Operation Loyton

This was a British special forces operation by the 2nd Special Air Service under Lieutenant Colonel Brian Franks to establish a base near Verney in the eastern part of German-occupied France (12 August/9 October 1944).

The operation involved 91 men and was undertaken in the Vosges region of eastern France at the request of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces to garner intelligence on German road and rail movements, attack German installations and establish links with the local resistance forces.

An advance party, accompanied by a ‘Phantom’ patrol and a ‘Jedburgh’ team, was parachuted into the operational area on 12 August with the rest of the party following in the following days. It now became clear that the operation’s timing was unfortunate as the Germans had now abandoned the idea of trying to check the Allies in the region to the west of Paris in favour of a stand along the crest of the Vosges mountains and the eastern bank of the Moselle river. As a result the region into which the SAS troopers dropped was thick with German troops and, to compound the SAS party’s problems, the Germans had two Gestapo headquarters in the area, at Nancy and Strasbourg, each with its own anti-insurgency unit.

Once on the ground the SAS teams met with varying success. Although they did inflict some damage and casualties on the Germans, the large number of German forces in the area limited the SAS troopers’ freedom of action. The local resistance units were also a cause for concern as they contained many traitors. The local population, on the other hand, proved friendly and helpful, although they paid for their co-operation. The village of Moussey, for example, was occupied by a large force of Germans, who rounded up all the men between 16 and 60 years of age and took them to concentration camps. Of the 210 taken, only 70 returned after the war.

Franks terminated the operation on 9 October as the party was short of supplies and the weather had closed in, making aerial supply impossible. He ordered his men to make their way back to Allied lines. For limited results ‘Loyton’ cost the SAS two dead and 31 captured, all of whom were executed by the Gestapo.