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Operation Basalt

The commando raid on Sark that changed the course of history.

Operation Basalt

Operation Basalt was a commando raid that took place on Sark on the night of the 3rd October, 1942. The objective of this raid was to gather information about conditions on Sark and to try and capture one or more German soldiers to take back to England for interrogation. Against all odds, the objectives were achieved but the consequences of the raid were to have repercussions far and beyond the little island of Sark.

The commandos landed on the rocks below Hog’s Back and scaled the cliff to the headland above Dixcart Bay. The shore party only had some three hours to conduct the mission before their boat skipper was ordered to leave, with or without them.

They broke into La Jaspellerie house where they encountered a Mrs Pittard who most helpfully provided them with information on where some German soldiers could be found; a few hundred yards away in Dixcart Hotel. Mrs Pittard was eventually deported to Germany as a reprisal for the raid in early 1943. Her grave is to be found near to the grave plot of the Seigneurs of Sark.

At Dixcart Hotel the commandos discovered a sentry, who was dealt with quietly by knife. Inside the hotel they captured five German soldiers, restrained and herded them back towards the boat. However, upon realising how few men had them captured the Germans started to resist and cry out. In the ensuing melee two of the prisoners were shot dead, two escaped and the Commandos beat a hasty retreat with their one remaining prisoner to the Hog’s Back.
Fortunately for the commandos, the skipper had waited beyond his ordered time to leave and was still waiting for them. Mission accomplished they headed full speed back to Portland. In reporting about the raid to the Prime Minister Mr Winston Churchill, the deportations from Sark were heard about in England for the first time.
Adolf Hitler, on discovering that German soldiers had been shot with their hands tied issued his infamous and illegal ‘Commando Order’, which in effect ordered the killing of any Commando or irregular soldier captured, no pardon was to be given. However, those captured could be interrogated before being murdered. Many brave men went to their deaths due to this direct order from Hitler.

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