|Part of North West Europe Campaign|
|Commanders and leaders|
| 10 British Commandos |
1 Free Frenchman
1 Motor Torpedo Boat
|320th Infantry Division|
|Casualties and losses|
| 3 killed in action|
1 killed in captivity
2 fate unknown
5 captured and survived
Operation Aquatint was the codename for a failed raid by British Commandos on the coast of occupied France during the Second World War. The raid was undertaken in September 1942 on part of what later became Omaha Beach by No. 62 Commando, also known as the Small Scale Raiding Force.
Omaha, commonly known as Omaha Beach, was the code name for one of the five sectors of the Allied invasion of German-occupied France in the Normandy landings on June 6, 1944, during World War II. 'Omaha' refers to a section of the coast of Normandy, France, facing the English Channel 8 kilometers (5 mi) long, from east of Sainte-Honorine-des-Pertes to west of Vierville-sur-Mer on the right bank of the Douve River estuary and an estimated 150-foot (45 m) tall cliffs. Landings here were necessary to link the British landings to the east at Gold with the American landing to the west at Utah, thus providing a continuous lodgement on the Normandy coast of the Bay of the Seine. Taking Omaha was to be the responsibility of United States Army troops, with sea transport, mine sweeping, and a naval bombardment force provided predominantly by the United States Navy and Coast Guard, with contributions from the British, Canadian, and Free French navies.
No. 62 Commando or the Small Scale Raiding Force (SSRF) was a British Commando unit of the British Army during the Second World War. The unit was formed around a small group of commandos under the command of the Special Operations Executive (SOE). They carried out a number of raids before being disbanded in 1943.
Prior to the operation, a raid on the French coastal town of Dieppe had placed the German occupying forces on a high state of alert, and this ultimately contributed to Aquatint's failure. The commandos were also unable to identify their correct landing place due to the darkness. Within minutes of landing, the raiding party was ambushed by a German patrol and forced to try to reach their Motor Torpedo Boat (MTB) transport. The MTB was located and engaged by the German shore batteries, which damaged one of its engines. It was forced to withdraw, leaving the commandos behind. At the end of the raid those commandos who had not been killed all became prisoners of war. Only five of the raiding force would survive the war; one was killed in captivity and the fate of the other two is uncertain.
Operation Jubilee, more commonly referred to as the Dieppe Raid, was an Allied assault on the German-occupied port of Dieppe, France on 19 August 1942, during the Second World War. The main assault lasted less than six hours until strong German defences and mounting Allied losses forced its commanders to call a retreat.
Motor Torpedo Boat (MTB) was the name given to fast torpedo boats by the Royal Navy and the Royal Canadian Navy. The 'motor' in the formal designation, referring to the use of petrol engines, was to distinguish them from the majority of other naval craft that used steam turbines or reciprocating steam engines.
Following a request from the Chief of Combined Operations Admiral Louis Mountbatten for probes of German coastal defences, No. 62 Commando, also known as the Small Scale Raiding Force (SSRF),mounted a number of operations in 1942. The first three missions were complete successes: Operation Barricade (14/15 August 1942), Operation Dryad, (2/3 September 1942), and Operation Pound (7/8 September 1942). Aquatint was planned for a night in mid September 1942 as a reconnaissance mission near Sainte-Honorine-des-Pertes, a small coastal town near Port en Bessin in Normandy. The mission was to collect information about the surrounding area, and take a German guard prisoner. Aerial reconnaissance had identified a small group of houses on the seafront thought to be occupied by Germans.
Combined Operations Headquarters was a department of the British War Office set up during Second World War to harass the Germans on the European continent by means of raids carried out by use of combined naval and army forces.
