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Operations Royal Marine Boom Patrol Detachment

Page Created
September 30th, 2022
Last Updated
May 16th, 2024
Great Britain
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Order of Battle

Major Herbert 'Blondie' Hasler and a colleague paddling a canoe, in 1942.

Northwest Europe

December 7th, 1942 – December 12th, 1942
Operation Frankton.
Royal Marines Boom Patrol Detachment
Thirteen men of the Royal Marines Boom Patrol Detachment (Captain Hasler, Lieutenant MacKinnon, Marine Sergeant Wallace, Corporals Sheard and Laver and Marines Mills, Ellery, Fisher, Ewart, Conway, Sparks, Moffatt, Colley (reserve)), six Cockle Mk. II kayaks, H.M.S. Tuna. Their mission is to attack and destroy docked cargo ships in the port of Bordeaux, France with limpet mines and then escape overland to Spain.

On November 30th, 1942, H.M.S. Tuna sets sail from Holy Loch, Scotland, carrying six canoes and thirteen members of the Royal Marines Boom Patrol Detachment towards the Gironde estuary for a mission initially planned for December 6th. Delays occur due to adverse weather, a minefield, and navigational challenges along the French coast. On December 7th, the submarine arrives at the estuary, but Canoe Cachalot is damaged during deployment, reducing the raiding team to five canoes. The extra member, Marine Colley, stays on the submarine along with Cachalot’s crew.
The five canoes set off at 17:30 on December 7th, 1942, planning to paddle with brief rests every hour. They battle against strong tides and winds, losing Canoe Coalfish early on. Canoe Conger capsizes, its crew saved but abandoned by Captain Hasler for the mission’s continuation. The teams stealthily pass three German frigates and cover significant distances over subsequent nights, aiming for Bordeaux. Unknown to the rest, Sergeant Wallace and Marine Ewart are captured early on.

Hasler changes the original plan due to strong tides, delaying the attack to December 11th/12th, when they successfully plant limpet mines on enemy ships in Bordeaux. Six of these ships are reported to be damaged later on. The crews meet and attempt escape together but are eventually separated. Laver and Mills are captured and handed over to the Germans, while Hasler and Sparks make a prolonged journey to safety, assisted by the French Resistance and crossing into Spain.

Wallace and Ewart, captured early, reveal minimal information before being executed under the Kommando Befehl. Others captured face similar fates, while Sheard and Moffatt succumb to hypothermia, with Moffatt’s body found on the Île de Ré. Hasler and Sparks’s safety is confirmed to Combined Operations Headquarters by February 23rd, 1943, with Hasler returning to Britain by air and Sparks by sea.
Aegean Sea
Operation Stripling (Sister)
Royal Marine Boom Patrol Detachment, Earthworm Detachment
Four Members and one reserve of Earthworm Detachment of the Royal Marines Boom Patrol Detachment in two Cockle Mk. 2 three seater canoe. Lieutenant J.F. Richards, Marine W.S. Stevens, Sergeant J.M. King, Marine R.N. Ruff, Corporal E.W. ‘Johnny’ Horner and Marine E. Fisher.

Operation Brother
Royal Marine Boom Patrol Detachment, Earthworm Detachment
Four Members and one reserve of Earthworm Detachment of the Royal Marines Boom Patrol Detachment in two Cockle Mk. 2 three-seater canoe. Captain W. Pritchard-Gordon, Corporal L. Ashton, Marine C. Lambert, Marine A. Duncan. The reserve is Corporal William E. Sparks.

Royal Marine Boom Patrol Detachment, Earthworm Detachment
A signal is received from the Flag Officer Levant and Eastern Med, ordering the immediate dispatch of three canoes to Alexandria at 23:00. By 04:00, the team arrives in Alexandria and uses a transport typically employed for ferrying vegetables to the depot ship in the harbour. Upon disembarking, remarks about the need for camouflage are made. By 06:00, a briefing is held on the deck of a ship, identifying which vessels in the harbour are part of the Greek Navy mutiny.

