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the crew of mtb 255
  MTB 460 of the 29th MTB Flotilla at sea in the Spring of 1944. (© Libraries & Archives Canada)


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On this day: 15th September

Topass Murugesan (H.M.I.M.L. 1113)

At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them


Operation Agreement

MTB 307 and 315, Lend-Lease Elco boats of the 15th MTB Flotilla at Malta
Western Desert: Operation Agreement raid by Commando Force B on Tobruk in September 1942, launched across the desert from Cairo (©IWM)

Tobruk: 13th September 1942

Operation Agreement was the abortive attempt made by British forces in September 1942 to mount a raid behind enemy lines on the port of Tobruk. The aim of the mission was to deny use of the port to General Erwin Rommell and the Afrika Korps, who had recaptured the port after the British had first taken it from the Italian army in January 1941. Tobruk had been used as a base of operations by Coastal Forces for the 10th and 15th MTB Flotillas, until its occupation by Rommel in June 1942, at which point the MTBs had to evacuate along with base staff to Alexandria. The operation involving army and naval units, had an eye to the earlier successful raid on St Nazaire of that same year. Sadly all comparisons with that earlier operation end there, as the plans proved hopelessly over ambitious, lacking the necessary co-ordination needed between the various elements involved, while suffering dreadful lapses in security, with exercises carried out in full view at Alexandria.

The plans involved elements of the Long Range Desert Group, forerunners of the SAS, who were to approach Tobruk from land after crossing the desert behind enemy lines, disable any shore defences, then guide the MTBs using beacons to a point east of the main boom protecting Tobruk harbour at Mersa es Sciausc. Meanwhile sixteen MTBs and three MLs were to help carry in contingents of the Northumberland Fusiliers together with demolition parties as part of a larger naval force of destroyers with commandos onboard.

The formidable defences at Tobruk, which appeared to be on high alert, saw the MTBs fail in their attempts to disembark troops, and the mission had to be aborted.

The Loss of MTB 308 & 310

The return journey from Tobruk to Alexandria in broad daylight proved fraught with danger. MTB 308 was attacked by a Stuka dive bomber, which she first managed to shoot down, but which crashed directly onto her, destroying both with no survivors. MTB 310 was also hit by a bomb from a Stuka, but managed to stay afloat long enough for nine or ten of her crew to abandon ship using one of the rafts originally intended for landing her troops. Only three survivors made it ashore to be found a week later close to death, by German soldiers who took them prisoner.