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Operation Bardsea

Operation Bardsea was designed to use agents drawn from Monika as paratroopers specializing in sabotage and subversive activities in specific operations just behind bridgeheads on D-Day. A memo dated 2nd February 1943 (PRO HS4/229/ 98362) sets out the broad charter for the operation and indicates the Bardsea Operation was strategically subordinate to Monika and whose role was to last 72 hours after invasion or when the positions were overtaken by the invasion forces. 120 French- speaking Poles would be recruited and trained as JEDBURGH parties. Jedburgh’s were 3 man teams trained to be dropped behind enemy lines and supervise local resistance groups, liase with the invasion forces and communicate with London. It was assumed the recruits had already been to ‘A’ schools (airborne training) and S.T.S 51 (Special Training School). Additional airborne and battle training would be given and in most cases training periods were between 4 - 6 weeks. If any candidate had not completed intelligence courses at S.T.S 31, then trainers would be brought in.
Archives indicate a vast array of internal memos sorting out everything from finance (D/FIN £200,000 loan to the Polish Ministry of National Defence) through to requisition orders to kit out the S.T.S. Although Hatherop Castle had been earmarked for the housing and training centre or depot, Lupton House had also been considered and subsequently dropped. The great rivalry for country houses between different departments and organizations caused prolonged negotiation. With the US forces building up strength in preparation for D-Day, the demand for housing was great. Eventually Bardsea operations became temporarily based in Inchmery House (STS 63) near Exbury in Hampshire in May 1943. Warnham Court School, a former London County Council boarding school was also earmarked as a training school of BARDSEA. Located in near Horsham in Sussex, STS 63 was used by the Polish section of SOE for small weapons training probably from May 1943 until the autumn before finally being moved to Erlestoke Park near Devises, as both locations were able to offer gyms and field firing facilities.

The commanding officer was KIJAKOWSKI who oversaw the training of 30 officers and 30 second in command with an additional 30 men trained as w/t operators. Capt. W.H Francis together with Sgts E. Bacon (APTC) and A. Simmons (R.A) were co-opted to assist in the running and training of the men at the depot. As the training progressed, Kijakowski increasingly became concerned with security as trained operatives would be returned to their units, hence discussions developed over an official Polish Independent Company. Internal memos indicate friction between the British High Command/ SOE and the Polish Government in Exile. Klimecki was against the Bardsea operation as the Polish forces had manpower shortages, so it was agreed to train a maximum of 30 groups of 3 men per group on the lines of the Jedburgh’s’. Additional personnel were seconded to the unit to go into the field with the Bardsea teams. The appointment of Capt. J. Pritchard (Royal Sussex) together with Sgts. F. Lyford (RASC) and K. Herod (RA) did not happen without protracted debate. Eventually, SOE won the argument by suggesting their roles were more valuable in the field than back in the UK. In September 1943 Lt.Col. Zdrojewski was dropped into France to link up with Monika as a military liaison officer.

For the operatives, life was about intensive commando style training with additional specialist courses. Training was interrupted when they were able to demonstrate their skills and effectiveness to a small party of ‘Top Brass’. In a letter from Brigadier Mockler-Ferryman C.B.E, M.C to General Kukiel congratulating him on the quality of the men who were referred to as the Polish Independent Parachute Company of Grenadiers after a visit to Inchmery House commented on the need for more officers. While the physical condition, training and parade turnout was deemed to be excellent with Second Lieutenant Rossowiecki particularly impressing the senior officers; recommendations for promotion were also being made which indicates the overall quality of the unit and mobility within the ranks. Training exercises in preparation for D-Day rehearsed different aspects of the operation ranging from fully armed parachute drops into the coalfields around The Midlands (Litchfield - called Exercise Gam) through to W/T exercises in the Hampshire countryside. A memo dated 26th November 1943 highlights problems with W/T design and the ability to use existing handheld generators, which were inefficient, short in supply and bulky - just what the agents needed. Subsequently, secret equipment designed and built by the Poles was tested with 100% success rate and there is almost a tinge of jealousy written into an internal memo by a British officer. Training in W/T was with S.T.S 52 based at Golders Green in north London and lasted between 6 - 8 weeks of intensive tuition lasting up to 8 hours per day.