Admiral is one of the highest ranks in some navies, and in many navies is the highest rank. It is usually abbreviated to "Adm" or "ADM". The rank is generally thought to have originated in Sicily from a conflation of Arabic: أمير البحر, amīr al-baḥr, "commander of the sea", with Latin admirabilis ("admirable") or admiratus ("admired"), although alternative etymologies derive the word directly from Latin, or from the Turkish military and naval rank miralay. The French version – amiral without the additional d – tends to add evidence for the Arab origin.
Operation Barricade was a British Commando raid during the Second World War. It was carried out by 11 men of No. 62 Commando over the night of 14/15 August 1942, and had as its objective an anti-aircraft gun and radar site north-west of Pointe de Saire south of Barfleur. The raiders crossed the English Channel by Motor Torpedo Boat.
The size of the SSRF landing party was limited to how many could be carried aboard a Motor Torpedo Boat (MTB),and comprised five officers, one warrant officer, one senior non-commissioned officer, three other ranks, and a member of the Free French forces. The commander of the SSRF, Major 'Gus' March-Phillipps, would lead the raid. His second in command, Captain Geoffrey Appleyard, would remain on board the MTB due to an injury acquired on a previous mission. The other men on the raid were Captain Graham Hayes, Captain John Burton, Captain Lord Francis Howard, Lieutenant Anthony Hall, Company Sergeant Major Thomas Winter, Sergeant Allen Michael Williams, Private Jan Hollings (Jan Helling) from the Netherlands, Private Adam Orr (Abraham Opoczynski) from Poland, Private Richard Leonard (Richard Lehniger) a Jewish Sudeten German from Czechoslovakia, and Maître Andre Desgranges of the Free French Forces.
A warrant officer (WO) is an officer in a military organisation who is designated an officer by a warrant, as distinguished from a commissioned officer who is designated an officer by a commission, and a non-commissioned officer who is designated an officer, often by virtue of seniority.
A non-commissioned officer (NCO) is a military officer who has not earned a commission. Non-commissioned officers usually obtain their position of authority by promotion through the enlisted ranks. In contrast, commissioned officers hold higher ranks than NCOs, have more legal responsibilities, are paid more, and often have more non-military training such as a university diploma. Commissioned officers usually earn their commissions without having risen through the enlisted ranks.
Other ranks (ORs) in the Royal Marines, British Army, Royal Air Force and in the armies and air forces of many other Commonwealth countries are those personnel who are not commissioned officers, usually including non-commissioned officers (NCOs). Colloquially, members of the other ranks are known as "rankers".
The Dieppe raid in August 1942 had changed the German fortification plans; the success of the German defences in repelling the raid reinforced the importance of the Atlantic wall. The Organization Todt had now started to reinforce gun emplacements with infantry strong points along the French coastline. The older gun emplacements based on First World War designs were being replaced by stronger designs with overhead cover to offer protection from air attack. The area of Normandy targeted by Operation Aquatint had yet to receive any concrete gun emplacements but there was a network of coastal artillery batteries able to provide interlocking arcs of fire. German infantry carried out foot patrols in the areas between the batteries.
The mission had previously been attempted over the night of 11/12 September 1942, but had to be cancelled after the MTB arrived off the coast of France. The raiding party had been unable to locate their target because of the dark and foggy conditions. 200 yards (180 m) east away from the houses and above the high water mark. Captain Lord Howard guarded the boat while the rest of the SSRF checked to area to ensure it was safe and they had not been observed landing.On 12 September 1942, their MTB left Portsmouth at 20:12 and reached the coast off Barfleur at about 22:00. Moving at a reduced speed to avoid detection and avoid the offshore mine fields, they reached their intended position offshore just after midnight on 13 September 1942. Observing the coastline, in the dark they incorrectly identified a valley which they believed was St Honorine, but was actually Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer, about one mile to the right of their intended target. At around 00:20 hours the landing party headed toward the beach in a small collapsible flat bottomed boat known as a Goatley boat. After reaching the shore they realised they were too close to some houses to leave their boat where it was. They dragged the boat
Portsmouth is a port city in Hampshire, England, with a total population of 205,400 residents. The city of Portsmouth is nicknamed Pompey and is mainly built on Portsea Island, a flat, low-lying island measuring 24 square kilometres in area, just off the south-east coast of Hampshire. Uniquely, Portsmouth is the only island city in the United Kingdom, and is the only city whose population density exceeds that of London.
