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Operation Flounced

Page Created
May 12th, 2023
Last Updated
May 29th, 2023
British Flag
Special Forces
Raiding Support Regiment
Royal Marine Commandos
May 31st, 1944 – June 5th, 1944
Operation Flounced
  • Divert the Germans from their ongoing operation Unternehmen Rösselsprung.
  • Draw German reinforcements to the island and away from the German initiated operation on the mainland.
Operational Area
Operation Flounced

Brač Island, Split-Dalmatia, Independent State of Croatia

Unit Force
  • 26th Dalmatian Division (Dvadesetšesta Dalmatinska Divizija)
  • 2nd Special Service Brigade
    • No. 43 (Royal Marine) Commando
    • Four troops from No. 40 (Royal Marine) Commando
    • Two troops From No. 2 Commando
    • Raiding Support Regiment
    •  Company of the 2nd Highland Light Infantry
    • 111 Field Regiment Royal Artillery
Opposing Forces
  • Jäger-Regiment 738, 118. Jäger-Division

After the failure of Operation Farrier, the British 2nd Special Service Brigade, led by Brigadier T.D.L. Churchill, is actively searching for a suitable target island. At the same time, the headquarters of Marshal Josip Broz Tito’s partisan forces, and specifically the 26th Dalmatian Division, is planning an assault on Brač Island, Split-Dalmatia, in front of the coast of Croatia. A little later, news reaches the Allied forces stationed on Vis Island that the Germans have initiated Unternehmen Rösselsprung. The aim of that operations is to capture Tito, his headquarters staff and the Allied missions supporting him.

To take off the pressure of Tito and divert the German attention, a swift and strategic raid, codenamed Operation Flounced is planned. The raid is to be performed on Brač Island. The objective is to create the impression that the partisans intended to capture and hold the island, as well as establish a foothold on the coastal areas. By doing so they hope that the Germans are encouraged to dispatch forces from the coast to support Unternehmen Rösselsprung. Furthermore, it is anticipated that this manoeuvre might even compel the Germans to deploy reserves from inland regions to defend the coastline.

During that period, Brač Island is occupied by two reinforced battalions belonging to Generalleutnant Josef Kübler’s Jäger-Regiment 738, part of the 118. Jäger-Division. However, one reinforced company from the same division holds the eastern part of Hvar island. The German forces have established their strongest positions in the central area of Brač Island, located southeast of Nerezisc, as well as in the eastern region encompassing Selca and Sumartin. In the Supetra area and on Vidova mountain, smaller German forces are present.

The Plan

The Allied forces participating in Operation Flounced consist of the 26th Dalmatian Division, excluding two battalions from the 3rd Overseas Brigade. They total approximately 1,300 soldiers. The division is transported and supported by a fleet of forty-five vessels. The British No. 43 Commando, reinforced by elements from the British No. 40 Commando and troops from the Raiding Support Regiment equipped with two captured Italian 47-mm anti-tank guns, also form a part of the Allied forces. The assault force is transported and backed by around twenty warships, including two destroyers, as well as landing craft.

The assault force is strategically divided into three separate columns. The first column, known as the Northern Column, is scheduled to conduct its landing operation on the night of May 31st, 144 and June 1st, 1944, along the south coast. It is designed to remain concealed on the island during daylight hours and then, during the night of June 1st, 1944, and June 2nd, 1944, employ a portion of its forces to dismantle the German stronghold located in the Vidova hill area. Simultaneously, the larger contingent of the Northern Column will establish a blockade around Supetar and Nerezisc.

The Western Column, is regarded as the most robust among the three, will also be transported by three groups of ships and initiates its landing operation in the same area as the Northern Column. However, its landing is scheduled for the next night of June 1st, 1944, and June 2nd, 1944. The Western Column’s primary objective is to dismantle the German strongholds in the vicinity of Nerezisc.

The Eastern Column, also is planned to make its landing on the night of June 1st, 1944, and June 2nd, 1944, but in the eastern region of the Island, east of Bol. Subsequently, it will launch an assault on the German strongholds situated in the eastern part of the island.

The coordinated attack of all three columns is scheduled to commence at 06:00 on June 2nd, 1944. As part of the operation, a reconnaissance platoon consisting of twenty partisans and six commandos will be transferred to Solta island during the night of June 1st, 1944, and June 2nd, 1944. Their mission is to monitor any movements of German reinforcements from Solta and report any ship activities observed in Split harbor.