Airborne training was at Manchester Ringway and street fighting was practiced with the 11th Armed Division at Limehouse in February 1944. Pay and conditions loomed as an issue since their food ration was lower than counterparts in other Special Forces and pay required clarification too. A memo dated 24th June 1943 indicated Commandos received no extra pay. A Sergeant earned 7s per day and a Private 3s - 4s 9d. However, this did not satisfy the Special Forces units. A memo dated 2nd June 1944 indicated there would be an additional 5s per day tax free for all ranks with family allowances and lodging payments to those who were eligible. All received “danger pay”.

While the preparations for D-Day continued, military planners started to look beyond the invasion. In a memo dated 29th February 1944 (PRO/HS4/229/98362) with the reference EUP/PD/5861 indicated General Sosnkowski agreed to expand the Bardsea teams in ‘order to form a cadre of groups to be dropped in Polish prison camps in Germany’. This cadre would be German speaking and whose orders were quite simple: free the prisoners and slaughter the local population. The operation was code named DUNSTABLE and like the Bardsea Operation would become entangled in politics and military strategy, for example SHAEF did not want freed Poles in N. France (often slave labour) to be removed from key industries, which might be important for the war effort.

In the run up to D-Day, the role and timing of the operational drops became an area of concern between EU/P, SOE and SHAEF. The plan for the Bardsea teams were to go into N. France after the invasion and be operative in close proximity to the SAS who would be in zones nearer to the beaches in Pas de Calais. The Bardsea’s would operate behind the lines in areas of high concentrations of population around Lille and be ‘active’ for 72 hours with low survival expectancy. SHAEF stipulated the action and general revolt would only be authorised once Operation Overlord could give a clear indication of progress of the invasion troops being in the ‘neighbourhood’. The definition of neighbourhood and status of the Poles in N. France became a major conflict between the Supreme Commander, the Polish Government in Exile and the SOE. The Supreme Commander wished to avoid reprisals upon the civilian population by the Germans by announcing ALL Poles should rise to arms and would be protected/ absorbed into the armed forces. The status of the civilian émigrés and former soldiers had not been thought through and the French Liberation Army had been largely left in the dark over the operation. It was also demanded that all Polish traffic be censored to ensure Overlord would not be blown. The Poles had operated semi-independent encrypted traffic throughout the war and now felt blocked in their ability to manage their operations under their original agreements and charters with the British Government. While the Polish politicians continued to support the operation, the rift (described as intransigence) between the SHAEF and the Polish Commanders, particularly General Sosnkowski, became more acute. General Sosnkowski became more concerned about Poles shedding their blood for France. A memo dated 18th July 1944 clearly indicated the Polish Army was accused of mobilising Polish Divisions and then march east on the ‘lines of the historic old Pilsudski legions’ through Russian held territory. SHAEF saw this as a flash point for a future war between Poland and Russia with unimaginable consequences. Unfortunately, the details of Yalta and Stalin’s plans for Berlin, Germany and the carving up of post-war Europe were not known.

