Operation Basalt, the Real Story
La Société Sercquaise’s Heritage Room was packed on Sunday for a talk by military historian Eric Lee on Operation Basalt, a raid on Sark by British commandos in 1942 during the German Occupation of the island. Eric is writing a book about the raid which debates the success or otherwise of the event, the many untruths it inspired and its far-reaching implications. The raid took place on the night of 3rd/4thOctober when twelve commandos led by Major Geoffrey Appleyard arrived by sea and scaled the cliffs of the Hog’s Back. Following information received from Mrs Frances Pittard at Jaspellerie they raided the Dixcart Hotel where six Germans were billeted. Three were killed and two escaped but one, an engineer, was captured and taken back to England where he provided valuable information on German activities in Sark, Guernsey and France. Two of the men killed had died with their hands bound as they tried to escape, a fact that outraged Hitler and caused him to issue the Commando Order whereby any commandos captured were immediately executed. Reprisals for the Sarkese were equally draconian. Frances Pittard and Bob Hathaway (the Dame’s husband) were among a large group to be deported, more islanders had their homes taken over by troops and additional areas of the island were mined. Eric’s visit revealed that, contrary to many versions of events, Mrs Pittard survived the war. She returned to Sark, remarried, lived until 1969 and is buried in St Peter’s graveyard. Eric’s book will be published by History Press at the end of the year and will undoubtedly provide a fascinating and insightful account of this piece of Sark’s past.
Pictures and words by Sue Daly. Photos from top show …
Eric Lee giving his talk at La Société Sercquais
The grave of the very brave Mrs Pittard, later Mrs Norris