Operation Crusader (ii)

This was a British special forces operation by L Detachment, Special Air Service, within ‘Crusader’ (i) (16/17 November 1941).

This operation constituted the first raids undertaken by the newly formed L Detachment, specifically on the airfields at Tmimi and Gazala. L Detachment, divided into five aircraft loads commanded by Lieutenant Colonel David Stirling, Lieutenant Colonel R. B. Mayne, Lieutenant Eoin McGonical, Lieutenant Colonel John Steel ‘Jock’ Lewes, and Lieutenant Charles Bonnington, was dropped by parachute on the night of 16/17 November.

The drop was a disaster, and the men (some of them injured on landing) were widely scattered. The operation had therefore to be abandoned, individuals making their way to the rendezvous with the men and vehicles of the Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) as best they could. Only 22 of the 64 men dropped were picked up. The failure of this first operation prompted a major reconsideration of the Special Air Service’s transportation requirements for delivery to its target areas in the future, and Stirling decided never again to use parachute drops but rather vehicles, initially those of the LRDG.