Raid to kill Rommel

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by jonwilly, Oct 21, 2006.

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  1. Gents I have just come across a program on the local Satalite TV, an obsure channel which is not listed in the TV guide.
    The title of the 30 min documentary was 'Gadiators of WW II' and it turned out to be about the SAS.
    Many film strips shot at the time including one showing Calvert as Brig SAS toward end of war, taking a Regimental 'Colours' parade.
    At one point however they state that when the D Day invasion took place a 'team' where dispatched with the express intention of assasinating F.M. Erwin Rommel.
    I know that Stirling authorised a raid on Rommel back in the desert days but I have never heared about this second attempt.
    The prog mentioned that the raid failed as Rommel was severly wounded in a fighter ground attack.
    Does anyone have further knowledge on this second raid.
    The 'Colours' where actually Gidions complete with regimental badge.
  2. Hi JON
    What was the channel number?We get (steal) UBC in Vietnam.

    I would guess you watch a bit of the history channel as well,a few days ago there was an excellent doc about Warsaw(The betrayal) but this was spoilt by music drowning out the talking.Is that how it's meant to be?
  3. It was on channel 62 EXP2. 11.00 Thai time.
    I suspect it was made by one of the companies who also do similar products for History and Discovery channels.
  4. Operation Gaff, an attempt (?) to ”kill or capture Field Marshall Rommel at his headquarters at La Roche Guyon”, says Anthony Kemp in his book ’The SAS at War’, supposedly quoting from WO 218/114 – HQ SAS Tps – in the PRO? I personally remain sceptical untill I read the file myself (or speak with someone reliable who has), for several reasons.

    First, while in the full unexpurgated version of SOE in France, MRD Foot states he does not cover all the SAS operations, there is no mention whatsoever of this mission in his significant inclusions?

    Second, the PRO does not appear to list a specific file on ‘Operation Gaff’, surely a significant undertaking?

    Third, Kemp says the 6 men of Gaff were dropped on 25 July. On 17 July Rommel was shot-up by the RAF, hospitalised and thereafter taken to his home in Errlingen, Germany to convalesce till he was killed/committed suicide on 14 October?

    Forth, it appears to be totally out of sync with the memoir of Harrison, These Men are Dangerous, in which he claims his mission, operating from the Houndsworth base in July (Houndsworth mentioned by Foot), ‘discovered’ Rommel’s HQ during the course of routine patrol, radioed London, who had the RAF destroy it?

    Re Op Gaff, Kemp says 5 men (2 French, I English, 1 Russian and 1 ‘German’ – 3 ex Foreign Legion), under Capt. William ‘Michael’ Lee dropped 25 July, couldn’t find their equipment container (presume radio included), and Lee fell sick for a couple of days during which they heard Rommel had been killed by the RAF on 28 July???

    Just too many inconsistencies and contradictions.

    The ‘Gladiators of WWII’ series (by Negus-Martin who specialise in making these kind of programmes), has been shown in the UK on the UK History channel for some time. The episode you refer to is showing again on Monday at 10:00am. I find them ‘OK’ general thumbnails for public entertainment, usually generalised plots sometimes with inaccurate specifics and often omissions. The writer-director, Charles Messenger, is quite a respected historian in the field of Commando history. However, in this case fair to say he would not have had the final say over editing and content – which in the first place would have been produced to an ‘entertainment’ brief. And Anthony Kemp is…………a freelance TV director/producer. Well, there’s a thing.

    Re the original ‘Raid on Rommel’ and ”Stirling authorised a raid on Rommel back in the desert days”, can’t see Stirling was in a position to ‘authorise’ anything? The idea was that of Geoffrey Keyes, No.11 Commando, and approved by Alan Cunningham and Bob Laycock, whom Stirling came under. The raid was nothing to do with the SAS. Recommend the excellent study by Michael Asher – Get Rommel.

  5. Thank you No9 & Muzzleflash.
    I do apreaciate that TV 'Documentaries' are made for a wider more general audiance then for the specialists of this board.
    I ask to learn and do find that there is so much knowledge to be found on the board by experts on so many subjects.
    Stirling was only name in my memory 'associated' with the Desert Op, which I read of as a kid.
    I do 99%+ of my posts from memory and do not spend any time reserching the background before placing my inquires in the open forum.
  6. Thanks John!
  7. Morning Pat,
    I have tried to find out if the prog is due to be repeated, but no luck.
    No 9 gave a good explanation.
    There was much footage that 'seemed' to have been shot on the operations of the teams in France.
    Jeeps crew of 4, twin Vickers "K" guns up front and in on seane the Vickers engage a forward target while the two rear crew get out to 'Flank'. Both men carrig an individual Bren !
    I say 'seemed' as I know much of the Photage shown of the Infantary Advance at El Alimain was actually Shot post battle by a pro Movei team.
  8. It would be interesting to do an FOI request on Operation Gaff. There could well be a file on it that hasn't reached the National Archives or it could have been previously destroyed. There are plenty of files that never make it to the archives.

