Operation Colossus: The First British Airborne Raid of World War Two (April 2020)

This is my first book dealing with the subject of Allied troops and it has been my privilege to write about the extraordinary men of Operation Colossus, and those involved in the establishment of the British Airborne service.

Not sure why it’s not being released until April 2020, I finished it in February 2019!

Extra material

Sadly with a book of this nature, there is only so much room for photographs within the photographic plate section. I managed to find, and got given, some truly fascinating images that haven’t made the final book, so I have included them here for anybody that is interested.

The Tragino aqueduct as it looks today
The smaller aqueduct adjacent. Though the original farm buildings have been extended, they still stand.

The Royal George Hotel in Knutsford, used as Officer’s Mess for No.2 (Parachute) Commando.
General Dill inspecting one of the canvas equipment containers, December 1940. As well as Lieutenant Jackson, this photograph shows Major John Rock, the officer standing on parachute rigging lines.
The site of the small concrete bridge destroyed by Deane-Drummond’s explosion near the farmhouses. This rebuilt bridge photographed in 2018.
X-Troop enlisted personnel and crew of Pilot Officer Jack Wotherspoon’s Whitley ‘S’ that came down wit engine failure photographed by the International Red Cross inside their walled compound not long after arrival in Campo 78, Sulmona. (Airborne Assault Museum)
1. L/Cpl Harry Tomlin
2. Sgt John Walker
3.Spr David Struthers
4. L/Cpl Doug Jones
5. Sgt Arthur Lawley
6. Sgt. Percy Clements
7. L/Cpl Doug Henderson
8. L/Cpl Jim Maher
9. Sgt. Basil Albon RAF
10. Cpl J. Grice
11. Pvt. Nicola Nastri
12. Cpl Philip Julian
13. Cpl. Peter O’Brien
14. Spr Glyn Pryor
15. Cpl. Derry Fletcher
16. Pvt. Ernest Humphrey
Further Red Cross photographs taken of X-Troop after arrival in Sulmona. (ICRC V-P-HIST-03493-05)
1. Sgt. Edward Durie
2.Sgt. Eric Hodges RAF
3. Sgt. Joe Shutt
4. Spr. Alan Ross
5. L/Cpl Jim Maher
6. RAF Navigator (not on Operation Colossus)
7. L/Cpl Harry Tomlin
8. Sgt John Walker
9. Spr. Owen Phillips
10. Sgt. Basil Albon RAF
11. Cpl J. Grice
12. Spr David Struthers
13. L/Cpl Doug Jones
14. Cpl Philip Julian
15. Pvt. Nicola Nastri

As above. (ICRC V-P-HIST-E-03819)
1. Cpl. Derry Fletcher
2. L/Cpl Doug Henderson
3. Pvt. Ernest Humphrey
4. L/Cpl Harry Pexton
5. Pvt. Albert Samuels
6. Pvt. James Parker
7. Sgt Fred Southam RAF
8. Spr. Alf Parker
9. L/Cpl Robert Watson
The hand drawn map provided to the men of X-Troop, this one belonging to Harry Chapman. The black arrow has been added to show the location of the Tragino aqueduct. (courtesy of Tony Chapman)
Memorial established in 2016 at Brookwood’s Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Surrey, south-west England, commemorating twenty-three Jewish members of the Palmach missing in action with their British liaison officer Major Anthony Palmer during ‘Operation Boatswain. One extra name on the small memorial that does not belong to those of Operation Boatswain: ‘Picchi, F.’ Rather than providing a separate memorial to the first Italian S.O.E. man to ever go into action with the most disastrous result for him, his name was added here.
Blurry reproduction from the Royal Engineers magazine showing X-Troop practicing the attachment of demolitions to mock bridge pylons in Tatton Park. (Royal Engineers)

At La Briglia, part of the Tuscan commune of Vaiano to which the Picchi family moved during the war years, a small bridge has been named ‘Ponte Fortunato Picchi’ in his honour, though the metal plaque attached to the concrete structure bears no description of the man beyond his name.
The propaganda victory (Alamy Stock photos)
Fortunato Picchi’s (top left) death recorded in the Illustrated London News, April 1941.
RAF reconnaissance photograph that belonged to Cpl Harry Chapman, showing the main aqueduct over the Tragino (right) and the smaller one over the Fosse della Cinestra (left). The farm houses can be seen above the smaller aqueduct. Courtesy of Tony Chapman.