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Missing Alimnia Reconnaissance Patrol

Page Created
April 9th, 2024
Last Updated
April 9th, 2024
Great Britain
British Flag
Special Forces
Special Boat Squadron
Levant Schooner Flotilla
Küstenjäger-Abteilung Brandenburg
April 5th, 1944 – April 7th, 1944
Reconnaissance Patrol
  • Reconnaissance the island of Alimnia, as potential staging areas for the assault on the radar station on Scarpanto Island.
Operational Area

Alimnia island, near Rhodes Island

Unit Force
  • Five men from S Detachment, Special Boat Squadron
  • LS 24 of the Levant Schooner Flotilla
Opposing Forces
  • Küstenjäger-Abteilung Brandenburg

Major Sutherland the commander of S Detachment, Special Boat Squadron receives a directive from George Jellicoe to disable a radar station on Scarpanto, an island located about two hundred kilometres south of the Special Boat Squadron base at Port Deremen, Turkey. Sutherland reviews his maps and identifies the smaller islands of Calchi and Alimnia, 64 kilometres north of Scarpanto, as potential staging areas for the assault.

Considering Alimnia’s proximity to Rhodes, which hosts a formidable German division, Sutherland recognises the operation’s high risk and opts for a stealthy approach. He selects a reconnaissance team of four highly experienced operatives, three of whom are Military Medal recipients, to be led by Captain Bill Blyth. Despite Blyth’s limited experience in combat, his administrative effectiveness has impressed Sutherland, convincing him of Blyth’s leadership potential.

Bill Blyth, at 31 years of age, stands as the senior member and leader of the group. After being commissioned into the Scots Guards in 1933, Blyth is placed in the officers’ reserve, dedicating his time to farming until 1939, when he is called up for service. His leadership oversees a group of younger men, each with their own notable military backgrounds.

George Evans, hailing from London’s East End, joins the Special Boat Squadron at the start of the year, bringing with him the experience and honor of having received a Military Medal while serving with the Sherwood Foresters. George Miller, another Londoner and a recipient of the Military Medal, is known for his boxing skills and is seldom seen without a cigarette.

The team also includes Ray Jones, a Birmingham artilleryman awarded the Military Medal for his role in a raid on Crete the previous July, and Leo Rice, a well-liked Australian commonly known among his peers as ‘Digger’.

April 5th, 1944

The reconnaissance team departs on the afternoon, on LS 24 of the Levant Schooner Flotilla, a converted sponge-fishing boat, piloted by Sub-Lieutenant Allan Tuckey, a 21-year-old law student. The crew, including Tuckey, telegraphist Ronald Carpenter, and three Greek sailors, form a cohesive unit. Four Special Boat Squadron members and their officer, Captain Bill Blyth, join them at 16:00, and by 16:30, they are underway.

LS 24 heads westward from the Gulf of Gökova, circumventing the Datça Peninsula before steering southeast towards the Loryma Peninsula. It is at this point that the crew heightens their vigilance, aware of the German patrols in these waters. Sailing at a speed of seven knots towards a secluded bay, the tension onboard palpably increases. Carpenter notes the strategic maneuver in his diary, highlighting their discreet passage between the enemy-occupied islands of Rhodes and Simi under the guise of the Turkish flag for safety.

April 6th, 1944

They reach the bay at 164:15, where an agent from Force 133 awaits them with the latest intel on Alimnia and Calchi. Tuckey informs his crew of their departure for Calchi set for 20:00 that evening.

Despite the mission’s reconnaissance label, the five Special Boat Squadron operatives are equipped with an array of weapons: a captured MP 40 submachine gun, a Tommy gun, a Bren light machine gun, three rifles, and three US M1 Carbines are stowed on deck. Each member is also armed with two grenades, a pair of Lewes bombs, and a dozen spare magazines for their weapons, preparing them for any engagement.

LS24 sets sail from the bay at 20:00 on the 6th, charting a course southwest towards Calchi. With the boat cruising at a velocity of 7 knots, Sub-Lieutenant Allan Tuckey plans to traverse the 80 kilometers distance in roughly seven hours. Ronald Carpenter records in his diary the crew’s readiness for potential encounters, mentioning a tense moment when they spot two enemy E-boats between Rhodes and Simi. Fortunately, the enemy does not notice them.

