Operation Anglo

This was a British special forces attack on some of the airfields on the Italian-held island of Rhodes (4/17 September 1942).

The German and Italian air forces made significant use of two airfields on Rhodes from which to to launch air attacks on Allied shipping in the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea, to mine the Suez Canal and northern part of the Red Sea, and to exercise almost complete control over the maritime lines of communications toward and into the Aegean. These airfields were Maritsa in the north and Kalathos in the south-east.

The British objective was to wreak as much damage to these two airfields as was possible, and the task was given to a small party of 12 Special Boat Service men led by Lieutenant David Sutherland and including two Greek officers and two volunteer Greek guides. It was decided to divide the force in two groups to attack both airfields simultaneously at midnight on 12 September.

The party boarded a Greek submarine that departed Beirut on 31 August and, after four days, landed at the chosen place. British intelligence about the situation on Rhodes did not exist, and the force had no radios with which to communicate. They were therefore locked into a fixed timetable between the landing during the night of 4/5 September and the extraction during the night of 17/18 September.

On the night of 7/8 September, Sutherland decided to split his force into two parties, each of which had five nights in which to reach its objective, undertake its attack and make its way back to the beach. The two parties attacked their airfields on the night of 12/13 September as planned and caused severe aircraft and infrastructure damage.

The 30,000-man Italian garrison of the island immediately began to search for the raiders. The party which had attacked Maritsa was captured as it returned along the 31-mile (50-km) track to the extraction beach. Of the other party only two men escaped capture and finally swam to the waiting submarine.

In overall terms, ‘Anglo’ was successful because the airfields were rendered inoperable for two weeks and some 25 aircraft were destroyed. However, the cost was high, 10 of the 12 raiders being captured.