Operation Agreement

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Operation Agreement
Part of the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War
Western Desert- Operation Agreement, Raid by Commando Force B on Tobtuk in September 1942. Launched Across the Desert From Cairo, the Raid Failed HU3715.jpg
LRDG–SAS in trucks halted at the massive rock outcrop of Gilf Kebir during Operation Agreement.
Date 13–14 September 1942
Location
near Tobruk

32°05′42″N 23°55′55″E / 32.095°N 23.932°E / 32.095; 23.932Coordinates: 32°05′42″N 23°55′55″E / 32.095°N 23.932°E / 32.095; 23.932
Result Axis victory
Belligerents

 United Kingdom

 New Zealand
 Italy
 Germany
Commanders and leaders
United Kingdom Lt. Col. John Edward Haselden   Kingdom of Italy Adm. Giuseppe Lombardi[1]
Strength
~650–700 marines and soldiers
1 cruiser
6 destroyers
16 MTBs
3 motor launches
30 landing craft
1 submarine[2]
250–300 Italians
30 Germans
78 guns (48 Italian and 30 German)
3 torpedo boats
3 R boats
8 MFPs (4 Italian and 4 German)[2]
Casualties and losses
800 killed and 576 captured
1 cruiser
2 destroyers
4 MTBs
2 MLs
Several landing craft
15 Italians and 1 German killed
43 Italians and 7 Germans wounded[3]
30 aircraft

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 (Operation Bigamy a.k.a. Snowdrop), Jalo oasis (Operation Nicety a.k.a. Tulip) and Barce (Operation Caravan a.k.a. Hyacinth).[4][a] 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.

Background

The objective of Operation Agreement was to undermine the Axis war effort in North Africa by destroying airfields, harbour facilities, supply ships, vehicles and large oil stores.[6] The Allies also intended to capture Jalo oasis, which was to be used as a rendezvous for the retreating ground forces involved in the other operations.[7]

Prelude

G1 and T1 patrols of the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) with 50 men, 12 light trucks and five jeeps assaulted Barce airfield and the main barracks, destroying 16 aircraft and damaging seven more.[8][9] In the attack on the barracks, the LRDG lost four men and two vehicles. Later near Zaptié the LRDG force was intercepted by an Italian motorised company with all but two lorries damaged or destroyed. The lorries were loaded with the most seriously injured, while the others went on foot for 99 mi (160 km). The Italians took seven New Zealanders and three Rhodesians prisoner, all injured. After a year, four of the New Zealanders were able to escape.[9]

The Lieutenant Colonel David Stirling and a party of the Special Air Service, supported by S1 and S2 patrols of the LRDG, were to attempt a big raid on Benghazi but after running late, their presence was discovered after a clash at a roadblock as dawn broke. With the element of surprise lost and the protection of darkness receding, Stirling ordered a withdrawal.[4] The attack on Jalo Oasis was carried out by the Sudan Defence Force and S1 and S2 patrols of the LRDG. The first attack on the night of 15/16 September, was easily repelled by the defenders, who were on the alert and had been reinforced. The attackers withdrew on 19 September as an Italian relief column approached the oasis.[9]

Main attack

Operation Agreement involved an amphibious force of about 400 Royal Marines, 180 Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (Captain Norman MacFie) 14 Platoon, Z Company, I Battalion, Royal Northumberland Fusiliers (Lieutenant Ernest Raymond) army engineers and Force B (Lt. Col. John Edward Haselden )about 150 SAS approaching from the desert. The amphibious force was split into Force A, supported by destroyers and intended to land on the peninsula north of Tobruk, while Force C, composed of coastal units, was directed towards an inlet east of Tobruk harbour. Force B captured an Italian 152 mm coastal battery but this was quickly retaken by Italian marines from the San Marco Battalion. Haselden was killed in action. Most of the shore batteries and positions remained in Axis hands.[10]

Force A

Force E, a group of commandos from the submarine HMS Taku failed to set up beacons on the shore to guide the main British force, due to the bad sea conditions. The garrison had been reinforced and the destroyers HMS Sikh and Zulu bringing in the seaborne troops landed them on the wrong beach, far to the west of the intended landing place.[11] The British destroyer Sikh, which led the landing attempt, was hit by Italian 152 mm (6-inch) shore batteries and German 88 mm anti-tank guns, while taking on troops. Zulu had gone to the rescue but was unable to pull Sikh clear and it eventually sank; 115 crew were reported killed and the survivors were taken prisoner. On the afternoon of 14 September, while returning to Alexandria, Coventry was badly damaged by German Ju 87 dive bombers from Crete and 63 crew were killed. Coventry was scuttled by Zulu which was hit by Italian fighter-bombers a little later. While under tow and 100 nmi (120 mi; 190 km) from Alexandria, Zulu sank with the loss of 39 crew.[12]

