response to the airborne operations of the German military,
Churchill's Shadow Raiders by Damien Lewis explores
the Special Forces established by Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
The story shows that Churchill was a few people with enough
insight to create a commando unit.
In February 1941, thirty-eight members, known as the X Troop,
were sent on their first mission. Dubbed Operation Colossus,
these men were sent into Southern Italy to destroy the aqueduct
near Calitri. The original reports labeled this mission as a
failure because the aqueduct was not fully destroyed, and most
of the Allied troops were captured. Yet, Lewis disagrees and
explains in the book why the mission was actually successful.
Lessons taken from the operation provided the British military
with valuable operational and technical experience that helped
shape future airborne operations, such as Operation Biting.
The author explained, “Operation Colossus was the first
airborne operation by Special Forces. It has been called a disaster
but is actually a success. The reason it was called a disaster
was the surveillance photos seemed to show the aqueduct intact.
Unfortunately, once a mission is declared a disaster in official
reports, it is almost impossible to turn it around. I disagree
because those involved were quite clear that they blew the aqueduct
up. They actually put out of action the Italian ports that depended
on the aqueduct and proved that airborne operations could succeed.
The Italians were unable to get fresh water for two weeks."
A second mission happened in February 1942. The airborne commandos
were sent to raid the German coastal radar installation in
northern France. Because of the German's extensive coastal
defenses, it was decided to do an airborne raid instead of
a seaborne raid. Under the command of Major John Frost, they
parachuted into France a few miles from the installation.
The raid was ultimately successful since there were few casualties,
and the radar was brought back to England. Basically, the
German radar was neutralized after the English studied the
"I wanted to show how Operation Biting's
goal was to steal radar right under the Germans' noses. The
equipment was stolen. The results were that the Germans now
understood the British had the capability to go behind enemy
lines. After Hitler was told, he transferred anyone in charge
of guarding it to the Eastern Front. It also enabled the British
to "blind" some of the radar."
who wants to learn more about the origins of the British Special
Forces should read this book. It intertwines historical research
and eyewitness testimony to tell the untold story of heroism,
courage, and ingenuity.