Operation Antagonise

'Antagonise' (i) was a British special forces raid on the island of Lussin (Losinj) off the Adriatic Sea coast of Croatia in German-occupied Yugoslavia (2/3 December 1944).

The object of the operation was to inflict damage and casualties on Lussin’s German garrison and installations. The naval force allocated to the operation comprised four 'Hunt' class escort destroyers, three landing craft (gun), one landing craft (flak), one landing craft (headquarters) and several motor gun boats and motor torpedo boats.

It was known that there was a German battery of three 150-mm (5.91-in) guns in Fort Asing and three 75-mm (2.95-in) guns on the adjacent hill, that the garrison comprised some 250 German troops concentrated in the area of Lusinpiccolo (Mali Losinj) and the island’s neck, and that there were also some low-grade Fascist Italian troops in the garrison and manning outposts north of the island. Intelligence also reported that there were several 'human torpedoes' and explosives-filled motor boats at Cigale and a number of coves in the area. Also known was the fact that German landing craft sometimes laid up at Sansego during daylight hours for fear of being caught at sea and attacked by roaming Allied aircraft.

The British force departed from Veli Rat on Isola Longa, and while Units A and B were to berth inside Port Colorat, Unit E was to position itself west of the island of Sansego, and Unit C was to remain to the south-east of the island of Trestenico, at the extreme range of the German artillery batteries, to simulate a bombardment by destroyers and LC(G)s by making dummy gun flashes etc. As soon as the German batteries opened fire, or before this if so ordered, Unit A was to open fire under the control of a forward observation officer located in the Miklosam area.

Allied aircraft were detailed to attack Lussin shortly after dawn, and probably again during the approach of Unit E. Once the German batteries had been silenced, Unit E was to proceed at full speed toward Cigale cove and carry out a direct bombardment on the German positions on the western side of the island’s neck. On reaching the entrance to Cigale cove, Unit E was to reduce speed and carry out a direct bombardment of the coves believed to contain midget submarines. On completion of the whole operation, all the British units were to rendezvous as ordered and return to Veli Rat.

The forward observation officer had already been landed by a Yugoslav partisan (ex-German) I-boat, which had sailed independently of the main force. It was known that the inhabitants of the village of Punta Kriza were Fascists, and a detachment of partisans landed with the forward observation officer’s party with orders to isolate the village by cutting all telephone wires.

The commander of the naval force was Lieutenant Commander M. C. Giles in LC(H)-282. LC(G)-4, LC(H)-8 and LC(H)-14 left Veli Rat at 21.00 on 2 December and took up station in line ahead on the port quarter of the escort destroyer Wilton, which was accompanied by Lamerton. The British force entered Porto Colorat at 05.00 and waited for the escort destroyers to anchor: LC(G)-4 anchored in the north-western corner of the bay about 200 yards (185 m) from Wilton, and LC(G)-8 and LC(H)-14 anchored with their bows on rocky points in the centre of the bay and to the north of Lamerton. This last opened fire, and at 08.10 the Germans responded with fire of several calibres from 150-mm (5.91-in) guns to light mortars. Many of the German shells landed near Lamerton, LC(G)-8 and LC(H)-14. At 08.20 Lamerton opened fire with her quadruple 2-pdr pom-pom mounting at a house believed to be the German observation post, and also on the low vegetation surrounding it. Further striking power was added by the weapons of LC(G)-8 and LC(H)-14.

The forward observation officer had reported that he was liable to be attacked, and about 08.30 confirmed that he had withdrawn. German shells continued to fall in the bay and also on land until about 08.45, when British medium bombers and rocket-firing Bristol Beaufighter twin-engined heavy fighters attacked the target. After this air attack there was no more German artillery fire. At 09.20 all ships of Units A and B opened fire on the German targets at a range of approximately 12,000 yards (10975 m) and continued firing until 10.30. At this time LC(G)-14 was detailed by Lamerton to fire one-gun salvoes, then at 12.15 all the British units were ordered to open fire, and this bombardment continued until 12.45, when the order was given to cease fire. By this time the LC(G)s had expended 1,022 rounds of HE and SAP ammunition.

At 13.00 the LC(G)s were ordered to weigh anchor and follow Lamerton. LC(G)-14 had taken ML-577 in tow, but later passed the task to ML-238. The British force proceeded back to base at 14.45, and had anchored by 18.30.