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HMS Stag and 11th RMB  XML
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Joined: 03/07/2022 12:35:28
Messages: 1
Location: Manchester, UK

Hello folks,

First post, just got my late Grandad's (Henry Thomas - EX3949) service records through and I'm now methodically building up a picture of his service; absolutely fascinating stuff! Always been a bit of a military history buff so this is quite an enjoyable process for me. My Mum is thrilled to get some insight into her Dad, as he was very coy about his service!

The first thing I need to query is regarding HMS Stag.

In his records, it looks like he was sent on temporary detachment from 11th RM Battalion to HMS Stag for Guard Duties on 19.10.1941, returning to 11th RMB on 9.1.1942.

The confusion comes from the next three entries, which basically lead up to him becoming a POW after the failed "Operation Agreement" op at Tobruk (I'll post seperately about that), where he was part of MNBDO1:

Embarked for Service Overseas - 4.2.1941
Disembarked Middle East - 20.4.1941
Reported missing after operations at Tobruk - 14.9.1942.

As you can see, this conflicts with the dates of the HMS Stag posting, so I'm thinking that it's either the order of the entries on this sheet that are out of chronological order, or that there has been a mistake in the dating of the entries? The latter makes the most sense.

From my understansing, HMS Stag was a shore establishment and was initially set-up in Egypt, etc, so it doesn't make sense for him to be assigned to HMS Stag while still in the UK. Wikipedia states this about HMS Stag

HMS Stag (shore establishment) was the name used for the base for British naval personnel in Egypt. First established at Port Said, it commissioned 8 January 1940. There were outposts at Adabya, Kabrit, Ismailia, Generiffa, Port Tewfik and Haifa in Palestine.

So in my mind, I think this is what actually happened is that he...

1. Embarks for Service Overseas (with 11th RMB) 4.2.1941
2. Disembarks Middle East (HMS Stag location? possibly Egypt?) 20.4.1941
3. Is assigned to HMS Stag from 11th RMB to perform Guard Duties on 19.10.1941
4. Is returned to 11th RMB on 9.4.1942
5. Reported missing on ops at Tobruk 14.9.1942

This means he would have spent the best part of 1.5 years travelling to and serving in N.Africa theatre before becoming a POW, which is a good find in itself if I've got this right?

I'd be grateful for any insight into this!

Couple of things I'm interested in finding out beyond confirming this:

1. What ship(s) did the 11th RMB sail on to get to the M.E?
2. Where exactly would the 11th RMB have landed/been stationed at upon arrival in the M.E?
3. Approximately 5 months pass between the 11th RMB arriving in the M.E and the op at Toburk; would this have been purely prep for the operation or did the 11th RMB have any other duties to perform in this period?

Really grateful for anyone's help, thank you very much in advance.


P.S We have a photo which may tally up with his time in N.Africa/M.E, which I've attached.

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 Filename 1644245258908-80a8ced0-9772-46c4-9a9d-459308b5258e.jpg [Disk] Download
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This message was edited 4 times. Last update was at 03/07/2022 13:40:54

Alan Orton
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Joined: 24/09/2010 06:18:51
Messages: 145
Location: Leamington Spa, Warwickshire.

Prior to Operation Agreement around 100 men and three officers drawn from the ranks of the B Company 11 RMB and took part in an operation at the island of Kupho Nisi just off the south eastern coast of Crete and was believed to house a radar station which as it turned out was empty. The operation was April 15th 194242 and although a success in parts was deemed little more than a training exercise by Lt. Col. E.H.M. Unwin.

On arrival in the ME MNBDO 1 was due to go to Crete, 11 RMB couyld not get there in time, MNBDO 1 was then sent to the FE but the 11th remained in Palestine and trained. They also took part in training on the Great Bitter Lake. the second part of 1941 they were on guard duties as the garrison battalion at Morscar Barracks and then guarding oil facilities at Haifa.

Although trained in amphibious landings the next proposed operation for the Battalion was a raid on Sollum Pass, rehersals took place but it came to nothing as eventually it was cancelled due to lack of landing craft.

Training was undertaken in Palestine and Cyprus and the Royal Egyptian Yacht Club in Alexandria. The practice landings held on Cyprus were found to have been harrowing due to lack of suitable landing craft. Further rehersas took place off Cyprus leaving Haifa but this led to further criticism's but the Marines performed well

For Operation Agreement the battalion boarded ship at Haifa at 2100 hrs on the 11th September and set sail at 0600 hrs the following day reaching Alexandria at 2000 hrs. They sailed for Tobruk after a briefing at 0500 hrs on the 13th four hours later they were fully briefed stating that this was not an exercise. At 1900 hrs weapons were tested and at 0157 hrs on the 14th they received the code word, not allowed to use the word but it was the same as Guy Gibsons dog. The rest is history as they say.

Below is a brief outline of what happened drawn from 'The Rhodes to Nowhere'.

