World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Operation Abstention

Article Id: WHEBN0016031171
Reproduction Date:

Title: Operation Abstention  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Kastellorizo, Operation Hawthorn, Operation Chopper (commando raid), Operation Foxrock, Operation Saxifrage
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Operation Abstention

Operation Abstention
Part of the Battle of the Mediterranean of World War II

Italian destroyer Crispi
Date 25–28 February 1941
Location Island of Kastelorizo, eastern Aegean Sea
Result Italian victory
 United Kingdom
Commanders and leaders
Andrew Cunningham
E. de F. Renouf
H. J. Egerton
Luigi Biancheri
Francesco Mimbelli
1 light cruiser
1 anti-aircraft cruiser
7 destroyers
1 gunboat
1 submarine
1 armed yacht
200 commandos
200 soldiers and marines
2 destroyers
2 torpedo boats
2 MAS boats
SM.79 bombers
SM.81 bombers
280 soldiers
88 marines
Casualties and losses
5 killed
10 wounded
20 captured or interned
7 missing[1]
1 gunboat damaged
14 killed
12 captured[2]

Operation Abstention was a code name given to the British invasion of the Italian island of Kastelorizo, off Greece, during the Second World War, in late February 1941. The goal was to establish a base to challenge the Italian naval and air supremacy on the Greek Dodecanese islands.[3]


After the attack on Taranto and the success of Operation Compass, an offensive in Cyrenaica, Libya from December 1940 – February 1941, the British conducted operations to neutralize Italian forces in the Dodecanese islands. Admiral Andrew Cunningham, the commander of the Mediterranean Fleet planned an occupation of Kastelorizo, the easternmost Greek island in the chain just off the Turkish coast. The island was some 80 mi (70 nmi; 130 km) from Rhodes and it was intended to establish a motor torpedo boat base.[4] The operation was intended as a first step towards the control of the Aegean Sea.[5][6] Italian naval and air forces in the area, were still capable of carrying out hit-and-run attacks on Allied shipping between Egypt and Greece.[7]



Map of the South-eastern Aegean Sea

About 200 commandos, transported by the destroyers HMS Decoy and Hereward and to land in the harbour, a 24-man detachment of Royal Marines on the gunboat HMS Ladybird, sailed from Suda Bay on 24 February. The plan was to establish a beachhead in the island, before the arrival 24-hours later of a Sherwood Foresters company to consolidate the British position.[8] The second force was to sail from Cyprus on board the armed yacht HMS Rosaura, escorted by the light cruisers HMAS Perth and HMS Bonaventure. Before dawn, the commandos landed and the Royal Marines occupied the port, after the submarine HMS Parthian had made a reconnaissance of the coast.[9]

The Italian presence at Kastelorizo consisted of a small and miscellaneous unit of soldiers and agents of the Guardia di Finanza in charge of a wireless station.[10] The British took the garrison by surprise, seized the radio outpost and took 12 prisoners but the Italians managed to send a message to Rhodes, the main Italian air and naval base in the Dodecanese. A few hours later, aircraft of the Regia Aeronautica (Italian Royal Air Force) raided the harbour castle and the main hills of the small island, where the commandos were entrenched. Ladybird was struck by a bomb and three seamen wounded; already short of fuel, Ladybird was forced to re-embark the Royal Marines party and make for Haifa, which cut the radio link of the commandos with Alexandria.[11] After communications breakdowns and mishaps, the follow-up force from Cyprus was diverted to Alexandria.[12]

Italian landing

Damage on Governor's palace after the Italian reconquest

The [15]

High seas forced the Italian Navy to suspend the landings until the morning of the 28 February, as the Italian forces already ashore, harassed the exhausted and isolated British commandos, who were equipped only for a 24-hour operation.[16][17] The Italian squadron returned some hours later, reinforced with two destroyers from Leros, Crispi and Sella and two MAS motor-launches, unloading the remainder of the land contingent and resuming bombardments, which made the Commandos' position untenable. When more British forces from Alexandria arrived on 28 February, the Company Commander, Major Cooper, after discussion with the other commanders, concluded that lack naval and air support, made withdrawal inevitable and the bulk of the landing party, isolated on a small plateau in the east end of Kastelorizo was re-embarked.[18] Italian troops surrounded and eventually captured a number of commandos who had been left behind. While covering the withdrawal, HMS Jaguar was attacked by Crispi, which fired two torpedoes. The torpedoes missed and Jaguar opened fire with its 4.7 in (120 mm) guns but a jammed searchlight made the gunfire ineffective and the British force sailed back to Alexandria.[19] The destroyers HMS Nubian, Hasty and Jaguar, made a sweep between Rhodes and Kastelorizo but failed to intercept the Italian warships as they returned to base.[20]



The operation was described by Admiral Cunningham as "a rotten business and reflected little credit to everyone".[21] A Board of Inquiry found that Hereward‍ '​s commander made a misjudgement by rejoining Decoy, instead of engaging the Italian force without delay, which caused the failure of the main landing and the isolation of the commandos.[22] British commanders had also been surprised by the Italian riposte, especially the frequent air attacks which were unopposed.[23][24][25] Some Italian sources claim that the British forces captured the Italian cryptography code but this was contradicted in 1957, by Marc’Antonio Bragadin, an admiral at the time of the operation and British sources make no mention of capturing codes.[26][27] The Italians retained control of the Dodecanese Islands until the capitulation in September 1943. As soon Italy changed sides, the British landed on the islands in the Dodecanese Campaign (8 September – 22 November 1943). British and Italian troops were attacked and defeated by a German operation and the islands came under German control, until the end of the war. Kastelorizo was not occupied but constant air attacks destroyed many of the homes and forced the Greek population to flee to neutral Turkey or to Palestine.[28]

Order of battle

See also


  1. ^ Castelrosso, p. none (Italian)
  2. ^ Smith & Walker, p. 22
  3. ^ Simpson, p. 85
  4. ^ Greene and Massignani, p. 145
  5. ^ Simpson, p. 85
  6. ^ Koburger, pp. 107–108
  7. ^ Bragadin, p. 80
  8. ^ Seymour pp. 69–70
  9. ^ Bragadin, p. 80
  10. ^ Bragadin, p. 80
  11. ^ Titterton, pp. 72–73
  12. ^ Playfair 1954 p. 326
  13. ^ Bragadin, p. 80
  14. ^ Colombo, 2014, nopp
  15. ^ Titterton, pp. 73–74
  16. ^ Bragadin, p. 80
  17. ^ Seymour, p. 70
  18. ^ Castelrosso, p. none (Italian)
  19. ^ Titterton, pp. 73–74
  20. ^ Kindell 2012 p. none
  21. ^ Simpson, p. 85
  22. ^ Titterton, pp. 73–74
  23. ^ Sadkovich, p. 119
  24. ^ Smith & Walker, p. 32
  25. ^ Playfair 1954, p. 326
  26. ^ Santoni, p. 67
  27. ^ Sadkovich, p. 119
  28. ^ Kindell, 2012, nopp


External links

  • British Aegean Campaign, 1943

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.