Some Raids and Operations 1944-45

2 Commando Brigade, Dalmatian Islands Operations

Date commenced: 
Sunday, January 16, 1944

Commando operations on or from the Dalmatian islands.

Read more here in our No 2 Commando History section.

3 Commando Brigade, Burma Operations

Date commenced: 
Saturday, January 1, 1944
The reports at the foot of this page relate to the operations of the Commando Units attached to 3 Commando Brigade that took place after the 1st January 1944.
 
Link of interest
There were a large number of casualties in the Burma Campaigns, both battle and illness.
Lieutenant Colonel R. Wigglesworth, M.B., B.S. Lond., Royal Army Medical Corps, wrote an excellent article titled
"The Burma Campaigns - 1942-1945. A History Of Casualty Evacuation" which was published in the British Medical Journal. It can be viewed on this link  https://jramc.bmj.com/content/jramc/91/3/101.full.pdf

 

1 Commando, Report on the Maungdaw Hill Patrol 20th Nov'44

Units: 
 
No. 1 Commando - Patrol Report No.10
Maungdaw Hills Sheet 3:   20 Nov 44
Author: Cpl. H. Winch, No. 1 Cdo, No. 2 Troop
 
(Original document supplied by:  John Mewett via Harry Winch)
(Transcribed by:  Jennie Barlow)
 
Unit:                No. 1 Commando.
 

Patrol:            20 Nov 44.

Type:               Recce and observation.

Strength:        1 NCO 6 ORs.

Object:            To recce areas 394353 - 394343 to ascertain whether there were any enemy

                          or recent traces of them in the vicinity.

Route Out:      Proceeded along chaung 405352 to 403360

                           thence in a Northerly direction chaung 403352 - westwards down stream

                           to pt 400354 proceeded along chaung to 399354 then climbed hill 398354.

Route In:         Headed to pt approx 398347 - crosses hills to 392351 -

                           back across country to hill NORTH of camp.

Time Out:        0800 hrs.

Time In:           1730 hrs.

Details:            We found three distinct footprints at 400354, with separate toe on boot which appeared to be of recent origin.  We followed them up the south side of the bank but lost trace of the track.  Although we searched around we were unable to find any trace of anyone so we climbed hill 398354 where we found that the hills southward of our objective (a very prominent white tree) were in three ridges.  We followed the centre ridge keeping watch on the valleys on both sides.

At paddy field 392351 we kept this and a small chaung under observation from 1100 hrs.  At 1146 we heard a shot fired which appeared to come from the paddy field area.  We however saw no sign of life.

Some prints of bare feet found in paddy field.

During the entire journey we didn't find any traces of either JAPS or our own posn either on the hills or in the valleys, although we found places where apparently someone had slept, but they did not appear to have been used recently.

21 Nov 44

3 Cdo Bde report Ops Nov 1944-Jan 45

INTERIM REPORT OPS - 3 CDO BDE NOV 1944 - JAN 1945

Author:  Major D.B. Drysdale, BM, 3 Cdo Bde [view].

Copy of original document supplied by:  John Mewett

Transcribed by:  Jennie Barlow

1.   MAYU PENINSULA

On 9 Nov. a small Bde HQ, 1 and 42 Cdos came under comd 25 Ind Div and took over a sec of the line SOUTH of MAUNGDAW.  Extensive patrolling ops were carried out, details of which have already been forwarded in "Local News Bulletins".  During this period two raids of a tp str were also carried out.  One on ELIZABETH ISLAND by 42 (RM) Cdo and one on RAMREE by 5 Cdo.  Eight recce raids were also planned by the Bde and carried out by the SBS who were under comd at the time.

As a result of these ops the following ranks in the Bde were decorated:

92411 Capt. John GARNER-JONES, WELCH, 1 Cdo awarded MC [view]

5884633 Gnr. E.W. RABBITT, RA(S/L), 1 Cdo awarded MM [view]

3133581 L/Sgt J. CROWE, SEAFORTHS, 1 Cdo awarded MM [view]

6286823 Pte L.C.R. OLVER, BUFFS, 1 Cdo awarded MM  [view]

Ex 3182 Cpl ALBERT SMITH, 42 Cdo awarded Certificate of Gallantry [view]

Ch/X 1885 Cpl Robert COX, 42 Cdo awarded Certificate of Gallantry [view]

On 13 Dec the Bde was again conc at TEKNAF and came under comd 26 Ind Div to start trg for the assault on AKYAB which was, at that time, planned to take place on 19 Feb.

2.   AKYAB

By the middle of Dec it became apparent that the enemy were withdrawing rapidly.  By 29 Dec 74 Bde of 25 Div had reach FOUL PT.  On 29 Dec the Bde Comd was ordered to report to HQ 15 Ind Corps.  It was now almost certain that AKYAB Island itself was only lightly held and, acting on this infm, the Corps Comd decided to attack as soon as possible.  The plan was for 3 Cdo Bde to be placed under comd 25 Div and carry out the assault on the Northern beaches of the island followed up immediately by 74 Bde which would be ferried across from FOUL PT in ldg craft returning from the assault.  D Day was fixed as 3 Jan H Hr 1230 hrs.   The op was to be mounted from TEKNAF.  This allowed four days for planning and mounting!  Early on the morning of 3 Jan when the force was at sea, a message was recieved stating that the bombardment had been cancelled as the natives had reported that the enemy had evac the island.  This was confirmed by an RAF recce plane which landed on the airfield.

Apart from this the ldg was carried out according to plan.  No mines or booby traps were encountered and the Bde advanced inland and occupied all objectives by nightfall.  3 Tp RM Engr Cdo did very good work on the beaches acting in the capacity of a skeleton Beach Gp.

The following morning 74 Bde passed through and occupied AKYAB town.

On 6 Jan the Bde concentrated in the area of the town.  From there small recce patrols were sent in LCAs to the BARONGA ISLANDS and to the area of PAUKTAW.  It was here that a patrol from 5 Cdo surprised a small party of the enemy and killed one offr and three OR without loss to themselves.

3.   MYEBON

A recce of the area was carried out on the early morning of 10 Jan by a party in an ML.  This party was fired on by an enemy gun in the area of the beach.  It also disclosed a beach obstacle in the shape of a line of thick coconut stakes about 300 yds from the shore and just above low water mark.  In the light of this infm it was decided to send in a COPP party on the night D - 1/D Day to place delayed action charges on the stakes timed to go off just before H Hr.

12 Jan

The COPP party returned on board the parent ship in the early hrs of the morning having successfully placed their charges.  The preliminary naval and air bombardment went according to plan and appeared to be very effective, and the demolition charges succeeded in blowing a 25 yd gap in the stakes,  As the first wave of ldg craft approached the beach they were met by desultory and, on the whole, ineffective arty fire.  42 (RM) Cdo landed on time under cover of an air smoke screen.  The beach was found to be muddy below high water mark which made ldg difficult.  Cas were also suffered from anti personnel mines which had been laid on the firm sand above the high water mark.  This was the first time the beach mines had been encountered in this theatre.  However, the unit pushed on and the first objectives and beach head area were quickly secured with little opposition.  The tks then attempted to land but the first one out of the craft got hopelessly bogged and the attempt was abandoned.  5 Cdo then landed and passed through 42 Cdo.  They met little opposition until they reached the ROSE feature where they were held up by hy MG and also to send a search party to DOG Island where there was a suspected enemy gun posn.  A suspicion which eventually proved to be unfounded.  As it was now almost low tide it was decided to direct 44 Cdo to DOG Beach where ldg was easier.  However, due to a misunderstanding, this did not occur.  As a result the unit had to struggle ashore for a distance of 300 yds through waist deep mud.  This took them 3 hrs and neither men nor weapons were in a fighting state by the time they reached the beach.  It was then decided to try and land the tks on BAKER Beach, but this attempt was met by shell fire and only one tk succeeded in getting ashore.  The LCTs were then directed to EASY Beach.  Here the tks were able to get ashore but could not get round the pt on to CHARLIE RED until a rd had been cleared through the boulders by the Engr Tp.  By this time it was apparent that no further adv could be made until ROSE feature had been captured and that this would involve a full scale attack.  It was too late to lay it on that day therefore disposns as shown on the map att were taken up for the night and plans were made for an attack by 5 Cdo supported by tks to take place the next morning.  The attack was to be proceeded by an air strike and naval bombardment.

13 Jan

The air strike and bombardment on ROSE went according to plan and at 0830 hrs 5 Cdo supported by a squadron of 19 L attacked the feature.  The attack was speedily successful and many enemy dead were found.  At 1100 hrs 42 Cdo were ordered to pass through 5 Cdo and, supported by tks, to capture MYEBON and CABBAGE feature.  1 Cdo were ordered to move on ONION.  44 Cdo were relieved in the beach head area by a bn from 74 Bde and were moved up to the foot of ROSE and held in res.  42 Cdo cleared MYEBON village with little trouble but bumped by enemy opposition on CABBAGE.  An attack was put in which was eventually successful although cas were suffered, incl the CO. [view].  In the meantime 1 Cdo had succeeded in capturing ONION where they met little opposition.  44 Cdo were then moved up to the area of MYEBON in direct sp of 42 Cdo and disposns for the night were adopted.

14 Jan

1 Cdo were ordered to patrol fwd as far as BASS and WORTHINGTON.  No opposition was met and by 1100 hrs they were established on WORTHINGTON.  42 Cdo patrolled as far as WHISKY where they came under hy and accurate MMG fire from the area of Pt 200.  It was now apparent that the features stretching from BUGLE to Pt 200 were strongly held and that their capture would involve a Bde attack with full sp.  Consequently 5 and 44 Cdos were order to move fwd and concentrate in the area of ONION preparatory to a Bde attack on the following day.

15 Jan

The plan for the attack was planned to take place in three phases:

(a)  The capture of Pt 200 by 1 Cdo.

(b)  The capture of Pt 163 by 44 Cdo passing through 1 Cdo.

(c)  The capture of BUGLE by 5 Cdo passing through 44 Cdo.

42 Cdo to remain in res.

The attack was to be preceded by air and naval bombardment of all features.  The air bombardment failed to materialise but the attack went in according to plan.  1 Cdo met some determined resistance on Pt 200 but after some sharp fighting, supported by tks, the feature was secured.

44 Cdo then passed through and secured Pt 163 without opposition.

During this time the tks had worked fwd to the WEST of BUGLE and were engaging enemy gun and MG posns on the feature.  Three tks got within 30 yds of the KANTHA Chaung where they inflicted hy cas on a party of the enemy who were trying to withdraw NORTH.  Unfortunately one of those got bogged and it was decided to send a tp from 42 Cdo wide round the left flank to attempt to reach it and protect its rec.  Unfortunately this tp came under hy MG fire while crossing the open paddy and was unable to reach its objective.  The tk was not recovered until after dark when BUGLE was finally captured.

In the meantime 5 Cdo had assaulted BUGLE where by inf and MG opposition was met and overcome.  By nightfall BUGLE was in our hands and 5 & 42 Cdos consolidated on the feature.

16 Jan

Patrols from 1, 5 and 44 Cdo were pushed fwd to the line of the KANTHA Chaung.  A few enemy stragglers were mopped up and much material was captured.

During the course of the day a bn from 74 Bde passed through and formed a br head across the chaung.  This unit was followed by the Engr Tp whose task was to rebuild the br at KANTHA.  This they succeeded in doing although under shell fire.  The Bde was now given the task of holding the line of the KANTHA Chaung while 74 Bde passed through and exploited northwards.

18 Jan

Patrols from 1 Cdo were sent to BRANDY Island and from 44 Cdo to the high ground to the EAST overlooking the MYEBON River.  In each case the areas were reported clear.

20 Jan

The Bde concentrated in the beach area preparatory to embarking for the KANGAW op.

4.  KANGAW

COPP recces were carried out on the nights of 19/20 and 20/21 Jan to find suitable beaches and release posns.  On the night 21 Jan the Bde embarked.

22 Jan

The force sailed for DAINGBON Chaung and landed according to plan. No enemy opposition was met in the beach area although there was some shelling of the chaung to the SOUTH of the beaches.  This caused no cas to craft or personnel.

1 Cdo advanced inland and reported HOVE clear without opposition.  They were then ordered to press on to BRIGHTON - here they succeeded in clearing the whole of the SOUTHERN end of the feature but were held up by a small pocket of enemy established on the extreme NORTH tip.  5 Cdo was then ordered to follow up behind 1 Cdo and consolidate on BRIGHTON.  42 Cdo were ordered to hold HOVE and a posn on the WEST bank of the DAINGBON Chaung.  44 Cdo moved up to the WEST of BRIGHTON preparatory to carrying out a night attack on MILFORD.  This attack was put in at 1930 hrs and met no opposition.  During the night the enemy on the NORTH tip of BRIGHTON counter attacked 1 Cdo fiercely and hand to hand fighting ensued.

23 Jan

At first light 1 Cdo put in an attack, with arty sp, and cleared the end of the feature.  44 Cdo were then ordered fwd to PINNER.  During the day the 8 HYDERABADS landed and took over def of the beach area, relieving 42 Cdo who were then moved fwd on to MILFORD.  There was intermittent enemy shelling of the beach head area during the day.  Attempts were made to land the tks but these proved unsuccessful due to the boggy nature of the ground.  44 Cdo sent a patrol to DUNS.  They reported that there was a small enemy post just to the NORTH of the feature.  During the night the enemy launched a strong counter attack, with hy arty sp, on PINNER.  The attack was finally beaten off although 44 Cdo suffered hy cas from tree bursts.

24 Jan

It was decided to withdraw 44 Cdo to the WEST of BRIGHTON and relieve them by two coys of HYDERABADS.  Enemy shelling of BRIGHTON, the beach head and L of C increased during the day.  A recce was made of the approaches to FINGERS, with the object of establishing a standing patrol in that area.  This drew hy small arms and arty fire and it was decided that the capture of the feature would involve a major op.

During the day the Bde received orders to consolidate and not to attempt any further adv.

During the night 1 Cdo sent a patrol to BERWICK which reported NES.

25 Jan

At dawn it became apparent that the enemy had brought up further arty and a hy conc was put down on the BRIGHTON feature.  At one period 182 shells landed in the space of half an hr.  Harassing fire of this nature continued throughout the day.

26 Jan

51 Bde landed and took over MILFORD and PINNER.  42 Cdo were withdrawn to the beach head area.  Two tps of 44 Cdo were moved over to the WEST bank of the DAINGBON Chaung to relieve the HYDERABADS.  During the course of the day three tanks were landed and moved to the WEST slope of BRIGHTON.  They were unable to get any further fwd than this due to the marshy nature of the ground.  Enemy harassing fire continued throughout the day.

27 Jan

44 Cdo started a series of patrols to try and locate parties of enemy stragglers reported to be in the DAINGBON area.  During the course of these ops they located and destroyed two abandoned enemy guns but failed to make contact with any stragglers.

28 Jan

5 Cdo came under comd 51 Bde as res and moved up to PINNER at 0800 hrs.  Two tps of 42 Cdo relieved 5 Cdo on BRIGHTON.  During the morning 51 Bde put in an attack on PERTH and MELROSE.  This was preceded by a very hy air strike.  The attack on PERTH was held up by a strong enemy resistance on DUNS.  It was finally abandoned.  The attack on MELROSE was partially successful and by nightfall three quarters of the feature was in our hands.  5 Cdo were not committed and returned to BRIGHTON at dusk.

29 Jan

5 Cdo again moved up to PINNER under comd 51 Bde.  The two tps from 42 Cdo had remained in the area of BRIGHTON.  Attacks on MELROSE continued and BERWICK was secured.  Enemy shelling continued throughout the day although on a much reduced scale.  During the night 5 Cdo set an ambush across the rd and patrolled into the village of KANGAW.  No enemy were seen and the rd appeared to have been unused by wheeled vehs for at least 4 days.

30 Jan

The Bde had orders to withdraw and arrangements were made to start thinning out on the following day.  The PUNJABS were due to arrive on 31 Jan and were to take over BRIGHTON feature.  5 Cdo remained on PINNER under comd 51 Bde.

31 Jan

At 0600 hrs a hy enemy arty concentration was put down on BRIGHTON.  At 0620 a determined attack was made on the NORTH end of the feature.  The enemy's immediate object appeared to be the destruction of the tks harbouring in that area.  By sheer weight of numbers a party of the enemy succeeded in reaching the tks and destroyed one and damaged another. 5 Cdo returned from PINNER about 1400 hrs and the PUNJABS arrived at 1700 hrs.  No relief of units from the Bde was attempted during the day.

1 Feb

At 0700 hrs the feature was finally cleared by 5 Cdo.  An immense amount of enemy material and 340 corpses were found.  Four prisoners were also taken.  During the day Bde HQ, 1, 5, and 42 Cdos were withdrawn and returned to MYEBON.  44 Cdo remained in the DAINGBON area and came under comd 51 Bde.

2 Feb

44 Cdo returned to MYEBON.

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'RM Eng. Commando - Burma Report 1945'

Extract from ADM 202/30 re No 1 (RM) Engineer Commando

3 Troop RM Engineer Commando

Report on Operations at AKYAB, MYEBON & KANGAW

Period 3 Jan – 2 Feb 45


AKYAB
At very short notice, plan being formed overnight, AKYAB Op was begun. 3 Cdo Brigade sailed from location at TEKNAF 2 Jan 45; made initial assault on West Coast AKYAB Island 12.30hrs 3 Jan 45. The Op was a complete dummy run and within a very short time of landing it was found that the enemy had vacated AKYAB Island completely a few days before. Had this not been the case the excellent open beach commanded by the bunkers and M.G. posts would probably have been quite a problem.
 
Tp tasks were:-
(i) Providing Flamethrower teams for first wave.
(ii) Mine clearance of beach and exits.
(iii) Construction of beach and development of exits.
(iv) Acting as beach party for 3 Cdo Bde and 74 Inf Bde.
 
Flamethrowers
3 teams of 1 JNCO and 1 Mne each with Flamethrowers and spares went with assaulting waves at H and reverted to command Tp when no longer required. It proved very difficult and exhausting for them to carry a loaded Lifebuoy as well as their rations at Cdo marching speed for any distance. In subsequent Ops it was arranged for them to move with Cdo HQ`s and be given assistance in carrying thrower until it is actually required.
 
