Special Operations South-East Asia 1942-1945: Minerva, Baldhead and Longshanks/ Creek, David Miller

Special Operations South-East Asia 1942-1945: Minerva, Baldhead and Longshanks/ Creek, David Miller

This book looks at three Special Forces Operations that were launched from India during the Second World War. None of these operations are especially well known, although the third, Operation Longshanks/ Creek, did become the subject of a  book and film (The Sea Wolves), which wasn't terribly historically accurate.

The three missions covered here were rather different in nature. The first, Operation Minerva, was an attempt to gather intelligence about the situation on Sumatra, recently conquered by the Japanese. It was a rare example of a total and utter disaster, with the entire team lost and no contact with them after they were dropped off on the Sumatra shore. This is probably the first detailed study of this operation in print, and Miller makes it clear that it was over-ambitious and not well planned.

The second, Operation Baldhead, was actually a series of much better organised but similar in objective missions to gather intelligence on the Andaman Islands. Here a series of Allied missions were able to land on the island, stay hidden for some time, gather intelligence and withdraw without ever being discovered by the Japanese. Indeed the only fatality during this mission was  caused by the accidental discharge of a Sten Gun. Miller follows the planning and organisation of these missions, as well as coverign the jungle survivor elements that made up the main challenge.

The third, Operation Longshanks/ Creek, is the best known of the three, largely because of the film. It was one of a series of 'cutting out' operations, designed to capture Axis merchant ships that were taking shelter in neutral harbours (in this case Portuguese Goa). This time the mission was a partial success, in that the Axis ships were scuttled by their crews, and the Allied troops escaped without any repercussions in Portugal (or even much protest from Germany), but the attempt to capture the most valuable of the German ships failed. In this section one of Miller's main aims is to examine the claims made in Boarding Party, the book that first made it public, and The Sea Wolves, and in both cases his view is that the reality was rather different, and rather more professional, that the version portrayed in the book and film.

All three sections of the book are well researched, and provide a detailed and convincing picture of each of these operations (or at least as much as possible in the case of Operation Minerva). This is a   useful addition to the literature on Special Forces Operations of the Second World War, and on the war in South-East Asia.

Part I: Operation Minerva, Sumatra, 20 December 1942
1 - Introduction
2 - Sumatra
3 - Operation Minerva, Genesis
4 - The Men
5 - Air Force Participation
6 - The Operation: 20 December 1942
7 - Fate
8 - Analysis

Part II: Operations Baldhead and Hatch: Andaman Islands, 1943-1945
9 - The Andaman Islands
10 - Operation Baldhead I
11 - Operation Baldhead II
12 - Operation Baldhead III
13 - Operation Baldhead IV
14 - Operation Hatch
15 - Further Operations in the Andamans
16 - Analysis

Part III: Operations Longshanks/ Creek: Goa, 8/9 March 1943
17 - Introduction
18 - The Merchant Ship Situation
19 - Cutting-Out Expeditions
20 - The Situation to 1942
21 - SOE (India)
22 - Operation Hotspur
23 - The Plans
24 - The Units and the Men
25 - Preparations Completed
26 - The Voyage of the Phoebe (Hopper Barge Number 5)
27 - The Raid
28 - Aftermath in Goa
29 - Aftermath in London
30 - Analysis

Part IV: Envoi

Author: David Miller
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 240
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2015

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