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Episodes & Studies Volume 1

Invasion of the Dodecanese Islands

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Invasion of the Dodecanese Islands

WITH THE OBJECT of containing German forces in the eastern Mediterranean and diverting part of the enemy’s air force during the Allied invasion of Italy, and also of taking advantage of any weakness in the enemy defences that might follow the Italian capitulation, British forces from the Middle East occupied the Dodecanese Islands in the Aegean Sea in September 1943. The enemy’s command of the air, however, enabled him to counter-attack and regain possession of these islands during the next two months. In the course of these operations, patrols of the LRDG were employed as raiding and reconnaissance parties in the enemy-held islands, and as garrison troops.

When Italy collapsed, the Germans assumed control of Crete, Rhodes, and Scarpanto. As a preliminary step to an assault on Rhodes and to harass the extended German garrisons, the British secured the islands of Cos, which had the only airfield, Leros, where there was a naval base, and Samos, which would be an advanced base in the north, as well as other small islands. Reinforcements were taken without opposition by air to Cos, by destroyer to Leros, and by small local craft to Samos and other islands.

Black and white map of leros

map of leros

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Before going to this new theatre of war, the LRDG spent the summer of 1943 at The Cedars of Lebanon, where the men were trained in mountain warfare. The patrols travelled long distances as self-contained units, and received supplies dropped by the RAF under wireless direction. B (British and Rhodesian) Squadron also trained on the Levant coast to operate from submarines, but A Squadron, which included approximately 110 New Zealanders under the command of Major Guild, had no opportunity for amphibious training.

A Squadron, leaving Haifa ten days after B Squadron, sailed on the Greek destroyer Queen Olga on 21 September in convoy with three other destroyers and reached Portolago, Leros, during an air raid the following day. Little damage was done to the port, so work was begun immediately unloading stores and making camp at Alinda Bay, on the eastern side of the island. A few days later the Queen Olga and HMS Intrepid were sunk at Portolago and the naval barracks were damaged in heavy air raids.

Two A Squadron patrols were despatched from Leros on 25 September for the Cyclades, a chain of islands off the south-east coast of the Greek mainland, to watch and report on the movements of enemy shipping and aircraft. A party from T1 patrol went to Kithnos and M1* patrol to Giaros. In addition, a Rhodesian patrol (S1) was sent to Simi, a small island off the coast of Turkey and about fifteen miles to the north of Rhodes, and M2 patrol to Stampalia. The remainder of the LRDG, together with the Special Boat Squadron and some commandos, were concentrated on the island of Calino, two or three miles to the south of Leros. On their arrival on 25 September they received a tumultuous welcome from the Greeks, who had been oppressed by the Italian garrison.

The enemy already had begun his air attacks on Cos, the only island from which fighter aircraft could operate to protect the sea and land forces in the Aegean. The number of fighters that could be based on the Cos airfield was not sufficient to ward off for long the determined attacks of a strongly reinforced German Air Force. The enemy invaded Cos by sea and air on 3 October and, despite the stubborn resistance of a battalion of the Durham Light Infantry, overwhelmed the garrison next day.

The troops on Calino, six miles away, were given no warning of the invasion, and as a result the LRDG narrowly escaped losing a patrol. Captain Tinker had set out on 28 September with a composite patrol of twelve men to investigate some mysterious signalling to Turkey from Pserimo, a small island midway between Calino and Cos. The signaller, who was sent back to Calino for interrogation, was found to be a Greek in British pay as an agent.

The invasion fleet bound for Cos, including merchant ships and landing craft, escorted by flak ships and three destroyers, arrived in a cove on the south coast of Pserimo before dawn on 3 October and began the assault on Cos half an hour later. The enemy put eighty troops ashore at Pserimo to establish headquarters and dressing stations. They quite unexpectedly encountered Tinker’s men, who left hurriedly for the high ground, hustled on by heavy volleys of fire from the escort ships. Enemy patrols searched the island that day and the next, but Tinker’s party was taken off in the late afternoon of 4 October and returned to Calino with the loss of only one man captured.

* M1 and M2 were British patrols formed during the training period in Lebanon. M1 was under the command of A Squadron and M2 was led by a New Zealander (Lieutenant K. H. Lazarus) in the British Army.