Force C

Another landing by motor launches and boats, carrying a detachment of Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and a machine-gun platoon of Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, whose Vickers machine guns were to defend the perimeter, partially failed to reach the landing point. Because of extremely heavy fire from Tobruk harbour, only two MTBs made it into Marsa Umm el Sciausc, the target cove. One became stranded in the shallow water, the other managed to land Sergeant 'Dusty' Miller and his group of Geordie Fusiliers and sail out.[13] The motor launches ML 353, Ml 352 and ML 349 and 17 MTBs were beaten off by boom defences and an Italian flotilla of torpedo boats and armed motor barges. ML 353 was set on fire and scuttled, either hit by the Italian warships or strafed by Italian Macchi C.200 fighters, while ML 352, MTB 308, MTB 310 and MTB 312 were lost to Axis aircraft.[14][15] MTB 314, the motor torpedo boat that was damaged and run aground during the battle, was captured by the German harbour minesweeper R-10 at dawn, with 117 seamen and soldiers on board. Although they were frequently dive-bombed and strafed during their return journey, the bulk of the MTBs and the surviving ML reached Alexandria.[16]

Aftemath

British commandos during a training exercise

Dozens of British sailors and marines were rescued from the sea by the Italian Spica-class torpedo boat Castore, the Generali-class Montanari, the armed tug Vega, a flotilla of German harbour minesweepers and several Italian and German motor barges.[2] A couple of makeshift motor amphibious craft, stragglers from Force A, attempting to reach Alexandria at very low speed, were also captured with their crews.[17] Losses amounted to about 300 Royal Marines, 160 soldiers, 280 sailors, one anti-aircraft cruiser (HMS Coventry), two destroyers (HMS Sikh and Zulu), two motor launches, four MTBs and several small craft.[4] The Royal Marines suffered 81 killed; Sikh, Zulu and the cruiser Coventry reported the loss of another 217 men. About 576 survivors were captured.[18] Axis losses were 15 Italians and one German killed, 43 Italians and seven Germans wounded.[4]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Daffodil, Snowdrop, Tulip and Hyacinth were fictitious code names, made up by the author of a book published in 1945, when the official names of the operations were secret and which came into general use.[5]

Footnotes

  1. ^ Bragadin 1957, p. 220.
  2. ^ a b c L'operazione Daffodil nel piano Agreement (in Italian)
  3. ^ Molinari & Anderson, 2007, p. 71
  4. ^ a b c d Molinari & Anderson (2007), p. 71
  5. ^ O'Carroll 2005, pp. 25–26
  6. ^ Smith, pp. 22–23
  7. ^ Molinari & Anderson (2007), p. 70
  8. ^ O'Carroll 2005, p. 62
  9. ^ a b c Molinari & Anderson (2007), p. 72
  10. ^ Playfair 2004, pp. 20–23.
  11. ^ Smith, pp. 90–95
  12. ^ Playfair 2004, p. 22.
  13. ^ Smith, p. 111
  14. ^ Bragadin, 1957 p. 220
  15. ^ Sadler (2008), pp. 266–68
  16. ^ Rohwer 2005 p. 196
  17. ^ Smith, pp. 122, 144
  18. ^ Operation "Agreement"

References

  • Bragadin, Marc'Antonio (1957). The Italian Navy in World War II. Annapolis, MD: United States Naval Institute. ISBN 978-0-405-13031-1.
  • Landsborough, Gordon (1989). Tobruk Commando: The Raid to Destroy Rommel's Base. London: Presidio Press. ISBN 1-85367-025-1.
  • Molinari, Andrea; Anderson, Duncan (2007). Desert Raiders: Axis and Allied Special Forces 1940–43. Oxford: Osprey. pp. 68–73. ISBN 1-84603-006-4.
  • O'Carroll, Brendan (2004). The Barce Raid. Wellington, NZ: Ngaio Press. ISBN 0-9582243-8-2.
  • Playfair, Major-General I. S. O.; et al. (2004) [1st. pub. HMSO 1966]. Butler, J. R. M., ed. The Mediterranean and Middle East: The Destruction of the Axis Forces in Africa. History of the Second World War United Kingdom Military Series. IV (Naval & Military Press ed.). London: HMSO. ISBN 1-84574-068-8.
  • Rohwer, Jürgen; Hümmelchen, Gerhard; Weis, Thomas (2005). Chronology of the War at Sea 1939–1945: The Naval History of World War Two (3rd rev. ed.). London: Chatham. ISBN 1-86176-257-7.
  • Sadler, John (2016). Operation Agreement: Jewish Commandos and the Raid on Tobruk. London: Bloomsbury. ISBN 978-1-4728-1489-0.
  • Smith, Peter Charles (1987). Massacre at Tobruk: The Story of Operation Agreement. London: Kimber. ISBN 0-7183-0664-3.

Further reading

  • H. M. Ships Damaged or Sunk by Enemy Action, 3rd September, 1939 to 2nd September, 1945 (PDF). London: Admiralty: Director of Naval Construction. 1952. OCLC 38570200. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  • Pitt, B. (2001) [1982]. The Crucible of War: Montgomery and Alamein. III (Three volume pbk. edition of the two volumes published in 1980 and 1982 ed.). London: Cassell & Co. ISBN 978-0-304-35952-3.
  • Richards, D.; St G. Saunders, H. (1975) [1954]. Royal Air Force 1939–45: The Fight Avails. II (repr. ed.). London: HMSO. ISBN 978-0-11-771593-6. Retrieved 13 December 2015.
  • Roskill, S. W. (1956). The Period of Balance. History of the Second World War United Kingdom Military Series: The War at Sea 1939–1945. II. London: HMSO. OCLC 174453986. Retrieved 26 November 2018.

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