Barfleur is a commune in the Manche department in the Normandy region in northwestern France. It is twinned with Lyme Regis in the United Kingdom.
Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer is a commune in the Calvados department in the Normandy region in northwestern France. The town is located not far from Omaha Beach, where, in World War II, Allied forces landed during D-Day.
On their way back to the beach they sighted a German patrol of about seven or eight men coming from the direction of the houses so they took cover. 100 yards (91 m) out to sea when it was located and engaged by three machine gun posts above the beach. A gun emplacement to the west also starting firing towards them with heavier calibre guns. The combined fire from four positions damaged the boat, which began to sink. The commandos attempted to swim out to the MTB, which by now had also been discovered and was under fire. Unable to locate it in the darkness, they were forced to swim back to the beach. Winter was fired on again when he reached the beach and was captured. He was taken to the German headquarters where he was put into a room with Captain Lord Howard and Desgranges, who had also been captured.They were discovered by the patrol's guard dog at about 00:50. The patrol opened fire on them with machine guns and hand grenades. The SSRF managed to disperse the German patrol with return fire and reach the Goatley boat. Captain Lord Howard, who had been left to guard the boat, was wounded trying to re-float the boat, and the others managed to get him aboard. The fight lasted for about 30 minutes. When the German patrol moved forward onto the beach, Lieutenant Hall tried to capture one of the Germans but was himself hit over the head and captured. The SSRF left him behind, presuming he was dead. The men in the Goatley boat had managed to get about
The MTB had withdrawn out of range at about 01:30, but not before it had suffered engine damage; a bullet had disabled the starboard engine. After 10 minutes it moved back inshore hoping to pick up any survivors. It was again located by the Germans at about 02:30. The MTB was forced to withdraw once again under increasingly heavy mortar and machine gun fire. Unable to locate any survivors, it recrossed the German minefield and arrived back in Portsmouth at 10:00.
Later on the morning of 13 September 1942 Winter and Desranges were ordered to collect the bodies of the men who had been killed on the beach.Of the 11 men who went ashore, three were killed: Major March-Phillips, Sergeant Williams, and Private Leonard; four were captured (the seriously wounded pair Captain Lord Howard and Lieutenant Hall, with Winter and Desgranges); and four others had escaped.
Later on 13 September 1942 Captain Lord Howard and Lieutenant Hall were hospitalised because of their injuries, while Winter and Desgranges were taken to Caen for interrogation.At the time, the Germans were unaware that four commandos—Captain Burton, Privates Hollings and Orr, and Captain Hayes—had managed to evade capture and made it off the beach.
On 14 September 1942, the Germans issued a communiqué:
|During the night of 12/13 September 1942, British soldiers attempted to land on the channel coast, to the east of Cherbourg. Their presence was immediately detected by the German defences, opening fire and sinking a boat.|
A second communiqué on 15 September 1942 read:
|During the night of 12/13 September, guards of the coast defences to the east of the Cotentin (Cherbourg peninsula), located an attempt by the enemy to land on a beach. Several men attempted to cross the beach while their disembarkation boat, attempting to return to sea, was hit and sunk. Those on the beach were killed or taken prisoner. All were members of the British army except one, a Frenchman officer of the Gaullist forces.|
The bodies of the dead were buried in the St-Laurent-sur-Mer cemetery on 15 September 1942. The funeral was only attended by the local German and the French Gendarmarie commanders. To prevent anyone else from attending, the Germans had a machine gun set up covering the cemetery.
