3rd October 1942
Sark was the target of Operation Basalt
Twelve British commandos raided Sark two years into its occupation. Their aim was to take prisoners and find out what they could about the number of soldiers stationed there.
The raid had originally been planned for the night of 18 – 19 September, but it was delayed twice. Initially it had been pushed back by just one day due to bad weather. However, it was called off entirely the following day when the submarine transporting the commandos was in Sark waters and the crew realised they wouldn’t be able to return to their boat before the sun rose.
Eventually it took place on the night of 3 – 4 October. The commandos landed close to Dixcart Bay and climbed the cliffs without being seen. Once on level ground they made contact with local woman Frances Pittard. She gave them copies of the Guernsey newspapers, which included details of the Germans’ forced transportation of Guernsey civilians to Germany. She also told them that they would find German soldiers sleeping in the nearby Dixcart Hotel.
The commandos captured some of the soldiers at the hotel. They tied them up while they went back into the building to see who else they could take. At this point, some of the German soldiers broke free and raised the alarm. This gave the commandos no choice but to head back to their submarine, taking as many of the prisoners as they could with them. Only one of the soldiers made it there safely, and was brought back to England.
Three others were killed, but all of the commandos survived.
Naturally, the remaining German forces on Sark increased security following the raid. In particular, they laid more mines, which the Dame of Sark, Sibyl Hathaway, ensured the occupying forces removed once she took command of them following the island’s liberation in 1945.
Several islanders were also deported. Among them was the Dame’s husband, Robert Hathaway, and Frances Pittard, who had given the commandos the newspapers and told them where they could find the sleeping German soldiers.
A memorial to the raid was unveiled on 3 October 2017 by John Appleyard, the half-brother of Major Geoffrey Appleyard, who had led the raid. It is a stone on the Hogs Back headland between Derrible Bay and Dixcart Bay, where the commandos came ashore.
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