The objective is to neutralise as many mutinous ships as possible to prevent a violent clash between the British and the Greeks. This task is somewhat alleviated as the mutiny dissipates, primarily because many of the boats are wooden. However, a significant ship continues its defiance. A destroyer approaches this ship, and a surrender is requested but refused.

Subsequent investigation reveals the ship’s armour to be approximately 14 centimetres thick, rendering offensive tactics ineffective. As a result, the mission to quell the mutiny by the Royal Marine Boom Patrol Dectachment is aborted, and the team returns to regular duties.

June 17th, 1944 – June 19th, 1944
Operation Sunbeam
Royal Marine Boom Patrol Detachment, Earthworm Detachment
Royal Marine Boom Patrol Detachment, Earthworm Detachment. Six men in three Canoes. Their missing is to attack German Destroyers in the Harbour of of the Island of Leros, Aegean Sea. The destoyers could interfere in a later planned Raid on the Island of Simi, known as Operation Tenement.

Three pairs of Royal Marine canoeists infiltrate the harbour of Leros and successfully plant limpets on the destroyers and several smaller escort vessels.

The subsequent detonation of the charges results in significant damage to the German ships, effectively neutralizing the naval threat in the area. This allows the Allies to proceed with Operation Tenement on Simi, with reduced risk of interference from German naval forces.

October 10th, 2024 – October 14th, 2024
Liberation of Chios
Royal Marine Boom Patrol Detachment, Earthworm Detachment
Eight men under command of Captain Pritchard-Gordon of the Royal Marine Boom Patrol Detachment. They are the first to enter Chios. Factually liberating the Island. They are tasked with managing operations after the Germans leave. On the night of our arrival in our small Motor Transport Light, the Germans are unaware their main force has withdrawn. A 200-ton ship with 1,400 Germans on board arrives in the middle of the night.

The small detachment helped by greek resistance fighters use motor car lights and other means to guide them in. They position the cars around the quayside, allow the ship to dock, and find themselves with 1,400 prisoners and only eight Royal Marines. They secure the prisoners of war in the police station and manage to contain them there.

The captured Germans are second and third-rate troops. Unaware of the true situation in Chios and deceived by the appearance of a significant military presence created by numerous lights and the sound of gunfire over their ship’s bridge, they comply without resistance. They disembark, surrender peacefully, and stay under the watch of local Greeks and our Marines for about three to four days before being transferred. In the darkness, their demeanour is indiscernible; they simply follow orders and remain with us.

October 12th, 2024 – October 20th, 2024
Demining Chios Harbour
Royal Marine Boom Patrol Detachment, Earthworm Detachment
Eight men under command of Captain Pritchard-Gordon of the Royal Marine Boom Patrol Detachment.

A day or two after their arrival, officials from Alexandria send officers to address the situation. The men from the Royal Marine Boom Patrol Detachment learn that the Germans have mined the harbour. As the only unit with underwater swimming gear, the section inspects the harbour. The unit surveys the main mooring area from their dinghy and identify objects that appear to be mines. They dive to attach ropes to whatever we find. They locate the mines and, after towing them to the quayside, headquarters in Alexandria sends a specialist to dismantle them.

The mines are time devices, large and heavy, encased in wood, roughly one metres on each side. They have a dropping bar on one side, which allows the unit to secure a rope easily, as these bars are typically used for suspending the mines from ships.

October 23rd, 1944 – October 28th, 1944
Reconnaissance mission before Milos Invasion
Royal Marine Boom Patrol Detachment, Earthworm Detachment
The operation involves the section of the Royal Marine Boom Patrol Detachment under the command of Captain Pritchard-Gordon. Their mission is to come ashore and reconnoitre the area before the main assault, and then lead the assault forces to the garrison at Pollonia, Milos, Greece.

After landing, the unit reconnoitres the area for three days. They meet the raiding party and guide them ashore to the correct locations. Captain Pritchard-Gordon positions them at strategic points around the garrison area at Pollonia and initiates the operation. The surprise is complete, and the garrison quickly surrenders after losing three or four men. By then, the Allied troops are inside the garrison, occupying their dormitories and bedrooms. The entire operation takes place in the dark, and when dawn arrives 20 minutes later, it is over.