All plans were temporarily thrown into turmoil by a Gestapo raid in Paris HQ of Monika capturing 11 operatives in mid July 1944. The memo (referenced EUP/PD/7265) indicated the Germans had attempted to infiltrate Monika and persuade influential Poles to fight the real enemy, communism. It was reported Cardinal Hlond (?) had got in touch with agent BERNARD and this may have been the method the Gestapo had used to pinpoint the Monika HQ in Paris. All W/T traffic was suspended or moved into listening mode and operations in Amiens (CROSSBOW) suspended until Monika agents in the south of France had confirmed all details. A transmission to BERNARD dated 19th July 1944 warned of the dangers posed if the Monika/ Bardsea operation appeared to be anti-communist as General de Gaulle was currently working closely with the French communists. Anything to upset the balance in relationships would cause problems in mobilization of the Monika/ Bardsea teams. By the 25th July, it had been confirmed BERNARD had escaped capture and the Amiens/ CROSSBOW operation to ‘sever cables’ was to go ahead. Major Chalmers Wright volunteered to go back into France into the Lille area with a Jedburgh unit to report on troop movements and report an update on CROSSBOW with the mission approved on the 10th August 1944.

The following Bardsea teams were dropped into the field:-
Group No./ Name R.V Name Team Members Nationality R.V Map Ref. DP Map Ref./ Comments
Group 1: Adam Mustela 2nd Lt. G. Gichy,
Sgt. M Frondkowski
527183 Banned area, nearest D.P 14Km East.
Group 2: Bolek Capricornus 2nd Lt. P. Szefler
Sgt. S. Zieba
512268 Banned area, nearest D.P 20Km E.S.E
Group 3: Cyrel Porcus 2nd Lt. A. Sosnowski
Sgt. J. Sawin
617238 Banned area, nearest D.P 14Km E.S.E
Group 4: Dawid Felix 2nd Lt. L. Wisniewski
L/Cpl. L. Mazurkiewicz
956054 356070. MS75 50°22’47”N
Group 5: Edek Cancer 2nd Lt. F. Olech
Cpl. A. Rzonca
650048 In flak area, nearest D.P is Marek D.P
Group 6: Felek Leo 2nd Lt. H. Arwar
Cpl. A. Szalaty
697122 744125 MS74 50°25’22”N
Group 7: Genek Simia 2nd Lt. S. Tarnowski
Cpl. J. Sobocinski
865045 871036 MS75 50°21’00”N
Group 8: Henio Talpha 2nd Lt. S. Kuza
Cpl.Z. Widelka
537013 In flak area, nearest Marek D.P
Group 9: Jasiu Vulpes Cdt.Off. C. Bursa
Cpl. T. Ignaczak
394162 Banned area, nearest D.P 20km East
Group 10: Karol Lynx 2nd Lt. L Szacillo
L/Cpl. A. Mlynarz
952971 935895 MS87 50°13’30”N
Group 11: Leon Asinus 2nd Lt. Z. Palucki
C.pl A. Pilarski
855013 847009 MS 75 50°19’28”N
Group 12: Marek Taurus 2nd Lt. J. Sadowski
L/Cpl. J. Czechowski
736038 762043 MS74 50°21’00”N
Group 13: Datchet Canis Camelus 1st Lt. D. Kitch
2nd Lt. S. Konieczko
Banned area, nearest D.P 20Km E.S.E
Group 14: Dodford Pegasus 1st Lt. J. Kielbowigz
2nd Lt. H. Wolfs
496099 Banned area, nearest D.P 20Km E
Group 15: Darowes Mulus Capt. J Pritchard
Sgt. K. Herod
030137 030137 MS75 50°26’55”N
Group 16: Held in Reserve   1st Lt. J. Brown
Sgt. F. Fus
  Held in Reserve

Each group consisted of two commanding officers, W/T operator plus two other ranks that were not listed in the memo. For the British group, a Polish interpreter and W/T operator was added to the ‘cell’ or group. Each man would be dropped into France with a leg bag containing a small personal kit, rations for 2 days and as much small arms ammunition and explosives the bag could carry. Each person was issued with a Marlin or carbine and an automatic pistol. 6 containers would be dropped with each group to be issued to the Polish Resistance Groups (Monika) and these contained:-

17 Sten guns and 5,200 rounds of ammunition
15 Pistols and 870 rounds
50 Grenades
178 Charges (1.5lb standard issue)
58 French railway charges
20 lb plastic explosives
Wire cutters,
Medical kits