Beach
CC Tp landed at H +15 with recce party of QMSI, draughtsman and MOA for initial recce of beach, erection of mines signs ,laying of tapes etc. 2 NCCs landed for similar purposes at same time at the other end of the beach with Major Aubrey RE 25 Div rep; both parties had specific recces to do under direction of Lt Col Eyre 15 Ind Corps Beach rep.
 
Main body of Tp landed H + 30 in sections, men pre-loaded with pioneer tools, tapes, signs, mine detectors, and other tools and equipment, to commence work on beach before main bulk of RE and Tp stores arrived. These arrived about H + 40 and beach laterals and exits were laid as minesweepers advanced.
 
Sommerfeld track and Coir matting and Bamboo pailing were used on sand and road bulldozed through thick scrub out onto the existing cart track. In addition to this work, Tp landed all stores, vehs, and beach personnel of 3 Cdo Bde, and 74 Bde came in a few hrs later. OC Tp joined Main HQ and moved up from beach 2 days later and Bde finally concentrated in the ruins of AKYAB.
 
Before concentrating AKYAB, a small party was sent there to make a beach entrance ramp from the esplanade for embarkation of Cdo units for the exploration of the BARONGA Islands and PYAUTAW. Bunkers were demolished and timber used to make a decked ramp estimated Class 5. Steel mesh from a nearby hothouse was used in lieu of Sommerfeld on the sand.
 
Bde billets in AKYAB were searched for possible booby traps but none found. Later on, 2 – 150 kg bombs rigged as demolition charges on the air strip were de-loused by Capt Hawdon, Capt Woodhouse and QMSI Hubbard and carried back in triumph to the midst of Bde HQ where their presence caused great consternation so they were transported with a large red flag on the jeep to 25 Div and presented to the CRE`s department.
 
After the beach work was completed there was really no Engr work at all. After a short rest preparations were begun for the next Op which was –
 
MYEBON
On this Op – Tp had the same role as before except Tp was to operate by itself as a beach party. In order to know in exactly which craft everything would be Tp with assistance of GHURKA porters and Ind Pioneers loaded all Bde flights of craft D – 1.
 
Bde sailed from AKYAB for MYEBON Peninsular p.m 11 Jan 45 and landed on it`s southern tip 12 Jan 45. Tp landed as follows:- OC, QMSI, draughtsmen and MDA initial recce party H+15. Sections carrying tools as before 10mins later, stores and bulldozer, tracking and road making stores were to be landed with Tp reps to supervise at H +45.
 
The fleet stood into shore under cover of considerable bombing and shelling from aircraft and RIN sloops and under fire from Jap guns and MGs ashore. Beach was known to be defended by a row of tall stakes about 10 inch in diameter about 200yds from high water mark. A gap had been cut through these by COP (COPP) the previous night enabling craft to approach near the beach.
 
Tp was in LCM`s and came under fire from small island off the tip of the Peninsular as they came in. Unfortunately owing to some hitch No.1 Section`s LCM failed to appear alongside parent sloop and they boarded an ML, thence transferred to an LCP with the Admiral aboard and was nicely peppered scurrying up and down the beach; they then transferred to a LCM from which they landed. The landing was very bad. LCAM grounded just inside the stakes about 200yds from watersedge. Water was chest high with knee deep soft thick mud and consequently with heavy packs and tools the Tp was quite exhausted by the time it struggled ashore.
 
Beach was mined with two staggered rows of anti-boat mines about 15 yds apart.
Sgt Pirie [more....] and a party were immediately set to work to tape personnel exits between explode mines, tape laterally the whole field and then begin detecting and lifting mines, some of whose horns could be seen poking up above the mud and sand. Initial recce inland from this beach was fruitless and useless and it was quickly decided that this beach (CHARLIE) was impossible for landing anything, recce was therefore made on the other side of the tip of the Peninsular and the rocks between the Peninsular and Island (DOG BEACH) for personnel landing. The rocks were impossible for this but a recce revealed a first class firm sand beach on the other side of tip at foot of a ridge, with plenty of trees and plenty of space for all departments of BMA.
 
This beach (EASY) was separated from CHARLIE, and therefore from paddy fields across which road could be made to join existing track inland, by the southern toe of the ridge mentioned which came down to the sea in a jumbled mass of sharp rocks and large boulders. It was imperative to make a road out of the rocks.
 
As heavily loaded stores LCM`s could not get within 300 yds of CHARLIE, only tools at Tp disposal were those carried on the men about 3 shovels, 4 picks, and 4 sledge hammers. By breaking large rocks and putting the pieces into crevices and filling in with smaller lumps and a good deal of manual humping and dumping, the road was open in 4 hrs and the first tanks and DUKW`s crossed it by dark. Road was improved the next day when further tools and explosives became available. The making of it was rather important in the campaign. Normal Somerfeld laterals and dump loops were laid and Tp became beach party for 3 Cdo Bde.
 
Small parties were engaged during the first few days finishing the mines on CHARLIE and marking those in the paddy nearby and sweeping the proposed road inland. As soon as practicable traffic road was bulldozed and some scarlet gorgettes attracted some 37mm shelling on a certain corner but the only blood drawn from OC`s party was from scratches caused by diving into the dense matted undergrowth.
 
As the advance progressed up the peninsular Tp moved up and was engaged on the road, which was an absolute necessity for getting supplies up and in investigating some mines and demolition equipment, booby traps etc, which were found stored and lying about on captured features.
 
Bde`s task finished at the Chaung which marks the northern end of the peninsular and it sat for 2 days on the features it occupied; 74 Bde took over the advance and crossed the Chaung at KANTHA Bridge. To assist this advance the Tp was engaged for a day and a half with 93 Fld Coy R.E. for bridging the Chaung for tanks and Tpt. This was done by making a causeway of rolls of Somerfeld with a timber ramp and corduroy road on the approaches on both sides of the mud banks.
 
Tp came under considerable sniper fire and shelling from overlooking features while working and gained the mysterious name of the Bde`s “Glamour Boy's ” but were in far greater danger from the numerous shorts from 74 Bde`s mortars and the tank Brownings. The day after this was finished we returned to the beach and after a few days rest began gathering stores and loading for the next operation which was -
 
KANGAW
Bde sailed for KANGAW 21 Jan 45 by way of DIANGBON Chaung. Tp sailed No. 1 Section in LCT with stores, No. 2 Section in LCM with stores and three recce parties with leading flight. There were three possible beaches, the bank of the DAINGBON Chaung between two smaller Chaungs and places on these two Chaungs that ran inland from the DIANGBON Chaung forming three sides of a rectangle with a narrow bottleneck of land, half-way along it`s length between the two Chaungs.
 
OC, QMSI, and MOA, were responsible for the southern Chaung (FOX); Beach Comd (Maj Hunter 41 Beach Op) and Sgt Pirie the Diangbon (GEORGE) A/Beach Comd, and Beach Master (RIN) the northern chaung (ITEM) Tp and stores were to follow at H+60 or lie off until called in.
 
GEORGE beach which Inf waves landed consisted of a soft mud bank about 4 ft high almost vertical with a strip of mangrove swamp and thick undergrowth about 15 yds wide immediately behind it. Further inland it was open thin scrub but the ground was covered with the spikes of mangrove roots about 9inches high and too close to put a foot between them. The ground was also very marshy with a maze of stream beds which were about a foot or more of soft thick mud; the whole area was entirely saturated and had been underwater 2 days before when the Bde Comd made his recce. GEORGE was therefore no use until, if ever, it dried out.
 
Recce of FOX was therefore made about a mile inland and FOX was found to be suitable. A bend in the chaung provided a fairly firm bank clear of undergrowth which gave onto rather firmer paddy suitable for a road after a few days of drying out.
 
Recce of ITEM had been done and recce party had walked through village of TAUNGMWS before returning and found a hard sand beach near there. All recce parties eagerly went on a visit to this but encountered a Jap MG half way there which had not been in position before, and so ITEM had to be excluded from further investigations.
 
No vehs or stores could be landed that day as it was near dark and Tp remained afloat that night landing next day.Tp then constructed FOX beach by ramping down the bank and laying Somerfeld and Coir, laid corduroy and matting road for the guns to land at GEORGE and dug ammo dump during the next 2 days. As advance proceeded past Hill 170, Milford and Pinner Tp built road through rocks and wet ground round 170 again attracting, the appearance of a bulldozer and men with shovels, the attentions of 75mm and 105mm guns.
 
By night the Japanese dragged guns close up to Pinner, took captured ammo from the dumps at the foot of then feature and fired point blank into 44 who were sitting on top of the feature. Next day Tp disposed of these shell dumps in chaungs and laid booby traps on the approaches to where the dumps had been. Homemade Bangalores and Grenades on trip wires were used and 5 Japs were killed the first night and two more by other traps laid next day and next night.
 
General work on the beach – re-building etc went on meanwhile, and also disposing of U/X shells. Shelling was continuous and heavy, 800 shells coming over on one day and about 400 being the normal amount. Mne Wilson was hit the first day and evacuated, wounded in the leg.
 
53 Bde came in and gradually took over the advance from Pinner. Tp helped them by making a stretcher bearer path from out of a large paddy bung across a tidal marsh and bridging chaung at end of it. This was done undercover of some trees on the enemy side of Pinner about 500yds from the Jap; Tp worked very silently for once. The footbridge was made of large duckboards made from the timber of the village huts supported on piers of 3” mortar Ammo boxes filled with mud and wired and staked together.  
 
At dawn on 31 Jan 45 there was a large counter-attack on Hill 170 which eventually after 24 hrs fighting resulted in 370 Jap dead. Tp was in an unenviable position by itself some 800 yds away on the beach-head, but as it was not attacked the enemy after 10 days could still not have known where our beach-head was. The Tp came out that afternoon and Bde concentrated MYEBON for a rest period.
 

3 Cdo Bde Map of the Kangaw Blockade Jan 1945

Type: Files
Author: John Mewett
Year of Publishing: 2015
Keywords: Kangaw Blockade Map

Map of the Kangaw Blockade of 3 Commando Brigade January/Febuary 1945 with coded areas marked.

3 Cdo Bde Map of Myebon and Kangaw Jan/Feb 1945

Type: Files
Author: John Mewett
Year of Publishing: 2015
Keywords: Map: Myebon and Kangaw January /Febuary 1945

This is a map showing a general view of all the key areas of 3 Commando Brigades action in the Myebon and Kangaw area of Burma during January and Febuary 1945

3 Cdo Bde, timeline of the Hill 170 battle

Account of the action fought by Nos. 1 and  5 Army Commandos and 42 RM Commando on Hill 170 on the 31st January 1945. 

National Archives Document number WO218/81
Copy of Original document:  John Mewett
Transcribed by:  Jennie Barlow
Ref. Map Sheet BURMA 84 [? over 8] 1" to 1 mile.

The narrative has been kept true to the original with abbreviations etc.


SEQUENCE OF EVENTS

PHASE I
(a)   0545 hrs.     4 Tp 1 Cdo attacked by Japs.
(b)   0930 hrs.     P1 'W' 42 RM Cdo and P1 3 Tp 1 Cdo counter-attack.
PHASE II
(c)   1230 hrs.      "X" Troop 42 RM Cdo counter-attack.
(d)   1400 hrs.      6 Tp 1 Cdo counter-attack.
PHASE III
(e)   1530 hrs.      Arrival of 4 Tp and 1 Tp 5 Cdo.
(f)    1730 hrs.      Disposns for night 31 Jan/1 Feb 45.
PHASE IV
(g)   1930 hrs.     Relief of 1 Cdo forward Tps by 2 Tp 5 Cdo.
LIST OF APPENDICES
Appendix 1        Orders for counter-attack at 12.30 hours.
Appendix 2        Account of Am Sups.
Appendix 3        Account of medical arrangements.
Appendix 4        Sp. Arms.
Appendix 5        Jap tactics and deceptions.

NARRATIVE

PHASE I
(a)  Attack on 4 Tp 1 Cdo posn.
0545 hrs.    Jap started shelling area NORTH BRIGHTON (514497) heavily until 0605 hours.
0610 hrs.    Green verey light fired NW of BRIGHTON which was taken to be 42 RM Cdo recognition signal.  .
0615 hrs.    Intense M.G. fire and grenade discharger shells on 4 Tp posn. possibly mortars as well.  Lt. Semple, O.C. 4 Tp. had ordered 'Stand to' and now gave instructions that fire was to be held until targets could be clearly seen.
0630 hrs.    Enemy had apparently some old Bren gun pits of 12 Tp 1 Cdo on extreme N slope of BRIGHTON.  With intense M.G. fire an attack was launched on 4 Tp posn from N.  This attack was beaten off by forward P1 of 4 Tp Comd. Lt. Knowland.  A number of casualties was suffered and Lt. Knowland asked for more amn and men.  These were then sent up from the rear P1 (Lt. Wight).  Lt. Semple went forward to see the situation for himself.  Enemy next heard digging vigorously on extreme N slope of BRIGHTON, and 4Tp was then subject to MMG fire which, it was estimated came from W.finger (512505).
Thereafter the enemy made repeated attacks in mass on N. BRIGHTON.  These were again and again beaten off and heavy casualties inflicted on the enemy.
An attempt was made to assault the W flank of 4 Tp but this too was beaten off successfully.
0830 hrs.    4 Tp was by now suffering a number of casualties, and was running low and there were scarcely any grenades left.  Lt. Semple asked for help.
The forward Sect was partly over-run and fought on until every man was either killed or wounded.  Lt. Knowland [view] who was with the forward Sect was last seen firing the 2 inch mortar from the hip at point blank range at the oncoming enemy.  The F.O.O. who was also forward with his party was badly wounded and subsequently died, and his wireless set put out of action.  One of his gunners was also wounded in the legs but insisted on staying.  He was found next day still alive though his trench had been occupied by Japs.
Fire orders for Arty were subsequently relayed by voice control to the Tp HQ set.
(b)  P1 (W(Tp 42 RM Cdo and P1 3 Tp 1 Cdo counter-attack
0930 hrs.    C.O. arrived in 4 Tpposn.
P1. of (W)Tp 42 RM Cdo arrived  to help 4 Tp 1 Cdo, one Sect of 5 Tp 1 Cdo under L/Sgt. Perry came up to thicken up the posns vacated by (W)Tp 42 RM Cdo and protect the E. flank of 4 Tp which was subject to heavy and accurate sniping by the enemy.  Tanks were asked to protect the left flank against infiltration by the enemy.
The Sect of 5 Tp remained in posn all day until relieved by 5 Cdo in the evening, accounting during its stay for a party of six Japs and one MMG.   Gnr. Baker of this Sect. after killing two Jap snipers was himself killed.
P1. (W) Tp. 42 RM Cdo with Capt. Smith, who readily placed himself under command of Lt. Semple, then took over  some of 4 Tps posns with one Sect, where there had been casualties.  The remaining two Sections under Capt. Smith were ordered to clear the slope W. and N. of enemy.  After moving about 20 yards along the slope the party which was 12 strong came under MMG fire and suffered 6 casualties.  Capt. Smith decided to withdraw and reported to Lt. Semple.  It was agreed then that the remainder of P1. (W)Tp should occupy some of 4 Tps posns on the NW and to stay and hold the posn.

