2 Commando, Spilje, Albania

Commandos at Spilje carrying the wounded

Operation Healing 11

"2 Commando had returned to Italy from its six month sojourn in Yugoslavia and were encamped near Monopoli on the east coast of Italy. For the most part, the month of July 1944 was occupied by the ever-present problem of keeping the unit up-to-strength. Even by counting every nose we had, it seemed that as often as we recruited, we could not find anywhere near the numbers of volunteers we required. Our total of men available stubbornly stuck at about 250 – all ranks. Several of the officers and men passed the time by qualifying as parachutists at the nearby R.A.F. No. 4 P.T.S.

On the night of July 28th/29th, 1944, under the command of Lt. Col. Ted Fynn, No. 2 Commando landed at Spilje, Albania. It was a sort of a ‘First’. No British soldier had ever campaigned in Albania before, it was confided to this author. Having landed and surveyed the place, it was easy to understand why it had not been included in the ‘must visit’ agenda of older soldiers.

An approach march of four miles from the point-of-landing was made by the 250 men of No. 2 through very difficult terrain and we arrived at the objective, a high ridge overlooking a village known as Himare. On the top of this ridge was a very strong German fortified position. As the Commando sorted itself out, and in general aligned its troops for the forthcoming dawn assault, our every movement was announced by the incessant barking of obviously pro-German dogs. This author has always considered himself an admirer of the canine species, but on that night he remembers he wished these particular critters in hell! Although the Germans on top of the ridge used their technique of searching-fire with their MG. 42 machine guns every time their furry friends ‘fingered’ (or pawed) us, we had no losses, and the attack started right on schedule.

The slopes of the ridge were steep and the German defenders had established excellent fields of fire. Progress by the Commando was slow as many barbed-wire obstacles were encountered and anti-personnel ‘S’ mines seemed to be going off all over the hillside. This author had, at that time, estimated that shortly after 10:00 a.m. about 100 of the enemy had been knocked out by the Commandos. Col. Ted Fynn ordered a withdrawal as a strict time limit had been laid in the operation orders. So No. 2 disengaged and returned to the embarkation point. Casualties to the Commando were noted as 20 K.I.A. and 61 wounded. It had been a rather nasty fight and some 40 of the German defenders were left on the ridge refusing to surrender. These luckless men were descended on by an entire partisan brigade shortly afterwards and were wiped out to a man.

Before this author left the ridge-top, he knew that his old friend Sgt. Jack Moores was among the fallen and made a mental promise to himself to pay a visit sometime in the future to Jack’s family in Cambridge. Capt. Michael Stilwell had also been wounded severely in the assault, and the author remembers giving instructions for this officer’s evacuation. The battle was over."

nb. The above  account is part of the overall history of No 2 Commando by Bob Bishop No 2 Cdo.

Read more about this raid in our Commando Actions section here  Operation Healing 11.

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