Operation Begonia (i)

This was a British special forces operation to locate, gather and evacuate prisoners of war who had escaped from Italian camps after the Italian armistice of 8 September 1943 with the Allies (2/6 October 1943).

Undertaken as the airborne counterpart to the amphibious ‘Jonquil’, the operation was entrusted to the overall supervision of the 2nd Special Air Service, which deployed some 61 men who were either five parties (four airborne forces and one British SAS) paradropped from 2 October in the area inland of the coast between Ancona and Pescara, and five parties (four British SAS and one French SAS) landed on this stretch of coast in the period 4/6 October.

The operation was not a great success, for although the SAS troopers made contact with several hundreds of roaming ex-POWs and directed them to the beach areas, only some 50 of the ex-POWs were collected as the co-ordination of beach areas was poor as a result of lack of radio equipment, and the collection times were badly planned.

Another element of ‘Begonia’ was the US parachute delivery of a six-man Office of Strategic Services party near the Gran Sasso in Italy to undertake a similar task.