Operation Anglo

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Operation Anglo
Part of the Mediterranean, Middle East and African theatres of World War II
GR Rhodes.PNG
Map of Greece, the Greek Islands and Turkey
Rhodes is highlighted in red
Date 31 August–18 September 1942
Location Rhodes
Result British victory
 United Kingdom Nazi Germany Nazi Germany
Italy Fascist Italy
Commanders and leaders
United Kingdom Captain Allott
8 British Commandos
4 Greeks
30,000 garrison
Casualties and losses
10 captured At least 33 aircraft destroyed and some fuel supplies

Operation Anglo was a British Commando raid on the occupied island of Rhodes during the Second World War. The raid was carried out by eight men of the Special Boat Section (SBS) assisted by four Greeks.

In September 1942 their mission was to attack two airfields on the island of Rhodes. The German and Italian bombers based there were being used to attack Royal Navy convoys. After their attack, the raiding force were to return to their landing beach to be picked up by submarine. Only two surviving SBS men made it to the beach after hiding in the countryside for four days.

After the Rhodes raid the depleted SBS was absorbed into the Special Air Service, due to the casualties they had suffered. In 1954 the events of the raid were portrayed in the movie They Who Dare.


The Special Boat Section was founded in July 1940 by a Commando officer, Roger Courtney. Courtney became a commando recruit in mid-1940, and was sent to the Combined Training Centre in Scotland. He was unsuccessful in his initial attempts to convince Admiral of the Fleet Sir Roger Keyes and later Admiral Theodore Hallett, commander of the Combined Training Centre, that his idea of a folding kayak brigade would be effective. He decided to infiltrate the HMS Glengyle, a Landing Ship, Infantry anchored in the River Clyde. Courtney paddled to the ship, climbed aboard undetected, wrote his initials on the door to the captain's cabin, and stole a deck gun cover. He presented the soaking cover to a group of high ranking Royal Navy officers meeting at a nearby Inveraray hotel. He was promoted to captain, and given command of twelve men, the first Special Boat Service/Special Boat Section.[1]

It was initially named the Folboat Troop, after the type of folding canoe employed in raiding operations, and then renamed No1 Special Boat Section in early 1941.[2] Attached to Layforce they moved to the Middle East,[3] they later worked with the 1st Submarine Flotilla based at Alexandria and carried out beach reconnaissance of Rhodes, evacuated troops left behind on Crete and a number of small-scale raids and other operations.[2] In December 1941 Courtney returned to the United Kingdom where he formed No2 SBS,[2] and No1 SBS became attached to the Special Air Service (SAS) as the Folboat Section.[4] In June 1942 they took part in the Crete airfield raids. In September 1942 they carried out Operation Anglo, a raid on two airfields on the island of Rhodes.[5]

Rhodes is the largest of the Greek islands in the Dodecanese, approximately 10 miles (16 km) from Turkey. It consisted of 137 miles (220 km) of coastline, with a mountainous interior. The largest mountain Mount Ataviros rising to 3,986 feet (1,215 m).[6] The island was controlled by the Ottoman Empire until after the First World War, when it came under Italian control as part of the treaty of Lausanne.[7]


The No. 1 Special Boat Section raiding force consisted of eight British Commandos, two Greek guides and two interpreters. The commander of the raid was Captain James Allott with Lieutenant David Sutherland as the second in command. The rest of the raiding group were Sergeant Moss, Corporal McKenzie, Private Blake, Marines Barrow, Harris and Duggan. The Greeks were Sub Lieutenant Calambokidis and three unknown men.

