Captain Ken Allott and Lieutenant Duncan Ritchie were two officers involved in the early days of the Special Boat Service. These SBS operators were the original swimmer/canoeists and undertook many SBS missions as a pair.
There were successes, there were failures. There were also some close calls. One came on 22 May 1942 as the British held a position about 60 miles west of Tobruk.
What Was the Aim of This SBS Mission?
Allott and Ritchie were to head out and patrol along the coast. Germans occupied it at the time. They were to recce the coastline, noting troop movements and strengths, details of the terrain to ensure future attacks would run smoothly.
This was the first time an SBS operation had actually taken a radio with them and they added the heavy equipment to their folboat and their stores. A motor torpedo-boat carried them and their gear 100 miles along the coast and dropped them off at Cape Ras-el-Tin which is deep inside enemy territory.
Time to Take a Break
The pair started to conduct their recce of the coastline but after paddling for a while they wanted a rest. The men found a beach that had some low growing bushes. It was one of the few beaches around with minimal cover so they landed and headed in to cover.
They broke off some chocolate There was no time to find a McDonald’s in 1942 enemy held territory. Then something broke the silence. They heard music.
A bloody Wagner tune. The men heard it across the sand dunes, getting louder as 200 German troops arrived on the beach in several trucks. The Germans were having a fitness session who didn’t expect to find allied soldiers in the area.
Allott and Ritchie were safe for now. They had a self-constructed hide behind the small bushes so they needed to sit tight and wait for the Germans phys session to end.
German phys sessions went a little differently though. They started playing games despite the beach not being that big, they chose hide-and-seek to entertain themselves.
The two officers sat there, in the low bush, shitting themselves, as the Germans played hide-and-seek and used every bush on the beach to hide in apart from the one they were hiding in. Talk about a lucky escape.
Fuck me, you couldn’t really get any closer. I would have filled my pants a few times over if I was in that situation, who wouldn’t?
Making Their Escape
After the German’s had fucked off, Allott and Ritchie scarpered and got back out to sea. The continued to gather information on their journey, which ended up covering 150 miles from when they set off to when they returned. They had to lighten the load in rough seas and they didn’t want to end up in the water so they ditched the radio.
They had not taken one with them before so didn’t hesitate to get rid. It wouldn’t happen nowadays but it’s all they knew back then. Just keep moving in the right direction and you will get to safety in the end. In total they had been out for five days and apart from the close call during the aerobics 101 class, they collected a great deal of intelligence.