At the same time as 42 RM Cdos counter-attack on the W. flank No. 1 P1 of 3 Tp (Lt. Crewe) had arrived and was ordered by Lt. Semple to clear the E. slope of the posn. Lt.
Crewe and two sections moved across the E. slope leaving P1. HQ and the third Sect. under command of Sgt. Lander to reinforce 4 Tps E. flank and shoot N. along the crest. The attacking Sects. moved with L/Sgt. Sincup's Sect. leading in extended order on the slope, and Cpl. Edman's Sect. behind.  Lt. Crewe was on the left of Sgt. Sincup's Sect.
At the bottom of the hill L/Bdr. Toft saw 4 Japs in trenches, and the Sect. advanced after Sgt. Sincup [view] had thrown a grenade and killed 3 Japs.  7 Japs then bolted from a dug-out and 6 of them were killed, the seventh running away into some bushes in the paddy.  Cpl. Hobbs was then shot in the jaw and went back alone.  Lt. Crewe came down the hill to Sgt. Sincup and said he had been wounded in the leg.  The P1 continued to  advance over the bodies of the dead Japs and in one trench two made up demolition charges each of about 7 to 10 lbs. together with a Jap sword were seen.  After advancing about another 30 yards the Sect. came under M.G. fire and grenades were thrown down on them from the top of the hill.  Lt. Crewe was hit in the foot and Sgt. Sincup took over the two Sects.  At this stage Gnr Beaney who had gone off to contact Sgt.Lander was wounded.
As the P1 was suffering casualties Sgt.Sincup decided to draw back until he was in line with the remainder of the force on top of the hill.  On the way back Gnr.Beaney was found wounded.  Attempts to rescue him were unsuccessful as he was covered by snipers.  The     Sects then took up posns protecting the E. flank of 4 Tp where they remained until evening when they were ordered by the C.O. to come under comd of Capt. Evill.
Immediately after the counter-attack by (W(Tp and 3 Tp the C.O. after discussing the situation with Lt. Semple went back to report to the Brig.
1015 hrs.    The Brig came fwd with the C.O. and saw the situation.  It was decided to clear the feature with a (Blitz) counter-attack by (X)Tp 42 RM Cdo.  This was to take place at 1230 hrs. supported on the left flank by one tank of 19 L.  Capt. Smith of (W)Tp was ordered to go in the tank to direct the shooting on to the NW. slope.
The C.O. remained fwd.
From now on the enemy continued to attack furiously but with little success, though the posn was subject to further intense and accurate grenade discharger fire.  The situation was kept well in hand and by now then amn was arriving steadily and the evacuation of casualties continued throughout.
The first amn party to arrive came from 5 Tp 1 Cdo, who also helped to prime grenades, fill magazines, and distribute amn forward.
PHASE II
(c)  (X)Tp 42 RM Cdo counter-attack.
1230 hrs.    The counter-attack went in as planned (see Appendix 1 for detailed orders).  Very heavy casualties were suffered by the leading P1 from intense MMG fire (the enemy now had three MMG on the ridge).  The second P1 which was to have gone through was pinned by fire on top of the posn and was ordered to remain, occupying trenches where 4 Tp had suffered casualties.  These Tps then remained in posn for the rest of the day until ordered withdraw by Lt. Col. Trevor.
(d)  6 Tp 1 Cdo counter-attack.
1300 hrs.    6 Tp comd Capt. Evill was ordered fwd from their posn to 4 Tp area where Capt. Evill was given instructions to thicken up 4 Tp posn with a view to holding the feature. However after (X)Tps counter-attack there was a brief lull in the battle and it was decided to put in an immediate counter-attack with one P1 to regain 4 Tps fwd posns.
1400 hrs.    Lt. Palmer now brought up his P1 and after a recce with Sec Comds the attack went round the R. flank, with two 2 inch mortars and all available Brens in support on the crest.
After working round the E. flank for some 30 yards the leading Sect. came under intense MG fire and showers of grenades flung down from above.  The P1 suffered about 50% casualties as a result of this heavy fire and the C.O. ordered it to withdraw.  Lt. Palmer [view], Sgt. Morris MM [view] and Fus. Andrews [view] were then reported missing.
At this moment Lt. Larcher's P1 (6 Tp) arrived.  They were ordered to send all Bren teams fwd to thicken up 4 Tp posns and replace casualties, the remainder maning posns in 4 Tp area on the E. Flank.  Several men helped to evacuate casualties and with the amn supply.  As men in the fwd posns became casualties so others were called fwd to take their place on the Bren guns. 6 Tp remained in posn until finally relieved by 5 Cdo.
During this time the call for amn and grenades from the fwd posns put a constant strain on the resources.  The filling of mags, priming of grenades and the distribution of all types of amn was very smoothly and efficiently organised by Lt. Wight, Lt. Larcher and Sgt. Evans.  Together they kept a constant stream of all types of ammunition going forward, and handled the constant trickle of casualties who were coming back
1500 hrs.    The Brigadier ordered that no further counter-attacks were to take place before nightfall, and every effort was to be made to hold the position as it was.  Col. Trevor asked Bde for reinforcements.
PHASE III
(e)  The arrival of 4 Troop and 1 Troop 5 Commando.
1530 hrs.    Lt. Col. Pollitt, MC [view] Comd 5 Commando and Capt. Burr Comd 4 Troop 5 Commando came forward with 4 Troop 5 Commando to see Col. Trevor.  Col. Trevor asked to have this Troop made available as close as possible for immediate action.
Bren Groups of 4 Troop (5 Commando) were sent forward to reinforce the front of 4 Troop 1 Commando.  The remainder of the Troop was employed in carrying casualties and  ammunition.  Sgt. Flatley and 6 men of 4 Troop 5 Commando were sent forward on the EAST slope to deal with enemy snipers who were active on the flank.  Casualties were inflicted on the enemy.
1 Troop 5 Commando moving up behind 4 Troop 5 Commando was ordered by the Brigadier to send one platoon onto the EAST spur on the flank of 4 Troop 5 Commando.  The other Platoon of 1 Troop 5 Commando was engaged at the foot of the EAST slope, where further casualties were inflicted on the enemy.
1630 hrs.    Col. Pollitt was wounded when returning from 4 Troop 1 Commando position.
(f)  Dispositions for night 31 Jan/1 Feb 45.
1700 hrs.    Major Stuart 5 Commando who had taken over from Col. Pollitt came forward to see  Col. Trevor, and received orders to (box) 4 Troop (5 Commando) on the EAST flank of 4 Troop (1 Commando).  4 Troop 5 Commando then commenced digging in.
At this stage the enemy's furious attacks had ceased and only a few snipers remained active.  Col. Trevor then set about re-organising the elements of 3, 4 & 6 Troop (1 Commando) who were still in that area.  The personnel of (X) and (W) Troops 42 Commando were withdrawn under command of Capt. Smith and ordered by Col. Trevor to report to Major Davies 1 Commando.  The Section of 5 Troop 1 Commando was relieved by 1 Troop 5 Commando and rejoined its Troop.
The composite force of 3, 4 & 6 Troops 1 Commando which occupied 4 Troop's position came under command of Col. Trevor himself, and the Brigadier ordered that the position should be thus held during the night.
Col. Trevor then handed over temporarily to Capt. Evill and left the position to find the Brigadier.

PHASE IV
(g)  Relief of 1 Commando forward Troops by 2 Troop 5 Commando.
1830 hrs.    Col. P. Young, DSC, MC [view] came forward to see the position, when he met Col. Trevor [view] who was on his way back.  After holding a conference with Col. Trevor and Major Stuart, the latter readily agreed to bring up a fresh Troop to relieve 1 Commando who had had no rest that day.
1945 hrs.    2 Troop 5 Commando Comd Capt. Beard arrived to relieve 1 Commando forward Troops, who were withdrawn to old positions for the night.  The responsibility for the defence of NORTH BRIGHTON then passed to 5 Commando.


APPENDIX 1

ORDERS FOR COUNTER ATTACK OF (X( TROOP 42 COMMANDO
AT 1230 HOURS 31ST JANUARY 45
by Lt. Colonel K.R.S. Trevor, Commanding, No. 1 Commando

1    Own Troops in position     EAST flank    ?   Platoon 3 Troop 1 Commando centre    ? 4 Troop 1 Commando
      WEST flank   ?   Platoon (W) Troop 42 Commando.
2    Intention.  To clear NORTH BRIGHTON of enemy.
3    (X) Troop 42 Commando Comd Capt. Jones to move forward with one Platoon forward and one Platoon back, with track as dividing line between leading sections.
4    H ? 5 to H ? 2" Mortars to put down smoke.
5    Tanks at call to fire uphill from ?hour under direction of Capt. Smith.
6    All Brens to move forward to 4 Troop 1 Commando to fire on the following programme:
      H ? 5 to H ? 2    slow rate
      H ? 2 to H        rapid
7    Start Line ? Rear of 4 Troop 1 Commando positions.
8    H hour 1230 hrs.

APPENDIX 2

ACCOUNT OF AMMUNITION SUPPLIES ON 31ST JANUARY 1945
At approx 0830 hrs. 4 Troop 1 Commando asked for ammunition of all types.  5 Troop 1 Commando sent forward their reserves of grenades and other types.
At approx 0945 hrs. mortar platoon asked for more H.E. as they had already expended 80 bombs.  Cpl. Young Mortar Platoon with a small party of men made three attempts to reach the bomb dump but this was under enemy machine gun fire and they were driven back.  In the last attempt Cpl. Young [view] was hit and subsequently died of his wounds.  Pte.Boyes attempted to reach Cpl. Young but was unable to do so owing to the heavy fire.  It was impossible to get ammunition from this source to the 3" mortars.
At approx 1100 hours. ammunition of all types was again called for.  The only personnel available to carry ammunition to the forward Troops were No. 1 Platoon of 12 Troop 1 Commando.  This was a dangerous mission as the ammunition party was continuously under fire enemy snipers.
It is impossible to assess the ammunition expenditure but some idea of the amount can be judged by the fact that each Troop had a reserve of 3,000 rounds 303, 1,000 rounds 300, 2,000 45 and 72  36 grenades and by 1200 hrs. the Brigade dump was unable to continue the supply of types required.
Fortunately RSM Powell was able to contact Capt. Gardner 1 Commando A.O. who immediately set about the task of ferrying ammunition from the beach.  This ammunition arrived in time to supply the forward troops with everything they required.  The supply was effectively maintained by the untiring efforts of 12 Troop 1 Commando who not only carried forward the ammunition but evacuated casualties on the return journey when there were not sufficient stretcher bearers available.  It must here be mentioned that only 6 ORs of 12 Troop could be used at any one time as their position still had to be manned.
At 1500 hrs. as the ammunition party was busy evacuating casualties to the M.D.S. it was found necessary to get more men to carry ammunition.  RSM Powell contacted a party of Indian Engineers who willingly supplied 12I ORs as ammunition carriers.
Towards evening the men from 12 Troop who had been working all day then volunteered to take as much water as they could carry to the forward Troops, in addition to the normal ammunition supplies.
At no time were the forward troops desperately short of ammunition.

APPENDIX 3

ACCOUNT OF MEDICAL ARRANGEMENTS ON HILL 170 ? JANUARY 1945
At about 0700 hrs. 1 Commando R.A.P. moved to 4 Troop 1 Commando H.Q. and there treated some 15 casualties which had occurred during the enemy's initial assault.  They were evacuated satisfactorily by Indian stretcher bearers.
The R.A.P. stayed in this area until 1030 hrs. when Troops moving in and the intensity of the enemy's fire made it necessary to clear all wounded from the position as rapidly as possible.  The R.A.P. therefore withdrew to the area of 42 Commando H.Q., leaving the Medical Sgt. forward who supervised essential first aid.
However at 1200 hrs. as casualties were increasing in number and as the M.D.S. was close at hand, the R.A.P. moved forward again to the saddle at the rear of 4 Troop 1 Commando.  Here it was able to supervise essential first aid and to organise evacuation from 4 Troop in front, and the Troops on the flanks.  From 1200 hrs. to  1500 hrs. during the counter attacks put in by 42 Commando and 6 Troop 1 Commando, 42 Commando came up to augment 1 Commando R.A.P., assisting at the time of the intensest flow of casualties.
The Indian bearers worked well until midday.  After this time only about 4 parties were seen at the R.A.P. and most of the bearing was done by 12 Troop 1 Commando.  The Indian bearers were difficult to marshal owing to the language obstacle.
Troop orderlies worked forward with the defending or counter-attacking Troops and did excellent medical work under difficult conditions.  Casualties in the medical section were killed 1 L/Cpl, and wounded 1 Sgt.  The former had gone forward to the front trenches early in the battle and having dressed four men who were wounded manned one of the Brens but was killed when his position was overrun.

APPENDIX 4

1    Arty (25 pdr& Med)
      Tanks
      Aircraft
2    Artillery:    The Arty was used throughout the day (a) to neutralise enemy supporting fire on FINGERS, (b) as harassing fire on THAMES CHAUNG.  This was controlled by F.O.O. from the forward position until about 1600 hrs. when fire control was directed from MILFORD, whence whence reports had come of enemy movement across the chaung.  (c) On NORTH end of BRIGHTON 300 yards in front of enemy position, later reduced to 150 yards.
The F.O.O. on BRIGHTON was seriously wounded at 0800 hrs. and his set was put out of action.  His place was taken by the battery commander who sent his orders back on the Command net.  The battery commander was wounded twice and his place was taken by another F.O.O. in the afternoon.
3    Tanks:    Of the 3 tanks on the bridgehead 1 was destroyed by enemy action at 0600 hrs. and a second partially disabled at the same time.  The third took part in the action throughout the day.
At 0830 hrs. the tank was asked to give support on WEST flank of 4 Troop 1 Commando who were at that time hard pressed.  At 12.30 hrs. the same tank was used to supplement the fire power for (X( Troops counter-attack.  It had one periscope shot away.  At 1330 hrs. the tank withdrew to replenish ammunition and POL returning at 1430 hrs.  It continued to fire ME effectively with three bursts on NORTH end of BRIGHTON.  Shells were ranged to burst 50 yards in front of 4 Troops 1 Commando position.  This was undoubtedly extremely effective in countering Jap infiltration on the left flank.
4    Aircraft:    These were not used in direct support until the culminating point of the battle when a heavy strike was made by Thunderbolts at 1700 hrs on FINGER.  This caused heavy casualties among the retiring enemy.
5    Navy:    At 0700?hrs. 1 LCA with 13 Brens went up THAMES CHAUNG to clear the banks.  This was followed by an M.L. at about 1030 hrs. which opened fire on fingers and the banks of the chaung.

APPENDIX 5

JAPANESE DECEPTIONS
Many of the usual tricks of the enemy were employed, such as shouting names of officers and senior NCOs.  Further to these during the day were:
(a)    Shouts of 'withdraw Commandos' and 'cease fire'.
(b)    Six Japanese were seen wearing Green Berets, and one dead Jap was subsequently found wearing a Green Beret.
(c)    Fire crackers were used to give the impression of heavier fire power.
(d)    Cries of 'I am wounded'. 'Help' and 'Come and get me out', etc.

1 Commando, War Diary of Hill 170

Date commenced: 
Wednesday, January 31, 1945

Source: 
War Diaries of No 1 Cdo.  ref.  National Archives WO 203/ 1792. Transcribed with the help of  John Mewett and Elaine Southworth-Davies from a copy typed on a ribbon type writer which was very hard to decipher.  ***** refers to a word that could not be made out.

Report by Lt. Col Peter Young on the Battle of Hill 170

At about 0545 hrs. I was in my dugout on the reverse slopes of 170.

The Japanese indulged in a fairly prolonged barrage which didn’t compare to badly with a Bosche effort. This was followed by musketry from the N end of 170. I got up and got dressed and went along to see Lt Col Trevor and found him in his HQ. It was daylight when we arrived. On the way I told various sections I passed what information I had gathered from Bde.HQ. This was to the effect that a party of about 20 Japs had rushed our 3 tanks that one was believed to have been set on fire, and that 4 troop of No1 commando was surrounded by snipers but the situation was well in hand.

I found Lt Col Trevor and some of his HQ sniping at a diversion party down in the bushes and paddy in rear of his HQ. I borrowed a Garand rifle and both Cpl Christopher and myself had a few pot shots with no obvious results, but Col Trevor knocked one over and so did some of his signallers. An officer and three other Japs were found later in the target area. Capt. Cotton of 42 Cdo rushed out and got his sword.  He was shortly afterwards wounded in the thigh by a shell I think.

One of the Japs down in the field was lying on his back moving his arm from time to time.  We hoped to get him as a prisoner, but he killed himself with a grenade.

The Brigadier came along and so I went back to Bde and had my breakfast.

Later presumably after 0930hrs I went back to see Col Trevor again. By this time he had gone up and joined 4 Troop.  I visited him there, there was a good deal of fire at the time, but Col. Trevor didn’t seem to think there were very many Japs in front of him.  As I went forward to see Col.Trevor  I met Lt. Crewe being carried back along the ridge, sitting up on a stretcher.  He had been wounded in the foot and leg.  Capt. Smith of 42 was already with Col.Trevor by this time.

I went down the gully to where the tanks had been laagered. I found that one had indeed been burnt out. There was a good many bodies about. None of them had been moved so I proceeded to inspect them. The first was an officer.  He had got right inside the tank and set it on fire.  About six of his men were dead behind him within 20 yards or so.  They had pole charges (round charges on the end of bamboo poles). One of them had gone off prematurely and killed its owner very thoroughly. He was covered in a sort of powder the colour of mepacrine. In the paddy were four riflemen who seemed to have been giving covering fire at close quarters. One had died with his forefinger in the loop of a 36 grenade.  Taking a look at the other party, we found one of them breathing.  His right forearm shattered, but some SBS soon whisked to the MDS. He is still alive.

During the morning it was reported at Bde. HQ that an ICA had destroyed a party of Japs crossing the N Chuang (Thames).  I took a patrol to investigate this report.  We found no bodies but saw the imprint in the mud of at least one barefooted man; found 3 clips of Jap rifle ammo in their forming up area and a Bren magazine at the point where I consider they may have landed, for it was opposite to the mouth of the contributory of the ‘Thames’. During all this time there was continuous firing on 170 and we saw several of our own troops advancing among the tree at the top of the hill.  I got the impression that very little of the hill was left to the Japs.

Perhaps it was my next visit to Bde. that a report came in from Col.Trevor that there were still 40 Japs at the end of the feature.  The Brig.turned to Capt.Tripp, the IO and said ‘send that to division tell them there are 20 Japs at the end’.

By this time a steady stream of casualties was moving along the back of 170 to the MDS, and one marine said he saw 61 brought past during the day.  While I was at 1 Cdo’s HQ on one occasion, about 1500hrs, a report arrived that the situation was critical.  However reinforcements from 5 Cdo had begun to arrive from PINNER and the Brig. had ordered Lt Col Pollitt MC to take a troop forward as soon as he had arrived. 1530 Hrs Col Pollitt and Capt.Burr of 4 troop 5 Cdo arrived 1 Cdo HQ.

The next time about 1630hrs I went to see Col Trevor I met Col Pollitt being carried back on a stretcher face downwards. He had been shot through the knee. I also met Lt. Bolitho walking back, shot in the stomach being supported by one man and very angry.

I met the Brigadier who ordered me to arrange for a flanking movement by a Coy of Punjabs to pin down the enemy on the west side of 170 with fire from the paddy; and for the tanks to go into action again.

Only one tank was in action by this time, but as soon as I could get hold of a platoon from 5 Cdo it advanced again. I met Major Stuart, told him Col Pollitt was hit and arranged for this support.

I then found the Col of the Punjabs and arranged for two platoons guided by my servant, to go and engage the enemy from the mangrove where they themselves had originally formed up.

When the Brig returned to his HQ he ordered me to organise the defence of the hill for the night. I went to see Col.Trevor  and met him coming back at about 1630hrs, from his forward post. I had Major Stuart with me and we arranged to reinforce 1 Cdo’s forward troop with a strong fresh troop of 5Cdo and if possible to withdraw the tired troops of 1 Cdo.  As it was getting dark I told Col Trevor it was unlikely that we could do more than reinforce him for the night.

By the time I got back to the area of Bde. HQ with Lt. Nias , 10 of No 1 cdo, I found that enough Punjab’s had arrived to take over from 2 troop No 5 Cdo so I sent Capt.Beard guided by Lt. Niasto report straightaway to Col Trevor.  I got Capt. MacLennan the camp commandant, to show the Punjabs all the posns on the right and returned main HQ No I Cdo, where to my delight (and also surprise) I found that troops of 42 Cdo were already reinforcing the two weakly held features.  We were now able to take out 1 Cdos forward Troops.  I saw Col Trevor and he was satisfied that all was well. I went back to Bde.  It was dark.

The next morning there was more firing. I went again to see Col Trevor and Maj Stuart; we had had four casualties in a weak attack from grenades.  I found him very eager to attack and drive the enemy off the end of 170, once and for all.  Since we were to hand over that day I was in favour of this.

