80th anniverary of daring raid on Amiens Prison lead by OF

80th anniverary of daring raid on Amiens Prison lead by OF

80 years ago on 18 February 1944, Group Captain Percy Charles (Pick) Pickard DSO** DFC (G26-32) lead a daring raid on Amiens Prison in Northern France. During this successful raid, Pickard and his navigator sadly both lost their lives.

Below is a presentation that James Ruddock-Broyd gave to his local Royal British Legion in February 2024.

Click here to see the full biography and pictures on Pickard in the Distinguished Section of the website.

Summary Paper by James Ruddock-Broyd for Commemoration on 18 February 2024.

This presentation is to commemorate the loss of many lives 80 years ago in the Raid on Amiens Prison, northern France on 18 February 1944 and in particular the loss of the leader and his navigator on which my friend Bill Collard and myself did a great deal of research for the 70th anniversary.


In December 1943, one of the French Resistance leaders Dominique Ponchardier sent a message to London saying 12 members had been executed in Amiens Prison where 7-800 prisoners were held – many after being captured by the Gestapo – and that more than 100 would be shot on 19 February 1944.

Many prisoners later said they would rather be killed by RAF bombs than shot by the Nazis.

AVM Basil Embry was CO of 140 Wing 2TAF and wanted to lead the Raid which would be the first time such a building was targeted and of course has extra strong walls. His superiors told him he was too senior to risk his life on such a dangerous mission and it is believed he was involved with planning the invasion of Europe. Hence the position was given to the recently promoted Group Captain on the Wing – Percy Charles Pickard.

Known as “Percy” or “Pick” he had flown and led many major missions and in May 1941 in 9 Sqn he was to search out and attack battleships which had sunk HMS Hood. Also in 1941 Pickard had the pilot role in the propaganda film “Target for Tonight” flying the Wellington Bomber “F for Freddie”.

Pickard led the air support for the Paras under Major John Frost of Arnhem fame to capture German radar equipment at Bruneval on the north coast of France on 27 February 1942.

In October 1942 Pick became OC 161 Sqn at RAF Tempsford which was the SOE Special Duties Squadron dropping Agents behind the Lines; on one of Pick’s return trips was General de Lattre de Tassigny who later signed the German Surrender on behalf of France.

In May 1943, on 140 Wing, Pickard led some missions on V1 sites and the Wing had 18 low-flying Mosquitos at RAF Hunsdon comprising 3 squadrons: 464 RAAF, 487 RNZAF and 21 RAF They would be flown with six each in three waves and a 19th would contain a Film Production Unit.

Four high-flying Hawker Typhoon fighter squadrons No 198 and 174 were planned as escort but only two were prepared. Six of those planes failed to rendezvous and returned to base.

The whole complement were ready to go by 10 February and then bad weather set in and there were debates on the urgency of the situation depending on the accuracy of the Resisters’ messages. Finally the decision to proceed was made two hours before the deadline for striking the target.

The raid on Amiens Prison was coded RAMROD 564 but in 1946 it assumed the name of Operation Jericho from the name given by the French in a film. The Raid eventually took place one day before the expected further executions executions.

Four mosquitos lost contact and returned and one had engine trouble leaving 9 for the bombing and 4 in reserve.

The number of prisoners was now 717 and included two Allied Intelligence Officers who had been caught trying to get information on the prison.

The First Wave of 487 Sqn was one minute late at 12.01 on the 18th and breached the outer walls in such a way that the cell doors sprung open without the building frame collapsing; two aircraft of which did a short diversion attack on the railway station which delayed German reinforcements by two hours.

The Second Wave of 464 Sqn with Pick in No 6 position attacked at 12.05 destroying the Mess Hall and Guards Barracks at the beginning of their lunch break. Reserve Sqn 21 RAF scheduled at 12.13 was not required and ordered home.

Of the 717 prisoners, 102 were killed, 74 wounded and 255 escaped of which 182 were recaptured leaving only 73 who got away. It appears that there were no Nazi shootings during or soon after the raid.

Pick was recorded as finding one plane missing so turned back to locate it; this could not be true as McRitchie’s missing plane was shot down 30 miles west of Amiens; the pilot survived but navigator Sampson did not – they had in fact circled round and were on the way home.

Pickard’s last moment was on the NE of Amiens when a Focke Wulf 190 (of JG 26 flight) shot the tail off his Mosquito and the aircraft crashed near the village of St Gratien.

As the Leader was dead it was for FPU to send the message “Red, Red, Red” meaning ‘Return Home’.

The time of the crash was 12.05 according to the German pilot’s records later and also Pick’s damaged watch confirmed this. Back at home his dog Ming who came with him when he could started a whistling sound different from when Pick was shot down in the Channel. His wife knew the sound was different – this time she knew her husband had died.

Pickard with his Navigator Alan Broadley DSO, DFC & DFM were killed instantly; the pair were said to be inseparable and had been together for virtually all Pick’s missions from May 1940 making nearly 4 years of what the RAF described as the War’s greatest air partnership.

I helped organise a party of 20 to visit their graves on the 70th anniversary partly as Pickard and I had been in the same house at Framlingham College in Suffolk.

On the coach to Amiens we watched the new release of an investigation into the Operation presented by Martin Shaw. When we got to the prison we could see a distinct zigzag of different coloured brick repairing the damage done 70 years ago.

The documentary was investigating the background of the Raid and one key feature missing was the authority requesting the attack – none could be found in MOD or Air Ministry archives. A further reason for the raid was said to be to divert attention away from the secret planning of the Normandy Landings.

Pickard had completed 103 Missions and I have had the honour of seeing his three Log Books with the then Queen’s Medallist in Buckingham Gate.

Partly because of the secrecy of the mission and it seems some inter-personal jealousies there were varying reports subsequently of what actually happened. The pair were posted Missing for 7 months and the public had no knowledge until an October press release. On 5 November there was a Memorial Service to Pickard and Broadley at St Martin-in-the-Fields.

The medallist also acts for Lord Ashcroft who acquired the medals and Log Books not so long ago which had been sold by the family in the 1980s. I said Ashcroft collected VCs and the reply was he thought they were a very unusual set. Later the Broadley family donated Alan’s medals to Lord Ashcroft because of the unique flying partnership.

The French had marked a cross on Pick’s first grave “VC” and he was proposed for such; as you know the awarding panel has to be unanimous and there was one objector – AVM Basil Embry – saying the raid was no more than a normal one – so unanimity was not achieved. Pick had flown more Missions than Leonard Cheshire who received the VC for courage and determination in low level flying in supreme contempt for danger. Ironically Pick and Cheshire had practised air firing together. Embry went on to become an Air Chief Marshal.

No-one received any awards for the Raid; those accorded are all for other actions.

Pickard flew 2,200 hours with the RAF in 41 different aircraft. His awards were – Three DSOs, DFC, 1939-45 Star, Air Crew Europe Star, Defence Medal, War Medal 1939-45 with M I D and Czech 1939-45 War Cross for training their 311 Squadron. The French awarded Pickard the Legion d’Honneur and the Croix de Guerre after the War but the Air Ministry turned them down. We tried hard 10 years ago on behalf of the family, of whom there were few, for posthumous awards but the French did not then agree.

I acquired duplicates of Pickard’s set of medals in 2014 on behalf of The Society of Old Framlinghamians and put them in a frame with a photo of Pick half in a cockpit with his dog Ming and presented it to our old school in the Service on Remembrance Sunday that year.

May They Rest in Peace


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