Assyrian Paratroopers in Albania and Greece

4/6/2008 1:07:00 AM
Assyrian Paratrooper

The company was formed on the 6th January 1942 from volunteers at RAF Habbanyia in Iraq to safe guard against Axis infiltration through the Caucuses, the area being mostly impassable terrain the enemy would need to rely on existing roads, tunnels and railways. The [AOC] Air Officer Commanding Iraq, Air vice Marshal Hugh De Crespigny reasoned that a parachute company consisting of trusted indigenous servicemen, could destroy these access points and slow German advance, after the operation they would be able to discard their uniforms and blend in with the local population evading capture.

Lectures were given to the regular Levies on the needs to establish a parachute company and volunteers were asked for without enticement, no increase of pay or privileges were offered, this was to ensure that only the “right type” would volunteer. 1000 volunteered for the task and were put through a rigorous selection process, after two weeks of gruelling exercises only the fittest were selected, the 1,000 volunteers were filtered down to 150 Assyrians and 50 Kurds, and these were to form the initial company personnel commanded by Major Barnes. By December 1942, parachute training had commenced from Vickers Valencia’s, the only Aircraft available. The Valencia was so outdated and slow that it was nicknamed the “flying Pig” by the RAF, but it did serve useful as a parachute training aircraft, the fuselage was large enough to accommodate 20 men with equipment.

Group Captain Newnham, an experienced parachute instructor recalls his first experience with the Levy paratroopers:

“It was interesting to be in the aircraft with these brown skinned descendants of the mighty Assyrian Empires which had faded into the limbo of antiquity hundreds of years before the birth of Christ. Apparently these selected specimens had lost none of their ancestor’s courage, for they showed no hesitation at all in leaving the machine. Indeed I learned at a later date that throughout the entire training of the company only one man had been killed as a result of an accident and there had never been an instance of a refusal to jump or a request to be taken off parachuting”.

As well as parachuting, the company was also trained in demolition and small arms, akin to a commando unit.

CSM Giwargis Zozan

July 1943, Adolph Hitler issues directive 49, the German 6th army was to secure Stalingrad, followed by an Invasion of Iraq and the surrounding region to secure the oil fields. The battle of Stalingrad as it is known today was a disaster to the Germans, the 6th Army was surrounded and neutralised and the losses to the Germans numbered one million dead or captured. This defeat also meant that the threat to Iraq from the Caucuses was also neutralised leaving the Levy parachute company unemployed.

The company did not remain idle however; in September 1943, it was attached for a short time to the British 11th parachute battalion in Ramat David, Palestine and was trained in night descents and manoeuvres. During this period the company received orders to board Aircraft for operations in the Dodecanese, they were flown to Cyprus to prepare for the operation but the mission was cancelled in mid-flight. During their short stay in Cyprus the Assyrian personnel visited the residence of their Patriarch Mar Shimon, he however was not in residence. In February 1944 the Company return to Habbaniya under a new commandant, Major Guy Hudson and received further training in mountain warfare.

In early September 1944 the company returned to Palestine to be deployed to Italy. On Wednesday 27th September 1944, Assyrian paratroopers received news from other regular Levy companies deployed in Palestine that an Assyrian officer RAB 100 Dawid Sliwoo had been ambushed by militant Jews. The officer was returning from Jerusalem to his camp in Ramat David when he was stopped at a roadblock and asked to surrender, he refused to hand over his weapon and was shot in the stomach and died where he lay, his driver managed to escape and report the incident, this information was quickly relayed by Assyrian radio operators to other companies. Upon hearing this news, the parachute personnel angered by the cold hearted manner in which he was killed, vowed to avenge his death, they broke into the company armoury and seized extra ammunition and grenades, they marched through several towns fighting and killing all Jewish militia they encountered until they were stoped by British troops several hours later and ordered to disarm and return to base, the Assyrians complied with the order satisfied that the killing was avenged. In mid-September, the company arrived at Alexandria in Egypt and boarded a troop ship, SS Durban Castle bound for Italy.

