Two Old Nottinghamian brothers fighting fascism (3)

Old Nottinghamian, Robert Renwick Jackson was the pilot of a Boston III Intruder. He was killed on February 13th 1943 during an Evening Intruder Sortie to Nantes, carrying out a mission to drop propaganda leaflets for the occupied French. This type of activity was called “Nickeling”. In the rich slang of the RAF, the men who did it were called “bumphfleteers”:

I was really surprised when I found out exactly what they were distributing. Firstly, it was not necessarily a single sheet floating down. Some leaflets were up to sixteen pages. They are best thought of like an old football programme, with two or four or even eight sheets folded in two and then stapled.  Leaflets dropped on France in late 1942 included “We are winning the battle which will be decisive for victory” or “Winston Churchill Ami De La France”. There were precise verbatim reports such as “Speech by Mr. Winston Churchill to the House of Commons on September 9th 1942”, “Churchill talks on British war production” and accounts such as “Victory in Egypt – Prelude to the Allied Offensive”, referring to the Battle of El Alamein. One leaflet showed what the Free French in Great Britain were doing, trawler fishing and so on, and a second leaflet which firmly announced, “The Renault factories were working for the German Army. The Renault factories have been bombed”. Always mentioned were the times and frequencies of the BBC’s broadcasts to France.

There were two long running titles which were dropped many times in France. The first was “Courrier de l’Air” or “Postbag of the Air” with lots of short articles and photographs, of various happenings outside Hitler’s Europe:

On February 25th 1943, it contained “A heavy threat weighs on the Nazis in the Donetsk region”, “Heavy fighting in central Tunisia” and “The battleship Richelieu in New York”. Sometimes a single topic might fill the “Courrier” such as “I flew over the German army surrounded at Stalingrad”, “Stalingrad the Invincible”, “The condemned German army were waiting for the coup de grâce” and the sarcastic “Hitler has not forgotten you” under a photograph of five half, if not totally, frozen German soldiers:

Another favourite was the “Revue de la Presse Libre” or “The Magazine of the Free Press”. It carried editorials and articles in French taken from “The Times”, “The Telegraph” and other British newspapers. The leaflets were printed in hundreds of thousands and were dropped for several weeks, particularly if they were very general in nature. “Who was right?” ran from February 4th-April 11th 1943. “Edition Spéciale : Casablanca” ran from February 11th-14th 1943, and the January 1943 “Courrier de l’Air” was still being dropped in March. My own best guesses for the leaflets that Robert was delivering included “Courrier de l’Air 4 février 1943” which was dropped between February 11th-March 4th. My best guess No 2 would be the “Revue de la Presse Libre No 5” which was airlifted in by the RAF between February 11th-14th 1943. Waterlows had printed around 300,000 of them.

To be continued……….





Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, France, History, Literature, military, Politics, Russia, The High School

8 responses to “Two Old Nottinghamian brothers fighting fascism (3)

  1. Really interesting as always John. The propaganda war was a vital element of the Second world war, although it may not have been realised by those dropping the leaflets at the time!

    • Thank you, you are very kind. Arthur Harris said that dropping leaflets on the Germans was a complete waste of time, and all it did was to provide the Nazis with a lifetime’s supply of toilet paper.
      When the war changed, though, dropping them on occupied countries kept the French, the Danes, the Dutch etc, very well informed about what was going on, especially when they discovered that D-Day had taken place, successfully, and that now it was just a matter of time.

      • Indeed post D-day, leaflets like secret/coded radio broadcasts, were a vital source of information for those wanting news of the invasion and the allies’ progress.

  2. A fascinating aspect of the war that is often forgotten, John. The propaganda leaflets have since gone virtual on the World Wide Web. Deciphering the facts on the ground from the enemy’s disinformation campaign becomes harder with each new day.

    • It certainly has. Even in the world of bird watching, photographic evidence that you have seen a rare bird is no longer acceptable, because so many hoaxers have sent in pictures which have been photoshopped.
      Luckily for the leaflet writers, that kind of trickery had not yet been invented, and if you published a picture of British or American tanks parked outside Caen cathedral, people would believe that D-Day had taken place. The Russians also made great use of aerial photographs showing the besieged Germans at Stalingrad. Those were more or less impossible to fake.

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