Operation Warehouse

'Warehouse' was an Allied deception plan associated with 'Torch' and subsequent operations in North-West Africa, and designed to suggest that an Allied amphibious landings were to be made on the coast of Crete and mainland Greece (6 November 1942/March 1943).

On 6 November 1942, as Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel’s Deutsch-Italienische Panzeramee began its retreat from Egypt to Tunisia after its defeat in the 2nd Battle of El Alamein as the Allied convoys moved toward North-West Africa for the 'Torch' landings, Colonel Dudley W. Clarke, head of the 'A' Force deception organisation in the Middle East, met General the Hon. Sir Harold Alexander in Cairo. The commander-in-chief, Middle East, Alexander wanted a deception which maintained the threat of an Allied descent on the Balkans, with Crete as a first step, as the means of persuading the Germans to keep as many as possible of their formations and units in that theatre and therefore refrain from reinforcing their forces on North Africa and possibly continue to threaten Iraq and Iran.

Clarke therefore developed 'Warehouse', which was implemented largely by double agents and other such means. The plan’s 'Stage A' threatened an Allied landing on Crete, which originally set for 7 January 1943 but then 'postponed' several times. On the assumption that the Axis forces would be quickly eliminated from North Africa, the next Allied target, to be assaulted in about the middle of March, was to be Sardinia, and 'Warehouse' therefore envisaged a 'Stage B' suggesting that the Allied clearance of the Axis forces from North Africa was to be followed by landings on Sicily and thence Greece, on the west coast of the Peloponnese, while Alexander’s forces, staging through Crete, landed on the east coast of the same region.

Clarke’s suggestion was taken to London in the middle of November, but was then overtaken by events as the Germans swiftly occupied Tunisia in 'Braun' (ii) and the Axis forces were not defeated in Tunisia until May. Moreover, the London Controlling Section, which was the UK-based counterpart of the Egypt-based 'A' Force, was ordered to develop a cover plan for an assault on Sardinia based on the assumption that this island would be the target of forces sailing directly from the UK and USA. The London Controlling Section produced a plan whose two parts were 'Canute' and 'Gargoyle', which were designed to persuade the Germans to reinforce areas well removed from Sardinia. Controlled from London 'Canute' was designed to make the Germans make redeployments to meet a threat either to Norway or northern France; and managed by 'A' Force, 'Gargoyle' was to be a modified version of 'Stage A' of 'Warehouse'. (A smaller-scale third element was 'Jigsaw', was to convince the Allied troops that they were destined for North Africa.)

In the middle of January, Clarke had devised 'Withstand', which was created to exaggerate, in the minds of the Turks as well as the Germans, an Allied perception of the Axis menace to Turkey, so as to help hold German forces in the Balkans and perhaps even to encourage Turkey to consider an adherence to the Allied cause. The 'story' of 'Withstand' was that the Allies anticipated a German invasion of Turkey through Bulgaria, and therefore intended to divert German forces from such an operation by invading Crete and the Peloponnese, and by strengthening their forces in Iraq and Iran. But the Middle East Defence Committee disapproved of efforts to deceive the Turks, so 'Withstand' was merged into 'Warehouse'.

The combined scheme was implemented by physical deception means along the Syrian/Turkish border and by intelligence means such as the display of a dummy tank regiment, together with real troops, from January to May. The undertaking deceived the Germans, and reached its early apogee on 2 March, when the German navy cancelled all leave in the Aegean Sea in the expectation of imminent action, and again on 29 March with an order from Generalfeldmarschall Wilhelm Keitel, the chief of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, that secret arrangements with the Bulgarians to meet a British, Turkish and US invasion be continued up to 1 June. The signal importance of the bogus order of battle promulgated in 'Cascade' in making such threats plausible is indicated by the fact that on 4 February the Fremde Heere West (enemy armies west) intelligence department stated that the available British forces in the Near East are certainly sufficient for a landing in Greece and…a partial occupation of that country. The Fremde Heere West's estimate of forces for a landing on Crete was 4.5 divisions, with another 4.5 divisions ready to cross from Syria into Turkey.

In March 'Withstand' was incorporated into an updated version of 'Warehouse'. The 'story' was now that the Balkans would be invaded from the Middle East early in summer, with simultaneous landings in western Crete and the Peloponnese. This was supposedly expected to induce Turkey to join the Allies, who could then bypass the Dodecanese islands group and move air forces and two armoured divisions through Turkey against Thrace and to support Turkish operations against Bulgaria.

The plan was not implemented for discussions during March at the Allied Force Headquarters, General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s headquarters in Algiers, made it clear that 'Husky' (i) needed something more elaborate. Thus 'Warehouse' was merged into the 'Barclay' theatre-wide plan.