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Raid on Santorini (Thera)

Page Created
March 26th, 2024
Last Updated
March 30th, 2024
Great Britain
British Flag
Greek Flag
Special Forces
Special Boat Squadron
Sacred Company
Levant Schooner Flotilla
April 19th, 1944 – April 25th, 1944
Raid on Santorini (Thera)
  • Neutralisation of enemy wireless stations and observation posts monitoring shipping in the area.
Operational Area

Santorini (Thera), Greece

Unit Force
  • Nineteen from the British Special Boat Squadron the Greek Sacred Company, divided in two Patrols, R Patrol and Z Patrol led by Major Anders Lassen.
  • Two Levant Schooner Flotilla
Opposing Forces
  • German Wehrmacht

In April, it is decided that the British Special Boat Squadron and the Greek Sacred Band will simultaneously execute three raids, on Thera (Santorini) and Mykonos. One team will strike on Ios and immediately after completing that raid they will strike on Amorgos. The objective is the simultaneous neutralisation of enemy wireless stations and observation posts monitoring shipping in the area.

The raid on Thera is undertaken by two patrols: Patrol “R”, consisting of 2 officers, 6 non-commissioned officers, 1 soldier, and 1 Greek translator, led by Danish Reserve Captain Anders Lassen, known for his daring courage in battle, and his deputy, Reserve Lieutenant Stefanos Kazoulis, of Rhodian descent, who is distinguished for his rare abilities and is particularly beloved by his colleagues; and Patrol “Z”, consisting of 1 officer, 2 non-commissioned officers, and 6 soldiers, led by Lieutenant Balzili.

April 19th, 1944

The nineteen men set out from Balisou Bay on the Anatolian coast of Turkey with two caïques, the L.S. 1 and L.S. 2, of the Levant Schooner Flotilla. After intermediate stops at the islet of Sirina (Syra), the islet of Anidro, on a beach at Mesa Vouno on Santorini, and Nea Kameni.

April 22nd, 1944

During the night of April 22nd to 23rd, 1944, the Patrols land near the celebrating church of Saint George (the Debt-Free) around Kouloumbos. The two boats take refuge at the Christiana islets. The Patrols start heading for their targets and hide in Mamme’s cave, outside of Vourvoulos. At midnight, Captain Lassen and Lieutenant Kazoulis contact locals and the community president, seeking information related to the occupation guard.

Based on the information, Lassen splits his force to execute three simultaneous strikes. He, Lieutenant Kazoulis, and 12 men will attack the bank, Sergeant Henderson will attempt to assassinate the commander, and Lieutenant Balzili takes on the wireless station at Imerovigli. The attack is scheduled for 00:45 on April 24th, 1944.

April 24th, 1944

The team approaches Fira, guided by local Allies. The main target is the bank. They split into two sub-groups; the first led by Captain Lassen and the second by Lieutenant Kazoulis, aiming for the first to neutralise the guard at the front door and invade the building, and the second to enter through the back door at the right moment.

Despite the alert dogs sensing the teams’ approach, the guard shows no sign of concern. After neutralising him, they throw grenades inside the building and then enter it. The guards retaliate, leading to an exchange of fire, during which Kazoulis and his group enter the building amidst the general confusion and darkness. In the fight that follows Lieutenant Kazoulis and the medical corps’ Sergeant Kingston are fatally wounded, while the Germans suffer twelve dead and eleven wounded.

At around 02:45, Lassen, assessing that all his opponents have been neutralised, signals the withdrawal. Simultaneously, the attack on the wireless station in Ermilou Bellonia’s house in Imerovigli is a complete success, in contrast to the command centre, where the German commander and others realise the raid and escape from the command centre.

At the wireless station building, they surprise and gag the 8 German guards, cut the antenna with the help of patriots from Vourvoulos , and place time bombs throughout the space for the complete destruction of the wireless station. The British caution no one to approach the building. However, civilians and children, hoping to find German supplies, are in Ermilou Bellonia’s house during the explosion. It collapses, killing thirteen of them, with several more injured.

