Operation Most III (Polish for Bridge III) or Operation Wildhorn III (in British documents) was a World War II operation in which Poland’s Armia Krajowa provided the Allies with crucial intelligence on the German V-2 rocket.
From November 1943 onwards, the Intelligence Division of the Polish Home Army (Armia Krajowa) obtained parts of the V-2 rocket, which was being tested near Blizna, central Poland. The availability of parts increased from April 1944, when numerous test rockets fell near Sarnaki village, in the vicinity of the Bug River, south of Siemiatycze. Parts of the rocket were secured by the Armia Krajowa, and analyzed at its secret laboratories in Warsaw. The analysis was performed by Professor Janusz Groszkowski (radio and guidance), Marceli Struszyński (fuel), Antoni Kocjan, and others.
The Most III operation was carried out on the night 25/26 July 1944. A Dakota of No. 267 Squadron RAF flew from Brindisi, and landed at an Armia Krajowa outpost codenamed Motyl (butterfly), which was in a village near Jadowniki Mokre.
The operation was undertaken cautiously as the German presence in nearby villages was substantial. The aircraft had problems taking off as its landing gear sank in the marshy meadows. The crew could have abandoned and destroyed the airplane, but with the help of the partisans, the aircraft managed to take off at the third attempt and returned to Brindisi with the parts. In late July 1944, the parts were delivered to London.
On the evening of 25th July, 1944, Dakota K.G.477 of No. 267 Squadron, fitted with four long-range cabin tanks, and flown by Flight Lieutenant S. G. Culliford, took off on operation ‘WILDHORN III’, a ‘pick-up’ in Poland. The cargo consisted of four passengers and twenty suit-cases weighing 970 lb. An anti-night fighter escort of one Liberator from No. 1586 (Polish) Flight stayed with the Dakota until darkness, by which time it was approaching the Sava River. The Hungarian plains were crossed at a height of 7,500 feet, the Carpathians reached, and then K.G.477 headed for the target area, rapidly losing height. At the estimated time of arrival the recognition letter ‘O for Orange’ was flashed and received the answering letter ‘N for Nuts’. Much traffic was noticed moving westwards along a road as the Dakota turned to an airfield, of which the perimeter was marked by a chain of lights. Flight Lieutenant Culliford landed, and in five minutes the aircraft had been unloaded and reloaded and was ready to take-off again. ‘I experienced some difficulty in unlocking the parking brake’, he afterwards reported, ‘but having done so I opened the throttles for take-off to the north-west. The machine remained stationary. . . . The wheels had sunk slightly into the ground which was softish underfoot, the marks where we had taxied being clearly visible . . . I concluded that although the brakes were off in the cockpit the mechanism might have broken somewhere and therefore they might still be on at the wheels. My second pilot came up to tell me that the Germans were only a mile away and that unless we could take-off at once we would be forced to abandon the aircraft and go underground with these people. With the aid of a knife supplied by a Polish gentleman on the ground we cut the connections supplying the hydraulic fluid to the brakes. In spite of full throttle, again the aircraft refused to move’.
The Dakota was unloaded, dug out by means of a spade–produced by Flying Officer K. Szaajer, the second pilot, a Pole–‘the passengers and their equipment were reloaded, the engines started, and we tried again. At full throttle the machine slewed to starboard and stopped. Once again we stopped the engines and prepared to demolish the aircraft. The wireless operator tore up all his documents and placed them in a position where they were certain of being burnt with the aircraft, we unloaded our kit and passengers, and again had a look at the undercarriage. The port wheel had turned a quarter of a revolution’.
‘Knowing that the personnel and equipment were urgently needed elsewhere we persuaded the people on the ground to dig for us. This time the machine came free and we taxied rapidly in a brakeless circuit only to find that the people holding the torches for the flarepath had gone home. We taxied round again with the port landing light on and headed roughly north-west towards a green light on the corner of the field. After swinging violently to port towards a stone wall, I closed my starboard throttle, came round in another taxying circuit and again set off in a north-westerly direction. This time we ploughed over the soft ground and waffled into the air at sixty-five miles per hour just over the ditch at the far end of the field.’ By using the emergency water ration the undercarriage was eventually raised by hand, and after flying through what remained of the night, K.G.477 made a safe landing at Brindisi, ‘just as the sun was rising, and the passengers were whisked away while the weary crew settled down to a well-earned breakfast’. The ground on which it had landed had a few hours before been used for practice circuits by Luftwaffe pilots under training.
Three such ‘Pick-up’ operations were successfully completed to Poland by Dakotas of No. 267 Squadron; in one of them important equipment relating to the V2 rocket was brought back.
Jerzy Chmielewski, Józef Retinger Tomasz Arciszewski, Tadeusz Chciuk, and Czeslaw Micinski were smuggled from occupied Poland to Brindisi in Italy. It was intended that Antoni Kocjan, who had personally provided part of the V-2 missiles, together with documentation to the UK, would take part, but he was arrested by the Gestapo, and was replaced by Jerzy Chmielewski.
The aircraft had a British navigator, the Captain was a Pole named K. Szrajer and Poles Kazimierz Bilski, Jan Nowak, Leszek Starzynski, and Boguslaw Ryszard Wolniak also took part in the misison.
The operation was secured Armia Krajowa group “Urban”, among which included Adam Gondek. A Motyl (butterfly) landing security commander was Captain. Wladyslaw Kabat ps.”Brzechwa“.
Other participants were : Kpr. Franciszek Nowak “Pomidor”, Dr Jan Deszcz ‘Wacek’, Kpr. pchor. Władysław Bysiek ‘Morena’, Plut. Józef Lupa “Czarny Sęp’, Ppor. Franciszek Kuczek ‘Deska’, Por. Mieczysław Czech ‘Jurand’, Por. Paweł Chwała ‘Skory’, Ppor. Jan Gomoła ‘Jawor’