Operation Spenser

This was a British special forces operation by the French 4th Régiment de Chasseurs Parachutistes (4th Special Air Service) in the region of Bourges in German-occupied France (26 August/14 September 1944).

After a reconnaissance mission by Lieutenant André Gabaudan on 26 August had reported that the Germans were well established in the region around Pouilly sur Loire, on 29 August Commandant Pierre Bourgoin sent three companies to Briare for the establishment of a base. A fourth company, only recently created, was to follow as a headquarters company after it had repaired the 4th SAS’s remaining vehicles.

The Germans appeared to be guarding the bridges essential for any retreat from the south-west to the north-east, and the task of the 4th SAS was to provide a mobile unit that could harass any German units retreating along this route. Thus 54 Jeeps (each carrying four French SAS troopers) together with a number of trailers and trucks left Vannes for the Loire river valley. This force (38 officers and 279 men) comprised all of the 4th SAS together with a number of resistance fighters who had joined them, and was led by Lieutenant Alexis Betbčze to Briare, where the headquarters was established after the Jeeps had infiltrated through German lines into the region east of Bourges in central France.

The operation was very successful, the 4th SAS destroying 120 German vehicles and capturing 2,500 German troops as well as helping in the surrender of 20,000 or more German troops to US forces approaching the region.