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December 1942

Special Forces Operations in December 1942
December 1st, 1942 – December 5th, 1942
Operation Bizerte
Commando, U.S. Army Rangers
No. 1 Commando, four troops of the U.S. Army Rangers, eight mules to capture two road junctions at Sidi Ali Chedly, Tunisia and delay and harass Axis troops withdrawing before the arriving of the British 36th Infantry Brigade.

On November 30th, 1942, embark from Tabarka Harbour, Tunisia, targeting strategic positions near Sidi Ali Chedly. By December 1st, 1942, they land and advance toward key road junctions, achieving initial objectives without encountering resistance. However, they soon face counterattacks from Axis armored forces, forcing a strategic retreat into nearby hills where they continue to engage the enemy.

Simultaneously, the 36th Infantry Brigade’s advance suffers heavy losses due to an ambush, significantly affecting their operational effectiveness. Over the next three days, despite setbacks, the Commando Force maintains control over a large area, disrupting Axis movements and forcing them to redeploy reserves.

An isolated Ranger platoon is ambushed, leading to most being captured except for a few who escape. Observations from the Sidi Ahmed aerodrome indicate significant Axis air and ground reinforcements, complicating the Allied position.

By December 5th, 1942, escalating German attacks and dwindling supplies compel the Commando Force to withdraw westward into the hills and eventually retreat to Allied lines, marking the end of their engagement.

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. 2 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 COHQ by February 23rd, 1943, with Hasler returning to Britain by air and Sparks by sea.