Operation Ambassador

This was a British special forces raid by H Troop of No. 3 Commando and No. 11 Independent Company on the island of Guernsey in the Channel Islands group (14/15 July 1940).

The undertaking was only the second raid of its type, and resulted from Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s demand that ‘if it is true that only a few hundred German troops have been landed on Jersey or Guernsey, plans should be studied to land secretly by night and kill or capture the invaders’.

The 'Anger' secret reconnaissance by Lieutenant Hubert Nicolle for the newly created Combined Operations Headquarters revealed that there were 469 Germans on Guernsey, most of them in St Peter Port. The Combined Operations Headquarters therefore decided that 40 men of H Troop of No. 3 Commando (created at Plymouth on 5 July) would make a diversionary landing on the north coast under the command of Major John Durnford-Slater, while a detachment of 100 men from No. 11 Commando/Independent Company raided the island’s airfield under the command of Major Ronnie Tod. The two parties were to be landed by six crash boats escorted by two destroyers.

Just before the start of the operation, it was learned that the German garrison on Guernsey had been reinforced, and Durnford-Slater decided that his party would land not on the north coast but just to the west of the Jerbourg peninsula, where a roadblock would be created to isolate the peninsula as the Independent Company’s party tackled the airfield. The two parties were to be landed by six crash boats transported across the English Channel by the destroyers Saladin and Scimitar.

As a result of unskilled planning, the operation was a fiasco. Of the three boats carrying the Independent Company’s party, two suffered engine failure and the third arrived late, with the result that the airfield attack had to be cancelled. Of the commandos’ crash boats, one missed the island altogether and landed on Sark, and the other two delivered men who found the German positions unoccupied and then had to swim out to the boats after these had been forced to pull back to avoid being stranded by the falling tide. Only at this stage was it discovered that three of the men could not swim, and had therefore to be left on the beach with additional French currency. They later surrendered. A dinghy was used to ferry weapons to the boats and on its fifth trip it was washed against a rock, one of the three men in it being drowned.