Dalla Grecia all’Italia: Special Boat Squadron/Service (SBS)

O.S.S. “Ginny Mission”

Lieutenant Colonel Robert "Paddy" Blair Mayne

DSO (3 Bars) Legion D'Honneur & Croix De Guerre, Mayne was born at Mountpleasant on the 11th January 1915 in the small town of Newtownards, Northern Ireland. He was the second youngest child in a family of seven, four boys and three girls. Education for the young Blair took place at three schools, Miss Brown's kindergarden, The Ards Academy and Regent House. It was while at Regent House that his prowess and skill at the game of rugby started to develop and even though he was only sixteen he was also playing for his local club side Ards RFC. He continued playing rugby and also took part in the sport of boxing at which he went on to become the Irish universities heavyweight champion. But it was rugby that was really his main passion and he gained many representative honours for his province, Ulster and six international caps for his country Ireland. Perhaps his greatest sporting honour was to be selected to play in South Africa as a member of The British Lions Touring Party of 1938.War: After initally joining his local unit Blair transferred to various other units, The Royal Ulster Rifles and The Cameronians before seeing his first action with The 11th (Scottish) Commando. This was at the Litani river (Sud Libano) as part of Layforce where he was mentioned in dispatches. David Stirling recruited him next and he became one of the founder members of Sas. This small unit went from strength to strength and Blair Mayne played a very large part in it's success being personally credited with the destruction of over 100 aeroplanes and sometimes carrying out 16 raids per week.After Stirling was captured Mayne assumed command of the 1st SAS which was then to be known as The Special Raiding Squadron (SRS). Under his sole leadership they fought some very hard and dangerous missions on the island of Sicily and also mainland Italy, Capo Murro Di Porco ?, Syracuse, Augusta, Bagnara and Termoli and Mayne as always led from the front and was in the thick of the fighting. At the young age of 40 he met his death in a car crash just a few hundred yards from his home on December 1955.

  …… After Courtney's departure his original SB Section continued its raids, especially against German airfields on Sicily and Crete. However it came increasingly under the influence of David Stirling and what was then referred to as L Detachment, SAS Brigade. Following heavy casualties, such as the Rhodes raid (13/9/1943) when only two of the ten-man team returned, it was absorbed into the newly-formed 1st SAS Regiment in September 1942. A small party under Tommy Langton had gone on the Tobruk raid that month; this is often but erroneously credited as an SAS operation. In fact most of the troops in the land force were from No.1 Special Service Regiment, the last remnants of the Middle East Commandos. In any event Operation Daffodil was a complete disaster, with almost all the men who drove into Tobruk or landed from the sea being killed or captured. Langton and three others who spent two months wandering the desert were the only ones to escape. Most of the SBS ended up in D Squadron of 1SAS, together with a troop from the Greek Sacred Squadron. Following Lieutenant Colonel Stirling's capture in Tunisia in January 1943, the regiment was split into two elements:the Special Raiding Squadron (SRS) under Major Paddy Mayne and the Special Boat Squadron (SBS) under Major Lord George Jellicoe. The SRS fought in Sicily and Italy and later in the UK was expanded as the new 1SAS. The SBS meanwhile began training at Athlit, south of Haifa in Palestine. It had an initial strength of about 230, divided into three operational detachments and a base group. Each detachment, known as L, M and S after their original commanders, Captains Tommy Langton, Fitzroy Maclean and David Sutherland, had an establishment of six fighting patrols( one officer and twelve other ranks each) and a smaller HQ patrol. The SBS retained the SAS beret and wings- it did not change to the maroon Airborne Forces beret as the UK based SAS were forced to in 1944, staying with beige. The SBS first operated in the Aegean in September 1943, when men from M and S Detachments had the task of securing Simi (Samo). This was one of the Italian-held Dodecanese islands which the British were attempting to bring under their control, with the ultimate aim of opening a new front in the Balkans. While small units moved onto some of the islands, Jellicoe parachuted onto Rhodes to try and convince the Italian commander not give in to the Germans stationed there. He failed, and soon the British-held islands were under attack, weakly-defended Cos being the first to fall. The first landing attempt on Simi in October was fought off by Major Jock Lapraik and his men together with the Italian garrison , with Lassen intimidating those of his new allies who weren't too keen on fighting. Simi was soon facing heavy air attacks and had to be abandoned. The only large British formation was an infantry brigade on Leros, and with Cos had gone the only airfield. Jellicoe and several patrols were present when the Germans assaulted Leros in November, their job being to attack paratroopers as they landed. However the fall of the island was inevitable, but unlike most of the garrison almost all of the SBS escaped to Turkey and were sent back to Palestine. Raiding Forces Middle East was established in October 1943 and the SBS was the major element of this formation. Other units included the Greek Sacred Squadron, the LRDG (Long Range Desert Group), now operating in the long range reconnaissance patrol role, and the Raiding Support Regiment, which provided the heavy firepower needed for larger raids. Jellicoe's men were soon back in the Aegean, coming out of the night to shoot up German garrisons, demolish installations and generally raise havoc.

