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Attack on Milos Freya Radar Station

Haddock Troop, was a contingent of Royal Marines on 'special assignment', led by Captain Arnold Bell it consisted of two sergeants, four corporals and 46 marines who gathered at HMS Sphinx in Alexandria.


HMS Nile (Sphinx) was a shore establishment, and accommodation camp at Alexandria, commissioned on 20 Apr 1941 and paid off in May 1946.


Here ‘Haddock’ undertook Commando training with an emphasis on anti-riot and street fighting etc.


The detachment landed on Greek soil on October 12 at the Greek port of Piraeus its mission to keep law and order in the interim period between the German's withdrawl and the establishment of civil law.


HMS EASTON (L 09) - Type III, Hunt-class Escort Destroyer (Navy Photos/Mark Teadham)

They remained there until the beginning of November when they were ordered on board HMS Easton to harass the Germans who remained on the island of Milos.


An attack on a radar unit sited on Mount Topakas, on the South West corner of Milos, was planned and executed on the night of November 13/14.


KRIEGSMARINE STAFF AT THE FREYA RADAR INSTALLATION AT TOPAKAS DIMITRI GALON ARCHIVE

Milos island in the Aegean Sea, Greece was an important German base during WW2. Heavily fortified, Milos island served as a naval hub, with an airfield, radar facilities, bunker complexes and other military installations.


Freya radar

On the south western side of the island of Milos on mount Topakas, the Germans built a base, which featured a “Freya” radar .

Captain Arnold Bell Royal Marines

This radar was part of the early warning system network on Milos island, which was combined with the “FuMG 65 Würzburg-Riese” at Provatas on the southern side of the island. The radar had an unobstructed view all across the sea up to Crete island, with a maximum range of 100 kilometres.


This Radar unit was put out of action during the raid with the loss of the detachment commander and 3 of his Marines.


Two German prisoners were taken and also a number of Greek teenagers who wished to fight for the Allies.


They were withdrawn by HMS Easton.

HMS Easton Log


October Deployed in support of military operations to re-occupy Aegean Islands.

Carried out patrols to intercept craft evacuating German troops.

November Continued support duties during allied re-occupation of Greek mainland.


A detailed report was made to the Admiralty by Commander Dennis:


A few hours before Dennis and the Haddock Troop left for Milos, he had been told by Colonel Lapraik that, weather permitting, the intention was to land and send a patrol to “mop up” the radar station on Topakas.

Dennis consulted Bell and proposed that the Marines execute the raid “if it had not already been dealt with by Force 142.”

The landing of 22 men commenced at 2.50pm. The approach was made up a ravine through heavy shrub.

Dennis states that “the station was bombarded by Easton with a view to softening up any enemy that might be there or who might show any inclination to resist.” Closer to the top, white flags were seen, but these belonged to “alarmed” locals.


At about 5.00pm, snipers opened fire, but their aim proved “spasmodic and very inaccurate.” Bell gave the order to return fire with mortars and machine guns. The Marines advanced from the east, the main group making straight for the barbed wire perimeter, while two smaller groups protected the flanks.


They encountered and cut tripwires attached to flares and ‘bouncing betty’ mines.

[Photos © Andreas Galanos]

The Marines got through, but once inside the compound, the enemy “came to life”, engaging with machine guns and grenades. The compound comprised a wireless hut, radar hut and two dugouts, all of which received attention. No one was inside the wireless hut, but when Brens were fired point-blank through the door, sparks and small explosions revealed the destruction of its equipment.

Following the use of grenades, two Germans came out of a dugout and were captured. The second dugout was enveloped in smoke after phosphor grenades were lobbed inside, “cries and groans could be easily heard” within. Three more Germans were killed and the remainder withdrew beyond the crest of the hill, a position from which they threw grenades into the compound below.

[Photos © Andreas Galanos]

Bell and his runner were attending a fallen Marine, but as the light failed and the fight reached an impasse, Bell ordered a withdrawal. According to those present, the order was heard in the Captain's voice and relayed by his runner. They fell back, not realising they would never see him again.


Confusion remains as to whether Bell was hit as he gave the order or as he withdrew. Reaching Dennis, it was quickly determined that Bell and five others had not returned and an immediate search was to no avail.


Knowing the impossibility of the situation, Dennis ordered everyone back to Easton, resolving to return before first light.


His report was filed on November 21, 1944, and specifies Bell as “wounded and a POW.” It was later learned, however, that he had been killed instantly. Marines R Bachelor, H Bowkett and W Brown had also died.

The man in the 'deep shelter' was actually Marine Harry Barber, who was captured and later found on the German hospital ship Gradisca.


The memorial plaque erected by the son of the KIA Royal marine captain Arnold Bell in 1998.

Related Royal Marines 'Dits'



References/ further reading:


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