    I've spent many, many months at the National Archives, it can be very frustrating to discover that so much was not preserved.

    I'd like to see what it says in WO 218/114. If I was still in the UK I'd check it out.

    Re: your first point, surely SOE in France is about, SOE operations, not SAS operations? As it happens M.R.D. Foot is a WWII SAS veteran himself.

    Edited to add:

    Just found this reference in the National Archives, there's another file that deals in part with Operation Gaff:

  9. Well done Psych, good find. Being bundled with other ops doesn’t really indicate size of report, could be extensive or a paragraph? Whichever, I tend to feel if it was a concerted effort to apprehend or assassinate Rommel it would be filled more significantly? Only one way to find out.

    Re SOE in France, this is the 1966 HMSO, 550 page official work with maps and schematics. The SOE were an extremely significant organisation and, if the war had gone differently, could have been behind the main belligerence ground effort in Europe. At the time of the Normandy landing SOE steered the French Maquis, Jedburgh teams, Bardsea teams (not deployed), Interallied Missions, American Operational Groups and, to a significant degree, the Anglo-French-Belgian SAS Brigade. The SAS were not directly under command of the SOE, (they were immediately under HQ Airborne Forces), but they were ”expected to co-operate”. SOE themselves were directly under British Chiefs of Staff and what appears to have compounded matters was the introduction of the ‘Etat-major des Forces Francaise de l’Interieur’ (EMFFI, or FFI in March ‘44), being the military body of the French Provisional Government to control national and mission forces in France. Not as if SOE didn’t have enough to contend with from their British rivals, the American OSS and the Polish Bardsea, the French wanted to put their seal of approval on everything while they themselves wrestled between Gaulist and Communist leanings. Foot states SAS missions required 6 separate approvals, and he himself was an Intelligence Officer (Captain) to the Brigade.

    I’ve two more accounts to throw into the Houndsworth mix. First concerns Tarbrush 10, one of the ‘Tarbrush’ Commando raids in mid May ’44 to recce mined obstacles in the vicinity of Calais. While attempting to get back to England by dinghy, a Sapper officer, Wooldridge, and a 3 Troop, 10 (IA) Commando officer, Lane, were picked-up by a German patrol boat. They were taken ashore to Cayeux and after being moved around and interrogated by the Wehrmacht, found themselves ‘invited’ to Rommel’s HQ at La Roche. 3 Trooper George Lane ended up taking tea with Rommel and discussing the war in general, (though being fluent in German which was a requisite of 3 Troop, No.10, Lane spoke English and explained his accent as Welsh). Thereafter they spent a time in Fresnes jail, survived further interrogation, and ended-up in Oflag 9/AH POW camp. In the camp, Lane maintains he gave the information re the location of Rommel’s HQ to senior British officer Col. Miller who was able to get it smuggled out of the camp and back to London. A few days later the RAF attacked Rommel’s car. Lane’s account is not in question, (the Rommel meeting even recorded in German records), but whether or not the HQ location info reached London AND was actually acted upon, has so far not been established.

    The second account comes from a short memoir of Sgt. Arthur Wood, No.2 Patrol, Phantom F Squadron, General Headquarters Liaison Regiment, who was attached to Houndsworth with the SAS as a communications expert. ”On one occasion a Frenchman came along [to the Houndsworth HQ camp in woods near Monsauche] and said his Chateau [Chateau Rochfoucauld] had been taken over by Rommel and his headquarters. Major Fraser [SAS] decided that two or three jeeps would go to the Chateau. I would go with them and another wireless operator to lay on an air raid, [the batteryless ‘Jed’ Sets required one man to operate and one man to crank the dynamo generator]. In the confusion the other two jeeps would go in and capture Rommel. He said we would all get a medal if we survived. I think it was such a hair-grained scheme the ‘powers that be’ back in Britain vetoed it straightaway. The RAF did come in and bomb the Chateau from our map references, but Rommel was not there at the time.”

    In a mid 1946 edition of Soldier magazine, an account on the Phantoms’ states; ’This information confirmed the uncertain report which already lay on the table of the officer who eventually gave the order to bomb the Chateau and kill the German commander.’

    Was this the info provided by Lane?

  10. I guess as the file contains a report of an unsuccessful operation it'll consist of less than a dozen pages, perhaps just one or two.

    That's the fun thing about looking at files in the National Archives, it's like opening a Christmas present, you never know what you're going to get but quite often it's just a pair of mouldy socks! :D
  11. ........and they don't match :scratch:

  12. Bloody marvelous find, my Grandad was in GHQ Liaison Regt in particular F Squadron 43 - 46