The containers for the Bardsea Operators included:-

1 Bren Gun with 1,250 rounds of ammunition
1 Snipers Rifle with 30 clips loaded
1 E.Y Rifle with 30 ballistic cartridges
Grenades, H.Explosives, limpets, wire cutters, phone cutters
W/T sets including S-Phones

As Operation Overlord broke out from the Normandy bridgeheads and with the invasion of Southern France, events were overtaking Operation Bardsea. The Polish 1st Armoured Division had crossed the River Seine at Elbeuf on the 31st August and had reached Ghent by 13th September. Vice-Premier Mikolajczyk wrote to Lord Selborne on 5th September pleading with the British to release the Polish Independent Parachute Brigade and the Bardsea/ Dunstable Special Forces units to be immediately sent with other specialists (Drogi Cichociemni) to support the Warsaw Rising and the Home Army.

Memo traffic between SOE and Special Forces HQ (based in Montague Mansions, Montague Street, London) between September and November 1944 indicate half the Bardsea teams had gone into ‘action’ with the residue held in reserve for ‘emergencies’. There is no indication in the PRO archives what activities these were. However, one memo requested German-speaking members of the remaining Bardsea units to be integrated into the Dunstable Operation (Lt Krebs, Sgt Major A Fulek and Pte R Cresla). The memo indicates Bardsea W/T operators Cpl Kupc and Ortyl had volunteered for Dunstable operations were inside Germany as W/T operators in plain clothes trying to establish contact. There were growing concerns over the number of Poles who had been conscripted into the German army and Todt organization. General Kukiel representing the Polish Ministry of National Defence had since December 1943 requested SOE to consider how to encourage desertion once the invasion had started. With approximately 500 Poles based in Denmark, mass desertion would tie up huge numbers of front line troops trying to contain insurrection. SOE / SIS felt there was insufficient resources available for Monika/ Bardsea type operations being set up to rescue these troops.

With the start of the Warsaw Rising the Government in Exile considered using the Bardsea teams to be dropped into the stricken city. However, logistics and the risk were too great. Not even Sosabowski’s Parachute Brigade could be used as they had already been earmarked for Operation Market Garden. The frustration for the Government in Exile and the AK (Home Army) was felt and recorded in numerous memoirs (see Novak, 1984; Jeffery, 1985; Garlinski, 1969 and Iranek-Osmecki, 1954). Churchill and Eden were reluctant to offend Stalin (Foot, 1984) by flying the Bardsea teams into the stricken city. Gubbins fell into despair at the collapse of the Warsaw Rising and the destruction of the city, its inhabitants, the AK and Operation Burza. (hyperlink: Operation Burza) SOE remained keenly interested in Polish affairs, but could provide little assistance during the 63-day campaign. Operation ‘Freston’ was set into motion by Gubbins and led by Marko Hudson to ascertain the damage and morale of the AK. There is no evidence that SOE were aware of the Poles betrayal under the Yalta Agreement. General Sosnkowski remained in opposition to using the Bardsea Special Forces and whom would have been ‘wasted’ if dropped into the Warsaw Rising. Had the Polish military guessed Stalin’s vision of a post war Poland?


There appears to be no official communiqué over the fate of Operation Bardsea or Dunstable apart from an officer concerned with the number of 9mm Browning pistols in circulation. Both Foot (1984) and Marks (2000) describe Monika / Bardsea as a waste. However, SHAEF did not utilize these Special Forces for fear of W/T traffic blowing the cover of Overlord and the possible reprisals by the Germans. There was also an inexplicable sensitivity towards Stalin. With the dawn of post war Europe and the Cold War, did members of Bardsea and Dunstable find new employment infiltrating the puppet Communist Governments of eastern and central Europe?

Further Reading

Sacquety, T.J. (20149 “Skokoski’s Journey: Service in Three WWII Special Operations Units, Veritas, Vol.11, No.1, pp. 60-74.


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