Later I heard that he had succeeded and the hill was covered with dead. I went there and saw a truly incredible scene.  The Japs covered the hill almost like a carpet. They were piled onto those of our our posts which they had swamped. Our soldiers were busy collecting Brens and Jap ******* , and looking for documents and so on.  Several of our own men were in the open where they had fallen in one of the many counter attacks. A lot of Japs had been killed by the shelling and mortaring. Among some bushes on the N side of 170 were 16 dead Japs and two of our own dead. Here we captured another prisoner, who had half his foot blown off and had crawled into the bushes.  He wanted us to shoot him.

There was still a good deal of mopping up to be done in the chaung and in the paddy, but the battle was decided by the clearing of 170.

Except that the Japs hardly used their artillery except in the preliminary barrage –presumibly because of the lack of W/T- and their mortar practice is very poor compared to the Germans, the fighting on 170 could hardly have been more severe. I am convinced that no European troops would have attempted to hang onto their precarious foothold at the end of 170 for as long as these Japs did, in the face of all the arty , 3 “ mortar and small arms fire brought to bear on them.  For 24 hrs the forward troops were within grenade range. On our side a man often became a casualty within a few minutes of taking over a Bren from another who’d been hit.

Had the pimple at the end of 170, divided, as it is, from the rest of the position by a sharp re-entrant been carried, it would have been a major operation to re-take it. Above anything it was the long and stubborn resistance of 4 Troop 1 cdo and the heroism of the officer commanding the forward platoon that prevented this.  According to PW reports, 500 Japs attacked the position of whom 300 were killed.

Myebon 11 /Feb/45                        P. Young Col    D. Command 3 Cdo Brigade.

 

1 Commando, Roll of Wounded Hill 170 Kangaw

Type: Nominal Roll
Author: John Mewett
Year of Publishing: 2015
Keywords: Wounded Roll No1 Commando Hill 170 Kangaw Burma 1945
This document is in the No 1 Commando War Diary held at the National Archives. It contains the names of soldiers wounded in the battle and they are are alloted into their troop numbers. Through research this list has been found to contain omissions but it was the list read out at the service held after the action by the troop leaders.
 
Original document is held in the National Archives.
 
Units: 

3 Cdo Bde. order of the day by Lt.Gen.Sir AF Phillip Christison

Appendix to HQ 3 Cdo Bde War Diary for Feb 45

15 Indian Corps: Special Order of the Day

Field 17 Feb 45

Author: Lieut. Gen. Sir A.F. Philip Christison, KBE, CB, MC,  Comd 15 Indian Corp

Copy of original document supplied by:  John Mewett

Transcribed by:  Jennie Barlow

To:  3 Commando Brigade

Having been placed under command of 15 Indian Corps to lead assaults in particularly hazardous and important amphibious operations, you have successfully completed the tasks which were assigned to you.

Your courage and determination in assault and attack, your tenacity and aggressiveness in defence and counter attack have won the praise and admiration of the Commanders and troops, British, Indian and Gurkha of all other formations engaged in the operations and who fought beside you.  Through your exploits at AKYAB, at MYEBON and at KANGAW and the valuable reconnaissance which you made along the ARAKAN Coast, you have gained a reputation throughout the Corps for indifference to personal danger, for ruthless pursuit in success, for resourceful determination in adversity, which has been a source of inspiration to your comrades in arms.

The battle of KANGAW has been the decisive battle of the whole ARAKAN campaign and that it was won was very largely due to your magnificent defence of Hill 170.

I am very proud of you and thank you all for the decisive contribution which you have made to the success of the campaign and the rout of the Jap in this theatre of operations.

I deplore the loss of your gallant comrades, and trust that your wounded may soon be restored to your ranks.

For the future, I wish you all happiness and success.

(To be read out on parade to all ranks.)

3 Cdo Bde. order of the day by Maj.Gen.Wood

Appendix to HQ 3 Cdo Bde War Diary for Feb 45

25 Indian Division: Special Order of the Day

Field 3 Feb 45

Author: Major-General G.N. Wood, OBE, MC, Comd.

 Copy of original document supplied by:  John Mewett

Transcribed by:  Jennie Barlow

On the victorious conclusion of the operations for the capture of the MYEBON peninsula and the cutting of the enemy L of C at KANGAW, I wish, on behalf of 25 Ind Div to express to 3 Cdo Bde the admiration we feel for their speed and fire in attack, and their aggressive and cheerful spirit when defensive actions have been imposed upon them.  3 Cdo Bde has had a stern test for many officers and men their baptism of fire but they have emerged from it with a reputation of which all ranks must always be proud.  Their comrades of 25 Ind Div deplore their losses, among them many who had already become our personal friends, but these losses have been avenged in full.

I count not least among the fruits of our victory the mutual trust and esteem which has been established on the battlefield between the soldiers of 3 Cdo Bde and their British and especially their Indian comrades of 25 Ind Div.

(To be read on parade to all ranks.)

 

1 Commando, Order of the Day by Lt Col Trevor 2nd Feb'45

Units: 

 

Order of the day Serial No 8

2nd February 1945

Author:  Lt.Col. K.R.S. Trevor, Cheshire Regiment

Commanding, No. 1 Commando

Copy of original document supplied by:  John Mewett

Transcribed by:  Jennie Barlow

Gentlemen, I can't say how proud I am of the unit, and honoured to command you.  During the whole time at Hill 170, every man in every Troop and in every department worked and fought magnificently.  There was not a weak link anywhere.  No. 1 was a perfect fighting machine.

On hill 170 I saw more acts of bravery - perseverance and physical endurance that I could imagine possible.  The forward Troops stood firm, never wavering against all attacks.  Troops were always willing to counter attack against unknown odds, and the odds were heavily against us.

We must not forget the gallant part played by W and X Troops of 42 Commando both in their counter attack and defence, also 5 Commando who came to our assistance.  Col. Pollitt, before he was wounded, came and offered ant help her could give.  They gave it us, manning several Bren Gun pits in the forward trenches.  Major Stewart at 1800 hrs. offered and took the risk of replacing our troops on the positions with two of 5 Commando's troops, enabling our men to be pulled back for a well earned respite.  This completed for No. 1 Commando a period of twelve hours continuous close fighting.

Had the enemy succeeded in gaining a foothold on Hill 170 the safety of the whole Brigade and beachhead might have been jeopardised.  Our casualties have been heavy.  We have lost a number of old friends.  We must not forget the part they played in making their supreme sacrifice.

We have had since landing at AKYAB the following casualties:

Killed

  •   2 Officers
  •   2 Sgts
  •   3 L/Sgts
  •   2 Cpls
  •   7 L/Cpls
  • 11 Ptes

Wounded

         3 Officers

  •    1 W.O.
  •    1 Sgt.
  •    5 L/Sgts
  •    6 Cpls
  •  10 L/Cpls
  •  58 Ptes.

These figures speak for themselves.

3 Cdo Bde Third Jungle Book issue 3

Type: Files
Author: Edited by Capt. F.C. Rodger, RAMC 1944, June 1944
Year of Publishing: 2015
Keywords: 3 commando brigade, no 1 commando, no 5 commando, 42rm commando, 44rm commando, jungle book

One of a series of the Magazine of the Third Commando Brigade produced and published between 1944 and 1946 for issue to those serving in the Brigade.  This copy from Nick Collins.

In a No 1 Commando Newsletter dated 27th Feb 1944 it mentions about the new Brigade Magazine being published. It states that "From this unit Lieut. J.R. Turpin is publishing advisor, and Lieut. A.J. Davies is Art Director on the publishing staff."

3 Cdo Bde Third Jungle Book issue 4

Type: Booklet
Author: Editor Captain F.C. Rodger, RAMC
Year of Publishing: 2015
Keywords: 3 commando brigade, no 1 commando, no 5 commando, 42rm commando, 44rm commando, jungle book

One of a series of the Magazine of the Third Commando Brigade produced and published between 1944 and 1946 for issue to those serving in the Brigade.  This copy from Andy Maines.

In a No 1 Commando Newsletter dated 27th Feb 1944 it mentions about the new Brigade Magazine being published. It states that "From this unit Lieut. J.R. Turpin is publishing advisor, and Lieut. A.J. Davies is Art Director on the publishing staff."

3 Cdo Bde Third Jungle Book issue 8

Type: Files
Author: Edited by Capt. I.V. Carrel (RM) September 1945
Year of Publishing: 2015
Keywords: jungle book, commando brigade, no 1 commando, no 5 commando, 42rm commando, 44rm commando

One of a series of the Magazine of the Third Commando Brigade produced and published between 1944 and 1946 for issue to those serving in the Brigade.  This copy from Julie Warren.

In a No 1 Commando Newsletter dated 27th Feb 1944 it mentions about the new Brigade Magazine being published. It states that "From this unit Lieut. J.R. Turpin is publishing advisor, and Lieut. A.J. Davies is Art Director on the publishing staff."

3 Cdo Bde Third Jungle Book issue 9

Type: Booklet
Author: Maj. I.V. Carrell & Lt. G. Sheath (RM)
Year of Publishing: 2015
Keywords: jungle book, 3 commando brigade, no 1 commando, no 5 commando, 42rm commando, 44rm commando

One of a series of the Magazine of the Third Commando Brigade produced and published between 1944 and 1946 for issue to those serving in the Brigade. 

In a No 1 Commando Newsletter dated 27th Feb 1944 it mentions about the new Brigade Magazine being published. It states that "From this unit Lieut. J.R. Turpin is publishing advisor, and Lieut. A.J. Davies is Art Director on the publishing staff."


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Operation Premium

Date commenced: 
Sunday, February 27, 1944
Units: 

A raid on the Dutch coast near Wassenaar on 27/28 February 1944 by a small group of Commandos from No. 10 Inter Allied Commando who had embarked at Great Yarmouth on MTB 682.  

Captain Charles Trepel and the 5 other French Commandos  who left the MTB that night were never heard of again until the area around Scheveningen was liberated. During investigations into their disappearance their graves were found, five described as unknown Allied airmen, and one as unknown English soldier. The graves were disinterred and the men identified. There have been numerous suggestions as to how they met their death from drowning to execution. 

Mort pour la France

TREPEL, Charles
HAGNERE, Jean
GUY, Rene
RIVIERE, Jacquelin
DEVILLERS, Fernand
 
Sources:
  • No 10 Commando author Ian Dear who records his source as the French edition below.
  • Het Drama Bij Wassenaarse Slag, a detailed analysis of Operation Premium and the mysterious deaths of its participants, was written in 1985 by P.H. Kamphuis, a Dutch historian who is the assistant to the Head of the Historical Branch of the Royal Netherlands Army. This has been translated into French under the title Le Drame de Wassenaar. 
  • Letter from the Base of 1st Batallion Fusiliers Marins Commando, FNGB, to the Central Service of the Etat Civil in Paris.
 

9 Commando - Anzio landing

Date commenced: 
Friday, March 3, 1944
Units: 

On the 20th January 1944 the first landings were made, meeting very slight opposition. On the 25th January the Commando was withdrawn from the beach-head and returned to Bacoli. No 9 Commando's second landing at Anzio took place on the 3rd March 1944.

This operation can best be described in this account by Major Les Callf MC and bar who was at the time Captain commanding 5 Troop, No.9 Commando:

"My most thrilling and proudest moment of the war was in leading my troop in an attack against a superior force of paratroopers at Anzio. We had hardly recovered from our attack on Mt Ornito/Faito, suffering about fifty per cent casualties, when we were called back to Anzio as the situation there was critical. We landed on 3 March and 5 Troop was ordered straight into the front line sector held by the 9 Royal Fusiliers with orders to deal with a troop of German paratroopers who had infiltrated and taken over part of our lines.

5 Troop was about half strength, mustering one officer and twenty-eight ORs. We arrived at first light (05.45 hrs) and contacted the officer-in-charge for information as to the enemy's whereabouts. The only information was a vague wave of his hand down the wadi with the words, "There . . . somewhere down there . . . I've just been promoted Major!" With these words the officer disappeared down his dugout and left us to it.

The wadi was a deep ravine with stunted trees and foliage, about thirty feet down to mud and water, but it was the only cover available, so we had to use it. The assault team under Corporal Bostock pushed ahead with covering from the Bren-gun team on the highest part of the wadi. We usually did our raiding and fighting patrols in the darkness but this was special and urgent and we had to find them quickly, which we did, rather too quickly, in broad daylight. The enemy were well dug in on high ground overlooking the wadi and they opened fire with automatic weapons, slicing Corporal Bostock's trigger finger off as he returned fire. Casualties occurred through the troop. Corporal Searle quickly replied with mortar smoke as we regrouped. Corporal Bostock, assisted and covered by Hopkins and Belasco, reported back to me, and standing rigidly to attention, asked permission to fall out as he'd lost a finger - all this during enemy machine-gun fire!

The only way was a good old-fashioned bayonet charge.

We left the wadi and spread out in the dead ground below the enemy positions, with Brens on the flanks giving covering fire. Fusilier Storey, who was lying just behind me, was killed instantly as we were getting into position.

Every man always carried two No. 77 smoke grenades so that a smoke screen could be created for about two throws of about forty yards. They knew the drill; throw and run through the smoke. This was the moment, and one I shall never forget. In broad daylight we had to cover about sixty yards of open ground against German paratroopers, well dug in. I looked to the right of me and the left and to CSM Walsh next to me, and gave the order, "Throw!" and as the smoke formed, "Charge!" and in we went, hard. I think we must have looked a fearsome body as we came through the smoke onto them. Many of them were killed and others put their hands up.

We suffered three killed and nine injured. I'm not sure of the German casualties, but the official report gave twenty-five killed and twenty-three POWs, which was approximately twice the strength of No. 5 Troop on that day."
 

Operation Detained 1

Date commenced: 
Saturday, March 18, 1944

An attack on the German held village of Grohote in the Damatian Island of Solta. The assault involved two Landing Craft Infantry (LCI), one from Vis and the other from Komiza. A spare LCI from Komiza accompanied them. Each towed a Landing Craft Assault (LCA).  The RAF also provided aerial support to the Commandos consisting of 36 Kittyhawk dive bombers. The raid was successful and the Commandos later evacuated back to thier base at Vis with the entire German garrison of over 100 soldiers as prisoners.

This operation is also mentioned in our No 2 Commando History

A breakdown of the Grohote raiding force

THE ATTACK ON THE GERMAN HELD VILLAGE OF GROHOTE IN THE ISLAND OF SOLTA, DALMATIA. SATURDAY 18TH MARCH 1944. SOMETIMES KNOWN AS "DETAINED 1".
 
The Expedition set out in two L.C.I.'s, one from Vis and the other from Komiza. A spare L.C.I. came too, from Komiza. Each towed an L.C.A. Two L.C.A.'s contained three Italian 47mm anti tank guns and 600 rounds. The other was packed with reserve food and ammunition of all kinds, and more was carried in the spare L.C.I.
 
The Vis L.C.I. entered Tatinja Cove C.623 first, and beached at Green beach at midnight. 
It contained:-
-
Officers
R&F
2 Troop, 2 Commando
2
50
3 Gun Crews for 47mm. guns (Two from 101 L.A.A. Regt.* One from No. 2 Commando.)
3
21
4 Vickers M.G., 10 b.p.g. and crews from 43(RM Commando
1
40
Americans - 
A Unit (Yugoslavian)
B Unit (Greek)
17
138
H.Q. Officers - Col. Churchill, Admiral Cowan, R.M., Lieut. Webb R.M.
3
-
The Komiza L.C.I. beached at Red Beach at 0005hrs, 19th March containing:-
-
Officers
R&F
1 Troop, 2 Commando
3
30
3 Troop, 2 Commando
3
30
4 Troop, 2 Commando
3
37
HW Troop, 2 Commando, with two 3" Mortars and 330 bombs
2
33
L.C.A. Protection Party, No. 2 Commando
1
11
The Spare L.C.I. did not beach , but ferried ashore by L.C.A. :-
-
Officers
R&F
Commando H.Q. 
4
20
Brigadier Miles (Force 133)
1
 ..
Reserve rations and ammunition in case the Assault Force was marooned on Solta.
-
-
Additional support of 36 Kittyhawk dive bombers, carrying 2, 3, or 4 bombs each, was provided by the R.A.F. The R.A.F. sea rescue launch was also used to return badly injured men from the raiding party to Vis.
 
Casulalties
-
Capt. Prescott
Wounded
Lt. Manusos, U.S.A.
Wounded
Cpl. Mallitsis, U.S.A.
Killed
Cpl. Cox (2 Cdo)
Died of Wounds
Pte. Ritchie (2 Cdo)
Wounded
Dvr. Habib (2 Cdo)
Wounded
L/Cpl. Ryder (2 Cdo)
Wounded
Gnr. Sawyer (2 Cdo)
Wounded
Fus. Spinks (2 Cdo)
Wounded
Pte. Pembrey (2 Cdo)
Wounded
Pte. Letts (2 Cdo)
Wounded
Pte. Lucas (2 Cdo)
Wounded
L/Cpl. Miles (2 Cdo)
Wounded
Pte. Eagleson (2 Cdo)
Wounded
Lieut. Parnell (2 Cdo)
Wounded
Lieut. McMenamin (2 Cdo)
Wounded
Two American enlisted men 
Slightly wounded
Four Rank and File of 2 Commando
Slightly wounded
Prisoners
1 Officer, 97 Rank and File, and 6 Croat police.

Source
Report by Lieut. Col. J.M.T.F. Churchill, Commainding No. 2 Commando dated 7th April 1944. The full report is held at the National Archives with the No. 2 Commando War Diary. 
 
*Notes
The report later mentions that this was in fact 101 Light Anti Aircraft Battery, R.A. This Unit at the time was based on Vis (No.2 Cdo War Diary.)
 

Operation X Anzio beachhead

Date commenced: 
Sunday, March 19, 1944
Units: 
Known only as Operation X, No.9 Commando were tasked with clearing three Wadis about half a mile from the perimeter of the beachhead. The Germans had been using these as a forming up point for counter attacks.  These wadis formed a 'U' with a small hill in the centre and some further high ground below the base of the 'U'.
 
Due to their casualties at recent operations around Monte Ornito, the strength of 9 Commando had been reduced to 14 officers and just 255 OR's so the Commando was reformed from troops into 3 squadrons for the operation.
 