The company arrives and disembarks at Toranto Italy on the 15th September 1944 and were transported by road to a British commando encampment in Monopoli. Further parachute training was carried out but with insufficient training aircraft the new company personnel did not receive the required training prior to an operational jump, the company was then deemed fit for sea-borne operations only.

The command structure of the company at this time stood at 200 men; 150 Assyrian and 50 Kurd.

British officers:

  • Major Guy Hudson O.C.
  • Capt Clarke 2 I.C.
  • Lt Boe
  • Lt Peterson
  • Lt Sherwood
  • Lt Lenning

Native officers:

  • RAB 100 Lazar Adam –Assyrian O.C.
  • RAB 50 Slimon Bukho – [1st Assyrian fighting platoon]
  • RAB 50 Odishu haji – [2nd Assyrian fighting Platoon]
  • RAB 50 Pithyou Zayia - [4th Assyrian support platoon, Mortars.]
  • RAB 50 Mirza Faisulla - [3rd Kurdish fighting platoon]

On the 6th October at 0500 the Company received orders to be at Brindisi Decks at 1030hrs and for Major Hudson [parachute company commander] to report to Headquarters. At 1400hrs the company boarded Infantry Landing Crafts and set sail to Albania. By midnight of the same day two platoons arrived and disembarked at Sugar beach, at first light the rest of the company had also disembarked and moved 300mtrs inland. At 0900 Major Hudson reported to headquarters [Houndforce] to receive orders for the company.

Houndforce consisted of:

  1. No 2 Commando [British]
  2. No 40 Royal Marine Commandos [British]
  3. No 1 parachute company RAF Levies [Assyrian/Kurd]
  4. Detachments of British Raiding Support Regiment
  5. Force of Albanian Partisans.

The summery of the conference was that Houndforce was to attack and capture Sarande at 0400 Hrs on the 9th of October 1944. The commandos and the partisans were to attack from the north and the Levies were to be landed by Infantry Landing crafts at 0415hrs on parachute beach and attack from the south and secure point 264, the prominent feature overlooking the town of Sarande.

Whilst the Major Hudson was at the conference, platoon commanders Lieutenants Sherwood and Reeves and a naval officer went by small boat to reconnoitre the landing area. At that time the company came under shell fire, but no casualties were inflicted. On the morning of the 8th Senior British and Assyrian officers were driven by boat to Yoke beach, a safe point to observe the objective. In the mean time the company personnel were drilled in the procedures of silent embanking and disembarking from an Infantry Landing Craft. On return from Yoke beach, the senior officers arranged for six Landing crafts to be equipped and available for the landing.

On the 9th at 0130 the company paraded opposite their Landing Crafts and were issued with Rum rations, they boarded and landed at Parachute beach at o 0400hrs. Sgt Hormis Youkhana recalls:

The transports dropped us off on a beach. Near the town of Sarande. We stayed there the first day. On the second day my platoon was engaged in ambushes of two German motor transports. On the third day, we bordered boats and made our way to another beach two hours away, behind the German positions. Then the order came to attack.

When we attacked, it was uphill all the way. Our Major warned us that we would be under mortar fire. Just as he said, on the way up we were bombarded heavily, but thankfully, no one was hurt. We advanced very fast, we were like mountain goats, we actually crossed the enemy lines. One of the men from the other platoons fell into a German trench. Two men from our platoon were killed that day.

The landing was silent and the visibility was ten yards due to bad weather, it was raining which helped to reduce the chance of being observed and also to muffle the sounds of disembarkation.

No 2 platoon moved off to the left flank and was followed by No 3 ten minutes later taking up the right flank, the feature itself being Kidney shaped caused the 3rd platoon to drift to the right loosing contact with No2 platoon. It was at this time they realised that radio communication would have been invaluable, the company were not issued with radio sets and this oversight was to be the cause of many casualties. Capt Ellice Clarke, the 2IC had to physically make his way to no 3 platoon and tell them to drift back to the left.

The line of advance now was No2 at left rear No3 at right rear and no1 platoon taking the lead, the company was in an arrowhead formation. The Mortar [support] platoon and HQ following up behind first platoon. The climb was described as extremely steep with loose rock cover.

