Operation Basalt

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Coordinates: 49°25′48″N 2°21′54″W / 49.430°N 2.365°W / 49.430; -2.365

Operation Basalt
Part of World War II
Musée dé l'Otchupâtion, Sèr.jpg
Sark Occupation and Heritage Museum
Date 3–4 October 1942
Location Sark
Result British victory
 United Kingdom Nazi Germany Germany
12 20
Casualties and losses
None three killed, one captured

Operation Basalt was a small British raid conducted during World War II on the German occupied British Channel Island of Sark.[1]

On the night of 3–4 October 1942 twelve men of the Special Operations Executive's Small Scale Raiding Force, and No. 12 Commando, landed on Sark with the object of offensive reconnaissance and capturing prisoners.

Several of the raiders broke into the house of a local. The occupant of the house, Frances Pittard, proved very informative and advised there were about 20 Germans in the nearby Dixcart Hotel. She also declined an offer to take her to England.

In front of the hotel was a long hut-type building, apparently unguarded. This annexe comprised a corridor and five rooms wherein were five sleeping Germans, none found to be officers. The men were roused and taken outside whereafter the Commandos decided to go on to the hotel and capture more of the enemy. To minimise the guard left with the captives, the Commandos tied the prisoners' hands with the six-foot toggle ropes each carried, and required them to hold up their trousers. The practice of removing belts and/or braces and tearing open the fly was quite a common technique the Commandos used to make it as difficult as possible for captives to run away.

While this was being undertaken, one prisoner started shouting to alert those in the hotel and was instantly shot dead with a .38 revolver. The enemy now alerted, incoming fire from the hotel became considerable and the raiders elected to return to the beach with the remaining four prisoners. En route, three prisoners made a break. Whether or not some had freed their hands during the firefight is not established nor if all three broke at the same time. Two were believed shot and one stabbed. The fourth was conveyed safely to England and provided information.

A few days later, the Germans issued a communiqué implying at least one prisoner had escaped and two were shot while resisting having their hands tied. It is believed that this contributed to Hitler's decision to issue his Commando Order instructing all captured Commandos or Commando-type personnel be executed as a matter of procedure.

Names of some of the soldiers on the raid:

  • Major Geoffrey Appleyard
  • Captain Philip Pinckney (later of 2nd SAS - see also Operation Speedwell)
  • Lieut. Anders Lassen (later Major, VC, MC — see also Operation Roast)
  • Patrick Dudgeon
  • Colin Ogden Smith
  • Bruce Ogden Smith
  • Graham Young
  • James Edgar
  • Sergeant Horace 'Brummie' Stokes (later of 2nd SAS - see also Operation Speedwell)
  • Corporal Flint
  • Sergeant Joseph "Tim" Robinson (later of 2nd SAS - see also Operation Speedwell)
  • Private Redborn [2]

David Niven, who participated in Channel raids, states in his autobiography The Moon's a Balloon that the commandos who landed on Sark were taken to the local pub by the locals for a drink. However, Niven also erroneously stated that there were no German troops on Sark at the time. Niven's account is almost certainly a reference to Operation Ambassador in July 1940 when 140 men from No. 3 Commando and No. 11 Independent Company landed on Little Sark by mistake, thinking they had landed on Guernsey as part of a larger force. They found no Germans and eventually returned to their boat, but there are no reports of them meeting with locals or drinking with them.

More than a year later, in December 1943, there was a follow-up raid on Sark by a team of British and French commandos known as Operation Hardtack 7 . It was a complete failure as two of the four men were killed by German mines as they attempted to cross the Hog's Back, following the same route as the commandos had done in 1942—a route which was now mined.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Fowler, Will (2012). Allies at Dieppe: 4 Commando and the US Rangers. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 9781780965963. 
  2. ^ Alone of all the possible participants in this raid, Redborn's name appears in no official records. The first reference to him appears in Suzanne Lassen's book about her son Anders, published just after the war. Redborn may therefore be a cover name for a commando who was seeking to protect his identify, as all the men had signed the Official Secrets Act.