Operation Hardtack 7
Hardtack 7 on Sark was planned to take place simultaneously with Hardtack 28 on Jersey. The first attempt of this raid was aborted after the climb of Pointe Derrible proved impossible. The commandos aborted and the raid was attempted again on the 27th of December with the team landing Hogs Back, Sark. The objective of the raid was to capture a soldier for interrogation.
On the 27th of December Lt. McGonigal, from No 10 Inter-Allied Commando led the raiding party and this is his report on the operation.
"The force landed at point 599021 and, after climbing a 200-foot sheer rock face met a further very steep slope about 100 feet in height with shingle, slate, and stone surface. The force followed the eastern edge of this slope and encountered a wire fence consisting of three strands of very thick copper wire and two thinner strands of ordinary wire. This wire was cut and the force proceeded along the top of the Hogs Back, continually searching for mines as it progressed. The plentiful cover was afforded by rock and gorse.
At point 599024, a path approximately six feet wide was encountered, on either side of which the ground, which was thickly covered with gorse, fell away very steeply. We found that it was impossible to walk through this gorse without making considerable noise and we, therefore, continued along the path.
I was leading the patrol and had gone forward some fifteen yards, feeling for mines as I did so, when two mines went off behind the patrol, wounding Corporal Bellamy and Private Dignac. Corporal Bellamy died about two minutes later and Private Dignac received very severe wounds in the body.
The first mine had exploded about two feet behind Corporal Bellamy, the last member of the patrol, and the second mine about five feet to the left of it. (The empty container was taken from the first hole and brought back with the force.)
The force then started to carry Corporal Bellamy and Private Dignac out of the minefield. I took the lead, still feeling for fresh mines, and had taken only a few steps when two more mines went up in quick succession in front and to the side of me. (Lieutenant McGonigal himself was injured as a result.) After these explosions. Sergeant Boccador was the only member of the force who remained unwounded. Private Dignat was wounded still further by these explosions and Sergeant Boccador told me that he was dead.
In view of the fact that my force had sustained such casualties. I decided to leave the two bodies, retrace my steps and return to the boat. No sooner had we started to move, however than more mines went up all around us. I cannot say how many there were but at the time we had the impression of being under fire from a heavy calibre machine gun. We continued our withdrawal to the dory.
On our way up we had hidden a wireless set No. 536 under a rock but we were unable to find it on our return journey and so were obliged to abandon it. It was also impossible for us to get down the last sheer twenty feet of rock and to bring the rope with us. Repeated attempts were made to pull it down after we had got to the bottom but it had stuck firmly, and so, cutting it as high as we could, we left it and returned to the MGB
Sergeant Boccador and I were feeling our way very carefully, we felt no contact points nor other signs of mines.
All the injuries caused by the exploding mines were sustained by those members of the force who were either standing or kneeling. A person lying flat seemed to be immune from them.
Despite these explosions, no signs of Germans were seen or heard."
For more on Operation Hard Tack 7 see Commando Veterans. Shortly after this, the Commando operations were discontinued in order to avoid alerting the Germans to the Allied interest in the area.
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
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.
The original plan had been for the raid to be carried out on the night of 12/13 July, however, at the last moment, it was put back to 14/15 July. Even then, shortly before embarkation, Durnford-Slater received intelligence that the Germans had reinforced a number of the places where it had been planned to land some of the parties and as such the plan was changed at the last moment. After the details were worked out, final battle preparations were undertaken in the gymnasium at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth where some of the cadets helped the commandos with loading magazines and helping prepare the Bren guns and Thompson sub-machine guns that had been brought down from London specifically for the operation.
At 17:45 the raiding force embarked upon the two destroyers, HMS Scimitar and HMS Saladin and accompanied by six Royal Air Force air-sea rescue launches, who would take them from the destroyers to the landing beaches, they set out for the island of Guernsey. Due to the loud noise of the engines of the RAF launches, it was arranged that RAF Avro Ansons would fly over the island to disguise the sound of the engines.
Under the plan that Durnford-Slater had worked out, he had the troops from the independent company attacking the airfield, while the commandos were to create a diversion. To this end, three landing points were selected; however, in the end only the diversionary force from No.3 Commando, consisting of only 40 men, was able to land successfully, landing at a beach in Telegraph Bay just west of the Jerbourg Peninsula ata 00:50 on 15 July, despite a faulty compass on the launch.
One party of No.11 were taken to the wrong island (Sark) as a result of another faulty compass, landing on Little Sark the team explored La Sablonnerie and not finding any Germans returned safely to the destroyer. Another party crashed into a rock and the other two launches broke down after experiencing a series of technical problems.
Although they managed to get ashore—albeit soaking wet—the party from No. 3 Commando failed to find any of the 469-man German garrisons. Despite locating a German barracks and a machine gun nest, both had been abandoned prior to their arrival. One islander was encountered only as he had a speech impediment, he was knocked out to keep him quiet. They demolished a loose garden wall to make a small roadblock. Not hearing any noise from the direction of the airport, they decided to quietly retreat. The rendezvous with the destroyers that were picking them up was at 03:00 and if they were late the destroyers were under orders to leave them behind, so the party subsequently returned to the beach, stopping to cut a couple of telegraph lines on the way. Upon arriving at the landing beach, the raiders discovered that they had to extract themselves by swimming some 100 yards (91 m) out to their boats as the tide had risen too high for their motor craft to beach among the rocks
At this stage, it was discovered that three of the men from 'H' Troop, No. 3 Commando could not swim and had to be left on the beach with additional French currency. Although Durnford-Slater requested that a submarine is sent back for these men, the Admiralty decided that it could not take the risk and as a result of the men later surrendered. During the extraction, a dinghy was used to ferry weapons to the boats, but on the fifth excursion it was dashed against a rock and overturned. One of the boat's two occupants, a soldier, was presumed drowned at the time, although later it was reported that he actually managed to get ashore and was subsequently captured.
