40 Commando return to Albania October 2009 Houndforce 2
40 Commando return to Albania October 2009
Retrieved from the archive box passed to me by Maureen when I took up the role as magazine editor. Most of the focus of the Italian Campaign is quite rightly on Sicily and Italy with other parts of the Central Mediterranean Area being forgotten. We read a lot about what both the 5th and 8th Army’s were doing but operations carried out by units like the Royal Marine Commando’s do not attract the same level of attention. As an Associate Member of the City of London Branch of the RMA I know that my friends there will find this of interest and hope that ISA members will also.
Precis of a submission from George S. (“Sam”) Plin: – Ex-“Q” Troup 40 Commando
Parachutists Royal Marines. This was submitted in 2009, Sam would now be aged 95, Sam was at that time one of the youngest members of the 40 Royal Marine Commando Association.
Seventy five years ago, on 24th September 1944, Sam and his comrades sailed from Southern Italy and landed at “Sugar Bay”, in Albania, the objective being the capture of the town of Sarande and an attempt to cut off German forces who were evacuating Corfu via that Town. Contact was made with the local Partisans who kept the Germans busy nearby.
Eventually, some of the Germans, including the former commandant of their Corfu garrison, evacuated from Corfu, arrived and with the intention of landing at Sarande, blissfully unaware of what had happened. The net result was that, after a hard fight, the entire bunch, including the said commandant, were made prisoners. The Commando buried its dead on the spot but the fallen were eventually exhumed by the Enver Hodja Government, after the war, and, together with their headstones, thrown into a communal Grave. In the 1990s, however, the bodies were exhumed and properly reburied near the Albanian Capital, Tirana. Following the success of the operation, the Commando moved back to Corfu. Sam remembers an engagement near a place called Kassiope, where a lone German Gun played havoc with the Commandos and which was only finally silenced by an accurate RAF air strike. Sam also remembers that they tricked the local Partisans, who thought that they were about to be allowed to take over control of Corfu but, in fact, found them selves surrounded and forced to hand over their weapons. Control of Corfu was then handed over to a Colonel Zervas of the Royalist Army.
The following extracts-together with photos and campaign map-from a publication issued by the 40th Marine Commando Association in 2009, on a Pilgrimage to Albania and Corfu, give the basic details of what took place. In the photo taken at the time of the Pilgrimage (shown below), at the British Cemetery in Corfu, Sam Plin is the one who is shown holding the walking stick. Sam was accompanied by family members, as were other participating veterans. They visited several places, both in Albania and on Corfu, where they had seen action. These included the said Kassiope and the Palace at Manrapos, birthplace of the Duke of Edinburgh (now a museum) where the Commandos had established their HQ.
National Secretary’s Comments; –
Many of our comrades of the Italy Star Association may wonder why these military operations did not receive the same detailed coverage that the campaign on the Italian mainland did. They were very important politically as they greatly contributed to the outcome of the post-war situation in South East Europe and in the Eastern Mediterranean area. I feel sure that the said Colonel Zervas was the one and same Colonel who “repaid” his debt to 40 Marine Commando by taking over E.O.K.A in Cyprus and bearing the responsibility for the cowardly attacks on British troops there, who were only trying to hold the line between the Greek and Turkish populations.
40 ROYAL MARINE COMMANDO (1942-26) ASSOCIATION
Operation POODLEFORCE (or HOUNDFORCE 2)
Following the highly successful Pilgrimage series of visits to Dieppe, Italy, Sicily, Prague and the Balkans, 40 Royal Marine Commando (1942-46) Association has made a number of less formal visits to the places where the Commando fought in World War II. The Veterans, their families and friends have been able to get to know the people and places in a relaxed, friendly manner and have been able to remember their fallen comrades in a manner that those young men would have recognised, without parades and formality.
We last visited Albania on The Balkan Job Mk 1, in 2003. Our late Secretary, Peter Fisher, told the President, Dr. Moisiu, that he would look to organise a visit for about 5 years later, to ‘see how the country is getting on.’ We’re a year late, but no matter, we expect to have an interesting time.
Our visit will mark the 65th anniversary of the operation in Albania in 1944, which was code-named Houndforce, hence the name for this visit. Although code names were picked from a list of random words, there has always been a suspicion that Houndforce was chosen because of Lt. Col. Sankey’s Alsatian dog, which accompanied him to Sarande and later to Comacchio!
Those men of 40 RM Caoando who died in Albania were buried near Sarande. Their graves were transferred to the capital, Tirana, some time after the War. During the Communist dictatorship of Enver Hoxha the graves and headstones were dumped in to a mass grave and effectively lost. In the late 1990’s, a commemorative cemetery was set up in Tirana, close to the site of the mass grave, and headstones for every man known to be buried there were erected.
On Corfu we will visit the British Cemetery, where two men of 40 Royal Marine Commando are buried. The Commando was engaged in peace-keeping operations in 1944, essentially keeping apart the would-be warring factions of the Greek Civil War. Marine Thomas Leonard and Marine George McKenna, both of A Troop, were fatally injured in a training accident; a mortar had been positioned too close to trees and a bomb fell back, exploding close to them.
Corfu British Cemetery is not a War Graves Commission Cemetery, but dates from 1814, during the British Protectorate of that period. There are, however, a number of British Service personnel buried therein, notably casualties from the destroyers HMS Saumarez and HMS Volage, which were mined in the Corfu Channel off the coast of Albania in October 1946, as well as the two men of 40 Royal Marine Commando.
October 1944 – February 1945
Immediately after the capture of Sarande, 40 RM Commando deployed to Corfu to safeguard the peace of the Island until the Greek authorities could manage their affairs unaided. The Germans had left behind an Island politically divided, a broken-down infrastructure, soaring inflation and a rampant black market.
The people of Corfu Town welcomed the Commandos with open arms. They were not only pleased to be rid of the Germans, but hoped that the British would help them out of their troubles. Lt. Col. Sankey establish Commando HQ in Mon Repos and P Troop were billeted in The Achillion
The first steps to establish law and order and gain the confidence of the people were taken immediately. The Island was divided into four sectors, each garrisoned by a small Commando force. Their job was to show the flag, gain the confidence of the villagers and prevent unrest. German deserters were rounded up, minefields and booby-traps removed and a programme for the repair of roads, bridges and houses initiated.
Priority was given to disarming the two politically-opposed, armed factions who were jostling for power. With careful planning and a considerable amount of bluff this was accomplished by the end of October, with about 10 tons of weapons and ammunition being recovered.
After four hours of savage street fighting the German resistance was finally broken and the garrison surrendered. Further prisoners were taken when four schooners arrived from Corfu that evening, the passengers and crew being unaware of the day’s events. The passengers included the garrison commander of Corfu, who suddenly found himself out of a job!