I Was There! - Our Kill-or-Capture Raid on Thira Island

The War Illustrated, Volume 8, No. 190, Page 315, September 29, 1944.

The enemy-occupied Greek island of Thira was the recent objective of a raiding party, as described here by Sgt. Instructor D. B. Henderson of Perthshire. He tells how the German radio station was destroyed, the barracks shot up and severe casualties inflicted on the surprised garrison.

We landed on the coast of the island during the night, and after marching inland for a short distance got under cover before dawn broke. There were two patrols, each under an officer, and a lieutenant of the Greek Army as interpreter.

The main party was to attack the barracks, in which we had been told there were 38 Italians and 10 Germans, while a smaller party was to blot out the radio station and clean up an outpost at the village of Merivigli. It was a pitch black night, with the faintest crescent of a new moon showing in the sky as we left our hideout for the attack. My instructions were to get a good position covering the small house in which the German officer and his corporal lived, and kill or capture them when they came out to see what the main attack was all about.

Owing to the hight walls around the house and the fact that I was single-handed, I found that I could not get a site where I could cover both the back and the front. I got in position behind the wall where I could cover the front door because that was the nearest to where the main party would attack.

When it came to within a few minutes of zero hour, I began to feel a bit tense and hoped that I could make a clean job of it quickly; but when the attack did start the German officer stubbornly refused to do a thing, although he must have heard the racket. There was quite a wind blowing, but no one could have slept through the sound of the grenades exploding and the bursts of sub-machine-gun fire.

It was at this point that I decided to lob a grenade through the front window and liven them up. After the second one I heard people moving inside, but they went towards the rear. I dashed around to the back, but could only hear footsteps hurriedly retreating down the narrow lane. Since it was too dark to shoot, I threw another grenade and then followed down the lane, but saw nothing. Next morning we learned that one of my grenades had probably killed the corporal, but unfortunately the commandant seemed to have got away unhurt.

Meanwhile, the small patrol had everything go perfectly for them. They surprised a German in bed in the first house they entered, and made him show them where the corporal, also caught in bed, was sleeping. After this they bagged six more sleeping Germans and then went to the radio station which was unguarded, and blew it up, returning in safety to the main body...

Meanwhile, the main party had a brisk engagement with the enemy in their billet in the Bank of Athens building, some few minutes of confused hand-to-hand fighting in the pitch dark, and the Greek interpreter was killed and a sergeant mortally wounded. At least three Germans were killed and two wounded, while nine of the Italian Fascists were killed and the same number wounded. As original reports had over-estimated the number of the garrison it was thought that practically all had been killed, wounded or made prisoner.

We withdrew to our hideout in the hills then went farther back as we were being hunted from the air. Four Junkers 88s, two seaplanes and a fighter circled over us at a height of under 300 feet, but fortunately they did not locate our hiding-place and we left the island in safety that night.

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