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Operation Colossus 1941

Operation Colossus was the codename given to the first airborneoperation undertaken by the British military, which occurred on 10 February 1941. The target chosen for the operation was a fresh-water aqueduct near Calitriin southern Italy, which supplied water to a large portion of the Italian population as well as several ports used by the Italian military; it was also hoped that its destruction would hamper Italian military efforts in North Africa and Albania. The airborne troops were delivered by converted Armstrong Whitworth Whitley medium bombers to the target on 10 February, but equipment failures and navigational errors meant that a significant portion of the troops explosives, and a team of RE sappers, landed in the wrong area. Despite this setback the remaining members of the troop successfully destroyed the aqueduct and withdrew from the area, but were all captured by the Italian authorities within a short time; an Italian translator was tortured and executed and one paratrooper managed to escape captivity, but the rest remained as prisoners of war. The aqueduct was rapidly repaired before local water reserves ran out, ensuring that the local population and the ports were not deprived of water, and, consequently, that the Italian war efforts were not hampered. However, it served as a morale boost for the fledgling airborne establishment, and the technical and operational lessons learnt from the operation helped the development of further airborne operations.

This is a very rare set of images many not seen before.

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BHC 000148 A group of German officers

Ref: BHC 000148
A group of German officers

BHC 000148 A group of German officers

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BHC 000150 A written account of the battle

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An old MOD report of the raid

BHC 000150 A written account of the battle

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BHC 000151 Paras prepare for take off

Ref: BHC 000151
Members of the raiding party preparing for the start of the raid

BHC 000151 Paras prepare for take off

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BHC 000152 Men from No.2 Commando

Ref: BHC 000152
Men from No.2 Commando (No. 11 Special Air Service Battalion) who participated in Operation Colossus

BHC 000152 Men from No.2 Commando

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BHC 000153 Paras before the raid

Ref: BHC 000153
Members of the rading party prior to the raid

BHC 000153 Paras before the raid

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BHC 000154 Image of the aquaduct

Ref: BHC 000154
The image of the aquaduct from which the entire raid was planned.

BHC 000154 Image of the aquaduct

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BHC 000155 Map of target

Ref: BHC 000155
A map of the target in Southern Italy

BHC 000155 Map of target

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BHC 000156 Raid party board

Ref: BHC 000156
Members of X troop 11th SAS boarding Whitley aircraft bound for Operation Colossus

BHC 000156 Raid party board

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