Special Operations Executive trek in Albania

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by SOE Trails, Apr 25, 2013.

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  1. Hi all,

    I'm organising a trek in Albania this September, following in the footsteps of an ill-fated Special Operations Executive Mission - SPILLWAY. It'll be led by Dr Rod Bailey, official historian of SOE's war against Fascist Italy and author of The Wildest Province: SOE in the Land of the Eagle.

    We're at very early stages, but basically it'll follow the route outlined in the diary (kept against regulations) by Lt Col Arthur Nicholls of the Coldstream Guards. Sadly he died after narrowly escaping capture by the Germans, and remains the only member of the Coldstream Guards to have been awarded the George Cross.

    The area of Albania where all the action took place is incredibly unspoiled - it only got a road last year, and that ends prematurely. It is tough terrain though, so the trek will be physically demanding, with some scrambling here and there.

    If you want to find out more just ask here, or ping an email to register your interest to soetrails@gmail.com. We've got a Facebook page too, at www.facebook.com/soetrails



    And some more info -

    About Dr Roderick Bailey
    Roderick is that rare creature - an academic with first-hand experience of conflict (he saw active service with the British Army in Afghanistan, where he was awarded a Queen's Commendation). A graduate of Edinburgh and Cambridge Universities, he is now a Research Associate at London's Imperial War Museum and a Wellcome Trust Research Fellow at Oxford University, and in 2012 was appointed by the Prime Minister to write the official history of SOE’s war on Mussolini’s Italy.
    Roderick's 2008 history of SOE in Albania, The Wildest Province, was adapted from his PHD and widely praised (see below). His other publications include three best-selling books, on D-Day, the Victoria Cross and clandestine warfare, and he reviews books for the Times Literary Supplement and the Literary Review, and has written for The Times, The Guardian, The Scotsman and The Independent.

    Praise for The Wildest Province
    'Roderick Bailey's exemplary history... Bailey's accomplished account makes grim reading.' -- Sunday Times
    'What makes Bailey's book so readable is not only his grasp of strategy but his hold on tactics and personalities...' -- Literary Review
    'Beautifully written and impeccably researched... a compelling work and by far the most comprehensive yet undertaken on the subject...' -- The Times
    'A gripping account of two wars...it is hard to imagine the task being done better than this' -- Sunday Telegraph
    'Skilful... a scholarly and readable story almost worthy of Buchan himself' -- BBC History Magazine
    'This powerful story.. good to see these courageous British agents given another life in the pages of this work.' -- Daily Mail
    '[An] admirable work of erudition' -- Scotland on Sunday
    'Bailey has made skilful use of letters, interviews and diaries...a scholarly and readable story almost worthy of Buchan himself' -- BBC History Magazine

    An extract from Nicholls' diary, now held at the Imperial War Museum -

    Saturday 8 Jan 1944
    1430 E.F.D. [Brig Davies] standing outside the shed is fired upon from the high ground behind us. We decide to get out quick, making for the high ground. The small column sets off in deep snow and brilliant sunshine, a wonderful sitting target. Agonisingly slow progress is made and no effective reply can be made… Heavy and very effective and accurate rifle fire… E.F.D. hit in quick succession twice... In accordance with standing instructions A.N. and A.H. [Arthur Nicholls and Alan Hare] push on and in spite of presenting the most wonderful targets, miraculously escape. Are joined by a few Partisans - deciding to try and capture… and hold some high ground, are dispersed by heavy and accurate rifle fire at short range. All run for cover of the woods - A.N. and A.H. together. There they lie up until dusk, when they set out to make a forced compass march across the mountains to MARTANESH… After appalling experiences in snow drifts, freezing streams etc arrive at 0600 hours, having been continuously on the march since 1700 hrs 8 Jan.
  2. Shume mire! Fat te mbare! ^^
  3. FAA/RAF/SOE Had a base in the Albanian mountains in the early days of the invasion of Greece (mentioned in Charles Lambs book. War in a stringbag). Anyone Know anything about this? Been looking for further info for years.
  4. SOE Trails, does the name WOII Benjamin Meyrick Lepper feature in any of your info?
  5. Hi all - thanks for the replies and apologies for the delay responding. I broke down in France over the weekend and spent Monday being repatriated with the car, which involved crossing the Channel three times due to a late low-loader arrival in Dover!

    ACAB - I haven't come across the name Benjamin Meyrick Lepper, and it's a memorable one! I'll ask Rod Bailey if he has it on file. I really think I would have remembered it if I'd seen it in NA files etc. What's his story?

    BONNACON - As far as I know SOE's first involvement in Albania was a very ill-though-out mission led by a chap called Oakley Hill in 41. He had to hand himself in to the Germans when they moved in. I'll check out the Stringbag book though, thanks for the info!

    hackle - Impressive Albanian. Better than mine unfortunately. I'm hoping it's not an ancient Albanian curse though!

    Thanks for posting!
  6. Nehustan

    Nehustan On ROPs

    Oooooohhhhhh interesting stuff. I'm a bit of an SOE devotee. My ex headmaster was SOE in France during the war and wrote me a reference for the army which was systematically called shit and excellent at the same time. Probably good for wandering around the world incognito, but not particularly good for team sport!!
  7. Lt Col Arthur Nicholl's last few weeks are described in Julian Amery's "Sons of The Eagle" published 1948. I have the 2nd edition along with the address by the then HMA in Tirana on the occasion of the book's republication and translation into Albanian in 2002.
  8. Keep hold of that - it'll be a collectors' item. English versions are about £270 on Amazon now!
  9. Just checked and whilst it looks like a first edition, in very small print it says Second Edition in Albania 2002.

    There is a dedication by Amery's interpreter which says "I never forget the British mission that we have suffered very much fighting in every part of Albania. Especially for Julian Amery I have a great consideration".

    IWM also holds a copy, info here

    Copy of J Amery's book 'Sons of the Eagle' and related items, 2002 | Imperial War Museums
  10. Was this anything to do with the BAF under Wg Cdr Bill Elliott?