In October 1940 plans had been made for a raid on Tobruk hopefully to be carried out the following spring, Operation Waylay which would employ Special Service troops in a seaward landing in four places, Party A was to land at Mengae-el-Merkah about mile and a quarter west of Tobruk, head inland and to destroy fuel supplies north of the airfield and secondly if possible, to destroy an ammunition dump and signals station. Party B would land at the same place and was to destroy oil and fuel installations to the east of the Naval barracks with their secondary target the airfield.

Party C were to land at either Mersa-Abd-Rabba or Mersa Mrara and attack the coastal defences to the north and to tackle any fuel depots they came across. Party D was to land at Mersa Mrura and make for Tobruk itself and cause as much trouble and mischief as they could, they were to attack the wireless and power stations, the telephone exchange and the barracks.

Parties A, B and C would consist of one company of troops with an attached party of Royal Engineers, Party D would comprise of just one company.
To ensure that they would have the element of surprise there would be no Naval bombardment prior to landing and no bombing by the R.A.F. although it was planned to bomb the area once the troops had been withdrawn.

Nothing came of the plan and it was soon to be forgotten about.

'The Tobruk garrison includes about 1 Italian infantry brigade and numerous staff of the c.a. About 1000 German soldiers amassed 24 miles east of Tobruk but probably that they do not have the necessary means of transport to immediately take action. However, it must be counted that these troops may intervene later. Tobruk?s artillery defense includes 8 coastal pieces, 48 pieces c.a. heavy and 85 pieces c.a. light. It is assumed that 30 Macchi 200 are located in Tobruk and El Adem airports. Some 88 and ME 110 as well as 24 Italian torpedo bombers must be located in Derna. It must be counted that a group of 30 JU 87s from Sidi Barrani may intervene within an hour. The intervention of a second group is likely within 3 hours. JU 1 from Crete can intervene within 1 hours. Within a few hours 130 enemy planes can take action. The action will be initiated by an airstrike against Tobruk on the D1/D2 night. [13/14th September]?.

?occupation of Tobruk for about 24 hours in order to perform the total destruction of the port facilities and anchorage units as well as to paralyze for a long time the efficiency of Tobruk as a port and supply base. In case of favourable developments in regard to the general situation instead of returning by sea, Forces A-B-C are to head eastwards by land, operating in correlation with Force X further paralyzing the supply line towards the front (and possibly acting on the back of our deployment during the enemy offensive at Alamein?.

'All forces are expected to leave Tobruk the evening after landing, returning-in-principle by sea, to the units of Forces A and C, and to the ten captured motor raft In the event of complete success, some of the forces will have to return by land, on captured vehicles, operating ? in connection with Force X ? against enemy lines of communication. Any missing men will be picked up three nights later by submarine at Marsa Scegga near Bardia'.

'At the beach two boats, these boats were a real 'Heath Robinson' affair, knocked up with a steel frame wood and canvas, most had no motors and had to be towed in unloaded their complement of Marines under the direction of Lt. MacDonald but by now the enemy fully aware that something was happening swept the sea with search lights and it now became apparent that the forces from the sea would not be able to affect a landing and with the coming of first light all attempts to do so was abandoned'.

'The boats were pretty much dumb lighters with only one having communication with her mother ship which left Unwin without any means of making contact and had to return without making a landing. It was said that as these boats would have one and only one outing there was no need to go to any expense in their manufacture, this lack of expense would be more expensive to those that took part in the operation'

'For those that did make the run in they faced a pretty torrid time getting a shore with some men drowning in the process, they were met with artillery, mortar and machine gun fire from the defenders. These Italians put up a fine show in pretty much stopping Force A in their tracks and those that did make a shore were a mixed bunch of Marines and artillery men along with a few engineers, their prospects were not good and eventually were forced to attempt a breakout, after entering a wadi they opened fire on some tents, it was just one of those things that goes wrong in the fog of war, ?la guerra e guerra? or rather ?war is war?. The tented camp was an Italian hospital facility but appears not to have been shown as one and casualties were inflicted.
After they had realised their mistake in opening fire the survivors made their way to another wadi and from here, they realised that there would be no other option available to them but to surrender which they finally did bringing an end to their part in the current fiasco'.

Hope this may be of interest.


This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 18/07/2022 09:00:04

Alan Orton
Forum Member

Joined: 24/09/2010 06:18:51
Messages: 145
Location: Leamington Spa, Warwickshire.

As a POW they were initially held in a temporary camp just outside of Tobruk, the following day they were taken to Benghazi where they boarded a freighter which had a large hole in it from a recent bombing raid. They left for Taranto via the coast of Crete and Greece to avoid submarines, they sailed through the Corinth Canal before finally reaching Taranto. From here they transported to Bari and then to Porto San Giorgio before finally ending up in a camp bear to the Swiss border.
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