Operation Agreement comprised a series of ground and amphibious operations carried out by British, Rhodesian and New Zealand forces on German and Italian-held Tobruk from 13–14 September 1942, during the Second World War. The 3rd Battalion of the 'San Marco' Regiment (Italian marines), which became known as the "Tobruk battalion" after this battle, was the main defender of the harbour. A Special Interrogation Group party, fluent in German, took part in missions behind enemy lines. Supporting attacks extended to Benghazi (Operation Bigamy [Snowdrop]), Jalo oasis (Operation Nicety [Tulip]) and Barce (Operation Caravan [Hyacinth]). (Daffodil, Snowdrop, Tulip and Hyacinth were fictitious code names, made up by the author of a book published in 1945, when the official names of the operations were still secret, which came into general use.) Attacking without air cover, the Tobruk raid was a disaster. The British lost several hundred soldier and marine casualties, three warships, seven motor torpedo boats and dozens of small amphibious craft.
The objective of Operation Agreement was to undermine the Axis war effort in North Africa by destroying airfields, harbour facilities, ships, vehicles and large oil stores. The Allies also intended to capture Jalo oasis, which was to be used as a gathering point for the retreating ground forces involved in the other operations.
G1 and T1 patrols of the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) successfully assaulted Barce and its airfield, destroying 16 aircraft and damaging seven more. The main barracks there were also attacked.
The SAS—led by Lieutenant Colonel David Stirling and supported by S1 and S2 patrols of the LRDG—were to attempt a large-scale raid on Benghazi. However, after running behind the planned timetable, their presence was discovered after a clash at a roadblock as dawn broke. With the element of surprise lost and the protection of darkness receding, Stirling decided not to go ahead with the attack and ordered a withdrawal.
The assault to take Jalo oasis was carried out by the Sudan Defence Force along with S1 and S2 patrols of the LRDG. The first attack on the night of 15/16 September, was easily repelled by the defenders who had been alerted to the operation and had been strengthened. The attackers withdrew on 19 September, as an Italian reinforcing column approached the oasis.
The main attack on Tobruk suffered from poor planning and coordination. First, British Commandos from the submarine HMS Taku failed to set up beacons on the shore to guide the main British force due to bad sea conditions. The expected garrison had been strengthened and British destroyers bringing in the seaborne troops landed their troops on a beach far to the west of the intended one. Another seaborne landing—comprising motor launches and boats—partially failed to reach the planned landing point. Only two Motor Torpedo Boats (MTB)s entered a small cove to land members of the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, but one of them was hit and became stranded in the shallow water.
Allied strength for Operation Agreement involved an amphibious seaborne force of about 400 Royal Marines, 180 Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, Army Engineers and about 150 SAS coming from the desert. Losses amounted to about 300 Royal Marines, 160 Army, 280 Royal Navy, one light cruiser (HMS Coventry), two destroyers (HMS Sikh and Zulu), two Motor Launches, four MTBs and several small craft. MTB 314, a boat which was damaged and ran aground during the battle, was captured by the German harbour minesweeper R-10 at dawn with 117 seamen and soldiers on board. Dozens of British seamen and marines were rescued from the sea by the Italian torpedo boat Castore, a flotilla of German harbour minesweepers and several Italian motor barges, which also seized a couple of makeshift amphibious craft attempting to reach Alexandria at very low speed. About 300 British were killed. The Royal Marines suffered 81 killed, and Royal Navy destroyers Sikh and Zulu and cruiser Coventry, report the loss of another 217 of their men. Axis losses were 15 Italians and 1 German killed and 43 Italians and 7 Germans wounded. About 576 British survivors were captured.
The British destroyer Sikh, according to the surivors, had been hit by Italian 155 mm (6 inch) shore batteries while taking on troops. Zulu had gone to rescue the ship and crew but was unable to pull Sikh clear. Sikh finally sank. One-hundred-and-fifteen of her crew were reported killed and the survivors were taken prisoner. On the afternoon of 14 September while returning to Alexandria Coventry was badly damaged by German divebombers from Crete leading to her being scuttled by Zulu. Sixty-three of her crew had been lost in the raid. Zulu was herself hit by Italian fighter-bombers a little later that day and needed assistance. While under tow and 100 miles from Alexandria Zulu sank. Thirty-nine of her crew had perished.
- North African Campaign timeline
- Battle of the Mediterranean
- List of World War II Battles
- British Commandos
- Desert Raiders: Axis and Allied Special Forces, 1940-43, Andrea Molinari, p. 71, Osprey Publishing, 2007
- Molinari & Anderson (2007), p. 71
- O'Carroll 2005, pp. 25–26
- Smith, pp. 22-23
- Molinari & Anderson (2007), p. 70
- O'Carroll 2005, p. 62
- Molinari & Anderson (2007), p. 72
- Smith, pp. 90-95
- Smith, pp. 106-111
- Rohwer 2005 p. 196
- Smith, Peter C. (2008). Massacre at Tobruk. Stackpole Books, p. 122 and 144. ISBN 0-8117-3474-9
- OPERATION “AGREEMENT”
- TWO DESTROYERS LOST
- Tobruk Raid Was Washout
- HMS Sikh uboat.net
- HMS Zulu uboat.net
- HMS Coventry uboat.net
- Landsborough, Gordon (1989). Tobruk Commando: The Raid to Destroy Rommel's Base. London: Presidio Press. ISBN 1-85367-025-1.
- Molinari, Andrea; Anderson, Duncan (2007). Desert Raiders: Axis and Allied Special Forces 1940–43. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. pp. 68–73. ISBN 1-84603-006-4.
- O'Carroll, Brendan (2004). The Barce Raid. Wellington, New Zealand: Ngaio Press. ISBN 0-9582243-8-2
- Rohwer, Jürgen (2005).Chronology of the war at sea 1939–1945: the naval history of World War Two. Chatham. ISBN 1-86176-257-7
- Smith, Peter Charles (1987). Massacre at Tobruk: The Story of Operation Agreement. London: Kimber. ISBN 0-7183-0664-3.