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The LRDG had been ordered to counter-attack Cos the previous night—an impossible task— but this order was cancelled and all the troops on Calino, which was now considered untenable, were instructed to return to Leros. Stores and troops were loaded into every available craft and a strange fleet of little ships struggled out from Calino in the evening. They reached Leros at various times throughout the night and, in anticipation of air attacks, unloaded and moved the stores away from the wharves before daylight. A dive-bombing raid by fifty-five aircraft began at 5.30 a.m. and lasted four hours. An Italian gunboat and several small craft were sunk and buildings and installations destroyed.

The garrison on Leros comprised Headquarters 234 Brigade, a battalion of the Royal Irish Fusiliers, a company of the Royal West Kents, and the Raiding Forces (about 200 men of the LRDG, 150 men of the SBS, and thirty commandos). The only anti-aircraft defences, 40-millimetre Breda guns, and the five coastal-defence batteries, each of four 6-inch naval guns (off British ships), were Italian. Five LRDG patrols were despatched to the battery positions to stiffen the morale of the Italian allies and if necessary prevent them from turning their guns against brigade headquarters. The task of seeing that the gun crews were at their posts, and that they manned their guns, called for tact, patience, and even force. The Italian communication system, inefficient in any case because of the demoralisation of the signalmen, was damaged by bombing, and in the later stages before the invasion the only communications were the LRDG wireless links.

The bombing attacks were continued every day, often by sixty or more aircraft, and the coastal batteries were among the targets selected. The battery on Mount Marcello, in the north-west, where Y2 patrol was stationed, was put out of action on 8 October, and the battery on Mount Zuncona, to the east of Portolago Bay, where R1 (under Lieutenant D. J. Aitken40) was stationed, was put out of action next day. Aitken’s patrol was then withdrawn to A Squadron headquarters.

German landing craft were seen entering the bays of Calino on 10 October, and next day the coastal batteries shelled the enemy from Leros. The LRDG sent parties of two or three men to Calino to gather information about enemy activity there. On one occasion a New Zealander (Sergeant R. D. Tant41) failed to return to the rendezvous. Captured by the enemy, he was taken from Calino to Cos, but escaped to Turkey and arrived back at Leros after being missing for a fortnight. He was again taken prisoner, however, during the invasion of that island, by the same company of German paratroops.

The loss of the Cos airfield was a major setback, for without air cover merchant shipping could not enter the Aegean with the anti-aircraft guns, transport, and stores needed for the defence of Leros and Samos, and the Navy could avoid unacceptable losses only by operating at night. It was doubtful whether Leros and Samos could be held indefinitely without the capture of Rhodes, a major operation for which the resources were not available in the Middle East. Nevertheless, the Commanders-in-Chief of the three services decided to hold Leros and Samos as long as supplies could be maintained.

Destroyers, submarines, and smaller craft brought troops, supplies, six 25-pounder guns, twelve Bofors guns (which were strapped on submarines), jeeps and trailers. Mortars, machine guns, ammunition, wireless equipment, and other stores were dropped by parachute. The garrison was reinforced by 400 men of the Buffs, who were the survivors of the troops on three destroyers sunk by mines off Calino on 24 October, and by a battalion of the King’s Own.*

* The King’s Own Royal Regiment

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Patrols in Outlying Islands

The invasion of Leros had been expected to follow the fall of Cos, but bombing attacks on enemy airfields in Greece, Crete, and Rhodes by Allied aircraft based in North Africa and Cyprus, and offensive sweeps against enemy shipping in the Aegean, delayed the assault until mid-November. So that an invasion force might be anticipated and if possible intercepted, LRDG patrols were stationed in the outlying islands astride the sea and air routes to the Dodecanese to watch the movements of enemy shipping and aircraft. Acting on information sent by T1 patrol from Kithnos, the Navy sank on 7 October a convoy consisting of six landing craft, an ammunition ship, and an armed trawler. There were only ninety survivors from 2500 troops. The destruction of this convoy prevented the enemy from making an immediate assault on Leros.

Captain C. K. Saxton42 and six men of T1 patrol were taken to Kithnos in an 18-ton caique* of the Levant Schooner Flotilla, which made the voyage in three stages at night and was concealed during daylight against the shores of two intermediate islands. Kithnos was occupied by a garrison of between fifteen and twenty Germans in charge of a permanent observation post and wireless direction-finding station. At first it was intended that T1 should stay a fortnight, but so valuable was the information they obtained that it was decided to leave them on the island for a month. The enemy knew they were there, but Saxton’s men avoided discovery by changing their hiding-places, which were mostly in stock shelters, and by moving at night. Sergeant J. L. D. Davis, who had some knowledge of their language, obtained from several of the local Greeks reliable information about the enemy dispositions in the neighbouring islands and about shipping routes. His conduct throughout the Aegean operations won Davis the BEM.