Colonel Tod then divided the operation into three phases codenamed Haydon, Charles, and Laycock. The first phase, Haydon, was to be mounted in darkness against the left hand arm of the 'U'.  The second phase, Charles, was to attack at first light and clear the enemy off the base of the 'U'. The third phase, Laycock, was to clear the enemy off the right hand arm of the 'U'.
 
The fighting was brutal and often at close quarter with attack and counter attack. No.9 Commando succeeded in taking the objective but were denied the immediate reinforcements and supplies they needed. Eventually they were ordered by Brigade HQ to withdraw to the positions they had started from.
 
No.9 Commando had 73 casualties, killed wounded or missing, during the action. 
 
View the ROH for this operation [HERE].
 
Sources
When Shall Their Glory Fade by Major James Dunning.
 

'Operation Screwdriver'

Date commenced: 
Saturday, March 11, 1944
 
Screwdriver 1 - 11th to 15th March 1944
A raid from the sea on the the village of Alethangyaw and the surrounding areas near to Maungdaw to harrass the enemy. 44 RM Commando were relieved by No.5 Commando.
 
Screwdriver 2 - 21st March to 12th April 1944.
44RM Commando again returned to this operation in the area to relieve No. 5 Commando and operate in front of the 9th Indian Infantry Brigade.
 

'Operation Silchar'

Date commenced: 
Saturday, April 15, 1944

April - July 1944. Assam

A series of patrols.

Operation Detained 11

Date commenced: 
Monday, May 8, 1944
Units: 

An Allied force of Yugoslav Partisans landed on Solta accompanied by Lieutenant Freeman and his signallers from No 2. After a sweep of the island for enemy forces they departed on the 10th.

Operation Darlington

Date commenced: 
Wednesday, May 24, 1944
Units: 

Operation Foxhound

Date commenced: 
Monday, May 22, 1944

A large scale raid on the 22/23rd May involving No 2 (Army) Commando, 43RM Commando, and one troop from 40RM Commando, on Miljet Island. 

Operation Overlord

Date commenced: 
Tuesday, June 6, 1944

The allied landings in Normandy on D Day and onwards

75th Anniversary of 'D Day 6th June 1944

This week services will be held in many countries to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the 'D Day' of the Allied landings at Normandy on 6 June June 1944, . Thousands would die on this day and in the months to follow before the war ended in 1945. Many more suffered life changing injuries. 
 

Amongst the Fallen on 6 June 1944 were One Hundred And Seventy Seven Commandos.

ONE day in ONE country in ONE theatre of war in World War Two. 
 
We will remember them.
 
View our Roll of Honour for WW2  [The Commando WW2 Roll of Honour]
 
"When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say, For Your Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today."

 

Operation Flounced

Date commenced: 
Friday, June 2, 1944

A night raid on the enemy held island of Brac involving Commando Units of 2 Special Service Brigade primarily from 40 and 43 Royal Marine Commandos, and 2 Special Service Brigade HQ. They were assisted by Partisan forces.

Lt Col. 'Jack' Churchill in overall command was taken prisoner.

Lt Col. Manners OC of 40RM Commando was among the casualties.

Operation Healing 11


The above picture shows a troop of No 2 Commando forming up in an olive grove for an attack. The sketch map was drawn by the author of this report.


                         Spilje Bay, Albania 28th – 29th July 1944

​                                A report written by Harry Fecitt MBE, TD.

 

Allied interest in Albania

In mid-1944 as the Germans began to evacuate the Balkans it was decided to try and galvanise Partisans in the former Kingdom of Albania to attack Axis troops who were withdrawing from Greece. A British Special Operations Executive (SOE) mission had also been active in Albania but its results had not been spectacular as the commander and many of his staff were captured by enemy troops in March 1944.
 
Albanian Partisans had been more than happy to fight Mussolini’s Italian troops who had invaded in 1939 but they were more ambivalent towards the Germans, often preferring to let sleeping dogs lie rather than to make attacks that resulted in savage German atrocities being perpetrated on local villages. Communists under Enver Hoxha dominated the Partisan groupings and their priority always was to be ready to seize power in the capital Tirana once the Germans had departed.
 
One Allied Special Forces unit that showed keen interest in events in Albania was the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) which was looking for a new theatre to deploy into now that all Axis troops had been captured in or expelled from North Africa.
 
Since March 1944 The leader of the British SOE Mission to Enver Hoxha was Lieutenant Colonel Alan Palmer, Royal Regiment of Artillery, who made five parachute insertions into the country. He was closely involved with British Commando operations on the Albanian coast and his Mission was originally titled Force 266.
 
The difficulties of successfully operating over the rugged and inhospitable Albanian terrain and of dealing with a population that often supplied the Germans with information can be assessed from Alan Palmer’s citation for the Distinguished Service Order that appears in Appendix 1 below. The value of this citation is that it describes events that led up to the decision to briefly deploy No. 2 Commando onto the Albanian coastline.
 

Operation Healing II – the plan

HEALING II was designed to re-open the coastline in the neighbourhood of Himara so that supplies could be delivered to the Albanian Partisans in that area. Weapons, ammunition, equipment, clothing and boots were all needed because the Partisans were recruiting well from the civilian population but they were reliant on captured weapons and clothing. It was necessary for four German-garrisoned strongpoints north-east of Spilje to be destroyed before the coastline was secured, and five hours were allocated for this – in the event this was an insufficient amount of time. The Commandos were to be ashore for less than 24 hours and afterwards it was anticipated that the enemy would re-enter the area and be repulsed by the Partisans.
 
The attacking force was just over 700 men strong and consisted of:
  • No. 2 Commando – 250 all ranks (Lieutenant Colonel E. Fynn).
  • 40 men of No. 9 Commando acting as porters.
  • A medical detachment from No. 40 (Royal Marine) Commando.
  • 180 men from the Raiding Support Regiment armed with 4 Italian 47mm anti-tank guns, 6 medium machine guns, six 3-inch mortars plus No.1 Mobile Protection Troop.
  • ‘C’ Company 2nd Battalion The Highland Light Infantry.
  • Inland, British officers from Force 266 ( redesignated as Force 399) and their Partisans, assisted by 20 LRDG soldiers, would organise prior reconnaissance and a link-up with the Commandos after the landing.
  • The Royal Navy was to provide the necessary LCIs (Landing Craft Infantry) and two destroyers tasked with gunfire support.
  • Weather permitting, air to ground fire support was arranged for the daylight hours particularly during the withdrawal.
Both the plan of attack and the communications network, particularly requests for supporting fire that were integral to the attack, were over-complicated; 95 wireless operators with 64 wireless sets were landed but poor communications, or none at all, were to bedevil the operation.
 
It was believed that around 150 German troops were in the four strongpoints, but that 2,000 were at Valona a few miles away. The German formation in the area was the 297th Infantry Division and its soldiers were of a high quality, often prepared to fight to the death in defence of their positions. The fact that the Partisans had little time for live prisoners once their boots, clothing and weapons had been removed was doubtless a determining factor in the minds of many young German soldiers.
 
Albanian quislings knew of the operation and had forewarned the Germans who strengthened their strongpoint garrisons at Spilje.
 

The Operation

Colonel Fynn’s force sailed from Monopoli, south-east of Bari, Italy, on the night of 28th-29th July 1944. A successful unopposed night landing was made near Himara village four miles south of Spilje. A night march, serenaded loudly by village dogs, followed to the attack start line. The day-light attack commenced and the first problem occurred when the naval gunfire support officer fell over a cliff, damaging his radio set. Shells from the destroyers fell short amongst the Commandos, hitting men and radios, but the fire was not easily checked.
Other radios could not work because their whip aerials could not clear the dense olive trees. The 3-inch mortar troop of the Raiding Support Regiment was heavily machine gunned as it moved forward, leading to it dropping its mortar equipment whilst cover from effective enemy fire was sought.
 
                                       No 2 Commandos attend to the wounded.
 
Three officers received Military Crosses and their citations describe the battlefield of steep rocky ridges, defended houses and snipers concealed amongst fields of vines.
 
  • Captain Michael William Stilwell, No. 2 Commando, moved quickly to capture his objective and his gallantry whilst wounded resulted in the award of the Military Cross.
  • Citation

"Captain Stilwell was in command of a force consisting of 2 Troops, whose task was to assault enemy positions which were well placed on the top of high ground with steep approaches. Captain Stillwell led the assault himself, and by his courage and leadership maintained a steady advance under heavy machine gun fire, until the positions were all over-run. Near the top he was badly wounded in the buttock, but insisted on carrying on till the consolidation was complete. He then organised the exploitation of the ridge, but did not accompany the exploiting party as he could not move fast enough. He refused to be carried back to the Regimental Aid Post as stretcher bearers were already busy with other casualties, and, although in great pain, he insisted on attending to casualties near him, and organising their evacuation."
 
"Captain MacCallum was in command of a Troop which had to clear two ridges on the left flank of the main attack. From the outset his Troop met unexpectedly heavy and savage resistance. Captain MacCallum’s personal bravery in leading the assaults and his determination to smash through to his objectives were magnificent. He personally led every assault, and when his Troop was held up and suffering heavy casualties from flanking machine gun nests, he rallied and led them on to a successful attack on the objectives. At one stage he, armed with a pistol, and with one other man, stalked a strong post and destroyed it taking 10 prisoners.
In the latter phases, when practically half his Troop had been killed or wounded, he led his Troop into another attack with other Troops on a defended house. When the attack was held up he immediately organised and again personally led a flanking attack which enabled the main assault to go in. During a difficult dis-engagement and withdrawal, Captain MacCallum was untiring in his efforts to evacuate wounded, going forward himself on two occasions to get casualties back. Captain MacCallum’s cool, determined leadership materially contributed to the success of the operation, and his zeal and energy during the evacuation of casualties undoubtedly saved the lives of several wounded men."
 
  • Captain Michael Hinton Webb MC,  South African Forces attached to No 2 Commando, was awarded a Bar to the Military Cross that he had previously been awarded during operations in North Africa (the citation for this first award is shown below at Appendix III).
  • Citation

"Captain Webb was in command of a force of 2 Troops, which had to attack a series of strongly defended houses and machine gun posts. Throughout the action, Captain Webb’s cool, brilliant leadership, his complete unconcern at all times for his own safety, and his infectious aggressive spirit were an inspiration to all ranks. He led several assaults himself, continually urging and encouraging his men, and set a fine example, destroying the enemy himself wherever possible. During the heat of the attack he personally rallied his troops and led them on to the final assault. The success of this attack was very largely due to his dash and determination.
Later Captain Webb’s force was called to assist other Troops, who were held up, and again, despite the increasing numbers of snipers lying up in vineyards, his disregard for danger was outstanding. During a difficult dis-engagement and withdrawal, Captain Webb was a tower of strength, organising and giving personally every possible assistance to evacuate a large number of casualties back to the beaches. His bravery and unflagging energy undoubtedly saved the lives of several men. Captain Webb has shown consistent bravery and capacity for leadership in actions on the Dalmation Coast, notably on BRAC, where he was recommended."
 
        Captain David Peters leading 1 Troop No 2 Commando up a ridge at Spilje.
 
Elsewhere on the battlefield the Highland Light Infantry fought well and Commando junior leaders maintained the impetus of their attacks through three different planned phases of the action.
 
Many of these No 2 Commando junior leaders fought on after suffering wounds and, fortunately, their citations for gallantry awards contain much battlefield detail that helps us to understand why Colonel Fynn broke off the action before all objectives had been seized.
 
"This Warrant Officer went into action in the role of a Section Officer. Throughout the whole action Morland showed a complete disregard for his own safety, (displaying) initiative and great powers of leadership. On the first attack, his section came under heavy machine-gun fire and suffered casualties. He rallied his men and led the charge clearing the ridge. On the second attack his section again came under heavy fire causing many casualties, but armed with a pistol, he by his gallantry and leadership, pressed home the attack and cleared the objective. He then immediately gave first aid to the wounded, arranged their evacuations, and made two attempts to get over the crest of a ridge, and rescue two men, after three other attempts had been unsuccessful. In the latter stages his section was reduced to a mere handful of men. Seeing that the other section was in difficulties, he collected men of other troops and another regiment, put in an attack and enabled the other section to withdraw. In the last stages of the battle, having no men, under heavy mortar and machine gun fire, he helped evacuate the wounded to the regimental aid post he had formed and thence back to the beachhead. His example, fine and untiring energy throughout were an inspiration to all. This Warrant Officer has consistently shown great courage in previous actions in Norway, Scaletta and Salerno, and on other Commando raids on the Yugoslav Islands."
 
"Lance Corporal Anchor was in command of a bren gun. At dawn his troop led the assault against enemy positions, strongly fortified and tenaciously defended.
During the early stages of the advance Lance Corporal Anchor, coming under vicious enemy machine gun fire, carried his bren gun forward across dangerously open ground. From now onwards, he not only succeeded in giving effective covering fire to the advancing troops and thereby the steady advance of the leading troops but continually engaged enemy strong points with deliberate and accurate fire, having complete disregard for his own personal safety.
In the final assault, Lance Corporal Anchor, observing several Germans immediately in front of him, displayed great initiative and courage, when, charging forward under intense fire he hurled a grenade in the midst of the enemy, who were making a last desperate attempt to hold the objective. This action contributed largely to their withdrawal from the position.
By now a machine gun in the immediate vicinity was pouring bullets into the captured position. Lance Corporal Anchor located this machine gun and immediately engaged it through the window of his house forcing the enemy to stop firing and withdraw to another position.
Throughout this action this Non-Commissioned Officer displayed not only courage and determination but great initiative at all times. His efforts contributed greatly to the success of the assault and were largely responsible for dislodging Germans determined to hold out at all costs."
 
  • Driver George David Dransfield, No. 2 Commando, was awarded a Military Medal by demonstrating what a rifle and bayonet can achieve when used with bravery and accuracy.
  • Citation

"This man showed great courage and determination throughout the action. In the early stages he was particularly conspicuous in the bayonet assaults. In the final stage during an attack on a fortified house, Dransfield’s section attacked but were held up by withering machine gun fire across very exposed ground. Dransfield, with complete disregard for his own safety, dashed through the fire, across open ground over barbed wire and through a suspected minefield to take up a position behind a wall on the enemy’s flank. He immediately brought accurate fire to bear on the enemy positions in the house. This attracted enemy fire away from his own section onto himself and enabled his section to re-group for a second attack. Under this hail of fire Dransfield was badly wounded in the leg. Despite this he continued to return the enemy fire, and when the second attack was launched he immediately joined in the assault, when he was again hit in the other leg. Although in great pain and bleeding profusely he crawled 20 yards and collapsed. This soldier’s offensive spirit and magnificent bravery were an outstanding example and inspiration to all."
 
  • Lance Bombardier John Willis Gelder, No. 2 Commando, whose citation for the Military Medal describes both the Commandos’ battle plan, the ground and the enemy defences.
  • Citation

"This Non-Commissioned Officer showed outstanding courage, leadership and initiative. The attack in which he took part developed in three phases. In Phase 1 the attack was on a ridge studded with machine-gun posts. On the first burst of fire, the Section Sergeant and Corporal were hit, and Gelder immediately took control of the sub-section leading them with dash and no thought of personal danger. He saw that another section had eleven casualties from a machine-gun post, subsequently found to be manned by a German officer; he stalked this post despite the danger, and killed the officer with his Tommy gun. On Phase 2, Gelder collected remnants of the section and put in another attack on a machine-gun post, capturing the post and killing the occupants. On Phase 3 the objective was a strongly fortified house. The first attack was beaten off and Gelder was wounded. He refused to withdraw, and again went into the attack. He was hit in the face by a grenade, which exploded at his feet seriously wounding him. Despite this fact, he went on firing until his magazine was empty, encouraged the other men, who were now under mortar as well as machine-gun fire, and tried to carry a comrade out of action until finally collapsing. Gelder, who showed courage at Scaletta, Salerno and Hvar, acted as a Sergeant throughout this action, and was a great inspiration to his men. His gallantry in past actions earned him a recommendation at Salerno."
 
"Lance Sergeant Rogers personally led his sub-section with conspicuous gallantry. In the face of heavy fire from two spandaus (machine guns) he continued to advance against his objective. Although wounded and in great pain he led his men on to close with the enemy and killed the machine gun teams. By this action, the troops on his left, who had been held up, were enabled to advance again.
Lance Sergeant Rogers throughout showed a complete disregard of danger and continually refused to allow his wound to interfere with his duties until the objective had been captured, and other casualties in the section had been dealt with first."
 
  • Lance Corporal John Denis Howard, Royal Army Medical Corps and No.2 Commando, received his Military Medal for displaying tenacity and bravery whilst in a non-combatant role but under heavy enemy fire.
  • Citation

"This Non-Commissioned Officer displayed untiring zeal, bravery and devotion to duty and was an example to all about him. Whilst under heavy shell fire he displayed the utmost coolness and disregarding his own safety entirely, he attended to the wounded and endeavoured to move them from the danger area. Later, during the attack he was constantly up with the assaulting troops in his capacity as medical orderly and he showed complete indifference to enemy fire whilst attending to wounded. He remained out under heavy fire dressing wounds and assisting in evacuating casualties. He went out repeatedly to bring in wounded men although he was continually sniped at and the ground was swept by enemy machine gun fire. He later remained out under heavy shell fire endeavouring to remove wounded to a place of safety. He was untiring in his work and at no time did he show the slightest regard for his own personal safety. His coolness and courage were great examples to those with him. During previous actions he has shown the same consistent devotion to duty."
 
  • Lance Bombardier Thomas Joseph Mulcahy, No. 2 Commando. This citation for the sixth Military Medal awarded for gallantry displayed at Spilje by No. 2 Commando personnel describes how LBdr. Mulchay stepped-up and took over a battlefield situation when his local commanders had been killed or wounded.
  • Citation

"This Non-Commissioned Officer showed great courage and leadership throughout the action. In the early stages when his Section Sergeant was missing and his Corporal wounded, Mulcahy immediately took charge. He led his men into the assault showing complete disregard for his personal safety and carried the assault through to destroy two machine-gun posts and several weapon pits. Then when his section were pinned down, he carried out a reconnaissance under fire which enabled him to outflank these posts. In the final stages, his section was driven back in an attack on a strong point, but although wounded he rallied his men, and led a second attack in which he became more seriously wounded. Whilst lying on the ground, he encouraged his men and insisted on being the last to be evacuated. Throughout the action, he displayed great gallantry, determination and devotion to duty which, without question, materially contributed to the success of each assault. This Non-Commissioned Officer has repeatedly been outstanding in action and was recommended at Salerno."
 
