Operation Blimey, 6-24 April 1945
Operation Blimey (6-24 April 1945) was the final SAS operation in the north-west of Italy, and was an attempt to repeat the success of Operation Galia, but the area was overrun by the advancing Allies before it could achieve much.
Operation Galia (27 December 1944-20 February 1945) had seen a party from 2 SAS drop into the Rossano valley, where they joined up with a group of partisans under Major Gordon Lett and carried out a series of attacks on German convoy, road links and bases. They survived a sweep through the Rossano valley, and successfully distracted thousands of Axis troops before being recalled.
Operation Blimey was to take place in the same area. Lett had now been extracted from the Rossano valley and replaced by John Henderson of SOE. The SAS party was to be led by Captain Alan P. Scott, who would command one stick, with two others to be led by Lt. John Wilmers and Lt Pepper. A total of 24 men were dropped on 6 April in another successful drop. However after that the mission went rather quiet. Henderson spent much of his time organising the construction of a mountain top airstrip which was incomplete when the fighting ended. Scott’s men attacked the La Spezia-Aulla road, to the south of Rossano, on the night of 14-15 April. A joint attack on Pontremoli on the night of 15-16 April ended in failure, and the SAS stick supporting the attack had to abandon all of its heavy weapons in somewhat confusing circumstances.
By now there was some discontent with the lack of activity, and on 20 April Walker-Brown, the commander of Operation Galia, was ordered to parachute in to replace Scott, but this never took place. By now the Fifth Army offensive, Operation Craftsman, was well under way and the Americans had reached the northern edge of the mountains around Bologna. On the coast the US 92nd Division was able to advance, and on 20 April Lett was actually able to drive into La Spezia from the south. On 25 April US troops advanced up the coast fro La Spezia, and liberated the Blimey operational area.
Scott’s performance didn’t impress his superiors, and soon after the end of the operation he was ‘Returned to Unit’, the fate for any member of the SAS who hadn’t lived up to expectations. However Henderson has to take some of the blame, as he appears to have been unwilling to try and win over the locals, an essential element of any successful operation in the area. In addition the success of the final Allied offensive meant that the operation came to a rapid end, denying Scott the time to find his feet.