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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.
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161 Squadron Crest
161 Squadron SOE Lysander IIIa V9673 MA-J F/O. Bathgate DFC

Operation: Special Operations Executive

Date: 10/11th December 1943 (Friday/Saturday)

Unit: No. 161 Squadron (3 Group)

Type: Lysander IIIa

Serial: V9673

Code: MA-J

Base: RAF Tangmere, Sussex

Location: Berry-Au-Bac, Aisne, France

Pilot: F/O. James Robertson Grant Bathgate DFC NZ/403932 RNZAF Age 23. Killed

Captain Claudius Four (Also known as Kim)

Agent: Emile Cossonneau (Also known as Moreau)


Taking off at 21:05 hrs from RAF Tangmere in Sussex on 'operation Sten' when they were hit by ant-aircraft fire crashing at Berry-Au-Bac, Aisne in France, killing the decorated New Zealander pilot as well his his equally decorated passengers.

Another Lysander flown by 25 year old, Fl/Lt. James McAllister McBride 113888 RAFVR was forced to return due to deteriorating weather conditions. Sadly he was also killed a week later on the 17th of December whilst trying to land in heavy fog. His Lysander V9367 MA-B crashed at 03:53 hrs at RAF Tangemere, his two 'passengers' survived.

During that same operation another Lysander V9674 MA-K was flown by 28-year-old, F/O. Stephen Alers Hankey 40822 RAF crashed in similar circumstances at 04:02 hrs - his two 'passengers' were killed. Albert Kohan - codename Bertal and Jacques Tayer - codename Cazenave,

DFC Citation:

"F/O. James Robertson Grant Bathgate has taken part in a very large number of sorties, many of them in the Middle East. He had displayed exceptional skill, keenness and determination, qualities which have earned many successes. He is a very efficient captain and his example has proved inspiring".

No. 161 (Special Duties) Squadron was a highly secretive unit of the Royal Air Force, which, together with 138 Squadron and 148 Squadron, was tasked with missions of the Special Operations Executive during the Second World War. Their primary role was to drop and collect secret agents and equipment into and from Nazi-occupied Europe. The squadron had a secondary role in acting as the King's Flight.

Above: F/O. James Robertson Grant Bathgate DFC

Above: Fl/Lt. James McAllister McBride

Above: F/O. Stephen Alers Hankey

Burial details:

F/O. James Robertson Grant Bathgate DFC. La Ville-Aux-Bois British Cemetery. Grave 3.B.1A. Son of George Thomas Bathgate and of Eleanor Isabella Bathgate (née Macnee), of Outram, Otago, New Zealand and husband of Dorothea Valentia Bathgate. He had served previously both in the Middle East and England. A total of 1117 flying hours logged. Sadly his family also lost his brother just a few weeks earlier - details below.

Others mentioned within the page:

21-year-old, Pte. John William Macnee Bathgate. 438027 23rd Bn. New Zealand Infantry. Sangro River War Cemetery, Italy. Grave XVI.A.17. Next of kin details as shown for his brother.

Above and below the brave French agents.

47-year-old, Captain Claudius Four. Initially at La Ville-Aux-Bois British Cemetery. Reinterred in July 1948 at Bourg-en-Bresse, France at the request of his family. Age 48. Born on the 21st November 1895 in Saint Maurice, France.

49 year old, Emile Cossonneau. La Ville-Aux-Bois British Cemetery. A Locksmith by trade. Born in Paris on the 22nd of October 1893. He was mayor of Gagny to the east of Paris in 1935 before becoming a Deputy (MP) for the Seine-et-Oise Department. He approved of the German/Soviet Pact and was arrested in October 1939 and stripped of his Parliamentary mandate for 5 years, sentenced to 5 years imprisonment and fined heavily. Transferred to North Africa in March 1941, he was liberated by allied troops in February 1943.

Albert Kohan (codename Bertal) Born on the 13th September 1886 in Tagantcha,Russia. Buried at Brookwood Military Cemetery, Surrey, England. Age 57.

Jacques Tayar (codename Cazenave) Born on the 21st July 1915 in Paris, France. Buried Chichester Cemetery, Sussex, England. Age 28.

Above: Memorial to F/O. James Bathgate and Fl/Lt. James McBride (courtesy of Terence James)

Fl/Lt. James McAllister McBride. Chichester Cemetery. Square 115. C. of E. Plot. Grave 24. Son of Donald and Jean W. McBride, of Port of Spain, Trinidad. The grave inscription reads: "Killed On Active Service".

F/O. Stephen Alers Hankey. Crowhurst Churchyard, (St. George). Son of Cecil George Herbert Alers Hankey and Gertrude Clare Hankey and husband of Elizabeth Anne Hankey (née Papillon), of South Kensington, London, England. The grave inscription reads: "Greater Love Hath No Man Than This".

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this crew with thanks to Frank Mahieu for taking photographs of the grave - in February 2018. Also to the research by Errol Martyn and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, Auckland War Memorial Museum, Weekly News of New Zealand, also to Mr. R. Maddox for information on agent Cossonneau via Assemblée Nationale, other sources as quoted below:

KT - 05.02.2018 - Updated 16.05.2018

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Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Stan D. Bishop, John A. Hey MBE, Gerrie Franken and Maco Cillessen - Losses of the US 8th and 9th Air Forces, Vols 1-6, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiton - Nachtjagd Combat Archives, Vols 1-13. Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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