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 a.k.a. Snowdrop), Jalo oasis (Operation Nicety a.k.a. Tulip) and Barce (Operation Caravan a.k.a. Hyacinth).[a] Attacking without air cover, the Tobruk raid was a disaster. The British force lost several hundred killed and captured, 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) assaulted Barce, airfield and the main barracks, destroying 16 aircraft and damaging seven more. The Special Air Service (Lieutenant Colonel David Stirling), supported by S1 and S2 patrols of the LRDG, were to attempt a large-scale raid on Benghazi but 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 ordered a withdrawal. The attack on Jalo oasis was carried out by the Sudan Defence Force and 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 reinforced. The attackers withdrew on 19 September, as an Italian relief column approached the oasis.
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 them on the wrong beach far to the west of the intended one. Another landing by motor launches and boats, partially failed to reach the planned landing point. Only two Motor Torpedo Boats (MTB) entered a small cove, to land members of the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers but one was hit and became stranded in the shallow water.
Allied strength for Operation Agreement involved an amphibious force of about 400 Royal Marines, 180 Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, army engineers and about 150 SAS approaching 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 and about 300 British were killed. The Royal Marines suffered 81 killed and Royal Navy destroyers Sikh and Zulu and cruiser Coventry, reported the loss of another 217 men. About 576 British survivors were captured. Axis losses were 15 Italians and 1 German killed and 43 Italians and 7 Germans wounded.
The British destroyer Sikh, according to the survivors, 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, which eventually sank; 115 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 dive bombers from Crete, in which 63 crew were killed, leading to her being scuttled by Zulu. Zulu was hit by Italian fighter-bombers a little later and needed assistance. While under tow and 100 nautical miles (120 mi) from Alexandria Zulu sank with the loss of 39 crew.
- North African Campaign timeline
- Battle of the Mediterranean
- List of World War II Battles
- British Commandos
- 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 secret and which came into general use.
- Desert Raiders: Axis and Allied Special Forces, 1940-43, Andrea Molinari, p. 71, Osprey Publishing, 2007
- Molinari & Anderson (2007), p. 71
- 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, pp. 122, 144. ISBN 0-8117-3474-9
- OPERATION “AGREEMENT”
- HMS Sikh uboat.net
- HMS Zulu uboat.net
- HMS Coventry uboat.net
- O'Carroll 2005, pp. 25–26
- 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.