Operation Forfar

This was a British series of commando reconnaissance raids on the north coast of German-occupied France (July/September 1943).

The raids were part of ‘Starkey’, which was a military deception scheme intended to draw out the Luftwaffe, but in the shorter term were intended to identify German coastal units and positions, and to gain technical intelligence on German equipment, thereby creating the impression of a pre-invasion reconnaissance.

In January 1943 Allied high command delayed the planned invasion of northern France until the following year, and by April had decided to focus their year’s efforts on the Mediterranean theatre. The newly appointed Chief-of-Staff to the Supreme Allied Commander (COSSAC), the British Major General F. E. Morgan, was instructed to develop and conduct deception operations against western Europe in the hope that these would tie down German forces in the north during the Allied assault on the south of the continent. The directive included explicit reference to creating fictional amphibious assaults on the French coast in an effort to draw out the Luftwaffe.

Morgan and John Bevan, head of the London Controlling Section charged with the planning and execution of deception operations, established Ops (B) as the deception planning section of COSSAC under Lieutenant Colonel J. A. Jervis-Read. Together with the LCS, Ops (B) started to outline a plan to meet the 1943 targets, and on 3 June submitted to the chiefs-of-staff the ‘Cockade’ plan comprising three subsidiary operations, namely ‘Starkey’, ‘Wadham’ and ‘Tindall’.

‘Starkey’ was designed to persuade the Germans that the Allies planned an invasion of northern France in the Pas de Calais area early in September 1943, and this was also designed to lure the Luftwaffe out to combat the threat and thereby enter in the type of combat that would severely degrade its strength. The plan called for the collection of landing craft and the establishment of other elements of physical deception, and also for the launch of commando raids on the French coast. Each of the raiding parties was to comprise some 10 men of Nos 10 and 12 Commandos as well as the Special Boat Squadron, and the object of this programme of raids was to suggest that the raids were each a reconnaissance for an imminent invasion. To that end the raiders left behind ‘documents’ for the Germans to find.

According to some sources a series of 14 ‘Forfar’ raids was planned with eight carried out, while another suggests 13 planned raids with six carried out.

‘Forfar Beer I’ of 3/5 August was a beach reconnaissance at Eletot in the Seine-Maritime region of northern France by 10 men of No. 12 Commando: aborted three times before being launched, the operation was unsuccessful as the raiders’ transport vessel was discovered on its way to France by a German patrol vessel.

‘Forfar Beer II’ of 1/2 September was another beach reconnaissance at Eletot by men of No. 12 Commando.

‘Forfar Beer III’ of 4/5 September was another beach reconnaissance at Eletot by men of No. 12 Commando.

‘Forfar Dog’ of 5/6 July was a beach reconnaissance and prisoner-capture undertaking at Biville in Normandy by a 10-man party of No. 12 Commando. The motor torpedo boat used to deliver the party came under German fire as the raiders were landed.

‘Forfar Easy’ of 3/4 July was a beach reconnaissance and prisoner-capture undertaking at Onival in the Normandy region by a 10-man party of No. 12 Commando. The raiders managed to scale the cliff, but were then unable to breach the barbed wire at its top.

‘Forfar How’ of 3/4 August was a reconnaissance at Quend Plage in the Somme region by a party of No. 12 Commando.

‘Forfar Item’ of 2/3 September was a beach reconnaissance operation between St Valéry en Caux and Eletot by an eight-man party of No. 12 Commando. The operation’s objective was a reconnaissance of a searchlight battery and the capture of prisoners for interrogation, and the raid was partially successful. The raiders were parachuted into their DZ without problem, but the vessel used to extricate them was swamped when leaving the shore, resulting in the loss of all equipment.

‘Forfar Love’ of 3/4 August was a beach reconnaissance and prisoner-capture undertaking in the area of the Dunkirk harbour toward the north-eastern end of the coast of German-occupied France by a four-men of No. 2 Special Boat Service. Approaching the shore in two canoes, the SBS men were illuminated by a German searchlight and therefore withdrew.