Operation Curlew (i)

This was a British special forces raid against St Laurent sur Mer on the Normandy coast of German-occupied northern France (11/12 January 1942).

This was an example of a British initiative to train regular formations in irregular methods, and came about when Brigadier G. W. R. Templer, a staff officer of Lieutenant General Sir Edmund Schreiber’s V Corps, organised the V Corps School of Raiding, with just two officers and four non-commissioned officers as instructors, at a time late in 1941. Concerned by the fact that it was only the commando forces were the only elements of the British military establishment currently gaining experience in raiding tactics and techniques, Templer created the school with the dual intention of training one of the V Corps' infantry companies per month in raiding techniques and of providing them with the opportunity to carry out small-scale raids against the French coast.

Although staff and students from the school were able to undertake a limited number of forays against France, the V Corps School of Raiding was, like a few comparable efforts, a short-lived and distracting effort, and was disbanded late in September 1942 as the Combined Operations HQ assumed the sole responsibility for coastal raiding.

In 'Curlew', the 100-man British force made no contact with the Germans as it attempted a reconnaissance of the beach defences of the target area, but the raid was not successful and the men had to be rescued by vessels of the Royal Navy.