April 7th, 1944

At midnight, it becomes Carpenter’s turn to stand watch. His diary entry is interrupted, presumably because he is called to decode an incoming message from David Sutherland, timestamped at 00:34. The message directs a strategic alteration: the team is to first recon Alimnia and then proceed to Calchi.

Arriving at Alimnia at 02:00, Blyth and his four-man team disembark onto a modest jetty situated in a secluded cove on the island’s southern coast. Alimnia, encompassing just under 8 square kilometres, hosts a small population of 60 individuals, highlighting the island’s compact and resilient community.

The patrol anticipates their reconnaissance mission on Alimnia might take several hours, if not the entire day, so the plan is for LS 24 to leave the jetty and wait offshore for a signal from Blyth to return. However, due to Sub-Lieutenant Allan Tuckey’s lack of experience and the crew’s fatigue from overnight navigation, this doesn’t happen. Ideally, Blyth would have directed Tuckey to move away and set a specific time for pickup, but being new to such operations, he doesn’t insist. Consequently, instead of moving to a more secluded area, Tuckey decides to camouflage LS 24 and, along with his crew, remains in the vicinity to wait for the commandos.

Early that morning, with the first light of dawn casting reflections on the water, five German vessels enter the cove, clearly not there by mere coincidence. General Kleemann, the commanding German officer on Rhodes, is tipped off by an informant—whose identity remains unknown—about a British commando presence in the area. Although the intelligence isn’t completely accurate, suggesting an attack on Calchi and the establishment of an observation post on Alimnia, it is enough for Kleemann to send a search party. This group comprises four caïques and a motor launch, staffed by soldiers from the elite Küstenjäger-Abteilung Brandenburg, who quickly spot a very well camouflaged motor sailing ship.

A brief skirmish ensues, but the British are quickly overpowered as the German caïques deploy their cannons, wounding two of the Greek crew members. Recognising the impossibility of their situation, Tuckey orders his crew to surrender.

Meanwhile, the Special Boat Squadron patrol, traversing a ridge on Alimnia known as Point 123, hears the disturbance. A German report later notes a soldier on one of the caïques sighting a figure “eastwards of Point 123”. From their vantage point, the British soldiers witness the unfolding events in the cove and notice a small fishing boat, recently arrived with three locals and 500 kilograms of fish, on the opposite side of the island.

Rushing down from the high ground, the Special Boat Squadron patrol is quickly ushered onto the fishing boat by the three fishermen, showing remarkable bravery given the escalating presence of German forces in the area. They set out to sea, hoping to distance themselves from the island before being detected.

However, the Germans, having captured the five sailors and set course for Rhodes for interrogation, spot the fishing boat heading northeast towards Turkey. They intercept, forcing the boat to halt with a warning shot and, upon boarding, swiftly find Blyth and his team concealed under a tarpaulin.


Once in Rhodes, the fishermen are separated for questioning but survive. The men of the Special Boat Squadron during their own interrogation assert the fishermen were coerced at gunpoint. The reconnaissance team is handed over to Major Curt Kronsbein at his headquarters in Rhodes Town.

Blyth and Tuckey are isolated from their group and share a meal with Major Kronsbein before being placed in separate cells for independent questioning. They divulge nothing beyond their name, rank, and number. The following day, Blyth is flown to Athens by the Interrogation and Counter-Intelligence branch of Army Group E, while Tuckey is taken to the local jail with the rest of the captured men. Three days later, the four Special Boat Squadron soldiers are transported to Salonika, where they meet Oberleutnant Straud and Sonderführer Helmut Poliza of Army Group E’s Interrogation and Counter-Intelligence branch, and then they disappear without a trace.

A year after the capture, Bill Blyth experiences a joyous reunion with his wife following his liberation. However, the relatives of the other men who vanished, the suffering and uncertainty persist. They tirelessly seek answers, but in April 1946, the parents of George Evans receive a heartrending communication from the War Office. It informs them that, due to the absence of any information suggesting the survival of their son and his comrades, all hope for their return must be abandoned. The letter solemnly declares that Private A. G. Evans is officially presumed to have died in captivity, on or shortly after April 7th, 1944.