June 1st, 1944

During the night two advanced parties successfully land and take strategical positions. At the break of dawn, British warplanes execute rocket attacks on both the German main position and the one located at Supetar using Hawker Hurricane fighter-bombers. No. 43 Commando initiates an assault on the northernmost points of the main position, specifically Point 542. However, their progress is impeded by a minefield, like the Highland Light Infantry’s experience, the previous night when they attempted to capture a German observation post.

June 2nd, 1944

During the morning, the partisans launch an attack on Points 648 and 622, followed by an afternoon assault on Point 542. Despite another attempt by the Highland Light Infantry, and a partisan company, they are unable to capture the observation post. Requesting support from the Royal Air Force, the combined forces eventually succeed in capturing the position.

Prior to the partisan attacks on Points 648 and 622, air strikes are conducted. However, the combination of mines and wire obstacles pose a significant challenge. Despite the obstacles, the partisans manage to overrun the outposts.

No. 43 (Royal Marine) Commando faced a similar challenge at Point 542, and subsequent partisan attacks during the night prove unsuccessful.

Reinforcements are called in, including four troops from the No. 40 Commando, three hundred partisans, and two 25-pounder howitzers. The troops land during the early hours of the morning.

June 3rd, 1944

During the day the No. 2 Commando Adjutant lands on Brač Island as Liaison Officer to obtain a full picture of the situation for Brigadier H.G.P. Miles, Commanding Force 266. He returns with a request from the Commanding Officer that two troops of No.2 Commando should be sent over as a reserve.

In the eastern part of the island, the partisans achieve considerable success by capturing and eliminating a significant number of German troops. By 12:00, the remaining German forces are trapped in the town of Sumartin.

However, the main German position continues to pose a problem. It is decided that Nos. 40 and 43 (Royal Marine) Commando will launch an attack on Point 422 at dusk, while the partisans will harass Points 542 and 48. The commandos will then support the partisan attacks on those positions. Communication issues arise, with No. 40 (Royal Marine) Commando’s orders indicating that it alone will lead the attacks with partisan support on its flanks.

At 20:30, No. 43 (Royal Marine) Commando initiates its attack with artillery support and successfully breaches the minefield using Bangalore torpedoes. The Commando reaches the top of the hill just before 22:00 but comes under fire from both flanks. They are immediately counterattacked, and due to the lack of radio communications with brigade headquarters and increasing casualties, Lieutenant Colonel Simmonds makes the decision to withdraw.

June 4th, 1944

Nos.1 and 4 Troops of No. 2 Commando under the command of the Adjutant proceed to Brač Island and disembark at 08:00 only to learn that the Commanding Officer of the Force, Lieutenant Colonel J.M.T.F. Churchill and the Commanding Officer of No. 40 (Royal Marine) Commando, Lieutenant Colonel J.C. Manners are both missing. Lieutenant Colonel R.W.B. Simmonds, Officer Commanding No. 43 (Royal Marine) Commando assumes command of the Special Service Brigade,

B Troop of No. 43 (Royal Marine) Commando encounters difficulties due to a suspected minefield, causing their withdrawal to veer far to the left of No. 40 (Royal Marine) Commando. They are later found by No. 40 (Royal Marine) Commando and the men join in their attack, successfully passing through the suspected minefield and reaching the objective. However, heavy enemy fire ensued, and D Troop of No. 43 (Royal Marine) Commando arrives but is overrun by German soldiers, resulting in the capture of thirteen men. Subsequently, the remainder of No. 40 (Royal Marine) Commando and B Troop of No. 43 (Royal Marine) Commando retreat to the start line, where they regroup with the rest of No. 43 (Royal Marine) Commando.

The attack results in ten officers and forty-one other ranks from the commandos being killed or reported missing, with six officers and seventy other ranks wounded. The Highland Light Infantry company suffers sixteen casualties, and the partisans on the flanks had approximately sixty casualties.

Considering the intense German resistance, it is unlikely that the two commandos will be able to eliminate the German garrison. Lieutenant Colonel R.W.B. Simmonds orders the withdrawal of all Allied Forces from Brač Island due to heavy losses.

Consequently, they withdraw, supported by Hurricane warplanes from RAF’s No. 242 Group and the British warships.

No.2 Commando Adjutant Major R.W. Keep obtains permission to remain behind with a party of 1 Officer, Lieutenant M.H. Webb, and 12 volunteers from No.2 Commando in what was to be an unsuccessful attempt to rescue the Commanding Officer. It is later discovered that Lieutenant Colonel (Pops) Manners of No. 40 (Royal Marine) Commando had been mortally wounded, alone on the top of Point 622 with Brigadier T.D.L. Churchill playing his bagpipes in defiance of the German counterattack until he was knocked out. When he regained consciousness, he found himself to be a Prisoner of War.