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Old 27-07-2014, 06:02 PM   #44
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Lightbulb Operation Snowdrop

Operation Caravan was a subsidiary of Operation Agreement under which four simultaneous raids were carried out against important Axis Lines of Communication positions in September 1942..The operations were against Tobruk (Agreement), Benghazi (Bigamy), Jalo oasis (Nicety) and Barce (Caravan)..As well as aiding in some of the operations, the Long Range Desert Group was to carry out the attack on the Italians at Barce, particularly the airfield there.. To reach Barce, the force travelled 1,155 miles (1,859 km).. One part of the force attacked the airfield claiming 35 aircraft destroyed, the other attacked the barracks..In early September 1942 B Squadron which consisted of two LRDG half-patrols under the command of Major John Richard Easonsmith,left their Egyptian base at Faiyum with orders to "Cause the maximum amount of damage and disturbance to the enemy". The destination was Barce, approximately 80 km north-east of Benghazi on the main coast road.. This was a major administrative centre of the Italian colonial government of Libya and there was a large airfield on the north-eastern side of the town, which was to be the main target of the operation. G1 patrol, commanded by Captain J. A. L. Timpson, and T1 patrol, led by Captain N. P. Wilder, between them had a total of 47 men in 12 Chevrolet 1533X2 trucks and 5 jeeps..They were accompanied by Major Vladimir Peniakoff and his "spies", two Senussi tribesmen who belonged to the Libyan Arab Force...

Opposing them in Barce were a company of the Polizia dell'Africa Italiana (the Italian Africa Police) with Autoblinda AB.41 armoured cars, a company of Carabinieri Reali (Royal Carabiniers), 8ª sezione Camicie Nere (8th Blackshirts section), XVII Battaglione Mitraglieri ("17th Machine-gun Battalion"), 10ª compagnia Carri L ("10th Light Tank Company") with L3/35 tankettes and a battery of 12.7 cm guns (captured British 60 pounder guns) of 51° Gruppo Artiglieria ("51st Artillery Group")..On the Barce airfield were the 35° Stormo da Bombardamento' ("35th Bombing Wing"), less a Squadriglia (squadron/flight), equipped with Cant Z.1007bis three-engined bombers, and 131ª Squadriglia of 66° Gruppo Osservazione Aerea (131st Squadron of the 66th Air Observation Group) equipped with Caproni Ca.311 twin-engined observation aircraft.. Several other units of cavalry, Carabiniers and irregular Libyan-manned units were in the area...Unknown to the LRDG they had been seen en route and several alerts had been passed on to the Barce Sector Command. The commanding officer, General Piatti del Pozzo, ordered air and ground reconnaissance and made other preparations to counter the expected attack.. Although the LRDG patrols were well camouflaged, and were confident that they had not been noticed amongst the trees, the unit had been spotted by a Caproni Ca.311 which dropped a message to a nearby Cavalry headquarters..

Although the Italians were expecting an attack, they did not believe that it would be possible to do so from vehicles coming from the main road. Instead, they had been preparing to counter foot-soldiers attacking from the south. As a consequence T1 patrol were able to mount their attack with little opposition. The next target was the concrete administration building which also housed the mess and barracks.. Grenades were thrown through the windows, which started a blaze inside.. A hangar and other buildings, as well as some motorised transport, were shot-up and a petrol dump of 44-gallon drums was destroyed..On the airfield proper T1 patrol headed clockwise in single file, shooting at parked bombers with a combination of tracer, incendiary and explosive ammunition. The firepower used by T1 Patrol was three pairs of .303 cal air-cooled Brownings, two .50 cal Vickers heavy machine guns and twinned and single.303 cal Vickers Ks, all of which used swivel mountings either in the back tray of the truck or on the passenger's doorpost.. In addition to this firepower Corporal Merlyn Craw of T1 patrol had devised a small incendiary time-bomb made out of "Nobel's Gelignite" (also known as "808").. Craw and Yealands were in the last vehicle in the column, Te Paki III, which had a box full of the bombs.. As they came to an aircraft which was not already burning the two men jumped off and ran to each aircraft, placing a bomb on top of a wing, above the fuel tanks. Corporal Craw started the fuse going and both men then had to dive to the ground as the aircraft exploded in flames..After the attacks, the two patrols met up at the rallying point. By that point 10 men, three trucks and a jeep had been lost. Before dawn on 14 September, near the police post to the south of Sidi Selim, the LRDG came under fire from the enemy who had been waiting. Three men were injured and a truck damaged to the extent it had to be towed. The truck and two others damaged earlier were abandoned - after transferring the stores - with timed explosives to destroy them..The force continued the return until another vehicle broke down. The force was spotted by the enemy and attacked from the air until dusk fell. By that point all bar one truck and two jeeps had been destroyed..10 members of the force set out to walk to Bir el Gerrari where a vehicle had been left.. The force doctor took the remaining truck and a jeep with the wounded..Another party of fourteen set out walking with their rations and water carried on the other Jeep. After about 80 miles, on 17 September, they met LDRG patrol S2. Searches of the area found 8 of the first walking party. The two missing members had fallen behind and, not expecting to reach the rendezvous, turned north.. On the 20th they found an Arab camp and they were taken prisoner by the Italians.. By that point the two had covered over 150 miles on foot..Anther LRDG patrol (S1) picked up two members of the raiding force who had walked out of Barce...For their part in the
operation, there were a number of awards...

Operation Bigamy aka Operation Snowdrop was a raid during the Second World War by the Special Air Service in September 1942 under the command of Lieutenant Colonel David Stirling and supported by the Long Range Desert Group..The plan was to destroy the harbour and storage facilities at Benghazi and raid the airfield at Benina in Libya in coordination with the RAF.. The raid was part of a deception plan for Operation Agreement, the much larger raid on Tobruk..The plan involved a "gruelling journey around the southern edge of the Great Sand Sea" but ended in failure. The raiding force was discovered at a road block on route by an Italian reconnaissance unit and Stirling decided to withdraw to Kufra. During the withdrawal, the Luftwaffe picked off nearly 70 of the vehicles on the barren terrain.. The survivors were reformed as the 1st Special Air Service regiment..It is known as Operation Snowdrop in all publications which follow uncritically the initial editions of William Boyd Kennedy Shaw's book Long Range Desert Group which used this appellation for the first time as War Office security policy would not permit him to use real operational code names on first publication..In September 1967 Len Deighton wrote an article in the Sunday Times Magazine about "Operation Snowdrop". The following year David Stirling would be awarded substantial damages in libel from the article. The passage complained of states "Stirling himself had insisted upon talking about the raid at two social gatherings at the British Embassy in Cairo although warned not to do so".. Stirling made the point that Winston Churchill had been at both gatherings and the issue was raised in a private discussion with the Prime Minister..In cultures that practice marital monogamy, bigamy is the act of entering into a marriage with one person while still legally married to another... my captain's going to ponder with you - now listen..You're supposed to keep a look out like soldiers..Um. Yes.. Listen everybody.. Frazer's going to tell us the story about the old empty barn...

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