The eight men with two Greek interpreters and two guides Pavlos Moustakellis and Antonios Moustakellis, left Beirut in two submarines HMS Traveller and the Greek submarine Papanikolis.[8][9] Their objective were two airfields on the island of Rhodes at Kalathos and Maritsa. They reached Rhodes on 31 August 1942. The raiders were landed by using a folding boat and three inflatable floats to reach the shore on the east coast of Rhodes near Cape Feralco. After hiding their boats in some nearby caves they rested for the first day before splitting into two groups. One group, under command of Lieutenant Sutherland, would head for Calatos which was a distance of 8 miles (13 km) from the beach. The second group, under command of Captain Allott, would make for Maritsa which was 15 miles (24 km) from the beach.[9] Having no radio to contact the Navy or their headquarters they had agreed to return to the beach on the night of 17/18 September to be picked up.[9]

The group under Captain Allott penetrated their airfield and managed to plant their explosives. The following day they estimated from the damage they could see on the airfield, that at least 20 aircraft had been destroyed.[10]

Sutherland's group reached their airfield at Calatos over the night of 11/12 September 1942. Selecting a point which overlooked the airfield, they settled in to identify targets and observe the airfield for the next day.[9] The following day, Sutherland's group divided into two smaller groups and started their attack. Sutherland and Marine John Duggan were in one group and Sub Lieutenant Calambokidis with two Royal Marines comprised the other group. Each group would take a different side of the airfield and place explosive charges on all the aircraft they could find. Moving onto the airfield in torrential rain, Sutherland and Duggan placed their charges on at least 13 aircraft and around a fuel dump and at one point were seen by a sentry. All five men managed to get away from the airfield but only Sutherland and Duggan reached the agreed rendezvous point. The other group under command of Calambokidis had been discovered on route, Sutherland and Duggan even heard some gunshots coming from their direction.[9]

The following day, September 17, 1942, Sutherland and Duggan made for the rendezvous near the beach where they had landed, where they expected to meet the group under Captain Allott and the missing men from their own group. No one else made it to the rendezvous but an Italian patrol ship did land a party of soldiers who found their hidden boats.[9]

Leaving a message at the rendezvous for anyone who arrived later about what had happened to their boats, the two men headed for the beach. Using a torch to signal to the waiting submarine, The signal "swimming-come in" was seen by Commander Michael St John of the HMS Traveller. He was surprised to see the recognition signal coming from the shore and replied by using his periscope to signal back then started inshore to pick up the raiders.[8][9] Captain St John manoeuvred his boat towards the shore expecting the men to return in their boats, hearing the men shouting in the darkness they retrieved the two swimmers. The submarine was then forced to crash dive to avoid a patrol boat that was speeding in their direction. The submarine escaped the following depth charge attack and made it to safety.[8]


All other members of the SBS had been captured and became prisoners of war. The two Greek guides, who had already escaped from Rhodes earlier in the war, were put on trial accused of treason. Both were found guilty and one was executed and the other was imprisoned.[8] The two survivors of Operation Anglo, Lieutenant David Sutherland and Marine John Duggan, were awarded the Military Cross and Military Medal respectively for their parts in the raid.[11][12]

After the Rhodes raid what remained of the SBS was absorbed into the SAS due to the casualties they had suffered.[5] The submarine HMS Traveller was lost with all hands two months after the operation, Captain St John was not on board at the time and survived the war.[8]

In 1954 the events of the raid were portrayed in the movie They Who Dare, starring Dirk Bogarde and Harold Siddons.[8]


  1. ^ Breuer, pp.46–47
  2. ^ a b c Richards, p.240
  3. ^ Chappell, p.15
  4. ^ Molinari, p.25
  5. ^ a b Haskew, p.54
  6. ^ Davis, p.6
  7. ^ Davis, p.15
  8. ^ a b c d e f "Obituary, Commander Michael St John". London: The Daily Telegraph. 22 March 2009. Retrieved 11 July 2010. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Naughton, Philippe; Costello, Miles (16 March 2006). "Obituary, David Sutherland". London: The Times. Retrieved 11 July 2010. 
  10. ^ Vick, p.55
  11. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 35799. p. 5142. 24 November 1942. Retrieved 12 July 2010.
  12. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 35870. p. 396. 15 January 1943. Retrieved 12 July 2010.
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