medals and awards
1939-45 Star, Africa Star & 8th Army Bar, Italy Star, France & Germany Star, Defence Medal, War Medal & Oak Leaf,
Legion D'Honneur and Croix De Guerre with Palm.
Mentioned in Despatches .... 20/2/42 - 11(Scottish) Commando.
D.S.O. ... Middle East .... 20/2/42 Rank Lieutenant
1st Bar - Sicily .... 21/10/43 Rank Captain / Temporary Major
2nd Bar - Normandy .. 29/3/45 Rank Major / Temporary Lt. Colonel
3rd Bar - North West Europe ... 11/10/45 Rank Lt Colonel
Only seven other men were to be awarded three bars to the D.S.O


  In fact Raiding Forces carried out 381 operations on 70 different islands. The SBS detachments operated in rotation from a secret base, a large schooner anchored on the Turkish coast. Transport to and from targets was sometimes by Royal Navy Motor Launch, but more often by the caiques( local fishing boats) of the Levant Schooner Flotilla, crewed by the Navy and local volunteers.Lassen had been wounded on Simi but he and his "Irish" patrol were back in action, serving with both M and S Detachments, although officially part of the latter. He was often armed only with a Luger and a Commando fighting knife, and always led from the very front. Most raiders preferred heavier armament, Thompson guns, captured MP40s( " Schmeissers"), M1 carbines, Bren guns and .45 Colt automatics being popular, as well as the Italian mini-grenades known as "Red Devils". Landing was by canoe, Goatley boat and seven-man inflatables ("Jellicoe Intruders"), or sometimes directly from caiques. By now there was a standard course for new recruits, many of them soldiers bored with garrison duty or Marines tired of manning warship guns which were never fired. Training in weapons, boating, swimming, high-speed marching and unarmed combat was done at Athlit, followed by a parachute course at Ramat David and ski training in Lebanon. All detachments had Greeks attached on their two-month operational tours, both officers and interpreters/guides. The Aegean raids kept six German divisions in the islands who could have been fighting elsewhere. The biggest raid, and the finale for the SBS in Raiding Forces, was on Simi in July 1944. The whole garrison, 180 strong, was killed or captured by the 200 raiders, who left a troop of the Greek Sacred Regiment in its place. The SB Squadron was now transferred to Italy for raids on the Adriatic coasts of Yugoslavia and Albania, its place being taken by the expanded Greek raiding force. The LRDG and most of the RSR had left for Italy earlier. The Adriatic raids were generally not as successful, facing tougher defences and often uncooperative local guerillas. In October 1944 the Germans were in the process of evacuating southern Greece and L Detachment was parachuted onto the airfield at Araxos as the leading part of a task force commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Jellicoe. This was 450 strong, with an LRDG squadron, two infantry companies and a few RM (Royal marines) Commandos, known as Bucketforce and had the mission of clearing the Peloponnese.

George Jellicoe, 2nd Earl Jellicoe

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
George Patrick John Rushworth Jellicoe, 2nd Earl Jellicoe, 2nd Viscount Jellicoe, of Scarpa, 2nd Viscount Brocas, of Southampton, and Baron Jellicoe, of Southampton, KBE, DSO, MC, PC, FRS (born April 4, 1918), is the longest serving member of the House of Lords having succeeded his father, the First World War naval commander Lord Jellicoe, in 1935 and come of age and taken his seat in 1939(still live). During the Second World War he served with and then commanded the Special Boat Section (SBS) and was among the first Allied soldiers to enter German-occupied Athens (12 ottobre 1944).


