On the night of April 19-20, 1941, British raiders from No. 7 Commando, backed by a small tank contingent and supported by a small detachment comprised of a cruiser and three destroyers of the Royal Navy, launched a surprise amphibious landing at Bardia, a small coastal town in eastern Libya near the Egyptian border. Their mission was to disrupt the enemy rear by destroying an Italian supply dump and an artillery installation, which they accomplished despite losing 71 men.
In January, 1941, a 2000 man task force of Commandos, designated Layforce after its commander, Colonel Robert Laycock, was gathered in Britain and sent to Egypt, where it began training for special operations. An amphibious landing and raid on Bardi was to be their first mission, but it did not go smoothly: poor intelligence, inadequate foresight by planners, and mistakes on the ground caused more losses than enemy action.
Things got off to an iffy start when the raiders were landed at night behind schedule and on the wrong beach. However, they managed to sort things out and find their way to Bardia, which they were surprised to discover was lightly defended. They located and destroyed an Italian supply dump, as well as an artillery installation, all for the loss of a single officer, mistakenly killed in a friendly fire incident.
The raiders then trudged back to the beach for re-embarkation – and that was when poor preparation bit the raiders: a contingent of 70 Commandos got lost in the dark, and after a cascade of mishaps ended up going to the wrong beach, where they waited futilely for boats to pick them up. They were left behind, and all were captured by the enemy in the following days.
Notwithstanding the poor planning and resultant mishaps, it was a success. It did succeed in disrupting the enemy rear, destroyed its assigned targets, and as an added bonus, caused the Axis high command to pull a German armored brigade from the front lines and divert it to provide rear security.
That had a significant impact on the battlefield, as the British at the time were being hard pressed by the recently arrived Afrika Korps, under the command of Erwin Rommel. The diversion of a German armored brigade from the front lines eased the pressure and gave them enough breathing space to stabilize the situation.