Operation Dryad

 

The raid on the Casquets Lighthouse 2–3 September 1942, code name "DRYAD" By Tim Winter 

Eleven of us took part in the raid. In Charge of the raid was Major Mardi-Phillips D.S.O., M.C. Second in command Major Appleyard D.S.O., M.C. We had made eight or nine attempts to raid the lighthouse but were beaten by mist or by the tide races. Anybody who knows those waters would know how difficult it is to make the right landfall on the darkest night of the lunar month.  On the night of the raid, we made the right spot. We had to time the landing to start as soon as Cherbourg finished their signal to the station which they made about every 90 minutes.  

The landing on the rock was rather difficult due to the swell and tide races. However, when one man got to the rock with a bow line it was fairly easy to get the raiding party ashore. Then the man in the stern held the landing craft off by a line to a kedge anchor.  We had to leave two men with our landing craft to keep it from being damaged on the rocks due to the tide races and the swell. That left nine of us to do the raid.  

 

To get to the station was not easy in the dark. We encountered quite a bit of barbed wire an the way. However, we reached the station safely.  We had trained and rehearsed the raid with the help of aerial photographs so we knew near enough the layout of the station buildings. After last minute instructions from Major March-Phillips we went our different ways. My job, with Major Appleyard was to secure the light tower. We found the door unlocked. It was very dark inside, but we found the spiral stairway and crept up, Tommy guns at the ready as we realised the advantage the enemy would have above us. To us at that time, the lighthouse was a mile high, however, we arrived at the top and found it unoccupied. We picked up charts, books and papers we thought would be useful and made a rapid descent. We had instructions not to destroy the light mechanism or tower. We linked up with the other men in our party.  

We found two men fully clothed, evidently on duty in a sort of office. We quietly walked in and then told them to put up their hands. With a couple of Tommy guns pointing at their middle they quickly complied. I knew a little German and I asked them how many men there were on the rock and where they were, they told us what we wanted to know and when we went into their living quarters we found three in bed and two getting ready for bed. Two of the men were asleep and we had to wake them up. The element of surprise was complete, they did not expect visitors at 00.30 hours. All seven prisoners were naval personnel.  

  

Leaving a couple of our party to guard the prisoners, the rest of us set about the destruction of the radio station, which we did very effectively with iron bars, axes and hammers. We could not use  explosives as it might have been heard or incendiary device as it would be seen from the mainland. However, we made a good job of the demolition. Enemy weapons, sub-machine guns, pistols, rifles, grenades and a two pounder gun we dropped in the sea. We did, however, bring back a couple of German gas respirators. Our 'boffins' liked to cheek them out for new filters. 

By now we were getting a little "pushed' for time. So with the prisoners leading the way, we made good time down to the landing craft as we made the prisoners take us down an easy way. We made our re-embarkation the same way as we landed, Major Appleyard was bow-man and Grahame Hayes was astern with a line on the kedge-anchor. It took us longer to re-embark because we had to get the seven prisoners aboard.  

Major Appleyard had the most difficult job. When the raiding party and prisoners were aboard the landing craft Major Appleyard had let go the bow line and captain Hayes on the kedge anchor had to pull us clear of the rocks. This meant about a 25 foot swim for Major Appleyard. No mean feat in those waters and in the dark. We paddled away from the rocks safely but with our party, 11 men and 7 prisoners, plus a couple of bags of books and papers, we only had two or three inches of freeboard. This meant a lot of bailing.  

We had a little under a quarter of a mile to get to our ship. We made a direct line to our ship with the aid of an infra-red light on her. Major March-Phillips picked up the light by special glasses and was helmsman for the landing craft. Although it was still dark it would not be very long before first light. We made the ship safely in our over-loaded landing craft. The crew hauled it aboard, lashed it down on deck and away we went, not at full speed.  

Our ship, an M.T.B. with the torpedo tubes stripped off and equipped for silent running to allow us to get close to the enemy coast.  We were silent running for about fifteen minutes as we were still fairly near the coast, then changed over to speed running.  It was nice to hear the roar of the twin Merlin engines and to feel the bow rise in the water.  When we were nearing Portsmouth we signalled through for a truck and escort for the prisoners.  By now it was first light and a few minutes later we saw planes doing their job of escorting us to Portsmouth.  It was quite light by now and the truck and prisoner's escort were waiting for us. It was quite amusing to see the look on the faces of our naval people who were on duty at the time to see Army blokes are off the ship with seven enemy prisoners. Naval intelligence people on the dock took over the code books etc. we had brought from the lighthouse and went with the prisoners for interrogation.  

We, the raiding party, were taken to a mess, had a bath, put on a few dry clothes, as we were very wet and cold and had a hearty break-fast of eggs and bacon. Naval Intelligence told Major Major Phillips that the raid on the Casquets Lighthouse was very profitable. They got quite a lot of information from the prisoners and the code books etc. 

 

So, after a number of attempts to do this job, we finally did it. Which reminds me of my regimental motto - 'WHO DARES WINS". 

 

All of us on the raid were happy with the outcome as we had no casualties. That was not always so. Of the eleven men on the raid six or seven did not survive the war. I was captured in Normandy at the end of 1942 and was a prisoner until my escape in early 1945. 

Sergeant Major Tom Winter

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This was a British special forces raid by 12 men of the Small Scale Raiding Force (No. 62 Commando) on the lighthouse at Les Casquets, 7 miles (11.25 km) to the west of the island of Alderney in the German-occupied Channel Islands, with the object of capturing German soldiers for interrogation (2/3 September 1942). Because of its relatively small size, which made detection by radar difficult, the team used MTB-344, which had a crew of eight and was armed with two machine guns on each side of the bridge and single guns abaft the crew’s quarters. The motor torpedo boat’s crew lowered an 18-ft (5.5-m) boat that then carried Major Gus March-Phillipps’s raiding party to the rocks beneath the lighthouse, which the Germans were using as a radio intercept station. 

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