Kithnos was admirably situated for observing the routes from Greece to Crete and the Dodecanese Islands. T1 patrol, which kept a constant watch for shipping and aircraft, sighted a convoy passing between Kithnos and Siros islands in the afternoon of 6 October, and reported by wireless its size, speed, air cover, and probable route; this was the convoy sunk by the Navy off Stampalia. The LSF caique returned with supplies and took Saxton and the wireless operator to a small island off Seriphos to charge the wireless batteries, a noisy operation that might have betrayed them to the enemy. While they were away, Davis, who was left in command of the observation post on Kithnos, saw two small convoys moving at night.

After capturing Cos, the enemy consolidated his position in the Cyclades by occupying many of the islands. Believing that they were cut off and would have to find their own way back, T1 planned to escape to Turkey by capturing a German caique or by taking a local fisherman’s boat, but before they attempted to do this T2 patrol arrived by LSF caique to relieve them. Saxton’s patrol, with two of the Greeks who had helped them, returned safely to Leros on 23 October.

T2 (five men under Second-Lieutenant M. W. Cross43) were disembarked at Seriphos because that island was thought to be safer than Kithnos, which the enemy patrolled with seaplanes. A Greek helped Cross’s party to find a suitable hiding-place in an abandoned goat-house on top of a 300-foot cliff at the northern end of the island, from which they had a magnificent view. The local inhabitants kept the patrol constantly informed about the movements of the enemy page 27 garrison, reported to be between twenty and fifty strong, in the town about four miles away. The postmaster passed the information by telephone to a monastery, and a priest sent a runner to the New Zealanders’ hideout. T2 spent three weeks on Seriphos without being observed, although once the enemy sailed so close inshore below their cliff that they could have dropped a stone in the boat.

They saw only one vessel, a steamer of about 6000 tons, but when the enemy began an airlift from Athens to Rhodes with four large flying boats escorted by seaplane-fighters, they reported the times that the aircraft passed the island. Six Beaufighters shot down the flying boats when they appeared one day without fighter escort. T2 was relieved by a British patrol and returned to Leros on 9 November with three Greeks.

Seven men from R1 patrol, under Lieutenant Aitken, spent seventeen days on Naxos, one of the largest of the Cyclades Islands, to which they were taken by motor launch. They confused the garrison of 650 Germans, who undoubtedly knew they were on the island, by making long cross-country treks. The local inhabitants, as on the other islands, warned the patrol of the enemy’s movements and were at times embarrassingly friendly. The patrol saw single ships but no convoys, and reported a concentration of shipping in Naxos harbour, which was attacked by two Mitchell bombers escorted by two Beaufighters. The RAF sank two ships, but at the cost of two aircraft shot down. The pilot and navigator of a Beaufighter that crashed in the sea were rescued by Greeks and taken into the town, where their wounds were dressed by a doctor and they were hidden until the LRDG patrol could smuggle them out under the noses of the enemy. R1 took the two airmen back to Leros, where they arrived on 6 November without casualty.

* These small local craft were fitted with tank engines, giving them a speed of six knots, and manned by the Navy with a crew of three. They were camouflaged with their masts down so that they could not easily be detected when lying close inshore.

The Assault on Levita

The survivors of the enemy convoy sunk on 7 October were landed on Stampalia, where the LRDG had M2 patrol. A small naval craft (the Hedgehog) despatched from Leros to bring back ten prisoners of war for interrogation, called with engine trouble at Levita, about twenty miles to the west of Calino. A party sent by motor launch to the assistance of the Hedgehog found only a smouldering wreck and was fired on from the island. As the possession of Levita was considered essential to the Navy, and as it would be useful as an observation post, the commander of 234 Brigade ordered the LRDG to capture the island. Major Guild and Captain Tinker urged that a reconnaissance should be made before the assault force was landed, but permission to do this was not granted.