5 troop at Spilje with german prisoners
                Commandos of 5 troop No 2 Commando with German prisoners.
 
An officer from Colonel Palmer's Mission with the Partisans later commented on the example that the British attackers had demonstrated on the battlefield:
"The way the British managed by night to take up positions so close to the enemy and then suddenly appear at dawn was new and, until they saw it happen, considered impossible by them (the Partisans). The bravery, discipline and excellent control shown by the British caused much admiration, as indeed it should. The Partisans were astonished at the way the British troops advanced in a perfect line, standing erect and oblivious of the intense fire. They considered the operation a masterly example of how to fight . . . The effect was a tremendous boost of Partisan morale and obvious improvement in their methods of fighting."
 

Withdrawal

By the time his five hours were up Colonel Fynn had accepted that his force was not strong enough to take all four reinforced enemy strongpoints above Spilje, principally because they had benefitted from an early warning of the British attack. Twenty British soldiers had been killed in action so far or were missing, and the unwounded remainder were exhausted. A move back to the beaches was ordered with priority being given to the evacuation of the 60 wounded men. The forward troops disengaged and fought a withdrawal action supported by smokescreens whilst stretcher bearers shuttled casualties down the steep slopes that had been taken from the enemy earlier in the day. Twenty five Germans had been captured and no doubt they assisted with casualty evacuation duties.
 
Around 40 Germans had been killed and over 30 wounded and the survivors in their strongpoints were shaken by the ferocity of the British assault; many of them absconded during the next night and the remainder withdrew into woodland where the Partisans hunted them down and killed them. The aim of destroying the German garrison had been realised. Three German attempts to re-enter the area were repulsed by the Partisans. A fourth attempt succeeded but the troops involved were soon forced back by what was now a highly motivated Partisan force.
 
The Royal Navy evacuated the HEALING II Troops back to Monopoli in Italy apart from three men of No. 2 Commando – Sergeant Douglas ‘Dink’ Webster, Gunner A. Pallet and Driver Roy John - who were left behind during the withdrawal. These three joined the Partisans for a time their evacuation was arranged.
 
In Monopoli Colonel Fynn received a congratulatory and reassuring letter from the commander of Land Forces Adriatic, Brigadier G.M.O. Davey, who wrote:
 
"I congratulate you on the excellent work done by you and the troops under your command in the HIMARA operation. Thanks to your careful planning and their very gallant fighting against a determined enemy and some objectionable Albanian quislings (some of whom were killed) the operation was a complete success. The object was the destruction of a German garrison. We know that it consisted of good German troops. You accounted for most of these, and the only remaining Germans were yesterday rounded up by the Partisans, who now control the coastal belt in that area.
Your casualties were not light, but against them you must measure the set-back the enemy has suffered morally and materially in Albania. Then you will realise the extent of your achievement. Your No. 2 Commando has maintained and enhanced its already great reputation, and I should be grateful if you would convey my thanks to every member of it for his collective and individual part in a successful battle, the results of which are out of all proportion to the size of the Force engaged."
 
Only a few weeks were to pass before No. 2 Commando was re-inserted onto the Albanian coastline for a new battle in support of Partisan operations.
 
                          Commandos from 5 Troop after the raid on Spilje.

View a film broadcast about the raid here British Pathe News Film.


APPENDIX 1

Citation for the award of the Distinguished Service Order to Lieutenant Colonel Charles Alan Salier Palmer, Royal Regiment of Artillery.
 
"Lieutenant Colonel Palmer was first dropped by parachute into ALBANIA on 10th October 1943. His task was to carry out a general reconnaissance of enemy occupied ALBANIA and then to proceed, with the organization necessary, to disrupt German communications in the South Eastern sector of the country. Whilst in command of a small operational mission in this area he formed, trained and led a force of local Partisans against the German Occupying troops.
 
In March 1944, after the head of the British Mission in ALBANIA, Brigadier Davies, and most of his party had been captured, Lieutenant Colonel Palmer was placed in command of all British Missions working with the Partisan forces in ALBANIA. In this capacity he remained for most part with the General Staff of the Albanian National Liberation Army, advising, training and directing as far as was humanly possible the activities of this movement, to ensure that its operations coincided with the directives of the Supreme Allied Commander.
 
Early in May 1944 Lieutenant Colonel Palmer carried out an offensive reconnaissance of Lake OHRID for a proposed seaplane landing. The following account of this reconnaissance is extracted from the diary of a field officer who accompanied Lieutenant Colonel Palmer. “To reach the lake within the time limit we marched for three days at great speed over mountainous country with only three breaks of two hours each for rest and food. The route lay through an area strongly held and patrolled by German and satellite troops. Lieutenant Colonel Palmer having completed the reconnaissance decided to blow the route on the western side of Lake OHRID between LIN and POGRADEC. His conduct during this action was remarkable. It was personally carried out by Lieutenant Colonel Palmer whilst German patrols were moving along the road which he was preparing for demolition.” A subsequent reliable report stated that the Germans attempted to rebuild the road with a force of 2,000 men, but failed and were obliged to conduct a long alternative route.
 
In June 1944 the German 1st Mountain Division was sent from SERBIA to South ALBANIA for the express purpose of breaking up the Partisan organization in that area, which at the time was severely interfering with the lines of communication of Army Group F. This officer with all but one of the missions under his command was gradually forced to withdraw to a Partisan-held bridge-head on the coast near the village of BORSH. After ten days hard and close fighting it became apparent that the Partisans were not strong enough, or well enough equipped to prevent the elimination of this bridge-head. Lieutenant Colonel Palmer who had meanwhile assumed virtual command of all Partisan forces in the area decided to evacuate all but five of the British personnel under his command. This evacuation successfully completed, he, together with one officer and one W/T (radio) operator, in the face of heavy and concentrated machine-gun fire broke through the enemy lines in daylight. The Germans on discovering from local civilians that it was the senior British officer who had succeeded in penetrating their lines immediately gave chase. Only after fifteen days of constant pursuit, during which he underwent considerable physical hardship, and showed remarkable endurance, and in the face of constant betrayal by treacherous Albanians, did he succeed in re-establishing wireless contact with his HQ in Italy. As a direct result of the initiative and courage displayed in this action Lieutenant Colonel Palmer was able to regain contact with the Partisan GHQ and thus make possible the rallying and reformation of the remaining Partisan forces, who continued to resist the Germans and hampered their lines of communication.
 
On four separate occasions when political relations with the FNC (Fronti Nacional Clirimatare – the Communist Partisan organisation) were critical to the extent of prejudicing all further military operations in ALBANIA, this officer has been summoned to ITALY to report to AOC Balkan Air Force. After each of these visits he has again been dropped by parachute into ALBANIA with fresh instructions. Due to his great patience, he has succeeded, to a very considerable extent, in imposing the wishes of the Supreme Allied Commander on the FNC. His courage and leadership shown on many occasions have been largely responsible for the very high esteem with which he is regarded by all Partisan commanders, including Colonel General ENVER HOXHA, and it was largely due to this esteem that Lieutenant Colonel Palmer has been able to impose the extent of control which was eventually achieved. This officer is still in ALBANIA as political adviser to the Commander of the British Military Mission.
I have therefore the honour to submit that for his outstanding work, Lieutenant Colonel Palmer be awarded the DSO. Should this award be approved it is requested that no detail be made public or communicated to the Press."
 
After the war Alan Palmer, a mobilised Territorial Army officer, re-joined his family business Huntley and Palmer. In 1963 he was appointed CBE ‘For services to the biscuit industry and to export’. He died in 1990.
 

APPENDIX 2

 

The Fallen remembered with honour

 

Tirana Park Memorial Cemetery, Albania

 
Sergeant Jack Ernest Moores No. 2 Commando
 
and the following from the Highland Light Infantry (City of Glasgow Regiment)
 
Lieutenant Alan Macdonald Sennett
Lance Serjeant Herbert Aveyard
Private Alexander Barr
Private John Casey
Private Norman Swanney.
 
At least seven more burials in this cemetery are of unidentified personnel.
 

Athens Memorial in Phaleron Cemetery, Greece

 
Lance Corporal Ernest Zeno Rosenstein, No. 2 Commando
Gunner Nelson David Richardson. Royal Artillery attached to Raiding Support Regiment.
 

Bari Cemetery, Italy

 
Trooper Norman Bunn,  No. 2 Commando.
Bombardier Peter McDougall, No. 2 Commando
Gunner David McMillan Miller, No 2 Commando
Private Colin Peel of the Highland Light Infantry (City of Glasgow Regiment)
 

The Cassino Memorial, Italy

 
Lance Corporal Henry Finn Hughes, No. 2 Commando;
Lance Corporal John Brighty, No. 2 Commando.
Gunner Peter Boon, No 2 Commando
 

APPENDIX 3

 
Citation for the first award of the Military Cross to Lieutenant Michael Hinton Webb, 1/3rd Bn. Transvaal Scottish, Union Defence Force, South Africa.
"During an enemy attack on our positions at BIR-EN-NAGHIA in CYRENAICA on the evening of 28 May 42, our forward outpost was compelled to withdraw owing to the fierceness of the attack. It was imperative for us to hold the outpost as it dominated our lines, and also the sectors held by the Battalions on our left and right. Lieutenant Webb was detailed to occupy the outpost with two sections. Under terrific shell and machine gun fire he reoccupied the post and successfully held it against several determined attacks during the period 28-29 May. At 0830 hours on 29 May he led an attack against the Italians who were endeavouring to dig in positions forward of his post.
His personal dash and courage were an inspiration to his men and in no small way contributed to the success of the attack which resulted in the capture of over one hundred prisoners."
 

SOURCES:
  • Roderick Bailey. The Wildest Province. SOE in the Land of the Eagle. (Vintage Softback 2009).
  • George A. Brown. Commando Gallantry Awards of World War II. (Private Publication 1991).
  • General Sir William Jackson (compiler). History of the Second World War. The Mediterranean and Middle East. Volume VI. Victory in the Mediterranean. Part II – June to October 1944. (Naval & Military Press softback reprint of 1986 original publication.)
  • James Ladd. Commandos and Rangers of World War II. (Book Club Associates London 1978).
  • Charles Messenger. The Commandos 1940-1946. (William Kimber 1985).
  • Hillary St. George Saunders. The Green Beret. (Michael Joseph Ltd 1949).
  • William Seymour. British Special Forces. The Story of Britain’s Undercover Soldiers. (Grafton Books paperback 1986).

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'Operation Detained 111'

Date commenced: 
Sunday, September 17, 1944

Formerly part of Yugoslavia.

Operation Mercerised

Date commenced: 
Friday, September 22, 1944

Landings at Sarande Albania. 


Extract from the No 2 Commando War Diary 
 
22 Sept 44:
0830 - Commando left Monopoli and proceeded to journey in LCI's to beach North of Sarande Bay. The journey was a very rough one and as soon as the craft left the lee of the mainland a heavy sea got up and a number of men were sea-sick. 1 LCI struck its starboard ramp against a rock but otherwise the landing was uneventful.
 
23 Sept 44:
0015 - Landed Sugar beach. Recce patrol met on beach. Conference on board LCI due to information received. German patrol had proceeded down the valley on Friday morning and very nearly surrounded Recce party. Beach was pounded with light mobile gun and neighbouring woods were raked with spandau fire, but on movement back Germans were caught by Partisans at head of valley. They killed or captured more than half of the 150 men in the patrol without loss to themselves. C.O. decided to occupy feature in centre of valley with Troops on either side of it. All positions were occupied by dawn. 4 Troop were then moved up to Point 586. Spitfires attacked Sarande. Rest of day spent diggin in.

24 Sept 44: Arrival of HQ No.2 SS Brigade under Brig. T.B.L. Churchill, MC. First day and night of rain. Corfu guns fired into Bay during afternoon. Partisan report received that 5 Germans had been killed in attack on Sarande yesterday. Patrol by 3 Troop down road towards Vermero, by 2 Troop to bridge at SHIAN, by 1 and 4 Troops towards Sarande.

2300 - Demolition Party under Capt. Whitehouse, S.O.R.E., 2 SS Bde., blew crater in SHEN VASIL- SARANDE road at 315845

25 Sept 44:
0500 - Arrival of Brig.Davey, Comd L.F.A. for brief visit. Shown over positions by C.O. More firing from Corfu guns.

1150 - Venturas bombed S.E. of Delvine.

1450 - Spitfires attempted to bomb bridge SHIAN without success.

Another night of rain. Patrol by 4 Troop reported enemy extremely active in Sarande area, but no enemy positions contacted. Engagement between Partisans and Germans at M.R.323828. 5 Troop reported considerable shell fire on position. Report from 3 Troops that Germans had taken to hills around Sarande. No civilians allowed in area. This patrol reached point 400 yards North of town of Sarande. Considerable M.T. activity on road and Naval activity in Sarande.

26 Sept 44:
0830 - 5 Troop returned from GHASHTE. 4 Troop reported Germans in occupation of METOG and LEKURES. Albanian militia with Italian uniform but unarmed reported in Sarande area - estimated 60 strong. 5 Troop reached VERMERO Church, then Eastwards down track to VERMERO ridge. Bumped small patrol but uncertain whether German or Partisan. Reached GJASHTE, threw H.E. Grenades but received no reaction. Fwd troops moved to Points 586 and 469. F.O.O. set up on latter. Telephone lines laid to link up these points with Brigade and Commando HQ.

1130 - Brigadier and B.M. visited Commando HQ. Request to L.F.A. for bombing of DELVINE as soon as possible. Brigadier gave orders for a Troop (3 Troop) to be moved to area of SHIAN Bridge, to be followed by two more Troops and Commando fwd. HQ. Partisan diversion towards DELVINE arranged.

1510 - Shelling of Commando valley from DELVINE. 4 Troop reported fire came from M.R. 345844. Informed 25 pounders would arrive BORSI approximately 1500 hours on the 27th.

27 Sept 44: Attempt by 3 Troop to bow up bridge failed. Demolition party lost contact with main body and unable to locate bridge. Lieut. ROE returned with demolition party to report. 3 Troop and Med. Det. left on ridge overlooking bridge and defended localities at VANE 337861. C.O. went out to recce positions and possibilities

1125 - Report from 5 Troop of 5,000 ton ship lying off Corfu

1305 - Shelling of Commando valley from German guns at 347843

1340 - Counter battery work by R.S.R.

1500 C.O. reported by wireless on condition of 3 Troop.Shelling of bridge area good and would recce further forward with Os.C. 1 and 3 Troops

1900 Order received from B.M to send Patrols to Pt. 802 290883. Sections of 2 Troop detailed for this.

Rain during night

28 Sept 44: Sections from 2 Troop on Point 802 reported no enemy in area.

1300 - 25 pounders reported in position SHEN VASIL

1708 - 5 Troop report enemy guns at 410878 and 395880firing at top of Commando valley

1900 - Shelling of beach area

Rain during night.

29 Sept 44:
0900 - C.O. told not to advance from present position except to move from Pt. 586 to Pt. 469

1200 - Rain continuous for 16 hours stops at last - temporarily

1700 - Orders received to send out 2 Patrols of 3 Subalterns each to shoot up transport on main road.

'Operation Floxo'

Date commenced: 
Saturday, October 28, 1944

Operation lasted into November.

Operation Infatuate

Date commenced: 
Wednesday, November 1, 1944

Operation Infatuate was the amphibious assault on the island of Walcheren, off the coast of Holland, the capture of which was essential to the opening up of Antwerp as the major Allied supply port for the final push into Germany. The major role for the assault landings was allotted to 4 Special Service Brigade Brigade, which had previously consisted of four RM Commandos, but for this operation No. 4 (Army) Commando replaced 46 RM Commando.
 
No 4 Commando, including 1 and 8 troops from No 10(IA) Commando,  landed at Flushing. 
 
The three RM Commando units 41, 47, and 48 Commando, with detachments from the Belgian and Norwegian Commandos from No. 10 (IA) Commando, were to land in the Westkapelle area, and had a range of sophisticated armoured amphibious vehicles in addition to the conventional landing craft.
 

No. 4 Commando, after a daring pre-dawn landing and nearly two days of bitter street fighting, succeeded in capturing the port and most of the town before being relieved by the 52nd Infantry Division. They were thus enabled to rejoin the rest of the Brigade, who without air or artillery support, had made a daylight assault landing at Westkapelle, in the face of heavy enemy fire from the formidable gun emplacements built into the sand dune dykes.

For three days, without any room for manoeuvre due to the deliberate flooding of the island by the Germans, the RM Commandos frontally attacked and, one by one, captured the heavily defended strong points sited along the crest of the dykes, before successfully linking up with their comrades of No. 4 who had advanced from Flushing.

After eight days of continuous action, the whole island was captured and the enemy surrendered with many prisoners. Although during that time the Brigade suffered a total of almost five hundred casualties they had the satisfaction of knowing that the port of Antwerp was opened and supplies were being offloaded by the end of the month.

(Source: Major James Dunning's book When Shall Their Glory Fade.)

 

4 Commando Brigade, Roll of Honour, Walcheren

Operation Infatuate.

Date: 1st - 8th November 1944.
Location: Walcheren
 
No 4 Commando, which included 1 and 8 troops from No 10(IA) Commando,  landed at Flushing. 
41, 47, and 48 RM Commandos, with 4 and 5 troops of No 10(IA) Commando,  landed at Westkapelle.
 

Walcheren Roll of Honour

This ROH for Walcheren has been compiled primarily from the CWGC database and Unit war diaries.  If you believe a name to be missing please advise us, with relevant sources, via the Forum or our Contact Form [HERE].

Click on names for more information.
 