Thirty minutes into the advance, a German machine gun opened up from the left flank, 1st platoon engaged the machine gun post and overran the position capturing several prisoners. “To appreciate the difficulty of that task, one needs to keep in mind the Germans had four years to dig-in and strengthen their defences, and they were literally looking down on the Assyrian platoon that had to approach them from bellow”.

At 0500 the 2nd platoon engaged a German post but the enemy surrendered as soon as the Assyrians returned fire. At the same time The Kurdish platoon also engaged a German position and after a brief fire-fight overran the position. Half an hour later the company arrived at the first objective.

The second platoon was now ordered to continue to the main objective Hill 264 and immediately came under fire; they engaged the enemy among some ancient ruins and pushed on to arrive at the right side of the main objective. Two sections were positioned facing north east and one section after clearing a monastery building positioned them selves facing north, immediately the Assyrian platoon came under Breda Anti Aircraft gun fire firing explosive shells.

1st platoon under enemy fire made their way to the left side of the main objective, on reaching the objective however they were accidentally machine-gunned by a British Spitfire. The advance of the company had been so swift that not only the Germans were taken by surprise but also the British; often the company was mistaken for the enemy and were fired upon, at times causing serious casualties.

3rd Kurdish platoon advancing from the right flank, engaged several German positions and sent back prisoners, when they reached the objective however, they were also targeted by the Breda Gunners and were pinned down. They were then ordered to withdraw and move up behind 2nd platoon on the left flank, this was carried out successfully and they took up positions behind the platoon at approximately 0815hrs facing North-North West in positions previously held by number one platoon.

A quick check of company was then made and the results showed three wounded from 2nd platoon and fifty captured POW’s. 1st platoon under Lt Peterson were then ordered to recce Breda Gun positions and moved off at 0830, Brigade Headquarters was informed of this move to safe guard against anymore accidental “friendly” gunfire. At approximately 1030 however company HQ received news that two sections of 1st platoon were making their way towards Sarande, a runner was immediately dispatched with orders to the platoon not to enter Sarande and to make their way back to Hill 264. The runner failed to locate the platoon and informed Company H.Q. thirty minutes later one section of 1st platoon arrived and said they had lost contact with the rest of the platoon, a short time later a wounded soldier from the same platoon arrived and said that they were fired upon and could not locate the rest of his platoon. Brigade Headquarters were informed of the situation and then inturn ordered no further movement off Hill 264 and for the company to wait further orders, brigade also congratulated the company on its success, at 1300hrs RAB 50 Shlimon Bukho and three other ranks from 1st platoon arrived all badly wounded, they could not say for certain what had occurred.

Group Captain Joe O’Sullivan 1st parachute company RAF Levies, was not yet attached to the company, but describes the incident as such:

Just before dawn, the levies were landed by the Royal Navy at a spot about five kilometers south of the port. At first light the German commander saw the landing but decided, as a good commander should, that his men could have breakfast first and be ready to fight the enemy on full stomachs. Little did he know that the Assyrians and Kurds were hardy men whose abode was the mountains of Iraq. One of their pastimes was to race up and down these mountains and the Mount Sarande climb, about half the average height of their home mountains, presented little difficulty. Setting off at a jog they outstripped their British officers and caught the German garrison who were just finishing breakfast. After a brisk firefight, the Germans surrendered and the Levies settled down to their breakfast. Unfortunately, the Germans were not the only people taken by surprise. The Royal Navy and the RAF had not realized that the mountain was in friendly hands and attacked with naval gunfire and rockets. RAB Khamshi Schlemon Bukko was dispatched with a patrol to contact the Commando and get them to send a message to HQ that the objective had been captured and would they please ask the Navy and the RAF to cease firing. Seeing troops coming from the direction of the enemy, the commandos opened fire. Bukko was hit but had enough strength left to call out "Stop shooting. We are British". His cry, in a Syriac accent, was greeted with derision and another burst of fire. "British are you? Not b...y likely". Eventually the commandos saw their error and ceased firing. Henceforth the Paratroop Company sardonically referred to themselves as experts in combined operations, having been shot up by the Navy, Army and RAF in a single operation.

