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  • Writer's pictureSi Biggs

40 CDO Recce of Pelagosa

Updated: 3 hours ago

Unit/ Formation: 40 Cdo RM

Location: Pelagosa

Period/ Conflict: World War II

Year: 1943

Date/s: 5th December 1943



The Reece party consisting of One troop of 40 RM Command, commanded by capt. l.C. McKeller RM embarked in L.C.I. 316 during the afternoon of Saturday 4th Dec.

The L.C.I. sailed at 0400 hrs 5th. Dec. and approached the island at about 1000hrs. As no suitable beach was found, a small recce party of two Officers and 5 0.R.s went ashore in three rubber boats at approx. 1045hrs. Several men were seen to be moving about the Island who seemed friendly. A reception party of Italian sailors were on the beach to help us ashore, amongst whom was an English speaking Italian, Albinl, who an immense help throughout.

HM LCI(L)-316 and HM LCI(L)-294 berthed side by side, date and location unknown. Ken Booker for his father Able Seaman Harry Booker HM LCI(L)-316 [NavSource Online]

In my boat I took the interpreter but as Albini could speak excellent English I used him Instead. He acted my guide and showed me all the radio cable and other installations. A sentry wag placed on each until definite orders were received from the L.C.I. ae I did not wish to destroy their amenities if they were to be left.

US troops come ashore from HM LCI(L)-316 and HM LCI(L)-133, 15 August 1944, during the invasion of southern France. US National Archives photo # III-SC 19290 a US Army Signal Corps. photo now in the collections of the US National Archives

In the meanwhile the L.C.I. was directed to the north end of the Island where it was calmer and also provided a little cover from air observation. As it was discovered the men had no Job to perform and were very keen to leave the Island, it was decided to evacuate the personnel and dismantle any remaining installations. The cable transmitting and receiving machines were destroyed, the radio dismantled and brought back, all arms which consisted of one M.G. and ten rifles were also destroyed (they were rusty and quite useless).

The Palagruža lighthouse was built in 1875 on the Island of the same name, located almost in the middle of the Adriatic Sea, halfway between the Croatian and Italian coasts. It is the most remote Croatian island. It is 1400 meters long, 300 meters wide, and 90 meters high, and is the largest island in the Palagruža archipelago.[SecretAdriatic]

The motor which supplied the power for the lighthouse was dismantled. There was a radio beacon mast which had been blown down by strong wind and in the radio room were crates of instruments etc. for this beacon which had not been assembled. I left them intact.

Beneath the mast was a concrete room with their petrol supply but I could not get into this as the key broke and it had a steel door. I collected all the papers from the C.P.0.s safe. I ordered the Italians to transport the boats from SOUTHCOVE to NORTHCOVE as it was impossible to launch them with the heavy surf that was running.

As soon as they arrived at NORTHCOVE the radio equipment was ferried out to L.C.I. under the directions of Lieut. Beadle. During the movement of the boats the garrison packed their bags and made their way to the cove, I had trouble with them in the respect that they were more anxious to gather their belongings than get to the boats in which they would be taken off.

The Italians end their baggage were ferried out in the boats by the ranks aboard the L.C.I. who were changed every journey. The last party left at 1445hrs.

Throughout the operation, the Captain of the L.C.I. Lieutenant Crabtree R.N.V.R. was extremely helpful in bringing his craft as close inshore as was possible with a heavy surf and a very rocky offshore. It was very much appreciated by the ferrymen in rubber boats.


POPULATION 15 ranks of the Italian Navy as garrison

RADIO COMMUNICATION To BRINDISI calls were made every day but no reply. No communications with JUGOSLAVIA or ALBANIA.

CABLE COMMUNICATIONS To the Islands of LAGOSTA. Also 4 daily calls to

TREMITI but no reply.

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