Operation Hardtack

This was the British overall designation of the series of special forces raids across the English Channel by Nos 10 and 12 Commandos and the Special Boat Service to garner intelligence and assess proposed landing areas of German-occupied northern France in preparation for ‘Overlord’ (November/December 1943).

All but one of the raiding parties were delivered by motor torpedo boat, the exception being an airborne undertaking. The raids were ended by order of Major General R. E. Laycock, the Chief of Combined Operations, as they led the Germans to bring reinforcements into the areas in which 'Overlord' was to be implemented, and this would of course have been detrimental to the Allies' strategy.

‘Hardtack 1’ was a beach reconnaissance by commando elements at Gravelines on the north coast of German-occupied Europe (24 December 1943).

‘Hardtack 2’ was a beach reconnaissance by commando elements at Gravelines on the north coast of German-occupied Europe (25 December 1943).

‘Hardtack 3’ was beach reconnaissance by commando elements at Quinéville on the east side of the Cotentin peninsula on the north coast of German-occupied Europe (25 December 1943).

‘Hardtack 4’ was a beach reconnaissance by 10 men of No. 10 (Inter-Allied) Commando at Biville (actually Criel sur Mer) in the Dieppe area of the north coast of German-occupied France (26/27 December 1943). The raiders were forced to withdraw in the face of German patrol activity.

‘Hardtack 5’ was a beach reconnaissance by 10 men of No. 10 (Inter-Allied) Commando at Onival near Le Tréport on the north coast of German-occupied Europe (26/27 December 1943). One commando was injured by an anti-personnel mine on landing, and the rest of the party spend four and a half hours ashore and saw unoccupied strongpoints but no German troops.

‘Hardtack 6’ was a beach reconnaissance by commando elements on Sark in the Channel Islands off the north coast of German-occupied Europe (26 December 1943).

‘Hardtack 7’ was a beach reconnaissance by seven men of No. 10 (Inter-Allied) Commando and No. 12 Commando on Sark in the Channel Islands off the north coast of German-occupied Europe (26/27 December 1943). The raiders were unable to scale the cliff below which they had been landed, and therefore returned to the UK.

‘Hardtack 8’ was a beach reconnaissance by commando elements on Jersey in the Channel Islands off the north coast of German-occupied Europe (26 December 1943).

‘Hardtack 11’ was a beach reconnaissance by seven men of No. 10 (Inter-Allied) Commando on Gravelines on the north coast of German-occupied France (24/25 December 1943). The motor torpedo boat transporting the raiding party diverted to attack a convoy, and the raiding party’s dory then sank with the death of one man. The other six men reached the shore and joined the French resistance.

‘Hardtack 13’ was a beach reconnaissance by 10 men of No. 10 (Inter-Allied) Commando and the Special Boat Service on Bénouville on the north coast of German-occupied France (25/26 December 1943). The raid was generally successful, but did not capture any German soldiers for interrogation.

‘Hardtack 21’ was a beach reconnaissance by 10 men of No. 10 (Inter-Allied) Commando in the vicinity of the St Marcouf Isles and Quinéville on the north coast of German-occupied France (26/27 December 1943). The raiders gathered information on the defensive obstacles on what would become Utah Beach in ‘Overlord’.

‘Hardtack 22’ was an unrealised reconnaissance raid but was also intended to capture prisoners for interrogation back in the UK (January 1944). The raid was cancelled at the planning stage, and was to have used men of No. 10 (Inter-Allied) Commando and later the 2nd US Ranger Battalion, and was to have landed on Herm in the Channel Islands.

‘Hardtack 23’ was an unrealised beach reconnaissance by 10 men of No. 10 (Inter-Allied) Commando near Ostend on the coast of German-occupied Belgium (27/28 December 1943). The raid was called off after the motor torpedo boat being used to deliver the raiding party ran aground.

‘Hardtack 28’ was a beach reconnaissance by 10 men of No. 10 (Inter-Allied) Commando in the area of Gifford Bay on the island of Jersey (25/26 December 1943). After climbing the cliffs the commandos entered a minefield which resulted in the death of two men and the wounding of another. The mine explosions alerted the German garrison, and the commandos had to leave.

‘Hardtack 36’ was a beach reconnaissance by 10 men of No. 10 (Inter-Allied) Commando near Wassenaar on the coast of the German-occupied Netherlands (24/25 December 1943). The raiders landed but were then all killed. ‘Hardtack Dog’ was a beach reconnaissance by commandos at Bivelle near Dieppe on the north coast of German-occupied France (26/27 November 1943).