The Raid on Symi also known as Operation Tenement took place from 13 to the 15 July 1944 as part of the Mediterranean Campaign in World War II. The action was a combined operation conducted by two Allied special forces, the British Special Boat Service and the Greek Sacred Band, who raided the German and Italian garrisons at the island of Symi in the Aegean Sea. During the incursion the German and Italian troops in the island were overwhelmed and the military facilities and German vessels destroyed within a few days. After achieving a total success, the British and Greek forces evacuated Symi as planned.
Background[edit | edit source]
In September–October 1943, during the Dodecanese Campaign the Germans ousted the British from the Italian-held Dodecanese islands. In the course of these operations, on 12 October 1943 the island of Symi was occupied by the Nazis.
In April 1944, 1st SAS was divided into two, with 250 men from the SAS and the Small Scale Raiding Force forming the Special Boat Squadron under the command of Major the Earl Jellicoe. They moved to Haifa and trained with the Greek Sacred Band for operations in the Aegean. They hid in Turkey—officially neutral, the Turks knew about and tolerated these operations—and used the small offshore islands as their bases.
The force allocated to raid Symi was 100 men of the SBS led by Major Ian Jock Lapraik and another 224 men from the Greek Sacred Band trained and armed by the British. They were split into three forces and had objectives to take one of which was a heavily defended castle.
Raid[edit | edit source]
The British and Greek forces from ten motor launchers and supported by schooners and caiques landed unopposed and by dawn all three forces were overlooking their respective targets. As soon as light took effect the attack began, firstly on the harbor defenses with mortar and machine guns; the German garrison was taken by surprise. Two German barges which had followed the British boats came into the harbour only to be overwhelmed by gunfire, after which they were sunk.
The other objective was the high point known as Molo Point; SBS men took the hill without much opposition but they were counterattacked by a German force retreating from the main town. Running up the hill the Germans soon encountered heavy small arms fire and grenades. A Greek platoon below cut them off and as a result they surrendered.
The last objective was the castle just above the harbor and fire was concentrated with Vickers machine guns and mortars opening up on the battlements. Whilst crossing a bridge SBS men became pinned down and had to stay there for a while. Fighting was bitter here and the majority of the casualties were taken in this area but mortar fire was concentrated on the castle. A captured German officer and a Royal naval Lieutenant seconded to the SBS called out for the castle to surrender and after three hours of further fighting an Italian Carabinieri unit walked out and surrendered.
Further in land the other German position in a Panormitis Monastery was attacked and the men driven out and only surrendered when they came to a promontory by the sea. The island was thus secured and mopping up was done on other possible strong points on the island.
With the consolidation the SBS began planting demolition charges, this included gun emplacements, ammunition, fuel and explosive dumps. Even the harbor wasn't spared, altogether nineteen German caiques, some displacing 150 tons were destroyed. During this time the Luftwaffe made a number of attacks on the island but to little effect.
With all the objectives taken it was decided to evacuate the island and so the Greeks and the SBS withdrew with the booty and prisoners. A small section of SBS remained on the island until the last possible moment. Two German motor launches attempted to land but the SBS opened fire setting the two ships on fire as they tried to withdraw. The last of the men to leave on a barge ran into an E-Boat but with enough captured weapons and ammo they were able to open fire and sink the vessel for no loss.
Aftermath[edit | edit source]
Operation Tenement was 100% successful and gained far more achievements than it set out. The Germans posted a much larger garrison on Symi and had an effect of put more German troops in the area. The raid was the last of its kind in the Aegean for the SBS and as a result the Greek Sacred Band took over the role of raiding in the Aegean as they were now fully trained and politically reliable.
In August 1944 the SBS joined the Long Range Desert Group in further operations in the Adriatic, on the Peloponnese, in Albania, and, finally, Istria. So effective were they that by 1944 200–300 SBS and men of the Greek Sacred Band, held down six German divisions.
At the end of World War II, the surrender of German forces in the region under General Wagenar to the British took place on Symi and the island was subject to two years of occupation by them. In 1948 Symi was finally united with Greece.
Notes[edit | edit source]
- Hunter pg 183-85
- Koburger p. 73-4
- "Nazi Occupation of Symi reported". 1943-10-15. p. 6. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=e40LAAAAIBAJ&sjid=I1UDAAAAIBAJ&pg=2942,4580647&dq=symi. Retrieved 2009-09-20.
- Morgan, p.15
- Thompson, p.55
- Lewis pg 453 - 56
- Thompson, p.56
- Οι ανυπότακτοι της Σύμης - Βρετανική κατοχή στα Δωδεκάνησα, Ελευθέριος I. Διακογιάννης (Greek)
References[edit | edit source]
- Breuer, William B. (2001). Daring missions of World War II. John Wiley and Sons. ISBN 978-0-471-40419-4.
- Chappell, Mike (1996). Army Commandos 1940–1945. Elite Series # 64. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-85532-579-9.
- Haskew, Michael E (2007). Encyclopaedia of Elite Forces in the Second World War. Pen and Sword. ISBN 978-1-84415-577-4.
- Hunter, Robin (2013). True Stories of the SAS. Hachette. ISBN 9781780226033.
- Koburger, Charles W. (1999). Wine-dark, Blood Red Sea: Naval Warfare in the Aegean, 1941-1946. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 9780275965716.
- Lewis, Jon E. (2012). The Mammoth Book of Secrets of the SAS & Elite Forces. Constable & Robinson. ISBN 9781780337357.
- Morgan, Mike (2000). Daggers drawn: Second World War heroes of the SAS and SBS. Sutton. ISBN 0-7509-2509-4.
- Richards, Brooks (2004). Secret Flotillas: Clandestine sea operations in the Mediterranean, North Africa and the Adriatic, 1940-1944. Routledge. ISBN 0-7146-5314-4.
- Thompson, Leroy (1994). SAS: Great Britain's elite Special Air Service. Zenith Imprint. ISBN 0-87938-940-0.
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