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Operation Mercerised - Attack on Sarandë and Surrender of Corfu

Unit/ Formation: 40 Cdo RM

Location: Albania

Period/ Conflict: World War II

Year: 1944

Date/s: 9 - 12 October 1944

No. 2 Commando reinforce with No. 40 (Royal Marine) Commando and 25-pdr guns of the 111th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery, in order to attack and capture Sarandë.

40 RM Commando’s P Troop moving off from Sugar Beach October 1944

The attack was launched on 9 October when the weather broke. The attack led to the capture of the port, in the process taking prisoner some 600 Germans; the number of prisoners taken by the British and Albanians in this area later rose to about 1,000. The two commando units suffered 81 casualties.

As soon as Sarandë had been taken, the British dropped leaflets on Corfu advising the Germans to surrender. On 12 October white flags were seen and two days later No. 40 Commando crossed to Corfu to accept the surrender of what were only a few German stragglers as the bulk of the garrison had been successfully evacuated through Greece while Sarandë was under attack.

Extract from

Cloverdale resident, and Royal Marine, Reginald Wise revisits Battle for Sarande in WWII

by MALIN JORDAN; Nov. 5, 2020

After a few weeks of surveillance, the commandos gathered enough intelligence to launch their attack into Sarande and moved on the inland side of the port city.

The Battle for Sarande began Oct. 9 at 4 a.m. with a bombardment of German positions. Troops began their advance at 4:30 a.m. and were met with heavy resistance as they were caught in the crossfire of several Spandau machine guns.

“It was hard, close-quarter fighting in darkness pierced frequently by incendiary ammunition and star shell chandeliers, which illuminated the ugly reality on the ground,” Major Jeff Beadle writes about the battle in his book The Blue Lanyard: 50 years with 40 Commando, Royal Marines.

Beadle notes the Royal Marines held their ground against a severe German counterattack and outlasted an all-out onslaught for more than an hour.

The Royal Marines advanced through more heavy fighting to finally reach Sarande.

Wise recalls the fighting in town being brutal, house-to-house combat. “Very close fighting and very difficult.”

“After four hours of savage street fighting, the German resistance was finally broken and the garrison of 750 men surrendered,” writes Beadle.

The commandos were quite successful in the operation to take the town. They only suffered 57 casualties: nine dead and 48 wounded.

“The men were all battle-hardened,” recalls Wise. “They knew exactly what to do. You didn’t have to tell them anything. That’s why we did so well and why our casualties were so low.”

Early in the evening the garrison commander from Corfu sailed across with four boats full of German soldiers. They were immediately taken prisoner when they reached shore.

“He was quite surprised,” remembers Wise. “We were as well. No one expected him to fall into our hands like that.”

Wise and his pals took the flag from the commander’s boat. Later, in November on Corfu, Wise and his fellow commandos would snap their famous pic.

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