The SBS in the Med

Finally! Today I went back to work in Portsmouth. It feels like months since I last went to the library. In fact it’s been only one. Still…I’ve missed it.


While the weather wasn’t particularly lovely, at least it didn’t rain while I was out in it. There was a biting wind (more so in Portsmouth than Farnham or Aldershot or Guildford) but otherwise it was dry. Even though it rained quite a bit while I was inside.

Something I was unaware of before arriving was that there was a massive power outage in the whole south of Hampshire area last night. According to Heather it not only blacked everything out, it also blacked out the emergency power they have at the Dockyard.

This meant there were problems for all manner of IT systems. This included the system that the security people use to create passes. It didn’t mean any lowering of security (fortunately) but it did mean they had to hand write my pass. And everyone else’s. It wasn’t a big problem just a bit laborious.

Then, just as I was happily working away, we were told to get out of the library system because it had to be repaired then rebooted. We all logged off and settled back to wait. As Heather said, there were plenty of books, just choose one and read.

I started reading what turned out to be a wonderful book about the Special Boat Squadron/Service (I wrote about them a while back) written by one of the team, John Lodwick. The book was called The Filibusters: The Story of the Special Boat Service and it’s a hoot.

I enjoyed it so much that when I got home later I looked for it on ABE Books only to find it’s quite rare and would cost me £60 to buy! (On Amazon it was £90.) That’s not going to happen. I’ll just have to put up with having read half of it.

The book is mostly about how the team cleaned up a lot of the Med during World War II when the Germans had managed to get themselves lots of the Greek islands. They were happy to live out the war in relative warmth and serenity.

The SBS didn’t like that idea. They moved through the islands gradually getting rid of the pesky Nazis by employing guerrilla tactics and supreme stealthiness. They were very successful.

At one point, part of their mission (Bucketforce) was to secure the airfield at Araxos. Having accomplished this very quickly they had nothing else to do so set out to secure half of Greece as well. Which they did.

The beauty of the book lay not in a historical or tactical sense. The beauty of the book is in the style. It is written in that wonderfully understated way that the British have when it comes to peril and danger.

At one point the author is captured by a party of Germans and, along with another SBS chap, is taken prisoner. The book describes very little of this, simply saying that they were captured, transferred to a train, then put in a camp from which they escaped.

They then hooked up with a bunch of guys in the Balkans, helping them blow up some bridges before heading back to the SBS camp in the south. 

My favourite passage involved an army general and his 10,000 Italian POWs but, without the actual book, I can’t really do it justice. If I remember, I’ll get a photo of it next week.

Genius book

Anyway, reading time was all too soon over. I managed a few more books and then it was time to make the long, pleasant trek back home.

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