Operation Abercrombie

This was a British special forces and Canadian raid on Neufchâtel-Hardelot in German-occupied northern France (21/22 April 1942).

Initially known as ‘Amble’ and scheduled for implementation on 18/19 April but then delayed by adverse weather conditions, the raid was specifically designed to last no more than two hours, thus minimising the chance of any major German response, and was intended to achieve a reconnaissance of the local beach defences, take and extract prisoners for interrogation to gain further intelligence information, destroy a searchlight battery, and inflict damage to the local defences.

The landing force comprised 100 men of the British No. 4 Commando and 50 Canadians of the Carleton and York Regiment of Brigadier A. E. Potts’s Canadian 2nd Brigade of Major General G. R. Pearkes’s Canadian 1st Division, under overall command of Major the Lord Lovat of No. 4 Commando. This was the first occasion on which the new Landing Craft Support, equipped with two machine guns and one mortar, was used.

The Canadian flotilla experienced navigational problems and became separated, its movements eventually attracting German machine gunfire from the shore, which was returned by its accompanying motor gun boats. None of the Canadian troops disembarked. The commandos landed farther along the coast to the north than had been planned but encountered no opposition and escaped detection until they had penetrated into the deep sand dunes and wire entanglements. Fire from the support landing craft partially suppressed moderate German machine gun fire from the flanks, and the commandos were then able to move forward. The German defences were found to be scanty and, in some cases, abandoned, and as the commandos pressed forward they met only three German soldiers, who promptly disappeared. A 12-man fighting patrol sent to destroy the searchlights reached the objective but had to fall back without making any attack as a result of time constraints, as signalled by a recall rocket. The only commando casualty was a single man shot through the ankles after failing to respond sufficiently swiftly to a beach-head sentry’s challenge.

Supporting Royal Navy craft met and tackled German vessels, including a number of S-boote, sinking at least one and damaging others, for three naval casualties. The German land casualties are not known. Experience gained in this small undertaking contributed toward the planning of ‘Jubilee’, the major Combined Operations’ raid on Dieppe during the following August.