Subsequently, the teams regroup at dawn, with Lassen pleased to hear that the other team has successfully destroyed the telegraph station and captured eight prisoners. As four Junkers 88’s scour the island for them and temporarily hide in “Nikolina’s kamara” outside Fira.

With nightfall, they cross Santorini to meet the Levant Schooner Flotilla boats that were hiding at the Christiana islets, taking with them some of the patriots from Santorini to avoid reprisals. They then sail northeast to Anydros, camouflaging the boats to blend in with the small island and evade another German search.

A few days later, upon returning to base, the unit’s commander, Major David Sutherland, asks Lassen to provide a report. Lassen’s succinct summary, “Landed. Killed Germans. Fucked off.” Sutherland, then delegates the report writing to another raider.

April 26th, 1944

A large number of Germans from the SS battalion arrive on the island, determined to exact retribution. During the follwing days the Germans learn that the British/Greek assault team received help from residents of Vourvoulos.

April 29th, 1944

The Germans surround the village, dozens of mules loaded with gasoline are directed towards it with the intention to burn it down. They gather all the men from 14 years and older and lead them to the Halasi field. The Germans threaten to kill the men and burn the village.

Some of the villagers afraid of their fate start accusing the men from they know who Supported the asault team. Nikitas Halaris, the village president, Dimitris Damigos, the team hid in his mother’s cave, Markos Sigalas, the village guard, Antonis Kafouros and Michalis Drakoutos – have participated in the sabotage, Nikolaos Damigos – is arrested in someone else’s stead, due to a name coincidence.

They men are lined up and are led downhill. They embrace each other on the road. Someone shouts “Long live Greece.” The Germans beat them savagely and line them up against a wall. Dimitris requests one last wish. To see his mother, to receive her blessing for his final journey. The German officer refuses. Shouting for his mother, Dimitris runs down the field. A German soldier runs after him, preventing the others from using their weapons. However, a bullet hits Dimitris in the wrist, wounding him.

Michalis, taking advantage of the confusion, flees uphill towards the village. Hope and the desperation for salvation lend wings to his feet. The Germans, cursing and threatening, set trained dogs to find the two escapees.

Due to a miscalculation, instead of fleeing towards Kouloumbos, Dimitris hides in a half-empty cistern near his village. The Germans find him because the blood running from his hand helps the dogs to discover him.

Without delay, they drag him by his feet and beat him. After which the pierce him with their bayonets him and mutilate his genitals. Forty metres from the cistern the young man dies.

Michalis is also pursued. Aware he is unable escape from the village as it is surrounded, he manages to hide in a thicket of wormwood. The dogs of the Germans come right up to him but do not find him. The strong scent of wormwood prevents the dogs from discovering him.

The Germans return to where the others are, killing them on the spot.


In the operation by the Special Boat Squadron on Santorini, known as Lassen’s Bloodbath due to its intensity, two commandos are killed in action. The operation’s aftermath sees harsh reprisals, with five civilians being executed by the Germans. Additionally, thirteen civilians from Imerovigli lose their lives in the explosion at the radio building.

The operation inflicts significant losses on the German forces. In the assault on the barracks, which housed an estimated thirty-five enemy soldiers, the action led to at least twelve being killed and eleven wounded. However, a subsequent report indicated that the actual number of fatalities might be higher, as the enemy attempted to conceal the true extent of the casualties the following day. The ferocity and impact of this and similar raids prompts German General Kleemann to remind his troops that they are operating in hostile territory. As a direct consequence, he reinforces the Aegean garrisons with an additional 4,000 troops. These forces are effectively immobilised in the region for the remainder of the war, rendering them unavailable for deployment on other fronts.

In recognition of bravery, Lieutenant Kasoulis is posthumously awarded the Greek Cross of Valour in August 1944. Sergeant Frank Kingston is commemorated at the Phaleron War Cemetery near Athens.