Operation Candytuft

This was a British special forces operation by the 2nd Special Air Service to cut the rail line between Ancona and Pescara on the east coast of Italy (27 October/2 November 1943).

The operation was run in parallel with ‘Saxifrage’, and involved a 16-man party, under the command of Major Roy Farran, which was landed on the north-east coast of Italy between Ancona and Pescara. The men were then to derail a train near a curve on the coastal railway. Naval craft were to watch for signals on the first four nights in November, and take off the party after the operation had been completed.

The four four-man teams (three of 'D' Squadron and one of 'B' Squadron) were to land on the southern bank of the Tronto river some 25 miles (40 km) to the north of Pescara. Landed at 22.00 on the night 27/28 October, the men were then to make their way inland for between 4 and 5 miles (6.4 and 8 km) and lie up until the night 28/29 October, when all four parties were to rendezvous at a railway track junction at 21.00. The centre party was then to attempt to derail a train by 02.00 hrs. If by this time there had been no success, the performance was to be repeated on the night 29/30 October, and again on the night 30/31 October if necessary. As soon as a train had been derailed, one of the four-man teams was to blow large gaps in the railway line in front of and behind the derailed train, and another team was to mine the main coastal road. Telephone communications were also to be cut. If no success had been achieved by the night 31 Oct/1 November, all the teams were to demolish the railway and mine the road regardless of trains.

With the demolitions completed, all of the teams were to make their way to the south and hide in the Sallinella river valley. They were then to make their way, by night, to the embarkation point at the mouth of the Versacchie river, and use torches to signall to the navy between 23.59 and 02.30.

In the event, each of the teams was landed successfully from a motor torpedo boat on the night 27/28 October, two rubber boats and a Goatley being used to ferry the party ashore. A U-boat was seen anchored in the mouth of the Tronto river, some
500 yards (460 m) from the landing point.

The four teams made their way independently 4 to 5 miles (6.4 to 8 km) inland along the southern bank of the Tronto river and laid up in cover until it was time to make for the rendezvous point. The weather was appalling weather, but the coastal railway was blown in 16 places, the coastal road was mined, and telephone and power lines were cut. With the exception of two men captured by the Germans, the party was then extracted by motor torpedo boat.