This was a British special forces operation to parachute a 24-man raiding party of the 2nd Special Air Service into the Aquila and Ancona area of German-occupied Italy (7/22 January 1944).
The operation was undertaken by several parties of the 2nd SAS in support of the Allied ‘Shingle’ landings at Anzio on 22 January 1944, and the intention was to cut the railway communications north of Rome and on the eastern coast of German-occupied Italy.
The operation was divided into two groups, namely ‘Thistledown’ of four four-man parties to cut the railway lines around Terni and Orvieto, and ‘Driftwood’ of two four-man parties to cut the lines connecting Urbino and Fabriano, and Ancona and Rimini. The parties were parachuted into their operational areas on 7 January. All of the ‘Thistledown’ party’s targets were successfully attacked, although the RAF had already bombed one of the lines, but all of the men were subsequently captured.
The fate of the ‘Driftwood’ party remains a mystery as none of the men turned up at a beach evacuation rendezvous. It has been surmised that they either drowned or were captured and shot. It had been intended to send a reinforcement party by sea to link up with the ‘Driftwood’ party, but bad weather prevented this and so this ‘Baobab’ party was sent at the end of January.