Operation Kipling

This was a British special forces operation by C Squadron, 1st Special Air Service, near Mazignen in the area near Orléans in German-occupied France to disrupt German communications (13 August/26 September 1944).

The original object of the operation, which was undertaken by 107 men and 46 Jeeps in the area to the west of Auxerre in central France, was to aid the Allied airborne landings which were due to take place in the Orléans ‘gap’.

An advance party under Captain Derrick Harrison was dropped on the night of 13 August, with more men and Jeeps delivered by parachute during the evenings of 14 and 17 August. The party was to establish a base, lie low and make contacts with the local resistance forces. The airborne operation was then cancelled, so the SAS troopers were instructed to undertake aggressive patrolling.

The situation in the area at the time was constantly changing: Lieutenant General George S. Patton’s US 3rd Army was driving toward Reims, while other Allied forces were advancing from the south after the ‘Anvil’ (ii) landings of mid-August.

The SAS took full advantage of this fluid situation. On 23 August, on hearing there were many Germans in the village of Les Ormes, Harrison decided to attack with two Jeeps. The party raced into the village square and proceeded to shoot up the enemy and their vehicles, setting the latter on fire. The Germans, who were men of a Waffen-SS unit, began to fire back at the Special Air Service group and a desperate battle ensued. Eventually Harrison was forced to withdraw, although he had to leave his damaged Jeep behind. During the night of the same day, Major Marsh, the squadron’s commander, reached the SAS camp with 20 Jeeps. The next day the squadron, leaving one troop behind, drove to the Morvan area to relieve A Squadron, 1st SAS.

C Squadron then patrolled with notable success, despite suffering from lack of fuel as supply drops had t be cancelled as a result of adverse weather. Some patrols joined up with Général d’Armée Jean Joseph Marie Gabriel de Lattre de Tassigny’s French 1st Army, which was advancing from the south, assisting in taking the surrender of 3,000 German soldiers at Autun.

By 26 September the squadron had moved back to Cosne to rest, effectively bringing the operation to an end. By any measure ‘Kipling’ had been a great success as the Germans had been continually harassed and suffered heavy casualties.