It was decided to attack with forty-eight men under the command of Captain J. R. Olivey,44 the force including twenty-two from A Squadron under Lieutenant J. M. Sutherland,45 and the remainder coming from B Squadron. Sutherland’s patrol (R2), was withdrawn from the coastal battery on Mount Scumbardo, in southern Leros, and was joined by a few men from R1 and T2 patrols. The B Squadron party included Y2 and part of S1 patrol. In case the enemy should be occupying both ends of Levita, B Squadron was to land to the west of the port, which is on the south coast, and A Squadron to the east. The objective was to reach the high, central ground overlooking the port.

The landings were to be made from two motor launches in small, canvas boats, but as these had been punctured in air attacks, the troops had to patch them with sticking-plaster before they page 28 could practise rowing in them. The force had four infantry wireless sets for inter-communication between the two parties and with the launches, and a larger set for communication with Leros. When they were about to leave at dusk on 23 October, however, it was discovered that the A Squadron set had not been ‘netted in’ with the others.

Most of the men were violently seasick before they reached Levita. It took A Squadron a long time to float the canvas boats from the tossing launch, but they eventually got away and landed on a very rugged coast, where the men rescued as much of their gear as they could from the rocks and dragged it up a cliff face. Sutherland told his wireless operator to try to get in touch with Olivey, but at no stage was he able to do so.

After disembarking the two parties, the motor launches were to shell a house thought to be occupied by the enemy in the centre of the island. Instead of shelling this building, however, they concentrated on an old hut on a ridge in front of A Squadron. When the shellfire ceased, Sutherland’s party moved towards the ridge and discovered nearby the burnt-out hull of the Hedgehog. They then came under machine-gun fire from the rear, presumably from somewhere near their landing place. This kept them pinned down on bare ground until they were able to get together and rush the gun position, which they captured with a dozen prisoners. Trooper H. L. Mallett46 was severely wounded and died despite the efforts of the medical orderly (Private B. Steedman47) to save him.

Although they again came under machine-gun fire, A Squadron continued to advance and secured the ridge before daylight. They flushed the enemy out of the hut, but did not occupy it because it was in a vulnerable position. Trooper A. J. Penhall48 was mortally wounded, but Trooper R. G. Haddow,49 although severely wounded in the stomach, recovered as a prisoner of war. Several other men received minor wounds.

At the first streaks of daylight, three or four seaplanes began to take off from the Levita harbour. The New Zealanders, who overlooked the harbour from the ridge, opened fire, and for a moment it seemed that Trooper L. G. Doel50 had put one seaplane out of action with his Bren gun, but it moved out of range and took off after some delay. When the seaplanes came overhead and began to strafe, the men returned the fire, but as their bullets only bounced off harmlessly they decided not to waste ammunition.

Having met no resistance on landing, B Squadron was within 500 yards of the enemy headquarters by dawn and could hear fighting on the other side of the island. Had Sutherland been able to make contact with Olivey by wireless, he would have advised him of his position, and B Squadron could have gone ahead without fear of firing on A Squadron. The Germans, who received reinforcements during the day, isolated the New Zealanders on the ridge with air attacks and machine-gun and mortar fire, while they encircled and captured most of the B Squadron party.

Having disposed of B Squadron, the enemy was then able to employ his full strength against A Squadron, which was holding three positions on the ridge. Sutherland had with him the wireless operator, the medical orderly, the wounded, three or four other men, and the German prisoners. Sergeant E. J. Dobson51 was in charge of a party in a central position, armed with a Bren gun, a Tommy gun, and some rifles, and farther away on high ground, Corporal J. E. Gill52 had the third party. Trooper J. T. Bowler,53 who went down to the landing place for water, and a man who attempted to deliver a message from Gill to Sutherland, were not seen again and were page 29 presumed to have been killed. The enemy eventually overwhelmed Sutherland’s force, but Gill and three men avoided capture for four days by hiding among some rocks. They were unable to attract the attention of a launch that circled the island and, as they were without food and water, had to give themselves up to the enemy.

With instructions to evacuate the force from Levita, the commanding officer of the LRDG (Lieutenant-Colonel Easonsmith)* arrived by launch during the night 24–25 October, but found only Captain Olivey, the medical officer (Captain Lawson), and seven men of B Squadron at the rendezvous. Olivey returned with Major Guild the following night to search for the missing men, but found nobody. The LRDG lost forty men on Levita.