A British Commando raid during the Second World War. The target of the raid was the island of Burhou in the Channel islands. The raiding force was supplied by No. 62 Commando also known as the Small Scale Raiding Force was commanded by Captain Ogden-Smith and consisted of 11 men. The raid took place a few days after the successful Operation Dryad over the night of 7/8 September 1942. Their objective was to establish whether the island was suitable as an artillery battery position to support an attack on Alderney.
This was a British abortive special forces raid on the island of Herm in the German-occupied Channel Islands group by the Small Scale Raiding Force, called off as a result of fog (3/4 April 1943).
Ordered in 23 March 1943 for implementation on the first suitable night in the period between 29 March and 12 April, 'Pussyfoot' was designed to land a 10-man party of of the Small Scale Raiding Force on the western end of the island (opposite the end visited by the SSRF in 'Backchat') to reconnoitre the village there and, if possible, capture one of more Germans for return to the UK for interrogation. A companion raid was to be made at the same time as 'Catswhiskers' on the neighbouring island of Brechou, and a comparable 'Kleptomania' on the Ile d’Ouessant off the western tip of Brittany was proposed for the end of April or the beginning of May.
The SSRF party departed Portland in MTB-344 at 19.45 on 3 April, but returned at 04.07 on 4 April as navigation across the English Channel was impossible in thick fog.
This was the last operation by the SSRF before it was absorbed into other special forces units.
The raid was carried out by No. 62 Commando also known as the Small Scale Raiding Force (SSRF) over the night of 27/28 February 1943. The raid was originally planned for the night of 9/10 February 1943, as simultaneous raids on Herm, Jethou and Brecqhou. The objective was to take prisoners and gain information about the situation in the occupied Channel Islands. It was to be carried out by 42 men from the SSRF and No. 4 Commando but was cancelled because of bad weather.
Huckaback was reinvented as a raid on Herm alone on the night of 27/28 February 1943. Ten men of the SSRF under Captain Patrick Anthony Porteous VC landed 200 yards (180 m) to the north-west of Selle Rocque on a shingle beach from MTB 344. After three unsuccessful attempts to scale the cliff, Porteous finally managed to climb up the bed of a stream and pulled the others up using toggle ropes.
On reaching Belvoir House, they found it had been broken into and abandoned. Further reconnaissance found that the Old Tower of Herm and the Château were also deserted. The raid did not find any signs of the German occupation troop or the island's population. The caretaker of the Belvoir house was aware of people on the island but locked the door. Leaflets were left for the Germans to find. The commandos departed and returned to England
The few civilians on the island were living near the harbour and were not aware of the raid taking place at the time.
On the night of 3–4 October 1942 twelve men of the Special Operations Executive's Small Scale Raiding Force, and No. 12 Commando, left Portland on MTB 344 at 1900hrs and landed on Sark with the object of offensive reconnaissance and capturing prisoners.
Climbing the cliff at the Hog's Back, between Dixcart Bay and Derrible Bay, the Commandoes were not spotted by German sentries nor did they encounter any guards. Several of the raiders broke into the house of a local. The occupant of the house, Mrs Frances Noel Pittard, proved very informative and advised there were about 20 Germans in the annexe to the nearby Dixcart Hotel. She also declined an offer to take her to England. Mrs Pittard provided the commandos with documents, including local newspapers from Guernsey.
In front of the hotel was a long hut-type building. There was one guard, who was silently killed by Danish commando Anders Lassen, using the commando knife he carried. This annexe comprised a corridor and six rooms wherein were five sleeping Germans, none found to be officers. The men were roused and taken outside whereafter the Commandos decided to go on to the hotel and capture more of the enemy. To minimise the guard left with the captives, the Commandos tied the prisoners' hands with the six-foot toggle ropes each carried and required them to hold up their trousers. The practice of removing belts and/or braces and tearing open the fly was quite a common technique the Commandos used to make it as difficult as possible for captives to run away. Most of the prisoners, when captured, were dressed for sleeping, one was naked and were not allowed to dress.
While this was being undertaken, one prisoner, the naked man, escaped and ran off shouting, and a general struggle started with the other prisoners. The prisoners were shouting and, fearing the arrival of enemy troops, the Raiders elected to return to the beach with the remaining prisoners. Three prisoners made a break, one was instantly shot dead with a .38 revolver, and another prisoner, wounded, managed to escape. Whether or not some had freed their hands during the firefight is not established nor if all three broke at the same time. Two were believed shot and one was stabbed by Ogden-Brown. The sole remaining prisoner, Obergefreiter Hermann Weinreich, was conveyed safely to England and provided useful information.
Germans on the island were alerted, however, the Commandos managed to climb down the cliff, then using their small boat, returned to MTB 344 made their escape with no injuries.
Three German soldiers had died, the sentry and two prisoners.