Raids in Libya
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
ww2dbaseThe Allies planned a series of operations in Sep 1942 to raid Axis positions in the rear; in addition to an effort to rescue Allied prisoners of war held at Tobruk, Libya, the Allies also hoped to disrupt Axis logistics.
ww2dbaseThe main objective of the operation was Tobruk, Libya, and it began during the night of 13 Sep 1942. In addition to striking Italian troops by surprise, the raiding party was also to rescue a portion of the 16,000 British prisoners of war held at the port city. The raid fell apart from the very start. British commandos were delivered by submarine HMS Taku to a beach nearby; they failed to set up the beacons, thus the main attack force was dropped off too far to the west, causing problems with coordination. At another landing site, several motor launches and boats failed to reach the target beach, while one of two motor torpedo boats that made it was hit, causing it to be stranded after delivering troops of the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers regiment. Meanwhile, the warships sent in support were attacked; Italian coastal guns sank destroyer HMS Sikh, an Italian MC 200 aircraft sank destroyer HMS Zulu, and a German Ju 88 aircraft sank light cruiser HMS Coventry. The raid was called off on 14 Sep.
ww2dbaseAt the conclusion of Operation Agreement, the Allies suffered 746 casualties or captured (about 280 naval personnel, about 300 Royal Marines, about 160 soldiers), while the Axis suffered only 16 killed and 50 wounded. In terms of equipment, the Allies lost 1 cruiser, 2 destroyers, 4 motor torpedo boats, 2 motor launches, and several smaller vessels; the Axis suffered about 30 aircraft destroyed or damaged.
ww2dbaseOperation Caravan (Hyacinth)
ww2dbaseThe attack on Barce, Libya, a city 80 kilometers northeast of Benghazi up the main coastal road, was conducted by G1 Patrol under Captain J. A. L. Timpson and T1 Patrol under Captain N. P. Wilder, both of the British Long Range Desert Group, which had to travel 1,155 miles, or 1,859 kilometers, from Faiyum, Egypt to reach the target area. The raiding force consisted of 47 men, traveling in 12 trucks and five Jeeps. The raid was under the overall command of Major John Richard, whose main charge was to destroy aircraft of the Italian 35th Bombing Wing based there. En route, Timpson's Jeep had flipped over, injuring him, thus Sergeant Jack Dennis would assume the role of acting commanding officer of the G1 Patrol for the duration of the mission.
ww2dbaseBarce was defended by a company of the Italian Africa Police (Polizia dell'Africa Italiana), supported by troops, artillery, armored cars, and tankettes from the Italian Army and the Blackshirts. A number of colonial troops were also present. The defenses were under the command of General Piatti del Pozzo, who had knowledge of the incoming raid from intelligence gathered by observers along the route that the British troops had taken.
ww2dbaseThe raiders reached Benia, Libya on 13 Sep, about 24 kilometers south of Barce, and established a hidden base. It was decided that the T1 Patrol would attack the airfield while the G1 Patrol would attack the Campo Maddelena barracks and the railway station in diversion. They did not notice that an Italian observation aircraft had detected their presence shortly after their arrival. The began to move out at dusk, cutting telephone wires along the way. At the edge of Barce, they attacked a police checkpoint, killing several, but at least one had successfully escaped; during this small engagement, two trucks collided, wrecking one of them. By 2300 hours, they reached the main road east of Barce. The vehicles traveled along this road with their headlights on, hoping that observers in the distance would believe they were friendly vehicles; en route, they destroyed two L3 tankettes that were caught by surprise.
ww2dbaseAt 0000 hours on 14 Sep, T1 and G1 Patrols split ways, each heading toward their own objectives.
