Operation Typical

'Typical' was the Allied parachute delivery of liaison officers to the headquarters of the Yugoslav partisan forces of Josip Broz Tito at the time the Germans launched their 'Schwarz' (ii) offensive (22 May/2 December 1943).

This was the first British mission fully assigned to the headquarters of the Yugoslav partisans movement and Marshal Josif Broz Tito organised by the Special Operations Executive. The six men were flown from Derna airfield in North Africa on 27 May and parachuted to Black Lake in Montenegro at the height of the Germans' large 'Schwarz' offensive aimed at the destruction of the Partisan forces. The British group was led by Colonel William Deakin and Capt William F Stuart, together with the two radio operators, Sergeants Walter Wroughton and Peretz 'Rose' Rosenberg; the Canadian-Yugoslav Ivan ('John') Starčević acted as translator and Sergeant John Campbell of the Royal Marines was a cipher clerk and bodyguard.

The mission placed great insistence of the importance of sabotage operations, offering the supply explosives and, if necessary, British demolition experts, for this purpose. The selection of targets varied from the disruption of German supplies to North Africa by cutting the railway line to Greece to the disruption of shipment of Romanian oil and Yugoslav minerals (such as copper, chrome and bauxite) to Germany.

Deakin and the team followed the partisan headquarters across the Durmitor mountain range, ending in German, Italian and Bulgarian encirclement under heavy bombing. On 9 June, Stuart was killed in an air raid while Tito was wounded in the shoulder. The party broke through the encirclement at Tjenti�te in the middle of the night and informed the British headquarters in Cairo of the fact on 13 June.

By the end of June the mission had arranged timings and locations for the delivery of explosives and medical aid, which were to be provided by parachute drop, while it moved to Olovo, Kladanj and Vlasenica. On 30 July themission reached Bijela Voda near �epče, where Deakin witnessed and reported on the destruction of 8/7 miles (14 km) of railway track. By 4 August the mission had reached the Petrovo Polje plateau, where it was able to welcome additional Special Operations Executive officers parachuted into the area: Flight-Lieutenant Kenneth Syers arrived as replacement for Stuart, and Major Ian Mackenzie of the Royal Army Medical Corps both arrived on 15 August, and on the following day Major Basil Davidson arrived as the commander of his own mission. For its own safety, the group had to move to Jajce on 25 August.

Italy surrendered to the Allies on 8 September, and soon after this the British ordered the mission to negotiate an armistice and carry out the disarming of the Italian troops in Yugoslavia, but any such move was rejected by Tito, who demanded the Italians surrender to the partisans. The main race was towards Split, the Italian headquarters, with the aim of disarming the Italians before the German troops seized the region. On 11 September, Deakin, together with a US officer, Captain M. Benson, left for Bugojno, to join Major General Koča Popović and the 1st Proletarian Brigade on their way to Split. The mission arrived on 16 September and found Generale di Brigata Emilio Becuzzi, commander of the 15a Divisione fanteria 'Bergamo', and 14,000 already disarmed soldiers. Deakin and Benson, together with Lieutenant John Burge, witnessed Becuzzi signing the terms of surrender.

After a brief speech to the citizens of Split in the main square, translated by Ivo Lola Ribar, Deakin and Wroughton returned to Jajce via Sajkovići, Grahovo and Drvar.

On 26 September Deakin reported to the recently arrived Brigadier General F. H. R. Maclean in Mrkonjic-Grad. The new commander, heading his own Maclean Mission, felt that Deakin, after three months at Tito’s headquarters, 'should give us a better idea than anyone of what the partisans were worth'. The two officers continued to assess partisans' strength, their willingness to fight and the aid priorities for them.

As German troops started to reclaim the Dalmatian coast and the islands of it, Maclean decided to go to Cairo and agree the further course of British action. He agreed to take Ivo Lola Ribar and Miloje Milojević as emissaries of good will, subject to the approval of the commander-in-chief and Foreign Office. Maclean left Jajce for Cairo on 5 October, and there presented Anthony Eden, the foreign secretary, with a written report of his views and findings, before returning to Italy to organise the evacuation of Ribar and Milojević from an improvised airstrip at Glamoč.During November, Maclean made three sorties in an effort to find and land there, but on each occasion the presence of snow storms, fog and heavy cloud forced him to return. By now, the partisans were becoming impatient and had organised their own mission in a recently captured German aeroplane. On 27 November, as they were trying to board, the aeroplane came under bombardment and Ribar, together with two British officers, was killed and the mission was thereupon abandoned.

Knowing that the airstrip was likely to be lost to Germans in the immediate future, Maclean procured a troop-carrying Douglas Dakota twin-engined transport aeroplane, and landed there on 2 December. Without shutting down the engines, the aeroplane was able to take in Deakin, Anthony Hunter, Vladimir Velebit, the heavily wounded Milojević and Vladimir Dedijer, and finally a German Abwehr officer, Hauptmann Meyer, who had been captured at Jajce. The first landing operation in the Axis-occupied Yugoslavia had been successfully completed, bringing 'Typical' to an end.