Monday, May 18, 2015

DALMATIAN ISLANDS




The Treaty of Rapallo (1920) split the Dalmatians between Yugoslavia and Italy. Germany and Italy jointly governed the islands and the Dalmatian coast of occupied Yugoslavia from April 1941. Most Croats left the Italian zone, or “Governatorato di Dalmazia.” The Italian occupation ended in September 1943, and German troops garrisoned some islands after swiftly disarming the Italians. British troops occupied Vis, where Tito established a partisan headquarters for five months starting in May 1944. British relations with antifascist partisans in the Dalmatian Islands were often fractious and deeply suspicious. The British used Vis as a base to launch amphibious raids against surrounding island and mainland garrisons. The most notable action was a three-day assault on Brac.

To the east of mainland Italy No. 2 Commando, under the command of Lieut. Colonel 'Mad Jack' Churchill, was operating in the Adriatic, off the Dalmatian coast, where Churchill had established his HQ on the island of Vis. There his force was strengthened with the addition of not only 43 RM Commando, but also a number of Yugo-Slav partisans.

From Vis, Churchill carried out a series of raids on nearby islands, occupied by the Germans, with notable successful raids on Solta and Hvar but these successes received a serious set-back when a full scale assault on the island of Brac by No. 2 and 43 RM Commands, supported by the Heavy Weapons Troop of 40 RM Commando, resulted in substantial losses that included Lieut. Colonel 'Pops' Manners (40 RM) killed and the capture of Colonel Jack Churchill - who awaiting the German counter-attack played his bagpipes in defiance!

The German base on Brac was finally overrun in October 1944. An airfield on Vis hosted elements of the Balkan Air Force and serviced wounded bombers returning from Germany. Western Allied bombers hit the island of Zara in 1944. It was “ethnically cleansed” of Italians by the Yugoslavs in 1945.

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