ww2dbaseThe T1 Patrol continued on the main road toward the airfield. As they passed by an Italian motorized unit coming down the road, they waved, and the disguised worked, allowing them to continue unchallenged. As they reached the airfield, they immediately gunned down several guards, then proceeded to machine gun a truck that carried cans of aviation fuel, which erupted in a great fireball. The bulk of the Italian defenders were dug in on the south side of the airfield in preparation for this raid, thus they were caught by surprise when the British daringly attacked from the east. While the Italians regrouped, vehicles of the T1 Patrol fired their armament of heavy and light machine guns at the parked aircraft, and the crew of the trailing vehicle was throwing bombs. The raiders claimed 32 aircraft destroyed or damaged, while the Italians reported 16 destroyed and 7 damaged.
ww2dbaseMeanwhile, the G1 Patrol attacked the outlying buildings in diversion. The attacks were generally conducted purely for the diversionary goal, thus little damage was done.
ww2dbaseThe two patrols rendezvoused and began withdrawing; by this point, ten men were lost. Before dawn, they were engaged by a police checkpoint south of Sidi Selim which had been set up to intercept them. Although they were successful in overcoming this checkpoint, one truck was heavily damaged and had to be scuttled, and three men aboard were wounded. After sun rise, Italian aircraft were dispatched to hunt them down, which found and strafed the column several times during the day, destroying several vehicles. Down to one truck and one Jeep, it was decided that the vehicles would carry the wounded and speed toward friendly lines, while the rest walked to meet up with the S1 and S2 Patrols of the Long Range Desert Group, which was accomplished on 17 Sep, but not until two of them fell behind during the trek and were taken prisoners by locals, who turned them over to the Italians.
ww2dbaseIn terms of casualties, Operation Caravan cost the British 8 wounded and 10 captured; the Italians suffered 4 killed, 15 wounded, and 1 captured.
ww2dbaseOperation Bigamy (Snowdrop)
ww2dbaseThe attack on Benghazi, Libya was conducted by Lieutenant Colonel David Stirling's men of the British Special Air Service, supported by elements from S1 and S2 patrols of the Long Range Desert Group. This attack was bogged down at a roadblock, and Stirling decided to cancel the attack.
ww2dbaseOperation Nicety (Tulip)
ww2dbaseThe oasis of Jalo in Libya was attacked by the Sudan Defence Force, supported by elements from S1 and S2 patrols of the Long Range Desert Group; Jalo was planned to be captured, which would be used at the conclusion of the operation as a gathering point. The initial attack took place during the night of 15 Sep, and in surprise the attackers found the German defenses prepared to defend against their assault; they did not realize that the Germans had learned of their attack plans after discovering documents on the body of a British officer killed near Tobruk. The attack was quickly stalled, and after four days of inability to break German lines and noticing that an Italian column was coming in to reinforce, the operation was called off on 19 Sep.
Last Major Update: Jan 2011
Raids in Libya Timeline
|2 Sep 1942||G1 and T1 Patrols of the British Long Range Desert Group departed from Faiyum, Egypt for a raiding mission against the Italian base at Barce, Libya.|
|5 Sep 1942||Captain J. A. L. Timpson, commander of the G1 Patrol of the British Long Range Desert Group, was injured in an accident en route to raid Barce, Libya; Sergeant Jack Dennis would assume of the role of acting commanding officer for the duration of the raid as Timpson was evacuated for treatment.|
|13 Sep 1942||Allied troops conducted an amphibious landing near Tobruk, Libya for a raiding mission. Meanwhile, about 50 kilometers to the northeast, raiders of the British Long Range Desert Group began to launch the raid against Barce, Libya.|
|14 Sep 1942||The Allied raid on Tobruk, Libya resulted in failure; 746 Allied personnel were killed, wounded, or captured; the Axis suffered 66 casualties. However, the raid on Barce, Libya was successful, destroying 16 aircraft on the ground; on the way out, the Barce raiders were strafed by Italian aircraft and lost several vehicles.|
|15 Sep 1942||Allied forces attacked Jalo, Libya after sun down; the Germans, who had learned of this attack, repulse the initial attack with ease.|
|19 Sep 1942||The Allied attack on Jalo, Libya was called off.|
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James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945