Willy Grover-Williams was buzzing. It wasn’t just down to the vibrations of the aircraft in which he was flying over night-time Normandy, it was adrenaline coursing through his veins. This was a rush he was more familiar with than most, and 20 months spent in Britain’s covert training schools was about to be put to the test. The date was April 30, 1942. In the cockpit, using a full moon to guide him, young Pilot Officer Frank “Bunny” Rymills banked right over the glistening River Sarthe and yanked a lever to open the “Joe hole.” Grover-Williams sat on the edge of the parachute hatch, his eyes wide with focus, and, within a split second of Rymills flicking the go light from red to green, he was out.
A static line opened his chute and Grover-Williams drifted towards the French farmland below as the drone of the Halifax’s engines faded away. His landing was textbook. This had been a blind drop, so there was no reception party to meet him. He buried his chute in a deep, watery ditch and covered a dozen miles cross-country to Le Mans, reaching the city just as the sun was rising and making his way to the railway station.