Re: Was Tobruk raid (Operation AGREEMENT) a surprise?

Rich Rostrom wrote:
> "Haydn" <mrbridge1944@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
> >"Michael Emrys" <emrys@xxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
> >
> >> But I did get the impression from reading the book that the
> >> Germans and Italians were prepared for trouble and responded quickly and
> >> effectively to the raid.
> >
> >The raid came instead as a real surprise, and was totally unexpected - by
> >the local troops at least.
> In _Popski's Private Army_, Vladimir Peniakoff commented on this.
> He thought that security was abominable, and believed that
> surprise was lost.
> He backs up this judgement with a story of an incident in 1943.
> How efficiently gossip and bedtime revelations
> could be translated into military intelligence
> was revealed to me a year later: at midnight on
> September 9, 1943, having landed in Italy earlier
> in the evening, I called on the commander of an
> Italian division at Francavilla, halfway between
> Taranto and Brindisi. While the general was being
> got out of bed I chatted with one of his staff
> captains, a clever lad, who had held an "Intelligence"
> appointment on the General Staf in Cyrenaica. He
> quoted from memory our order of battle for the five
> raids of September 13th, and said he had got all the
> information complete and sorted out as early as
> September 3rd, or 4th, ten days before the attack.
> Do Italian military records confirm this?
> Or was the captain blowing smoke? (His information
> could have been compiled after action).
> If HQ had this information, why was the Tobruk garrison
> not alerted?
> Or was it alerted, but the local commanders failed
> to prepare their forces?
> Or did the local commanders in fact take steps - which
> might not have been obvious to the troops?
> (A commander might redeploy assets, reshuffle assignments,
> and so on with an eye to a possible attack, yet not want
> to issue an explicit warning.)
> ISTM that the Axis side of the story needs exploring.
> --
> | The shocking lack of a fleet of modern luxury |
> | dirigibles is only one of a great many things that |
> | are seriously wrong with this here world. |
> | -- blogger "Coop" at Positive Ape Index |
> --

You will probably find more information about the Tobruk raid under the
name Operation Daffodil. The other raids at the same? time were:

Operation Tulip to recapture Jalo
Operation Hyacinth, an LRDG raid on Barce
Operation Snowdrop against Benghazi


Allied strength for Agreement/Daffodil (the only one with amphibious
landings) was about 400 Royal Marines and 180 Argyll and Sutherland
Highlanders and engineers from the sea and about 150 SAS from the
desert. Losses were about 300 RM, 166 Army, 280 RN, one cruiser (HMS
Coventry), two destroyers (HMS Sikh and Zulu) and four MTBs. German
losses were 62 killed and 119 wounded.

To answer your specific question "Was the Tobruk raid (Operation
AGREEMENT) a surprise?" , you might want to read MASSACRE AT TOBRUK:
The story of Operation Agreement by Peter C. Smith. I haven't read it

Here's a bit about the book from

Foreword by Lieutenant-Colonel E. H. W. Unwin, Royal Marines.

H/B 1987 (ISBN 0 7183 0664 3)

The North African port that became the main focus of three warring
armies in World War II. Heroically defended once; cleverly captured
once, in the autumn of 1942 it became the objective of a highly complex
and daring series of British operations designed to render it useless
to supply Rommel's forces prior to the Battle of El Alamein. The
attacks went seriously, and fatally, awry and all foundered with heavy
loss of life among the various Army units, special forces and naval
vessels engaged. It turned into a humiliating defeat of which little or
nothing has since been written.

Using newly released documents, and both German and Italian sources,
the author probed behind the reasons for the operation and Churchill's
part in them, the planning, or lack of it; the compromise of secrecy
rumour and the disastrous actions themselves. The resulting tragedy was
similar to that of Dieppe the same year, and for many of the same
reasons, but has been little studied. British casualties were heavy,
both from the assaulting forces and the Royal Navy support vessels,
while Axis losses were minimal and disruption caused practically nil.
It has always been held that the Axis knew in advance of British plans,
but the author comes to a very different conclusion.

Fully illustrated with many photos from Allied, German and Italian

(end of quote)

There's a brief description of the battle in the Official History of
New Zealand in the Second World War 1939-45 Alam Halfa and Alamein Ch.
12 The Uncombined Operations available at

It all began with a heavy bombing attack by the RAF, which ended at
midnight. Shortly after that, the RM landed from the two destroyers
north of the harbor and the Army forces from MTBs and launches from
Alexandria east of the harbor. Both forces were not landed on their
assigned area. The Army forces from the desert were supposed to prepare
the landing area for the seaborne Army forces, but only two of the
assault craft managed to land their troops. About half the RM in the
first wave landed. The HMS Sikh was sunk trying to pick up survivors.
The other two ships were sunk after leaving the area and heading back
to Alexandria.

The primary source I've seen quoted in a couple of books is I.S.O.
Playfair, "The Mediterranean and the Middle East, vol. 4, "The
Destruction of the Axis Forces in Africa (London:HMSO, 1966), 20-23.
There's also a magazine article "Tobruk 5 -- Operation Daffodil," by
Barrie Pitt in Miliary History, November 1983 (London, UK: War Monthly

If you realize that the landing at Dieppe occured 12 days after the US
landings at Guadalcanal, Tulagi, Tanamboga and Gavutu and the landing
at Tobruk occured less than a month after Dieppe, and you read the
accounts of both sets of landings, you will be amazed at the contrast
between the British and Americans as far as the level of air and naval
gunfire support even after the troops landed and surprise was lost.