Bill Blyth relocates to South Africa, maintaining a tradition of meeting annually with David Sutherland at Royal Ascot, a testament to their enduring bond. Meanwhile, Allan Tuckey’s mother ages and eventually passes away, with the mystery of the Alimnia patrol’s fate lingering unresolved. It’s not until Kurt Waldheim’s candidacy for the Austrian presidency in the mid-1980s that new light is shed on the circumstances surrounding their disappearance, offering some closure to the decades-long quest for truth by the families left behind.

Kurt Waldheim, serving as Secretary General of the United Nations, faces ongoing speculation about his military record during the war. He asserts his role was in a reconnaissance unit’s cavalry segment before an injury led him back to his law studies at Vienna University, where he completes his degree in 1944.

In the presidential campaign of 1986, Waldheim’s opponents delve into his past, uncovering his position as an intelligence officer with Army Group E in Thessaloniki. This discovery prompts investigative journalists to sift through German intelligence archives, where they stumble upon documents pertaining to the capture of LS 24 in Alimnia Bay. Although Waldheim is on leave during the incident and not implicated in the subsequent war crime, his intelligence service peers are linked through detailed reports and messages.

These documents disclose that George Evans, Leo Rice, George Miller, Ray Jones, Allan Tuckey, and Ronald Carpenter’s deaths are not the result of an escape attempt from Rhodes or an accident. They undergo a week of interrogation, with the Greek members and Carpenter cooperating, whereas Tuckey and the SBS operatives resist, especially George Miller who steadfastly refuses to answer any military-related inquiries. Tuckey’s interrogator characterises him as ironic and somewhat arrogant, attributing to him the demeanor of a confident young English intellectual.

Helmut Poliza of the Army Group E’s Interrogation and Counter-Intelligence branch, frustrated by their intransigence, is nevertheless instructed to continue the questioning. By April 26th, 1944, Poliza reports back that further interrogation has been “fruitless”, unveiling a significant piece of history linked to Waldheim’s tenure, brought to light amid the scrutiny of his war record during his run for the Austrian presidency.

Poliza queries the procedure for the prisoners and is informed that they are to be transferred to the Sicherheits Dienst (SD), the intelligence arm of the SchutzStaffel (SS), for “any further interrogation of interest to them, and for subsequent special treatment as per the Führer’s directive.” This phrase ominously refers to execution, in line with Adolf Hitler’s 1942 mandate for the elimination of captured Allied special forces.

Colonel Otto Burger, overseeing Stalag 7A where Captain Bill Blyth is detained, receives a similar order. Recognizing the lethal implication behind ‘special treatment,’ Burger elects not to comply, thereby refusing to partake in such brutality. His decision to disregard a second directive to surrender Blyth, and the absence of a follow-up—presumably due to an administrative oversight—illustrates the role of bureaucratic factors in determining fates within the Third Reich.

The gap in the investigation into Kurt Waldheim’s wartime record pertains to the specific details surrounding the Special Boat Squadron soldiers’ end. Holly Kendrick, George Evans’s niece, suggests that their execution likely occurs near the Intelligence Branch Army Group E headquarters in Arsakli, near Salonika, soon after the directive for their “special treatment” is issued.

Despite these discoveries, Waldheim’s political path remains unaffected; he secures the Austrian presidency in 1986. Concurrently, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher launches an investigation to ascertain Waldheim’s involvement in the execution of the Alimnia patrol. The Ministry of Defence establishes Waldheim’s probable awareness of the interrogation but finds no direct evidence of his involvement in the questioning or in decisions regarding their treatment.

In May 1991, St Paul’s Anglican Church in Athens hosts a memorial service for the Alimnia patrol, attended by relatives of Allan Tuckey, Ray Jones, and George Evans, as well as Greek and British officials. George Jellicoe and David Sutherland offer their respects, with Sutherland acknowledging their extraordinary fortitude under interrogation and expressing honor in having served with them.