After 10 days of questioning Winter was taken to Rennes, where he was joined three days later by Captain Burton, Hollings, and Orr. These three had managed to stay together when the boat was sunk, and were captured by a German parachute unit carrying out manoeuvres.Burton was sent to a prisoner of war camp in Germany, Winter, Hollings and Orr were taken to Frankfurt and handed over to the Gestapo for further questioning, after which Winter was sent to a prisoner of war camp at Memmingen. The fate of Hollings and Orr has never been established. Winter and a Special Air Service officer escaped from the camp in April 1945, disguised as French soldiers. Desgranges was also able to escape from captivity, travelling via Spain to Britain, where he joined the Special Operations Executive (SOE).
Captain Hayes, unable to reach the MTB, had started swimming away from the shooting, and came ashore beside Asnieres-en-Bessin. He managed to evade capture and made contact with a local French family who provided him with civilian clothing and contacted the French resistance.Hayes was taken by train to Lisieux and after several weeks reached Paris. Hayes was moved along an escape line to the Spanish border, arriving in October 1942. After crossing into Spain he was stopped by Spanish border guards who handed him over to the Germans. Hayes was returned to Paris and imprisoned in Fresnes prison. He was kept in solitary confinement for nine months before being executed by firing squad on 13 July 1943. Hayes had landed in uniform and should have been considered a prisoner of war, but he was executed following the issue of the commando order which called for the execution of all commandos upon capture. It was discovered after the war that Hayes had been betrayed to the Germans, who were aware of all his movements from Normandy to the Spanish border. The persons believed responsible for Hayes' betrayal were never punished, as they convinced the authorities they were acting as double agents.
Despite the results of the operation, the SOE and Combined Operations Headquarters believed that the SSRF could still be of use, and ensured that it was not dissolved. Command of the unit was given to the newly promoted Major Appleyard.At the end of 1942, most of SSRF were moved to Algeria and absorbed into the 2nd Special Air Service Regiment. Appleyard did not survive the war. He was returning from a Special Air Service mission when his plane was reported missing. It was the same day that Captain Hayes was executed in Paris.
The St Nazaire Raid or Operation Chariot was a British amphibious attack on the heavily defended Normandie dry dock at St Nazaire in German-occupied France during the Second World War. The operation was undertaken by the Royal Navy and British Commandos under the auspices of Combined Operations Headquarters on 28 March 1942. St Nazaire was targeted because the loss of its dry dock would force any large German warship in need of repairs, such as Tirpitz, sister ship of Bismarck, to return to home waters by running the gauntlet of the Home Fleet of the Royal Navy and other British forces, via the English Channel or the GIUK gap.
The Commandos also known as British Commandos were formed during the Second World War in June 1940, following a request from the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Winston Churchill, for a force that could carry out raids against German-occupied Europe. Initially drawn from within the British Army from soldiers who volunteered for the Special Service Brigade, the Commandos' ranks would eventually be filled by members of all branches of the British Armed Forces and a number of foreign volunteers from German-occupied countries. By the end of the war 25,000 men had passed through the Commando course at Achnacarry. This total includes not only the British volunteers, but volunteers from Greece, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, and the United States Army Rangers, which were modelled on the Commandos.
During World War II, Operation Abercrombie was an Anglo-Canadian reconnaissance raid on the area around the French coastal village of Hardelot, located south of Boulogne-sur-Mer, in the Pas-de-Calais. It had been scheduled for the night of 19/20 April 1942, but delayed until 21/22 April. The raid was largely unopposed but, on review, the benefits were thought not to have been worth the effort. Due to a navigation error the Canadian detachment lost their way and had to abort.
Operation Basalt was a small British raid conducted during World War II on Sark during the German occupation of the Channel Islands.
