as they retreated from the département of Indre (most especially hydro-electric power station at Eguson, which was vital to the power system of France), and also in making attacks on railway, road and communications targets, most particularly those which the Germans might use as they pulled out of the region.

On the nights of 14/15 and 15/16 August, five adapted Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bombers took off from Harrington in the UK to deliver the two parts of the operational group the Mouhet. Injuries as the men landed were only minor, and resistance fighters were on hand to receive the Americans and provide short-term support.

On 16 August the men of the group moved close to road linking Limoges and Paris, established a base in a wooded area, and started to receive food from the local grouping of the Francs-Tireurs et Partisans, the French communist resistance movement. The main road had already been cut, so ambushes were made on other roads on a 10-mile (16-km) radius from camp. Through a Francs-Tireurs et Partisans agent, Obolensky contacted Capitaine Clavel, the commander of a Vichy French unit in Eguson which had been sent there by the government of Maréchal Philippe Pétain with orders hold the town in co-operation with the Germans. A meeting was arranged, and Clavel informed Obolensky that he was under orders to hold Eguson, to which and defend it from attack, to which Obolensky replied he had orders from Général de Corps d’Armée Pierre Koenig, commander of the Forces Françaises de l’Intérieur, to take possession of and hold Eguson for France. He added he was ready to attack with paratroopers. Clavel then agreed their objectives were essentially identical, and Obolensky made the point that no attack would be made if the Germans withdrew and left the installation intact. Meanwhile about 200 resistance fighters and the Americans moved to within 1 mile (1.6 km) of Eguson and prepared to attack.

Early in the morning of 17 August German trucks began to leave Eguson and Clavel reported that the Germans were heading for Châteauroux. No attempt was made to molest them. A detail led by Captain J. E. Cook, second in command of the 'Patrick' group, blocked the road lining Eguson and Argenton by felling trees and blowing a bridge to prevent the Germans from returning in the event that they were attacked by another force before reaching Chateauroux.

On 20 August the isolation of Eguson was completed by the destruction of two bridges at Crozant, to the south of the town. One of these bridges was a triple span structure of stone and steel-reinforced concrete. Roads were also blocked with felled trees. Eguson was the first town to be liberated by the 'Patrick' group, and there were considerable celebrations in the town.

On 21 August the group moved its headquarters to the power station, and by a time one week later the defences of the power plant had been strengthened and extended to a considerably greater radius. The men of the 'Patrick' group continued to ambush German parties outside the defence perimeter in the area of St Benoît, and aided in the liberation of Châteauroux. The celebration which followed was interrupted by thearrival of a message that Germans, falling back from Bordeaux, had reached Tournon and the area to the west of Poitiers. The 'Patrick' group swiftly moved to an ambush site 1 mile (1.6 km) to the west of Lureil. Here a party under the command of Cook was placed on the left-hand side of the road, that of Obolensky and the resistance leader on the road itself, and that of 1st Lieutenant E. Dumont and other resistance elements on the right flank. After refusing a call to surrender, the Germans attacked at 24.00, striking Cook’s and Obolensky’s elements. After an hour of steady fighting, the signal for an Allied withdrawal came, and rain then helped to cover the sounds of the withdrawal. Obolensky had designated the nearby village of Le Blanc as the reassembly point, and all but two of the Allied group reached this by 12.00 before heading for Eguson later, where the missing two later arrived after escaping from a German encirclement. The German unit, which the Maquis had reported as 100 men, proved to be the vanguard of two divisions.

In the first two weeks of September, the 'Patrick' group reconnoitred the routes which could be used by the retreating Germans from Poitiers through Châteauroux and Vendoeuvre, and during this period established links with in this time coming in contact with the 'Percy Red' group, now led by Captain R. J. Grunseth after the death of Captain William F. Larsen. Parties of Germans were reported, but no significant actions took place. When it was believed the last of the Germans had left the area, the 'Patrick' group was ordered to return to the UK. This it did in a Douglas C-47 transport aeroplane from Le Blanc on 13 September.