No.4 Commando

Lieutenant Nicholas Barrass
Private Henry Donkin
Private Maurice Gourong
Gunner William Harvey
Gunner Edward Hill
Private Owen Hooper
Private Pierre Laux
Lance Corporal Yvan Monceau
Lance Corporal Jean Montean
Private Jean Neven
Corporal Yvan Ruppe
Private John Stoddart
Lance Sergeant Alfred Walker


No. 10(IA) Commando, 3 troop, 4 troop, and 5 troop,

Lieutenant Alf Kristian Solbu, 5 troop
Lieutenant Adolphe Meny, 4 troop
Trooper Ola Christophersen, 5 troop
Corporal Francois Dive, 4 troop
Trooper Lars Hovstad, 5 troop
Trooper Leif Ludvik Larsen, 5 troop
Trooper Sverre Røsland, 5 troop
Corporal Salo Weich , 3 troop


HQ 4 Special Service Brigade

Lieutenant William Layman
Lieutenant Gordon McKenzie
Marine John Hughes


41RM Commando

Marine John Barnes
Major Paddy Brind-Sheridan
Marine William Cooke
Marine John Hay
Captain Peter Haydon DSO
Sergeant Herbert Heywood
Lieutenant John Holmes
Marine Reginald John
Marine Byron Moses
Marine Robert Nicholson
Marine Henry Page
Marine John Read
Marine John Robertson
Corporal Charles Smith
Marine Reginald Smith


47RM Commando

Sergeant Reginald Brehme
Lance Corporal Joseph Buchanan
Marine Albert Davies
Marine James Day
Marine Martin Derrick
Marine Andrew Duke
Corporal Edward Evans
Marine Joseph Fawcett
Marine Denis Fee
Marine Joe Flannagan
Lance Corporal William Fletcher
Lance Corporal Maurice Grimsdell
Lieutenant Norman Hayward
Marine Ronald Hubbard
Lance Corporal Edward Lawton
Marine Alan Longden
Marine Duncan McGregor
Marine James Muir
Lance Corporal Francis Nicholl
Marine Kenneth Patey
Marine Harry Payne
Marine Robert Pettit
Company Sergeant Major Harold Plank
Sergeant John Puddick
Segeant Robert Rackham
Corporal Charles Ripiner
Company Sergeant Major William Spear
Lieutenant Michael Style
Corporal Kenneth Teed
Marine Albert Thatcher
Marine Anthony Turner
Corporal James Unsworth
Sergeant Robert Webb
Marine George Wilson
 

48RM Commando

Marine William Bean
Private Walter Branch RAMC
Private William Brown RAMC
Marine Norman Burgess
Sergeant Anthony Davis
Major Derek De Stacpoole
Lieutenant Walter England
Lance Corporal Dennis Fogg
Marine Robert Gibbs
Captain Noel Godkin
Marine Leslie Haines
Marine Harold Hughes
Marine Kenneth Jordan
Corporal James Law
Lieutenant Cyril Lindrea
Marine James McArthur
Captain Roderick MacKenzie MC
Marine Alfred Mee
Sergeant Harold Peace
Marine Frederick Potter
Marine William Sage
Marine Lawrence Samwell
Marine Cyril Savage
Marine Philip Shears
Corporal Ernest Shrigley
Marine Colin Skelland
Marine Kenneth Stephens
Corporal Thomas Steventon
Marine Philip Titmuss
Marine Norman Wall
Marine Charles Ware
Lieutenant David Winser RAMC
 

We will Remember them

 

'Operation Bean'

Operation 'Bean' report which took place on 23 November 1944.

Apart from No 1 Cdo this operation included elements of No 5 Cdo/ 8th Fd Regt/' V' Force .

All abbreviations have been transcribed as written to maintain the integrity of the original document.

OPERATION “BEAN”                                                                                                        SECRET

Copy of Original document supplied by John Mewett

Transcribed by Elaine Southworth-Davies

NA Document Ref:- WO218/63

 

OP “BEAN” REPORT

Date of Report   -  23 Nov 44

Date of Op          -  22/23 Nov 44

Time Out             - 1730  22 Nov

Time In                -  1200  23 Nov

TAKING PART

1 Cdo       3 Troop.   6 Troop.   1 Sec  4 Tp.   Cdo HQ.   1 MMG  det of 2 Tp

5 Cdo        4Troop.   1 Mortar Det of 6 Tp.

8th Fd Regt R.A.   -   “W” Batt.

“V” Force    1 and 10

Total Str  of 1 & 5 Cdos  -  22  and 293 OR’s

 

DETAILS

1. At 1730 hrs 22 November 44 force left NURULLAPARA and CHIRADAN.  Route was through GODUSARA to Mil Road and SOUTH along this road.

The force split into three distinct groups.

At 2200 hrs on night of 22 Nov No. 3 Troop crossed TON CHAUNG unobserved and took up defensive perimeter at 408263 where it remained until ½ hr before dawn.  The troop then moved up to 500 yds east of HINTHIYA.  HINTHIYA was then shelled and MMG opened up on two JIFS seen to be running from the village in a SE direction.  It is not if any casualties were inflicted.  At 0715 hrs, No. 2 sec plus HQ less wireless and 2” Mortar moved into the attack and cleared the North of the village as far as track 405256.  No.1 sec remainder of HQ, Gunner OP and MMG were then brought forward.  No. 2 Sec then advanced South beyond track when it met opposition.  3 JIFS were observed crossing track and the sec opened fire – the enemy returned the fire.  D sub moved on the right and C sub on the left.  As C sub moved forward, 3 JAPS were seen who were fired at by TSMG and Grens.  3 JAPS were killed, 1 wounded, and 1 prisoner was taken.  C sub then came to a clearing and took up fire posns, and D sub moved up in line on the right.  The sec came under fire from 2 LMGs and tree snipers.  The Bren opened up at 30 yds range and either wounded or killed 4 Japs.  D sub Bren killed 1 sniper who fell out of tree, and hit one other.  Another rifle gp killed 1 JAP and silenced the enemy auto fire.  During this action, a JAP officer (recognised by his superior dress) was wounded in the leg and while being dragged away by two others was again hit by a burst of Bren.

 

When 2 sec became static, No. 1 sec plus MMG were brought up on left flank.  After crossing track they were fired on by tree snipers who engaged and silenced them.  Advancing a further 100 yds, 1 sec came under cross fire from 1 LMG on PIMPLE 409254 and 1 LMG at 407255.  Own Bren opened up on PIMPLE and silenced enemy LMG.  The MMG on left flank opened up on tree snipers immediately to No. 1 Sec front and no fire was again returned.  The MMG saw 15 JAPS plus an LMG of which 5 broke cover.  The order was then given for No. 3 Troop to withdraw over the Chaung to Cdo HQ.

CAS   -  ENEMY

Killed   -   6

Wounded    7 and 1 Offr

Prisoner   -  1

Possibles  -  6

 

CAS – OWN TROOPS

NIL

INFM GAINED

HINTHIYA full of trenches.  Bunker posn at 403254 approx.  Enemy str, since at least 2 possibly 3 LMGs met and 1 gren discharger possibly 2 secs of a pl.  No. of JIFS not known, possibly other JIFS were sniping as some of long range sniping was very accurate.

4 Troop 5 Cdo with FOO att had moved off Mil road at 2100 hrs on track to KAINGYI at 399282.  This track was no more than a pig trail through dense jungle and mud in places 2 and 3 ft deep.  Speed was 3 hrs to 1 mile.  At 0300 hrs firm base made at 419275 and at 0700 hrs OP moved to pt 432276, NES. Arty fire from 0800 to 0900 hrs approx.  On return party investigated Hil 213.  NES.  Rejoined Cdo HQ at 1000 hrs.  The entire force then returned along Mil road through GODUSARA and reached BOLSTER by 1200 hrs 23 Nov 44.

 

INFM GAINED

Estimated posns reported West of KAINGYI are not manned in strength and at KAINGYI is not occupied.

6 Troop in posn during night at 414257 at 0515 hrs.  Moved through dense jungle to hill 187 arriving 0610 hrs.  NES.  Report on defences of hill att.  Troop then moved down hill to give help need be to 3 Tp, but was ordered to gd pt where TON CHAUNG emerges from foothills.  6 Tp followed 3 Tp across TON CHAUNG and back Cdo HQ.

 

INFM GAINED

Sketch att.

Cdo HQ in posn during night at 408267 est OP at first light, observing HINTHIYA.  During 3 Tps action occasional sniper fire directed at OP. As 3 Tp was withdrawing a large with small explosions seen on South of village.  3” Mortar fire approx. 20 rds HE at this target and into the village.

On 23 Nov 44 during operation “BEAN” (1 Cdo., 3 & 6 Tps, 4 Tp 5 Cdo, and att Arty OP and SBs under command Major J.H. Davies of 1 Cdo).  The enemy were engaged in HINTHAYA (map ref 398255).  A number of Jap were killed and wounded and 1 prisoner was taken.  A statement was taken from the man who took the prisoner.

6286923 PTE. OLIVER. L.R.S. (BUFFS) joined the reg army in boys service at the age of 14.  He volunteered for Cdo work in 43 at the age of 20, and was posted to 1 Cdo in Oct that year.  He description of the action on 23 Nov is given below:-

“My troop (3 Tp) left the base at LAMBAGUNA early in the morning of 23 Nov and took up osn outside a village (HINTHAYA).  Our arty shelled the village very accurately and my sec advanced to the track running through the area, covered by No. 1 Sec.  As we moved along the track I saw 9/12 JAPS on my left and fired at them with my Tommy Gun, and in my excitement got ahead of the chaps in my sub sec who were moving in extended order.  I saw one of the JAPS fall, hit in the leg, and several others dashed to pull him into cover.  He was dressed differently from the others and was recognised by others as an officer.  All this happened very quickly and Cpl. Jenkins called to me to join the sub sec.  As I turned the mag fell off my gun and at the same moment I spotted four of the enemy in a V shaped trench 30 yds in front of me and as they were about to open fire I managed to throw a 36 gren which burst just at the rear of the trench and kept their heads down long enough for me to fix a mag on my gun.  The sub sec was covering me and I fired 16 rds at the 4 men in the trench.  One was a Sikh and was hit in the stomach, 2 others were Japs got it in the back. L/Sgt. Crow and one of the other chaps rushed into the trench while I covered them.  The fourth JAP was only stunned and of the other three, 2 were dead and 2 were dying.

-- took up posn with D sub sec on our right flank and remained there for about 30/40 minutes.  Enemy snipers opened up and our crews opened up.  The snipers seemed to be tied in the trees because when hit they did not fall.  Some Japs seemed to be trying to move around on our left flank and were engaged by one of our sub secs.  We tied up the prisoner, and as the sniping was rather persistent and sometimes appeared to be aimed at the prisoner, we withdrew carrying him with us.  We had gagged him as he was screaming.  As we reached Tp HQ we withdrew across TON CHAUNG.  I noticed that the bashas in the South part of the village were burning and could head ammunition exploding.  The prisoner was very strong and struggled hard to get away.

 

 

 

POSITION ON PT. 187

 

The sketch that was here will be uploaded as a separate document.

Please refer to ‘Operation Bean Pt. 187’

 

                

NOTE 1. Fire lanes and grenade chutes down steep slopes all around.

2. Approach by spur well camouflaged.

3. Dead leaves and state of old pieces of paper found indicated that the hill not lived for 2 to 3 weeks.

4. All around view of up TON CHAUNG and area HINTHAYA to coast and South to ALETHAUNGYAW and ST. MARTINS ISLAND.

 

COMMENT

An excellent OP but would not withstand 25 pounder HE fire.

 

'Operation Horse'

Date commenced: 
Sunday, January 14, 1945

An attack on the German held small island of Kapelsche Veer. It had a harbour on the north side and was simply a segment of low-lying land between the main River Mass and the much narrower Oude Maas.

A German Paratroop Division, had taken up positions on Xmas Eve, and were well dug in at the top of a dyke on both sides of the island. A previous attempt by Polish Forces had been repulsed as was this attempt by the Commandos who suffered many casualties.

Operation Widgeon

Date commenced: 
Friday, March 23, 1945
Wesel after the capture March 1945

An operation by the 1st Commando Brigade to cross the River Rhine and capture and hold Wesel. The above photo © IWM (BU 7670) shows the devastation after the air raid.


The following account was written by Harry Fecitt MBE, TD, ex-17 Para.

 

Overview

Operation Widgeon utilised 1st Commando Brigade in a crossing of the River Rhine opposite Wesel, twelve hours before the American 17th Airborne and the British 6th Airborne Divisions landed on higher ground to the north of the town. Wesel had to be captured as it was a German communications centre and a strong point that unless seized could jeopardize the British 2nd Army and American 9th Army crossings of the Rhine on either side of the town. 1st Commando Brigade was not the first Allied formation to cross the Rhine as General George S. Patton had just pushed an American division across many kilometres upstream, and the British 51st (Highland) Division crossed an hour ahead of the Commandos further downstream.
 
Widgeon was a success, primarily because of the prior detailed planning and intensive training performed by the Commandos and the aggressive tactics used by them as soon as the river was crossed. As can be seen by the citations for the eight gallantry awards made to Commandos, leaders at all levels anticipated contact with the enemy and dominated the battlefield before many German soldiers knew what was happening.
 
Without any doubt the one factor that assisted the Commando Brigade in quickly seizing key features in Wesel was the prior bombing by the Royal Air Force that reduced most of the city to rubble. During the fighting many hundreds of German troops were killed or captured, but the Commando Brigade suffered less than 100 casualties. The Brigade completed its mission satisfactorily, linked up with the 17th Airborne Division to the north, and was supported itself by a battalion of the Cheshire Regiment that crossed the river on the 24th March. By the evening of 25th March all of Wesel was in British hands and Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery’s Allied 21st Army Group was pouring across the Rhine on its mission to isolate the Ruhr area where the majority of Germany’s critical war industries were located. 
 
In a message to Air Marshall Arthur Harris, Commander in Chief of Bomber Command, Montgomery wrote "My grateful appreciation for the quite magnificent co-operation you have given us in the battle of the Rhine. The bombing of Wesel last night was a masterpiece and was a decisive factor in making possible our entry into that town before midnight."  
 

1st Commando Brigade - formerly 1st Special Service Brigade.

In March 1945 1st Commando Brigade was commanded by Brigadier Derek Mills-Roberts.
 
The major units in the Brigade were:
 
After being withdrawn from Normandy to England in September 1944 the Brigade had been deployed into the Netherlands in January 1945 and it had been fighting its way eastwards since then. All ranks were well trained, experienced and confident. The German opposition that could expect to face east of the Rhine consisted of high level parachute troops and lower level formations of more elderly men.
 
The Brigade was supported by the 84th Field Company, Royal Engineers, commanded by Major J.J.D. Groves. This Field Company provided the wooden assault boats named storm boats that carried 5 or 6 fully equipped soldiers and two crew. As Buffaloes were also to be used (tracked landing vehicles that could carry up to 18 fully equipped men) the Field Company constructed the launching sites on the south bank of the Rhine, and later cleared the mines from the landing site on the north bank.
 
 Royal Engineers climbing onto a Buffalo for the Rhine crossing 24 Mar '45 © IWM (BU 2078)
 
Forward observation parties from 1st Mountain Regiment, Royal Artillery, were attached to the Brigade to provide direct fire support on the north bank.
 
The Brigade Plan included five points:
  • The Brigade had to be across the river before the final RAF bombing raid was delivered so that the massive bombardment could be rapidly followed up.
  • To achieve surprise an unlikely part of the river was to be selected for the crossing.
  • The Brigade was not to attempt to secure the whole of Wesel but was to concentrate its defence on the northern edge, based if possible around a large factory.
  • To leave the Germans guessing about what was happening no trace of the Brigade was to be left at the crossing point and all ranks were to quickly enter the town carrying their own supplies.
  • To ensure the mobility of the Commandos anti-tank guns were not to be taken and it was assumed that the effects of the bombing would block enemy armoured fighting vehicle routes into Wesel; perhaps rather optimistically it was hoped that German hand-held anti-tank weapons could be quickly captured in Wesel and then used by the Brigade.
On 6th March the Brigade concentrated at Venray, where a creek ran into the River Maas, for two weeks of intensive training in river crossing. The Brigade was then ready to deploy.
 

The crossing

The selected crossing point was about 4,000 metres west of Wesel where a muddy flat piece of land named Grav Insel formed the northern bank. Here the river was around 300 metres wide and it travelled at 5 knots (10 kilometres per hour) in an east to west direction. The first troops over the river were swimmers from No. 5 Combined Operations Assault Pilotage Party who successfully reconnoitred the north bank in bright moonlight on the night of 23/24 March.
 
Twenty four hours later, following a raid by 77 Lancaster bombers at 1730 hours which was the prelude for a large artillery concentration fired by the British Army, Commando Brigade Tactical Headquarters and No. 46 (Royal Marine) Commando crossed the Rhine in Buffaloes at 2130 hours. Some unit rum issues had not been rationed that evening. The routes to the crossing points were marked on the south side by tape and lights. The landing vehicles took four minutes to cross and then returned to load up the next waves.
 
Captain John Douglas Gibbon, Border Regiment attached to No 46 (Royal Marine) Commando, leapt ashore and the citation for his Military Cross describes the energy and determination that he displayed.
 

Citation for Captain Gibbon

On the night of 23rd March 1945 during the assault across the Rhine near Wesel, Captain Gibbon commanded the leading troop of his Commando in the first wave of LVTs (landing vehicles tracked - Buffaloes). Immediately before touching down, one of his LVTs was hit and burst into flames, thus reducing his strength by a quarter. Captain Gibbon however, led his troop inland at such a pace and with such determination that the enemy on the river bank were unable to check his advance. His objective was a farmhouse 500 yards inland (known as “the first Wardtmann’s Haus”), and he pressed his advance so relentlessly behind the barrage put down by our guns that his own Sergeant Major and another soldier fell by his side, casualties to our own shellfire. Without hesitation and with complete disregard for his safety he led his men on to his objective where he killed three officers and took sixty prisoners. The capture of the vital first objective was entirely due to the dash and dauntless devotion to duty displayed by this officer.
 
John Gibbon’s Forward Observation Officer and signallers were in the burning LVT and so he had no means of controlling the friendly artillery fire falling around him.
 