  This they soon did, but were unable to cut off the German retreat from Athens. After liberating Athens Jellicoe formed an expanded task force( Pompforce), with L Det, 4th Parachute Battalion, RAF Regiment armoured cars and engineers and artillery. With these 950 men he was soon as far north as the Albanian border, forcing the Germans to retreat further than they had wanted, and had made contact with Sutherland, who was operating in that area. In the meantime Lassen and M Detachment had been island-hopping in the Sporadhes, but had decided to liberate Salonika. They commandeered four fire engines as transport and chased the last Germans out the city. For the remainder of their time in Greece the SBS were caught up in the fighting between the Royalist and Communist Greek factions. Near the end of the year Jellicoe was sent off to Staff College and Lieutenant Colonel David Sutherland took over command; he was one of the few who had served under Courtney still remaining. The SB Squadron now became the Special Boat Service and the detachments were renamed squadrons. L Squadron rejoined S in Land Forces Adriatic, where the SBS operated from a semi-permanent base at Zara on the Yugoslav coast, which they shared with the patrols of the LRDG. M went to Crete to assist the guerillas now besieging the Germans in a few enclaves. (Allied sea and air raiding meant that the enemy on Crete and other islands could not even leave.) In early April 1945 the 2nd Commando Brigade was fighting in the area around Lake Commachio (valli di Comacchio) in northern Italy. Andy Lassen and the sixty men of M Squadron were under command, initially patrolling the lake. The main Commando assault was launched from the south-east corner of the lake on the night of 8/9 April, with SBS men guiding in the assault boats through the few deep channels in the shallow water. Lassen himself took a seventeen-man patrol on a diversionary raid 2 miles(3km) to the north of the main landings. They came under heavy fire from well dug-in machine guns, immediately killing one man and wounding several others. Lassen went forward and knocked out one of the MGs with grenades; then he destroyed a second, and other men joined him in attacking a third. He was mortally wounded by fire from a fourth gun after its crew pretended to surrender; they did not survive long. The thirteen survivors of the patrol managed to escape back to their boats. Major Anders Lassen, age 24 and already the holder of the Military Cross and two Bars, was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. This was the last operation of the SBS Special Boat Squadron Service in the war. The end of the war with Japan found its members preparing to go the Far East. The service was disbanded soon afterward.




  O.S.S. Office of Strategic (or Secret) Services “Ginny Mission"

L'ordine di fucilazione per i 15 era venuto la mattina del 25 marzo dal generale Anton Dostler (a destra) capo del 75esimo C.d.A. tedesco. Gli ufficiali che avevano interrogato i prigionieri e il comandante della 135esima brigata, Colonnello Almers, chiesero che non si procedesse alla fucilazione, ma nel pomeriggio del 25 Dostler ordinò che venissero fucilati entro le ore 7 del giorno 26. Altri ufficiali tentarono di sospendere o posporre l'esecuzione ma non ci fu niente da fare. La decisione di fucilarli era contraria alla Convenzione di Ginevra essendo i commandos stati catturati in divisa. Anton Dostler sottoposto a processo nell'ottobre del 1945 si difese dicendo che aveva obbedito all'ordine di Hitler del 18 ottobre 1942 di fucilare tutti i commando catturati senza sottoporli a nessun processo. Egli disse che se si fosse comportato diversamente sarebbe stato sottoposto a giudizio dalla corte marziale tedesca.

Dostler fu fucilato ad Aversa il 1° dicembre 1945.

  The first OSS Operational Group (OG) unit dedicated to missions behind the lines in Italy was ready in the Spring of 1943. However, the OSS OGs played only a marginal role in the landings at Sicily and Salerno. They demonstrated their value for the first time during the landing at Anzio in January 1944 when they provided intelligence to the Allied Command about the German counterattack which gave the Allies time to organize and to resist on the beach-head. OSS support activities in Italy at that time proved important because until June 1944 the Italian front was the only one where OSS agents could actually operate behind the enemy lines. Dostler poco prima dell'esecuzioneOne of the OSS’ most important tasks was to cut vital German supply lines that reinforced the Gustav and later the Gothic Line. Because the railway that constituted the main German supply line was riddled with tunnels that ran through the mountainous coast between Genova and Livorno, Army Air Force bombings were not an effective way to disrupt the lines. Therefore, one of the OSS missions was to blow a tunnel, 15 miles northwest of La Spezia harbor, effectively cutting the important railway line which ran from north to south along the western shore. This was the objective of the ill-fated “Ginny Mission". This “Mission” was one of the first to use an entire OG unit of 15 agents. After an initial aborted attempt, a second unit left Bastia (Corsica) on March 22 and landed with rubber boats. Shortly after landing, all members of the unit were captured by an enemy patrol. Although they were all properly dressed in US Army uniform and should have been considered and treated as prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention, the entire unit was secretly executed by the Nazis a few days following their capture.
Wehrmacht General Anton Dostler, in charge of the Italian Territory and who ordered the execution of the 15 agents, was later tried in Rome as a “war criminal” after Germany’s surrender and sentenced to death in December of 1945. His case created the legal precedent for the Nuremberg trials. In 1944, the OSS started supporting the Resistance with money, arms, and other materials via air drops in the center and northern parts of Italy. The OSS also sent agents to participate in special missions with the partisans and 4,280 Allied air operations were carried out behind the lines during the course of the war.

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