6 – Operation Tombola: 4 March – 23 April 1944
At this stage, Italy was occupied by the Nazis but many of the occupants refused to passively accept their fate. British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, launched Operation Tombola in early March 1944 as a means of helping the residents of towns such as Albinea in the Reggio Emilia area. Approximately 50 men, led once again by the legendary Major Roy Farran, parachuted into the region between 4-24 March.
They were assisted by members of an SOE mission, 70 escaped Russians and local resistance fighters and received supplies from numerous airdrops. The group’s first major attack occurred on 7 April when they killed and wounded up to 60 Germans while the raiders sustained 10 casualties in total. Tombola became famous for the exploits of the âMad Piper’ David Kirkpatrick who played the bagpipes as a signal for the SAS to attack.
The purpose of the music was to convince the Germans that the attack was solely a British military effort and not conducted by local âpartisans’ (who were in fact helping the SAS). The rule was that 10 civilians were to be killed for every German killed by a partisan. The Mad Piper’s music saved the lives of 600 civilians that night. Kirkpatrick recently received the award of an honorary citizenship of Albinea as a reward for his bravery and he was also honored by the town of Villa Minozzo which is where he first landed.
After the successful sortie, the squad rendezvoused in the hills and prepared to attack further German positions. They continued their raids which included shelling various enemy installations and blocking roads. Over 300 Germans were killed and another 200 wounded during Operation Tombola. The Germans were also forced to send more defenders to secure the area. In addition, a number of Allied airmen, who had successfully disguised themselves as locals, were finally able to escape.