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November 1941

Special Forces Operations in November 1941

November 10th, 1941 – November 19th, 1941
Operation Flipper
Commandos, Special Boat Section
Fifty men from Layforce under command of Lieutenant Colonel Robert Laycock, two men from Special Boat Section, Long Range Desert group, Submarines H.M.S. Torbay and H.M.S. Talisman, foldbots. Their mission is to attack the German and Italian Headquarters and disturb their communications. There are indications that the real intention of the operation is to kill or capture the German Marshall Erwin Rommel.

The operations fails due to several difficulties and the fact that Erwin Rommel is not at the presumed Headquarters. Three men make it back behind the Allied lines. Of the raiding force who made it ashore, twenty-eight are captured of which three are wounded. Only Lieutenant Colonel Keyes is killed by the Germans, one other man drowns during the landing. The German suffer four killed and three wounded. 

November 12th, 1941 – November 13th, 1941
Operation Astrakan
Four men from No. 6 Commando. Their Mission is a beach reconnaissance for Operation Sunstar, a few weeks later. Their objective is the beach near Houlgate and Les Hemmes on the North coast in France.

The men gather vital information on the suitability of the beach for use by Landing craft. They do not encounter any Germans.
November 16th, 1941 –
Operation Squatter
Special Air Service, Long Range Desert Group
Five Bristol Bombay aircraft of the Royal Air Force’s No. 216 Squadron are carrying fifty-four men of L Detachment, Special Air Service, under command of Captain Stirling. Their objective is to attack the aircraft on two Axis airfields at Gazala (three aircraft) and Tmimi (two aircraft) in Eastern Lybia after a night drop on two dropping zones. The intention of the mission is to secure British air superiority over Lieutenant General Sir Alan Cunningham’s 8th Army about 24 hours before the start of Operation Crusader by destroying as many Axis aircraft as possible.

Despite an adverse weather forecast warning of strong gusting winds, the mission proceeds but faces significant challenges. The harsh weather conditions disrupt the insertion plan, leading to the mission’s abortion. This results in the loss of one airplane, its crew, an army observer officer, and casualties of L Detachment, Special Air Service, including five killed and twenty-eight men taken prisoner.

Only twenty-one out of the fifty-four men manage to reach the agreed rendezvous point with a patrol of the Long Range Desert Group for extraction in ‘Springtime.’

November 22nd, 1941 – November 23rd, 1941
Operation Sunstar
Ninety men from No. 9 Commando. Their mission is to take prisoners for interrogation and to attack the four-gun coastal artillery emplacement of the Batterie de Tournebride to the east of Houlgate, in France.

The raiding party lands at Vaches Noires, a short distance from their intended landing beach, and could not press home their attack because of an intervening clay cliff. As the landing party approaches the beach one of the four Landing Craft Assault (LCA) is taken by the waves and is towed off only with difficulty. At first there is no sign of any Germans, but soon the area starts to be illuminated by flares and searchlights. They hear trucks approaching, so the raiders, move off the beach, after exchanging torch signals with the cover party. The LCA gunners withhold their fire in order not to reveal their position. While waiting for the raiding party a Junkers Ju 87 dive-bomber attacks the waiting LCAs. One of the LCA’s is hit but the crews manage to put two bursts into the aircraft and chase it away. On land one of raiding parties runs into two-men German Bicycle Patrol. They are able to take them out but now being compromised both on sea and land the raiding parties retreat to the beach. The raiders fail to destroy the battery or take any prisoners, but they do obtain documents and other information. They take no casualties.