Shortly after RAB Khamshi Shlimon Bukho arrived at company Headquarters the entire company came under mortar fire and one man was wounded as a result. The Assyrian support platoon [mortars] was brought into action against the enemy position and silenced the guns with twenty bombs. The POW’s and the company wounded were then evacuated from the Hill for safety.

At 1700hrs Brigade ordered a patrol from the company to be sent to contact No 40 British Commando at Fork Road on the outskirts of Sarande and for the patrol to be informed that Sarande has fallen and is in friendly hands. Lieutenant Sherwood was assigned this task, at 1715 the patrol moved out comprising of Lt Sherwood, Sgt Hormis Youkhana and three other ranks. They were ordered to move via the Breda Gun positions to see if they could locate Lt Peterson and the rest of the 1st platoon. At 2200, five hours after departure one man from the same patrol returned suffering a chest wound and reported that the patrol was ambushed near Fork Road and that no sign of Lt Peterson or the rest of 1st platoon were found. Brigade was informed of the situation and again ordered no one to leave Hill 264 until further notice.

Sgt Hormis Youkhana recalls the incident:

The Town of Sarande was on our left, one of our platoons was ordered to go down into the town, on the way down they were bombed by Mortars, they scattered as they took cover. We did not know who did the shooting; we suspected they were British Guns. At 1700hrs Our Major ordered a "recognition" patrol to go into town and make contact with the British commando. He sent me, Lt Sherwood and three other Levies. We started down the mountain until we hit a road. We followed it into town. We were walking along the road when I suddenly felt uneasy and warned the Lieutenant that we should avoid walking on the road. He said not to worry we have secured the town, the commando will challenge us and we will answer with the password, we will be OK. When we got close to town, there was a wall blocking our view on the right and there were several houses on the left, we couldn’t see around the corner, when we turned, a machinegun opened up and we were all hit. I received four wounds, one in my right side and three in my right leg. We had run into an ambush. We don't know who did the shooting but I think it was a British patrol, because I know I was shot by a Sten gun, I saw it, and there were no Germans reported that close to town, Sarande was taken by the commando. We lay there until six the next morning then Lt Sherwood asked me to call out and see if anyone could hear us, we couldn’t call out at night because of the noise of battle. I asked him to who I should call, he said to call the commando they should be close. So I called out Commando we are British, we are wounded, after several attempts a patrol came by and carried us into the houses because it was still raining and dressed our wounds, and then we were carried by stretchers to the beach and evacuated. We all survived our wounds.

At 0615 the commando then informed the company that they have the patrol and are being evacuated; also Lt Peterson using 40th commando radio reported him-self and two others Ok.

Final check of the company showed:

  • 1st platoon- 2 killed and 7 wounded.
  • 2nd platoon – 1 killed and 9wounded
  • 3rd platoon – 3 wounded
  • 97 prisoners captured
Assyrian levy man

On the 12th at 1100hrs the company was relived by the 40th commando and was met at Sarande by the Brigadier, he congratulated the company for securing their objective and issued further orders; the company is to be relocated to Italy for an emergency operational role. That afternoon the company boarded a troop ship and arrived back at Monopoly Italy at 0330hrs the next morning. They soon received orders that the emergency operation has been cancelled and that the company was to undertake further parachute training in readiness for future operational jumps.

The O.C. parachute company, Major Hudson, summarised the battle:

The men put up a good show, after being rather disorganised at the start, they moved well and went in with good spirit, the enemy had a beautiful position with good dug-in positions plenty of Medium and Light machineguns, small mortars and a large supply of ammunition, the company moved very fast indeed and the enemy was taken completely by surprise many of them still being in their dugouts. The check of the prisoner’s uniforms found that most were wearing ribbons indicating they served on the Russian front. The commanding officer that was also captured by the levies bragged that he was a regular army officer with twelve years experience, a typical Nazi.

