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30 CDO - Raid on Algiers

Updated: Nov 7, 2023

Unit/ Formation: 30 Cdo Location: Maghreb Period/ Conflict: World War II Year: 1942 Date/s: 8 November 1942 Two British warships, HMS Broke and HMS Malcolm, zigzagged across the moonless Bay of Algiers, carrying the Commandos into action, the British ships flying the Stars and Stripes in the hope that the Vichy French would not shoot at Americans

The cover name for IAU at this time was the ‘Special Engineering Unit’

The American soldiers’ job in terminal Force was to hold the port of Algiers and to prevent dock-sabotage and ship-scuttling until the infantry landing on other beaches came in to take over the city (projected to become Allied Force Headquarters).

The IAU’s job was to get into the French Admiralty building at the head of the Grand Môle, blow the safes and take the papers. The British marines had tried to impress the doughboys on the early stages of the voyage by flaunting their shooting skills, riddling tins in the sea with semi-automatic fire and showing off their muscles with callisthenics and commando unarmed combat.

Paul McGrath remembered that the GIs ‘reckoned [the IAU] were pretty rugged fellows and were glad we were on their side’. The plan went awry because, in the darkness, Malcolm and Broke could not find the boom floating across the narrow entrance to Algiers harbour. Belching a smokescreen, HMS Broke swerved away from the sea wall. HMS Malcolm tried again to find the gap between the wall and the jetty, failed, and was turning seaward when the searchlights pinpointed them.

HMS Broke

The guns of the Batterie des Arcades, sited 300 feet up and with a clear line of fire, scored several direct hits amidships.

At the fourth attempt, HMS Broke did burst through the Algiers harbour boom and berthed at a different mole. The Americans occupied the southern part of the commercial port to the tolling of church bells, but at 8.00 a.m. heavy firing by the Vichy French began. Broke shifted moorings twice to avoid the artillery but was finally forced to leave, abandoning most of the American soldiers. (Hit again on the way out, the damaged destroyer later sank at sea.)

Outnumbered and surrounded, menaced by tanks, with five dead, eight wounded and no sign of Allied rescue, Lieutenant Colonel Edwin T. Swenson ordered his 200 men to surrender.

AIU had transferred to the HQ ship of the Eastern Task Force, HMS Bulolo to find a new way to get to Algiers Admiralty. Once ashore they began to head to their secondary target Italian Armistice Commission HQ at Cheragas

It is hellish lying still under point-blank shellfire, unable to shoot back Ken Finlayson

More 30 CDO Dits.

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