Operation Tombola

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During World War II, Operation Tombola was a major Special Air Service raid on German rear areas in Italy.

Fifty men parachuted to the Cusna Mountain area (Reggio Emilia) between 4 and 24 March 1945, under command of Major Roy Farran. A number of airdrops provided weapons for the rag-tag force which armed local resistance fighters and linked up with seventy escaped Russians.

They were able to attack German LI Corps headquarters, based at two villas in Botteghe d'Albinea in the hills above Reggio Emilia; in that attack the night of 27 March 1945 the Germans had 60 casualties (killed and wounded), while the SAS and partisans had three killed in action and about seven wounded. The attack was done on the sound of a bagpipe. Operation Tombola continued and the raid included the cutting of roads and shelling of a number of installations. Just as important as the 300 or so Germans killed and 200 captured was the number of defenders taken from other duties to secure the rear area. A number of Allied airmen, who were being hidden by civilians in the area, were also returned to friendly lines.

A book written in Italian "Il bracciale di sterline" by Matteo Incerti & Valentina Ruozi (Aliberti April 2011) details the operation.

The commander of the operation, Roy Farran, published his account in the book "Operation Tombola" (Special Forces Library, Arms and Armour Press, 1986). The BBC series "Secret War" narrated by Alisdair Simpson (Acorn Media) focuses on the exploits of Roy Farran and Michael Lees in the episode "SAS Italian Job".

See also the separate entry on Operation Tombola, detailed in the article on Major Roy Farran, available on Wikipedia.