Easonsmith conferred with the senior officers of A and B Squadrons on 28 October about the future of the LRDG. It was recommended that, with the exception of the patrols in the Cyclades Islands watching for the movement of enemy invasion forces, the LRDG should return to the Middle East to train reinforcements and reform. Major Guild left by destroyer for Egypt on 31 October to endeavour to have the LRDG withdrawn. On his arrival he learned that the New Zealand Government had already raised the question of recalling the New Zealand Squadron, which had been committed to an operational role in the Aegean without the Government’s knowledge, although the usual procedure was to consult it before committing New Zealand troops to a new theatre of war. The Commander-in-Chief, Middle East (General Sir Henry Wilson), stated that it was impossible to replace the New Zealand Squadron at such short notice, and asked that it remain with the LRDG until replacements could be trained. It was agreed that the squadron should be withdrawn as soon as the tactical situation allowed.

* Easonsmith became the commanding officer of the LRDG on 17 October 1943, when Colonel Prendergast was appointed second-in-command of the Raiding Forces in the Aegean.

The Battle of Leros

Only part of A Squadron was withdrawn from, Leros before the invasion began. Lieutenant Aitken and twenty men from R1 patrol and squadron headquarters left for Palestine by destroyer on 7 November. R2 patrol, reconstituted with eight New Zealanders and two Englishmen under Second-Lieutenant R. F. White,54 relieved T1 at the Scumbardo coastal-defence battery position on 8 November, and T1 moved to an olive grove on the northern side of Alinda Bay, where they were joined by T2 when they returned from Seriphos next day.

Despite the delays imposed by the Navy and the Allied Air Force, the enemy succeeded in assembling an invasion flotilla at Cos and Calino for the assault on Leros, which he began at dawn on 12 November after two days’ intensified bombing. The Scumbardo coastal-defence battery shelled a convoy at maximum range, but the batteries in the north, which allowed the invasion force to get closer than the minimum range of their guns before opening fire, were unable to prevent the enemy from landing. Five hundred Germans were disembarked on the north-east coast of the island, where they gained possession of the high ground between Palma and Grifo Bays, including Mount Vedetta, but were held throughout the day by the Buffs and patrols of B Squadron. Another 150 troops who were landed at Pandeli Bay, to the south-east of Leros town, after making some progress were counter-attacked by a company of the Royal Irish Fusiliers and were pinned down on the lower slopes of Mount Appetici.

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A warning had been received the previous day that German airborne troops were assembling at Athens. In anticipation of a parachute attack, Captain Saxton’s T1 patrol and Lieutenant Cross’s T2 patrol moved inland from Alinda Bay, and were joined by a British patrol and some SBS troops to make a force thirty-odd strong. Early in the afternoon of 12 November, thirty-five Junkers transport planes, escorted by Stukas, seaplanes, and other types of aircraft, approached at a low altitude from the west and dropped 500 paratroops on the narrow strip of land between Gurna and Alinda Bays, where they were engaged immediately by the troops in the area, including the composite LRDG-SBS group. Major Redfern, who led the LRDG in this action, was killed by a parachutist. Fierce fighting developed around the Rachi ridge, but although temporary successes were gained the paratroops could not be dislodged.

Throughout the battle perfect co-operation existed between the enemy air and ground forces. Except for a brief period during the airborne invasion, the German Air Force, which flew more than 500 sorties in the day, met no anti-aircraft opposition because of the lack of ammunition.

By occupying the Gurna-Alinda isthmus, the enemy could isolate the northern sector from the rest of the island. He reinforced the Pandeli landing during the night and had possession of Mount Appetici by midday on 13 November. A strong counter-attack in the centre of the island drove the enemy into a pocket between Rachi ridge and Alinda Bay, a gain that might have had a decisive effect on the battle had not the arrival of fresh paratroops caused an unexpected reverse. Two of the fifteen Junkers transports were shot down and a third released the troops from such a low altitude that their parachutes could not open, but those who landed safely were able to restore the position. Meanwhile, in the north-east, the enemy occupied Mount Clidi, where the LRDG blew up the Italian coastal-defence guns, and Captain Olivey sent his last message at 3 p.m., saying ‘Germans here’.