Operation Agreement comprised a series of ground and amphibious operations carried out by British, Rhodesian and New Zealand forces on Axis-held Tobruk from 13 to 14 September 1942, during the Second World War. A Special Interrogation Group party, fluent in German, took part in missions behind enemy lines. Diversionary actions extended to Benghazi, Jalo oasis and Barce. The Tobruk raid was a disaster and the British lost several hundred men killed and captured, one cruiser, two destroyers, six motor torpedo boats and dozens of small amphibious craft.
Major John Geoffrey "Geoff" Appleyard was a British Army officer, who served in the Commandos and Special Air Service during World War II.
No. 10 (Inter-Allied) Commando was a commando unit of the British Army during the Second World War, recruited largely from non-British personnel from German-occupied Europe. This unit was used to help co-oridinate attacks with other allied forces.
The Commandos formed during the Second World War, following an order from the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in June 1940 for a force that could carry out raids against German occupied Europe. Churchill stated in a minute to General Ismay on 6 June 1940: "Enterprises must be prepared, with specially-trained troops of the hunter class, who can develop a reign of terror down these coasts, first of all on the "butcher and bolt" policy..." Commandos were all volunteers for special service and originally came from the British Army but volunteers would eventually come from all branches of the United Kingdom's armed forces and foreign volunteers from countries occupied by the Germans. These volunteers formed over 30 individual units and four assault brigades.
Operation Postmaster was a British special operation conducted on the Spanish island of Fernando Po, now known as Bioko, off West Africa in the Gulf of Guinea, during the Second World War. The mission was carried out by the Small Scale Raiding Force (SSRF) and the Special Operations Executive (SOE) in January 1942. Their objective was to board the Italian and German ships in the harbour and sail them to Lagos. The SSRF under the command of Major Gus March-Phillipps left Britain in August 1941 and sailed the Brixham trawler, Maid Honour, to the Spanish colony.
Operation Checkmate was the codename for a raid on shipping at Haugesund, Norway in April 1943 during the Second World War by British Commandos. The raiding party consisted of seven men of No. 14 (Arctic) Commando who managed to sink one ship using limpet mines. While waiting in hiding for the transport back to the United Kingdom they were captured on 14 and 15 May 1943 and eventually taken to Sachsenhausen and Belsen concentration camps where six of them were executed, victims of the Commando Order. The seventh man died of typhus.
Operation Fahrenheit was a British Commando raid during the Second World War. It was carried out by a small group of men from No. 12 Commando and No. 62 Commando over the night of 11/12 November 1942.
Operation Dryad was a raid on the Casquets lighthouse in the Channel Islands by British Commandos during World War II. The Commandos captured the lighthouse and its occupants and departed leaving no trace that anyone had ever been there.
Operation Huckaback was a British Commando raid during the Second World War. 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 Goatley boat was a collapsible boat built for military use. The boat had a wooden bottom and canvas sides and could carry ten men, yet it weighed only around 150 kilograms (330 lb). Assembly time was estimated at two minutes with two men. The boat was designed by, and named after, Fred Goatley of Saunders-Roe, and used in a number of commando and other operations by the British Forces during World War II.
MTB 345 was an experimental motor torpedo boat constructed in 1941, which saw limited service with the Royal Navy before being transferred to the exiled Royal Norwegian Navy on 16 March 1943. She sailed with the Royal Norwegian Navy for three months in 1943, until captured by German forces on 28 July 1943, during her second mission to the coast of occupied Norway. Two days after their capture, the crew of MTB 345 were executed by the Germans based on Hitler's Commando Order. Following their capture of MTB 345, the Germans pressed the motor torpedo boat into Kriegsmarine service, renaming her SA 7. SA 7 was lost in a fire in the North Sea in August 1943.
Major Gustavus Henry "Gus" March-Phillipps DSO MBE was the founder of the British Army's SSRF a precursor of the SAS. He married Marjorie, later Lady Marling on 18 April 1942. He was the nephew of Gustavus Hamilton Blenkinsopp Coulson VC.
Captain Graham Hayes MC was a British commando in the Small Scale Raiding Force in World War II.