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May 1944

Special Forces Operations in May 1944

May 22nd, 1944 – May 24th, 1944
Operation Farrier
Long Range Desert Group, Commandos, Royal Marine Commandos
1,000 men from the 2nd Special Service Brigade under command of Brigadier T.D.L. Churchill. Their mission was to capture the garrison of Mljet Island, Independent State of Croatia.

On May 22nd, nearly 1,000 commandos land on the south coast of Mljet and attempt to encircle the German positions at Babino polje. However, they discover that the Germans are nowhere to be found. It remains uncertain if the Germans withdrew or if the commandos became disoriented in Mljet’s dense forests, ending up in a different location. No combat takes place, but the commandos face sporadic mortar fire from unidentified German positions.

On May 23rd, the commandos continue their search for the German forces but are unable to locate them. They face intermittent mortar fire without being able to pinpoint the exact positions.

By May 24th, after a night of challenging marching, the tired commandos return to Vis Island. Unfortunately, nine commandos are reported missing. A small group later revisits Mljet to search for them, finding three who had joined forces with local partisans. One of the missing commandos is discovered to have been killed, while the fate of the remaining six remains unknown.

May 25th, 1944 – June 6th, 1944
Unternehmen Rösselsprung
Fallschirmjäger, Sonderverband z.b.V. Friedenthal, SS-Fallschirmjäger-Bataillon 500
Unternehmen Rösselsprung, was a military operation planned and executed by Nazi Germany. The mission of the operation was capturing or killing the Yugoslav Partisan leader, Josip Broz Tito, as well as disrupting the Partisan forces in Drvar, Bosnia.

The operation involved a massive airborne assault, with SS-Fallschirmjäger being dropped behind enemy lines to seize key strategic points and secure the area for the subsequent ground forces.

However, the operation failed due to a combination of factors, including poor planning, intelligence leaks, and effective resistance by the Partisan forces. The failure of Unternehmen Rösselsprung represented a significant setback for the German war effort in Yugoslavia and highlighted the resilience of the Partisan forces.

May 31st, 1944 – June 5th, 1944
Operation Flounced
Commandos, Raiding Support Regiment, Royal Marine Commandos
Troops from the 2nd Special Service Brigade under command of Brigadier T.D.L. Churchill. Their mission is to divert the German attention away from Unternehmen Rösselsprung. The raid took place on Brač Island, Split-Dalmatia, Independent State of Croatia.

On June 1st, 1944, two advanced parties successfully landed and secured strategic positions. British warplanes conducted rocket attacks on German positions using Hawker Hurricane fighter-bombers. No. 43 Commando launched an assault on Point 542 but faced obstacles like minefields. The Highland Light Infantry had a similar experience the previous night when attempting to capture a German observation post.

On June 2nd, the partisans attacked Points 648 and 622 while requesting air support. Despite challenges posed by mines and wire obstacles, the partisans managed to overrun the outposts. No. 43 Commando faced difficulties at Point 542, but reinforcements including troops from No. 40 Commando and partisans arrived.

June 3rd saw the No. 2 Commando Adjutant landing on Brač Island to assess the situation. The partisans achieved success in the eastern part of the island, trapping remaining German forces in Sumartin. No. 40 and No. 43 Commando planned an attack on Point 422 while supporting partisan attacks on other positions. Communication issues arose, but No. 43 Commando breached the minefield and reached the top of the hill before being counterattacked and forced to withdraw.
On June 4th, No. 2 Commando troops arrived on Brač Island but discovered that their commanding officers were missing. Lieutenant Colonel R.W.B. Simmonds assumed command. B Troop of No. 43 Commando encountered difficulties with a suspected minefield but later joined No. 40 Commando’s attack. Heavy enemy fire led to the capture of some troops. The attack resulted in casualties among the commandos, the Highland Light Infantry, and the partisans.
Due to intense German resistance, Lieutenant Colonel R.W.B. Simmonds ordered the withdrawal of all Allied forces from Brač Island. The withdrawal was supported by RAF warplanes and British warships. No. 2 Commando Adjutant Major R.W. Keep remained behind with a small group in an unsuccessful attempt to rescue the Commanding Officer. It was later discovered that Lieutenant Colonel Manners of No. 40 Commando had been mortally wounded and captured, while Brigadier T.D.L. Churchill was also captured after playing his bagpipes in defiance of the German counterattack.