Operation Basalt 75th Anniversary Commemoration

On the 75th Anniversary of the Operation Basalt (Op Basalt) raid on Sark, Channel Islands, by Commandos of the Small Scale Raiding Force several commemorative events were held on the island. Any excess of funds raised for the commemorations were to be donated to the Sark Branch of TRBL and came to £2,596.33.

The first event was the unveiling of a Commemorative Stone on the Hog’s Back promontory (entry point of the raid), with the unveiling taking place at 3pm on the afternoon of Tuesday the 3rd October, in the presence of over 70 people from Sark and further afield.
Some of the Sark School children who attended the event
The stone carries two plaques, the main plaque commemorates the Commandos and Mrs Frances Pittard, who assisted them, the other plaque gives the names of the three German soldiers killed in the raid and that of the soldier captured and taken back to England as a Prisoner of War.

The unveiling ceremony commenced with an address of welcome by the Seigneur of Sark, Major Christopher Beaumont (late RE), who is also the President of the Sark Branch of the Royal British Legion.

The unveiling party, who removed a Union Flag draped around the stone, was Mr John Appleyard (half-brother to Major Geoffrey Appleyard who planned and led the raid but who did not survive the war) and Lieutenant Colonel Reg Guille MBE, Chairman of the Sark Branch (late RA & Army Commando).

When the stone had been unveiled John Appleyard, made a moving and emotive speech in reply to the address of the Seigneur. After the speech people were invited to move forward and view the commemorative stone and its plaques, with many photographs being taken. The ceremony was blessed with perfect weather conditions, with Jersey in the distance giving a perfect back-drop to the commemorative stone.

The second event was a Presentation on the raid by Mr Eric Lee, author of the book “Operation Basalt - British Raid on Sark and Hitler’s Commando Order”, at 7pm at Stocks Hotel. The evening commenced with a welcome address from Reg Guille, who also introduced the speaker. After the very interesting talk by Eric, a panel was then formed to take and answer questions – the panel members were Eric Lee, John Appleyard and Mr Chris Oliver (Local Historian from Guernsey). There followed thirty minutes of questions and answers on the raid and the personalities who took part in that raid. The panel was roundly applauded for their efforts.

This was followed by a sumptuous buffet laid on by the hotel, the centre piece being a very large cake made by Mrs Helen Plummer (Branch Member & Poppy Appeal Organiser) in the shape of the Hog’s Back, Dixcart Bay, Dixcart Valley, Jaspellerie Headland and which also depicted Dixcart Hotel, Jaspellerie House and Petit Dixcart House, all key locations during the raid. The 60 plus audience then left, much later, to walk home under Sark’s Dark Skies (a designated Dark Sky Place by the International Dark Sky Association and the first Island in the world to be so designated) on a beautiful, warm clear night.

The third and final event

also blessed by fine weather, took place on Wednesday the 4th October with a battlefield walk ‘In the Footsteps of the Commandos’. The walk was led by Major Marco Ciotti (late RLC)(ADC to His Excellency The Lieutenant Governor of Guernsey).
The 50 plus walkers gathered at the Visitor Centre before walking to the Hog’s Back,
The Hog’s Back (Early 20th Century)
where Marco introduced the personalities and background to the raid before leading the walk along the route taken by the Commandos - along the spine of the Hog’s Back, past Le Petit Dixcart House where they stopped for a briefing, then to La Jaspellerie House
for a further stop and longer briefing, before moving on to view the ‘Casino Oak’ (planted a few years ago in memory of Major Geoffrey Appleyard DSO, MC & Bar, RASC with an acorn brought back from Casino by Marco Ciotti, where Geoffrey is remembered on the memorial to the men with no known grave in the Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery at Casino). The walk then went on to Dixcart Hotel (closed)
Dixcart Hotel Annex (as it was)
where the German soldiers were captured and the crux of the events of that evening 75 years ago took place and which led to the deaths of the three German soldiers and the taking of a prisoner, before the Commandos beat a hasty retreat to their MTB (nicknamed The Little Pisser)
MTB 344
commanded by Lieutenant Freddie Bourne RNVR and made a successful return to Portland, as daylight broke on the morning of the 4th October 1942.
The raid led to Hitler issuing his infamous Commando Order, effectively ordering that any captured Commando was to be executed, after interrogation.
The walk lasted some three hours and most then repaired to Stocks Hotel, just a few yards away, for refreshments.
Dixcart Valley (Early 20th Century)

Sark was pleased to welcome many members of the Appleyard family, including nieces and nephews and their spouses who live in Guernsey (the Woods family who ran Herm for many years) and members of the Bramley War Memorial Trust, Bramley being where the Appleyard family lived. Unfortunately, descendants of other Commandos who took part in the raid were unable to attend due to commitments elsewhere.

Sark was to be raided once more in on the 27th/28th December 1943, during Operation Hardtack 7 which was a disaster for the Commandos of No. 10 Commando, with two French Commandos of the party killed by mines. However, the Sark Branch are already planning a commemorative event to mark the raid on its 75th Anniversary, the 27th/28th December 2018.

More information on the OP Basalt raid can be found in the book by Eric Lee

“Operation Basalt - British Raid on Sark and Hitler’s Commando Order”

printed by The History Press www.thehistorypress.co.uk and

“Geoffrey – Being the Story of ‘Apple’ of the Commandos and Special Air Service Regiment”

printed by Whitehead & Miller Ltd; copies may be obtained from email: bramleywm@aol.com

Created By
John Hunt

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