Meanwhile, on the river bank, Lieutenant A.J. Allen, 46RM Commando, and three men scrambled out of the burning Buffalo and, despite suffering burn wounds,  Allen led his troop forward. Captain B.W. Pierce, 46RM Commando, immediately attacked the enemy trenches lining the river, and as they had just been subject to ten minutes of heavy shelling by British artillery the 65 German occupants were in a dazed condition and rapidly surrendered.
 
The Commanding Officer of 46RM Commando, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Malcolm Gray, had led and inspired his men well, this being recognised with the award of the Distinguished Service Order.
 

Citation for Lieutenant Colonel Gray

On 23rd-24th March 1945 Lieutenant Colonel Gray was in command of 46 (Royal Marine) Commando which captured the original bridgehead over the River Rhine. He attacked across the river in Buffaloes and fought his way inland with unparalleled determination and skill. His men captured two large groups of houses killing over thirty enemy and capturing eighty three enemy in the first ten minutes of the operation. This was only made possible by the speed and dash of this fearless advance where a number of key personnel were lost. Lieutenant Colonel Gray never allowed the impetus to slacken despite every enemy opposition, and his dauntless courage and sure progress made the brigade task possible. He was in every way an inspiration and example to the men under his command. He was continually under fire from small arms fire from the Rhine to Wesel, and in Wesel was under fire from enemy armed with panzerfausts (hand-held anti-tank weapons) which wounded many of the men around him.
His cool judgement and his complete contempt for danger inspired his men and influenced the battle at a most critical stage.
 
One of Colonel Gray’s Marines, PO/X 108682, Marine James Henry Hazell, 46RM Commando, reacted swiftly to the danger from friendly artillery fire once he was on the north bank of the river, and was awarded a Military Medal in recognition of his gallantry.
 

Citation for Marine Hazell

During the establishment of the initial bridgehead over the Rhine near Wesel on 23rd March 1945 a section had advanced too quickly and was in danger from our own artillery barrage. Marine Hazell was ordered to bring them back. He ran forward, and at that moment the barrage, fired by six Field Regiments, came down in the vicinity. Shewing complete disregard for his own safety he dashed forward and ordered the section to withdraw. When on his return it was discovered that two men from the section were missing, Marine Hazell acting on his own initiative immediately went forward again without orders, and in spite of the barrage, which was still falling, brought back the two men. The cool initiative and high courage shewn by this Marine was a magnificent example to his comrades.
 
As the Buffaloes reorganised and reloaded on the south bank of the river 6 Commando crossed in storm boats that had been launched in a lagoon two thousand metres west of the crossing place. Many outboard motors failed and enemy machine gunners and riflemen targeted the boats as the motors were adjusted. One boat drove itself straight underwater, drowning Lieutenant J.F. Hume-Spry, Royal Artillery and No. 6 Commando, and some of his men. Regimental Sergeant Major W. Woodcock had three boats shot from under him before he crossed. Fortunately dorys (light rescue boats) were deployed on the river and most men from sinking storm boats were recovered. Despite the difficult conditions 6 Commando crossed the river and prepared for its next task which was to guide the Brigade into Wesel.
 
As the Buffaloes shuttled 45RM Commando and No 3 Commando across the river the RAF delivered its final bombardment onto Wesel. The Army request was for 300 tons of bombs but the RAF increased this to 1,100 tons and Wesel with its military garrison and its civilian population of around 24,000 persons was heavily damaged.
 

The advance into Wesel

As soon as the last RAF bomb had fallen 6 Commando led the way eastwards into Wesel, running out and trailing a white marker tape as it moved. The Brigade followed in file, the wounded and the prisoners from the contacts at the landing place having been evacuated across the river. Major C.E.J. Leaphard led the vanguard company and was faced with a strongly defended flak (anti-aircraft gun) position which he immediately assaulted, killing or capturing all its personnel. Further enemy locations blocked the route but were quickly dealt with. The advance continued rapidly into the shattered city which resembled a moonscape and 6 Commando occupied a perimeter whilst the remaining units passed through it.
 
1st Cdo Bde in defensive position at Wesel
      Commandos from the 1st Commando Brigade at Wesel. Photo © IWM (BU 2329)
 
In recognition of 6 Commando’s performance the commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Anthony David Lewis, was awarded the Distinguished Service Order .
 

Citation for Lieutenant Colonel Lewis

Lieutenant Colonel Lewis was in command of No. 6 Commando on 23rd March 1945 when this unit led the First Commando Brigade from the banks of the Rhine into the City of Wesel.
Speed was the vital factor in this operation, as it was necessary to enter the city as soon as possible after the bombing. This was achieved largely by the skill and daring displayed by Lieutenant Colonel Lewis who led his troops with such dash that three separate platoon localities were quickly over-run on his way to the city. His entry into the city itself in spite of considerable opposition from small arms and panzerfausts was effected so quickly that the remainder of the brigade was enabled to consolidate before the enemy became aware of the situation. Lieutenant Colonel Lewis was at all times at the head of his troops, and his trust and courage contributed largely to the success of the whole operation.
 

Moving up to the wire factory

45RM Commando took over the lead and led the Brigade to the northern edge of the city. Navigation was not easy because of the rubble from wrecked buildings that often filled the streets. Despite the heavy bombing many partially dazed German defenders bravely fought back.
 
The Brigade was not large enough to control all the city so a defensive strip was located in the northern and north-western suburbs with the aim of preventing enemy movement in or out of Wesel. 45 Commando occupied a large wire factory and the other Commandos came into line on the left (west) in the order 46, 3 and 6.
 
Defensive positions were prepared and improved after first light when contacts with enemy troops moving both north out of the city and south into it began. Enemy counter attacks were mounted from the north but all were repulsed despite the absence of anti-tank guns. Ammunition expenditure was strictly controlled because of the lack of a resupply system during the first 24 hours; this was deliberate as part of the Brigade plan was to deceive the enemy as to the strength and exact location of the Brigade and a supply chain would have been vulnerable.
 
Lieutenant Colonel William Nichol Gray DSO was awarded a Bar to his Distinguished Service Order in recognition of his decisive leadership whilst hampered by a wound.
 

2nd Citation for Lieutenant Colonel Gray

Lieutenant Colonel Gray commanded No. 45 (Royal Marine) Commando during the assault across the Rhine and the capture of Wesel on the night 23rd-24th March 1945. Lieutenant Colonel Gray’s task was to force his way to the Northern sector of the town and seize a factory which was vital in order to achieve a successful consolidation. Following up rapidly behind the leading unit who had broken into the city, he passed through and debouched into the streets. While leading his troops at speed and clearing all opposition in his path with great determination he was wounded by a panzerfaust fired at close range. In spite of his wound he refused to be evacuated and completed his important task. Having captured the factory he disposed his troops so skilfully that during the next thirty six hours they were able to beat off three major counter attacks by infantry and self-propelled guns with enormous casualties to the enemy. Throughout this time although he was suffering considerably from the pain of his wound he was constantly encouraging his men, who were inspired by their Commander’s example. Not until the last counter attack had been broken, forty eight hours after he had been wounded did this gallant officer allow himself to be evacuated.
 

Incidents during the defence of Wesel

During the fighting on the west of the Brigade position 6398404 Sergeant Frederick Worthington, Royal Sussex Regiment and No. 6 Commando, reacted quickly to observed enemy movement as outlined in the citation for the award of his Military Medal.
 

Citation for Sergeant Worthington

At Wesel on the 24th March 1945 Sergeant Worthington was in charge of a small defensive position on the outskirts of the city when he saw an enemy bicycle patrol coming towards him at a range of about 1,000 yards. The patrol suddenly turned off down a side street and disappeared from view. Realising that they were heading for a part of the town which had not yet been consolidated, Sergeant Worthington acted immediately and sent a runner to tell his Troop Commander of his action.
 
He then left a skeleton force in the defensive position and taking the remaining eight of his men he set off to ambush the patrol. He struck the side road just in time to meet the patrol head-on and fired on them from houses by the side of the road. Eight of the enemy were killed or wounded, five taken prisoner and the remainder fled. Sergeant Worthington himself was wounded at the start but refused to hand over or even have his wound dressed until the action was over and the patrol brought back.
 
By this successful action and by his own initiative, gallantry and immediate action Sergeant Worthington liquidated the enemy patrol and prevented them from running into another unit who were just then at that awkward stage prior to consolidation.
 
                      No 6 Commandos in a defensive position at Wesel © IWM (BU 2313)
 

Elsewhere a patrol led by RSM Woodcock of 6 Commando came across the headquarters of the Wesel garrison commander, General Deutsche. This German headquarters was only 100 metres from where the Commando Brigade HQ had sited itself. The General refused to surrender and was shot dead. A very useful map showing all anti-aircraft gun locations around Wesel was recovered from the garrison headquarters, and the details were passed back to enable Allied air strikes to be mounted.

The Airborne drop

At around 1000 hours on 24th March the British 6th Airborne and the US 17th Airborne Divisions dropped on zones a few kilometres north of Wesel. Many lessons from the failure at Arnhem had been absorbed into the airborne plan, especially the need to descend right on top of the tactical objectives. German flak had not been suppressed sufficiently by Allied airstrikes or artillery and there was consequent carnage particularly amongst the plywood gliders of the British Airlanding Brigade and the US Glider Regiment, and amongst the US carrier planes who few straight and low over their parachute dropping zones as did the re-supply bombers that followed. One reason for the unexpected appearance of these German flak weapons was that many of the 20mm guns were mounted on vehicles and they could quickly occupy alternative positions when they felt threatened by Allied planes or guns.

Despite the quick reduction in available strength due to casualties the drops were successful and all objectives were seized. The principle of overwhelming force saw over 17,000 Allied airborne troops delivered in one lift. The personnel drop was quickly followed by a large supply drop delivered by 240 B-24 bombers; the recovery rate for these supplies was 80% in the 6th Airborne Division’s area. Allied airborne casualties were around 2,600 killed, wounded and missing which was in fact less than had been forecast; 4,000 German troops were taken prisoner and many others were killed. The enemy on the ground, apart from some parachute and SS troops, was generally demoralised by the swiftness and size of the drop and was keen to surrender once the battle started. However there was one serious impact on the Commando Brigade’s operation and that was a cessation of supporting artillery fire during the airborne personnel and supply drops.

An example of how this lack of artillery support affected fighting during the German counter attacks from the north can be gleaned from the citation for a Military Medal awarded to No. PO/X 106961 Lance Corporal John Sykes, 45RM Commando.

Citation for Lance Corporal Sykes

On 24th March B Troop 45 RM Commando were in position at the north-eastern end of the Wesel wire factory. During the period of airborne landing no artillery was available to the unit for three and a half hours. Two 88-mm self-propelled guns approached to approximately 500 yards and engaged the troop position. Lance Corporal Sykes was in charge of the forward Bren Group sighted outside the north-east corner of the building.
 
A shell burst four feet above his position on the wall, seriously wounding his No. 2 of the Bren. He immediately assisted the Medical Orderly to remove the casualty and organised a relief and then engaged an enemy machine-gun position 250 yards (to) his right front. Five minutes later another shell burst immediately in front of his trench blowing his Bren gun out of the position. Sykes again left his cover and under machine-gun fire recovered the gun, which was still serviceable, returned to his trench, and again engaged the enemy. A third shell hit the wall to the left of his position, this time breaching the barrel of the gun, Sykes jumped from his trench with the damaged gun, ran to Troop HQ for the spare Bren and returned to his post and returned the enemy’s fire.
 
His aggressive spirit and determination to fight back was a shining example of courage during a most trying period and was an inspiration to all ranks.
 

On 24th March the 1st Battalion the Cheshire Regiment crossed the Rhine in support of the Commando Brigade and this reinforcement allowed fighting patrols to start clearing Wesel of the enemy. Resupply arrived and casualties were evacuated.

Men of the 1st Cheshire Regiment landing at Wesel from Buffalos 24 Mar'45 © IWM (BU 2336)
 
After last light a Commando patrol made contact with the US 17th Division to the north. One report states that an officer leading a US airborne patrol towards the Commando Brigade was shot before identities had been established.
 
On the following day a brave and strong Royal Signals officer in the Commando Brigade Signal Troop, Lieutenant Thomas John Christie, earned a Military Cross for establishing line communications across the river.
 

Citation for Lieutenant Christie

Lieutenant Christie is the lines officer in the 1st Commando Brigade Signal Troop. He was in charge of the line party detailed to produce line communication across the Rhine after the brigade had made good the bridgehead at Wesel. It was considered vital that this line should be laid at the earliest possible moment. This task was extremely hazardous. All bridges across the Rhine had been demolished and there was considerable shelling and sniping of bridge exits.
 
As soon as a message had been received that the objective had been captured, Lieutenant Christie took a small picked line party down to the demolished railway bridge. At this point the town of Wesel had not been completely cleared of the enemy and the line party had to work in full view of the enemy machine gun post sited upstream on the east bank of the River. Ordering his small party to pay out the line, Lieutenant Christie commenced climbing across the twisted bridge spans carrying the line with him. At times he had to climb over girders 100 feet above the river while at other times he picked his path along spans which were partly submerged in the water.
 
The pull on the quadruple cable whenever it touched the water was tremendous, nevertheless by sheer courage and determination, Lieutenant Christie crossed the full 1,500-foot length of the demolished bridge under heavy shell fire and spasmodic sniping and machine gun fire, and thus enabled vital communication to be established before the first pontoon bridge had been commenced. This officer’s devotion to duty and complete disregard for his own safety was an inspiration to all who witnessed it. Throughout the campaign he has continuously shown a high standard of efficiency, and his work in line laying during the difficult operations over the Rhine, Weser, Aller and Elbe has, at all times been beyond praise.
 

Moving on

By the evening of 25th March Wesel was entirely in British hands. A large barrel of excellent hock had been discovered and thirsty throats in the Commando Brigade were lubricated as tales of derring-do on the battlefield were exchanged. The Brigade had taken over 850 prisoners and killed several hundred other German soldiers. The cost to the Brigade had been 2 officers and 9 other ranks killed, 1 officer and 16 other ranks missing, and 6 officers and 62 other ranks wounded.
 
On 3rd April the 1st Commando Brigade advanced again under command of 6th Airborne Division. As Lieutenant Christie’s citation shows, there were more rivers yet to be crossed and more Germans yet to be defeated.
 

Endnote

Nine other Commandos also crossed the Rhine on the night of 23rd March 1945. They were members of 30 Commando Assault Unit, an intelligence group, who crossed at Frankenthal near Mannheim in the US 6th Army Group sector. They worked with American colleagues on the swift retrieval of important German technical information, and their story is told in Nicholas Rankin’s book Ian Fleming’s Commandos.

 

Sources
George A. Brown. Commando Gallantry Awards of World War II. (Private softback Publication 1991).
Major L.F. Ellis. History of the Second World War. Victory in the West. Volume II. The Defeat of Germany. (Naval & Military Press softback reprint of the 1968 Official History.)
James Ladd. Commandos and Rangers of World War II. (Book Club Associates 1978).
Robin Neillands. The Raiders. The Army Commandos 1940-46. (Weidenfeld and Nicholson 1989).
Nicholas Rankin. Ian Fleming’s Commandos. The Story of 30 Assault Unit in WW2. (faber and faber paperback 2011).
Tim Saunders. Operation Varsity. Rhine Crossing. The British and Canadian Airborne Assault. (Pen & Sword Military softback 2008).
Hillary St. George Saunders. The Green Beret. (Michael Joseph 1949).
 
Sketch map of 1st Cdo Bde positions at Wesel

Operation Roast

Date commenced: 
Sunday, April 1, 1945
Commandos unloading a storm boat

Battle of the Argenta Gap, Lake Comacchio, Italy, launched on the 1st April 1945 involving the whole of 2 Commando Brigade.  

Operation Roast was an attack across Lake Comacchio to capture the spit of land between Lake Comacchio and the Adriatic Sea, from the River Reno to the Valetta canal, a distance of about 7 miles. It was essentially a plan to draw German reserve forces away from the main offensive to be launched across to the East. This was followed by Operation Impact Plain on the 10/11th April at the southern tip of Lake Comacchio, and Operation Impact Royal on the 15/6th April at the Fessina Canal East of Argenta.

Two Victoria Crosses were awarded to men of the 2nd Commando Brigade.

  • Major Anders Frederick Emil V. LASSEN, VC., MC. (2 bars) [view]
  • Corporal Thomas Peck HUNTER, VC. [view]

Read more about this operation here in our No 2 Commando History section.

Operation Impact Plain

Date commenced: 
Tuesday, April 10, 1945

This operation is linked to Operation Roast.

Battle of the Argenta Gap, Lake Comacchio, Italy, launched on the 1st April 1945 involving the whole of 2 Commando Brigade.  Operation Roast was an attack across Lake Comacchio to capture the spit of land between Lake Comacchio and the Adriatic Sea, from the River Reno to the Valetta canal, a distance of about 7 miles. It was essentially a plan to draw German reserve forces away from the main offensive to be launched across to the East. This was followed by Operation Impact Plain on the 10/11th April at the southern tip of Lake Comacchio, and Operation Impact Royal on the 15/6th April at the Fessina Canal East of Argenta.

Operation Impact Royal

Date commenced: 
Sunday, April 15, 1945

This operation is linked to Operation Roast.

Battle of the Argenta Gap, Lake Comacchio, Italy, launched on the 1st April 1945 involving the whole of 2 Commando Brigade.  Operation Roast was an attack across Lake Comacchio to capture the spit of land between Lake Comacchio and the Adriatic Sea, from the River Reno to the Valetta canal, a distance of about 7 miles. It was essentially a plan to draw German reserve forces away from the main offensive to be launched across to the East. This was followed by Operation Impact Plain on the 10/11th April at the southern tip of Lake Comacchio, and Operation Impact Royal on the 15/6th April at the Fessina Canal East of Argenta.

Operation Bottle

Date commenced: 
Saturday, October 13, 1945
Units: 

1 Commando, Report on Operation 'Bottle' 15 Oct'45 Hong Kong

Type: Files
Author: John Mewett
Year of Publishing: 2015
Keywords: Operation 'Bottle' No 1 Commando Hong Kong

Report of Operation 'Bottle' undertaken by No 1 Commando whilst on policing duties in Hong Kong 15 October 1945.

National Atchives Document reference WO 218/18