The Fall of Lampedusa (2 CG)

Discussion in 'North Africa & the Med' started by Phaethon, Nov 3, 2011.

  1. Phaethon

    Phaethon Historian

    On the 14th June, 1943. Operation CORKSCREW was initated, the aim of which was to seize the island of Pantelleria before the invasion of Sicily (operation HUSKY).

    When Panterlleria surrrendered, the Allies attention switched to to the smaller islands of Lampedusa and Linosa

    It is during the subsequent bombardment of Lampedusa that an unlikely story unfolded... when a young Swordfish Pilot on a rescue mission named Syndey Cohen was forced to land on the enemy held runway due to technical problems. This event passed into legend when, unpon landing, he was told the island wished to surrender, and handed a note saying as much.

    Unsurprisingly, when the papers got hold of the story that a Jewish Boy had single handedly captured an entire island (one of the most heavily fortiified in the meditterranian), it was quickly broadcast. Cohen being crowned the "king of Lampedusa" by the London press (Somewhere the papers got the impression that Lampedusa has a castle, it doesn't just a very small fort... and barely that), and a popular play and radio programe was formed around the incident.

    "A playwright, S.J. Charendorf, quickly adopted the story and title, with little alteration, for a new Yiddish play and production, 'The King of Lampedusa', which became a hit musical at the Grand Palais Yiddish Theatre in the East End. The BBC broadcast the English version and the play even attracted the attention of 'Lord Haw-Haw' in Germany who threatened the theatre with a visit from the Luftwaffe for their temerity." - Marcus Roberts (Quote, taken online article: Link)

    Sadly, perhaps as might be expected from wartime properganda, it seems the events appear to have been blown somewhat out of proportion. In actuality when the task force from Naval "Force L" arrived the enemy was still manning their positions and the approaching ships were fired upon when they approached.

    After "Sailing up and down a bit" and bombarding the remaining guns (those few which had survived the origininal bombing) a white flag was eventually seen on the quayside. Lt Corbett from one of the destroyers (possibly HMS Troughbridge) being sent by motor-launch to investigate, as is detailed by journalist who was first on the scene. The owner of this flag turned out to be Lampedusa's second in command who, acting under his own initiative, definitely wished to surrender, and who did not wish to involve his superior commander due to language difficulties.

    However, after the launch had returned and when the troops were sent in via LCI shortly afterwards...a single (wholy inadequate given the size of the enemy garrison) company from the 2nd Bn Coldstream Guards... it was discovered that the Govenor of the island had not authorized any of the previous surrender messages and was not willing to give up without a fight, threatening to resist any landings with force.

    It was only on the 15th, under the threat of levelling the entire island by bombing, that the actual surrender was signed by a joint Army-Navy comittie, and the governors sword officially handed over... on the condition that full military honors be given the commander and his officers. Thus 95 men from the CG were left in charge of 4,000 prisoners of war on a meditteranian island for three days before the main body of the battalion arrived.
    Smudger Jnr and Tricky Dicky like this.
  2. Ramiles

    Ramiles Researching 9th Lancers, 24th L and SRY

    There was a 9 min BBC World Service audio, in the Witness series:

    Broadcast: Mon 25 Jun 2018 on the topic:

    The King of Lampedusa
    In June 1943 a young Jewish RAF pilot from the East End of London was forced to make an emergency landing on the Italian island of Lampedusa. The Italian forces stationed there promptly surrendered to him. He told his story to the BBC,and soon he was a hero back home. A musical about his story even became a hit in London. Daniel Gordon has been listening to the BBC's archive, and talking to Arnold Schwartzman who made a film about Flight Sgt Sydney Cohen.

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  3. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

  4. brithm

    brithm Senior Member

    Here is a photograph, a poor one, of Sgt. Sydney Cohen the other two in the Swordfish which landed on the island was Sgt. Peter Tait, Navigator from Carronshire, Falkirk, Sgt. Leslie Wright WOP/Air Gunner from Bournemouth. Cohen died on 27th August 1946 when the aircraft he was a passenger in crashed in the channel, he is commemorated on the Alamein Memorial.

    Attached Files:

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