Operation Haft

'Haft' was a British special forces operation by the 1st Special Air Service in the Mayenne area near Le Mans in the north-western part of German-occupied France (8 July/11 August 1944).

The SAS party comprised seven men under the command of Captain M. Blackman, the SAS headquarters' intelligence officer. The other men were Lieutenants H. Randall and 'Tiny' Kidner, Corporal Brown, Troopers Baker and Harrison, and one Frenchman from the 4th SAS to liaise with the local maquis: he is variously named as Corporal de Maison or André Lemée.

Unlike many other SAS operations at the time, the task of 'Haft' was purely reconnaissance and information gathering. The party operated in the area of Mayenne and Le Man of north-western France. It had originally been planned that the operation would be considerably larger, but it was realised the party would be operating too close to the front lines for the sensible employment of a large party tasked with sabotage as well as intelligence gathering.

On the third night after landing, Blackman and Kidner set off, with Lemée as their local guide, to reconnoitre the villages in the area toward Le Ham. The men moved on foot by night, staying with members of the local population during the day even as German vehicles drove past the windows. All this meant that the men could gather their intelligence in comfort. A few days later they repeated the exercise in the direction of St Mars. The population was openly hostile to the Germans and it was not unusual to see Frenchmen openly in uniform.

The party worked with an Special Operations Executive codenamed 'Scientist' and his agents, and described their co-operation as invaluable. The men of the SAS party identified more than 40 targets, many of which were then subjected to air attack. Eventually the party found increasingly fewer likely targets and contacted the leading elements of the US forces advancing toward it, finally crossing the lines to meet with a tank destroyer battalion.

In overall terms, therefore, the 'Haft' operation was notably successful.