Ships associated with the Pat O'Leary escape line
HMS Fidelity was a French 2,400 ton armed merchantman formerly known as Le Rhin. Her 'Corsican' commander, Lieutenant de Vaisseau Claude Andre Peri had taken her from Marseilles on the signing of the French Armistice and sailed to Gibraltar and then the UK where he turned her over to the Royal Navy. Peri renamed himself 'Jack Langlais' and was given the rank of temporary Lieutenant Commander RN whilst his ship became Fidelity and commissioned for 'special services'. Included in her crew as First Lieutenant was a Belgian doctor named Albert-Marie Guerisse who had changed his name to 'Patrick Albert O'Leary' and also given the temporary rank of Lieutenant Commander RN. Another crew member was Madeleine Gueslin who changed her name to 'Barclay' and was appointed First Officer WRNS, the only woman engaged in active service during the war on a Royal Navy fighting ship.
In 1941, Fidelity was sent to land agents and bring off Polish evaders from southern France. The first operation was 25 April when she landed Egbert H Rizzo, a Maltese civil engineer and Bitner, previously Polish Consul at Toulouse, at Canet Plage. Both men were sent to establish SIS/SOE escape routes out of France across the Pyrenees to Spain. The next night she took part in an aborted operation to embark Polish servicemen from Cerbere and it was then that Pat O'Leary and three other crew members, Fergusson, Rogers and Forde, were left behind and all but NCO Forde subsequently arrested by French officials.
Her last (and possibly only other) successful Mediterranean operation was AUTOGIRO/URCHIN when she landed four SOE agents at Barcarès the night of 19/20 September 1941. Either way, Fidelity was returned to England, re-equipped and armed for work in the Far East. In December 1942, she was travelling with convoy ONS 154 when it was attacked by a submarine wolf pack and on the 29 December Fidelity was finally torpedoed by U435 and lost with all hands off the Azores after picking up survivors from other ships.
HMS Tarana was a 347 ton motor trawler built in Rotterdam in 1932. After taking part in the evacuation of her home port of Boulogne in 1940, she was requisitioned into the Auxillary Patrol and had her holds gutted, cleaned and converted into living quarters. In 1941 she was chosen for a new mission and fitted with concealed weapons in the form of a 3 inch gun mounted where her trawl winch had been and which could be disguised as a winch with the addition of wooden ends, and two 2 pounder guns mounted beneath her forecastle, hidden by drop screens. She was also fitted with a variety of light automatic weapons and extra toilet facilities. Only listed in the Navy's 'Pink List' and with her original RN Service Patrol crew and newly appointed Captain Lt Commander E B Clark RNR, she was sent to Gibraltar. Her first mission in the Mediterranean was for the SIS/MI9 Operation ABLOOM when she landed Pat O'Leary and his new radio operator Drouet at Port Vendres on 18 April 1942.
Tarana's standard practice was to leave Gibraltar late in the evening as a minor British naval vessel with her black hull and grey upper works and flying a White Ensign. Once at sea her crew would discard their uniforms, paint the upper works in the fashion of local fishing vessels, alter the funnel outline, distribute gear about the decks "in a casual fashion" and hoist an "appropriate" national flag (best time six hours - in darkness). Mission over, she would spend her last night at sea being reformed into a British warship once more with both crew and passengers busy with the paint pot ready for her early morning return to base. Tarana's missions sometimes included liasing with the Polish feluccas Seawolf and Seadog and taking excess passengers from them for the return trip or taking them out for the smaller ships to land and so enabling the feluccas to multiply the number of people they could carry on a mission. In 1944 the French Government awarded HMS Tarana the Croix de Guerre with Bronze Palm.
Seawolf and Seadog were already based in Gibraltar. Lt Marian Krajewski (referred to as "Mischa" by Donald Darling and real name Marian Kadulski) had been carrying out missions in feluccas Seawolf, Seagull (on loan from SOE) and Dogfish to land agents and evacuate (mostly) Polish personnel from north Africa for the Polish Mission since July 1941. Regular missions to France began in April 1942 in concert with SOE and/or SIS when Seawolf was finally fitted with a replacement (although still slow and unreliable) engine and in May she had her first joint operation with Tarana on Operation MIMOSA. In June Krejewski was joined by Seadog captained by Lt Jan Buchowski (who had also carried out operations to north Africa in Dogfish) and they were formed into a Special Operations Group (SOG) incorporated into the Coast Watching Flotilla (CWF) along with Tarana and the fast escort vessel Minna so that they could (amongst other things) be supplied from the submarine depot ship Maidstone, some of whose boats had also been engaged in covert landing operations. Seawolf was originally Moroccan and Seadog (replacing the much smaller Dogfish) Spanish. Both were 47 foot, 20 ton fishing vessels in poor condition with extremely cramped quarters for passengers and slow and unreliable engines, although reliability was much improved by the engineers of Maidstone. Despite these difficulties they established something of a regular system with Foot in "SOE in France" referring to various agents being landed or picked up "by felucca" as though this were quite routine. It was Seawolf that carried out the two big SIS operations TITANIA and ROSALIND to evacuate (amongst others) the Fort de la Rivere escapers. Sadly the extraordinary exploits of Seawolf and Seadog seem never to have been officially recognised by the British authorities - see Article.
Details of the ships from Cecil Hampshire and Sir Brooks Richards - see Bibliography
I love this water colour of Tarana and Seawolf meeting at sea
It is taken from "Secret Flotillas". Sir Brooks Richards told me he took the photograph of a picture he saw on a wall during his research - artist unknown - and that he would send me his original slide when it was returned by his French publisher. Sadly Sir Brooks died before this happened and so I am reproducing the shot here without permission


The Pat O'Leary escape line sea evacuations of 1942

HMS Tarana evacuated eight men, including Whitney Straight, Anthony Deane-Drummond and SOE agent Andre Simon, from St Pierre Plage near Narbonne the night of 13/14 July 1942. That same night Seawolf carried out the first of six operations over the next seven nights landing SOE agents and evacuating Leoni Savinos and his wife and over a hundred Polish personnel, most of whom were transferred to Tarana before the two ships returned to Gibraltar.
HMS Tarana evacuated eight people, including Henri Dericourt and at least three evading airmen, from Canet Plage near Perpignan the night of 15/16 August 1942. That same night Tarana also landed six SOE agents, including Charles Claser, near Agde.
Operation TITANIA
Seawolf (Krajewski) evacuated the five aircrew who had escaped from Fort de la Rivere 23 August and seven servicemen who had escaped in the mass break-out of 5 September, thirteen evaders plus at least five Pat Line personnel and SOE agents from Canet Plage the night of 21/22 September 1942. This was the last of six operations on one voyage that Seawolf had been carrying out since 17 September.
Operation ROSALIND
Seawolf (Lucasz) evacuated at least thirty-two servicemen, including eighteen Fort de la Rivere escapers, one man who had escaped from Fort de la Duchere, thirteen evaders and at least one Pat Line man, Abbe Josef Mirda, who had been involved in the de la Rivere break-out, the night of 11/12 October 1942. This is the one with the famously long wait at the Hotel du Tennis on the beach just north of Canet Plage.
Information on ship operations from Sir Brooks Richards, details of SOE personnel from MRD Foot and others - see Bibliography - details of servicemen from the PRO and from Derek Richardson