After the failure of a night counter-attack against Appetici by a company of the King’s Own, supported by a naval bombardment, the enemy drove southwards from that feature towards Charing Cross. Although this thrust was held on 14 November, the Germans secured a foothold on Meraviglia, at the top of which Fortress Headquarters was located in tunnels. The Buffs and the LRDG patrols in the north recaptured Clidi, but the Royal Irish Fusiliers and the King’s Own, although they took 200 prisoners and inflicted fairly heavy casualties, still were unable to drive the enemy from Rachi ridge. The German Air Force flew more than 400 sorties, mostly against Clidi, the positions south of Rachi, Meraviglia, and Windmill ridge (between Meraviglia and Mount Giovanni), where the 25-pounders and Bofors guns were located. Most of the guns were knocked out, together with their meagre supplies of ammunition.

Lieutenant White’s R2 patrol on Scumbardo directed the Italian coastal-defence battery to shoot landwards against targets to the north of Rachi and on Appetici. The shells passed over a ridge on Meraviglia with only about ten feet to spare, but some accurate shooting was reported at a jetty in Alinda Bay. The battery engaged enemy positions, including a castle near Leros town, until all its ammunition was spent on the last day of the battle.

At daybreak on 15 November the enemy forces were confined to the Rachi and Appetici areas, except for a few men cut off on the cliffs of Clidi. Further efforts were made to capture Rachi, but despite the help of reinforcements from the Royal West Kents, brought by the Navy from Samos Island, little headway could be made. Undoubtedly the relentless onslaught of the enemy air force contributed to this failure. Communications were disrupted, making control page 31 and movement difficult, the fighting deteriorated into small skirmishes, and the troops were showing signs of fatigue.

Lieutenant-Colonel Easonsmith, with two or three men, reconnoitred Leros town to see whether the enemy was infiltrating around that side of Meraviglia. He found no enemy, but when he returned to make a second reconnaissance his party was ambushed and he was killed.

The Germans launched a heavy attack on Meraviglia at first light on 16 November. All types of aircraft, including Stukas and outmoded seaplanes, flew more than 600 sorties against the British positions and strafed anything that moved, without a shot being fired in return except by small arms. The ground assault, which came from the east, met stubborn resistance and seemed to have spent itself before midday. This would have been the time to counter-attack, but the troops at Fortress Headquarters were too few, and the disruption of communications prevented other forces being moved up for the purpose. No doubt appreciating the helplessness of the British situation, the enemy renewed the attack with great vigour and overran Meraviglia.

Fortress Headquarters and Headquarters LRDG destroyed their documents and wireless equipment before withdrawing to Portolago. An attempt was made to rally all the troops in the south of the island for a counter-attack but morale by this time was very low and the result was a dismal failure. Organised resistance collapsed and silence descended on the island later in the afternoon. The fortress commander ordered the surrender of Leros about 6 p.m. Troops wandered around without knowing what to do, and the Germans made no attempt at that late hour to round up the stragglers.

The LRDG patrols in the north were cut off from their headquarters in the south. Major the Earl Jellicoe55 had taken command of the composite LRDG-SBS group, which was manning machine-gun posts on the northern coast, in case the enemy should land further reinforcements there. When news of the capitulation was received about midnight, the men in the vicinity were rounded up with the aid of two jeeps. A party of about twenty-five, including T1 and T2 patrols, took possession of an Italian caique and small motor boat in Parteni Bay, persuaded the Italians to open the harbour boom, and sailed to a small island north of Leros, where they hid during daylight. They reached Bodrum next night and joined an old minesweeper, in which they made a three-day voyage down the Turkish coast and across to Haifa.

After the surrender, most of Headquarters LRDG dispersed in the south near Mount Patella. Colonel Prendergast, Captain Croucher, Captain Tinker, and several others, including two men from R2 patrol, hid on Mount Tortore. The remainder of R2 escaped that night in two parties. Lieutenant White and four men baled out a little rowing boat that had been sunk at Serocampo Bay and made a perilous journey to join other escapees near Bodrum. Colonel Prendergast’s party remained hidden on Leros until 22 November, when they were evacuated by an RAF air-sea rescue launch. Small groups continued to escape up to a fortnight after the surrender.

The LRDG did everything that could be expected of it during the fighting on Leros, often setting an example to the other troops, and when the island fell the men endured many hardships in order to escape. In the end, only two men of A Squadron were captured on Leros. This was the last operation in which the New Zealand Squadron participated. It was disbanded on 31 December 1943 and most of its members, after a spell at the New Zealand Armoured Corps Training Depot in Egypt, were posted as reinforcements to the Divisional Cavalry with the 2nd New Zealand Division in Italy.