On the 15 of October two men previously wounded in Albania Pte Paulos Essa and Pte Zaia Enwia died in hospital, Lt Peterson and a party of Assyrian Levies departed to attend their funeral at Brindisi. The combination of having an Assyrian in a British uniform has at times resulted in the Levies finding themselves in a sad but comical situations, for example when the funeral party arrived in Brindisi it was around lunchtime, so the Levies decided to go to the local Naffi for lunch until the British officer accompanying them was ready for them, they strolled into the Naffi and ordered their lunch, the RAF catering officer noticing they were not British explained to them that the Naffi was for British personnel only and asked them who they were, in a chorus, half the Levies replied “British” and the other half “Assyrian” the catering officer feeling he was being bamboozled asked them to leave, the Levies tried their best to describe their unit but only managed to make things worse, the RAF catering officer now convinced they were Syrian troops ordered them to leave, the Levies infuriated at being called Syrian jumped the counter with intention of causing great bodily harm, Lt Peterson arrived in the nick of time to prevent what could have become a very serious situation. After a few full-hearted apologies the Levies settled down to lunch.

For the next several weeks the company engaged in parachute training at Gioia Del Colle, this training was varied to duplicate battle conditions i.e. Jumps were made from various heights with varying loads. The company also trained in the use of captured German weapons and were also reinforced with fresh troops from Iraq and elsewhere which included Lt Joe O’Sullivan to replace Lt Sherwood previously wounded. The lessons learned from the battle in Sarande were quickly rectified, ten radio sets for example, were issued to the company and training of their use was carried out.

On the 2nd December number two platoon was dispatched to Foggia, details of their duties were not given, the platoon returned five days later. On the 5th, some Levies became restless whilst on leave in Monopoli and a fight broke out between them and the local Italians, as a result Monopoli was placed out of bounds for one week, and later was banned altogether owing to the threats made by the local Italians towards the Levies, Major Hudson thought it best to commence liberty runs to Barri.

The next day orders were issued for the company to be deployed to Greece the following day to take action against the ELAS [National Popular Liberation Army - Greek communist forces]. On the seventh the company occupied 12 DC’s at Brindisi aerodrome and were flown to Hassani aerodrome in Greece, arriving at 1430. Only ten DC’s managed to land due to bad weather the remainder returned to Brindisi and arrived back the next day, the company was greeted by an RAF Regiment Warrant officer and shown into billets.

On the 9th of December 1944, the company was asked to provide guard for a POW cage built to hold 1000 prisoners, and were told that 1600 prisoners were expected. The OC inspected the cage and confirmed that another cage was needed, and a second smaller cage was provided. 1,300 prisoners were placed in the large cage and another 300 in the small cage, sentries were posted. Thirty minutes later the prisoners at the large cage became restless and hurled rocks at the sentries; Lt Peterson fired a burst from his TMC above their heads to no effect, he fired again wounding a prisoner in the leg to great effect the other prisoners quietened, later however the sentries at the large cage spotted someone standing outside the wire, Pte Gabro Elias went to investigate and trod on a German mine badly injuring his foot. The information given to the company prior to the prisoners arrival was that the area around two sides of the cage were mined, but were not informed that a larger area on other sides of the wire were also mined, prior knowledge would have prevented this injury. In the early hours on the 12th a failed escape attempt was made by the prisoners from the large cage which resulted in one prisoner killed. On the 14th the commanding officer Hampshire’s regiment visited Major Hudson and reported that arms and ammunition were suspected of being stored in a large hospital about three miles away, the company was given the job of searching the hospital and several nearby buildings suspected of being ELAS Headquarters. At 1000hrs the next day Lt Reeves with No 3 Kurdish platoon searched the hospital but nothing was found, the search of the ELAS buildings however found ammunition and British bayonets, no trouble was encountered, the platoon returned.

Several escape attempts were made by prisoners from both cages in those nine days with very little success; the sentries were on their guard and their actions commendable, on the 18th December at 1400hrs the company was relieved by the Northumberland Fusiliers and Major Hudson told the company was to take part in operations in Athens.

The company was given the task of clearing and occupying several blocks of houses including a church bounded by M. Botsari and Kiriakou Roads, to assist them in this mission; a Sherman Tank and a section of Royal Engineers were placed under their command to clear any obstacles they may encounter. On the 19th December at 0615 the company commenced the operation, Major Hudson leading the 2nd Assyrian platoon and two sections of engineers crossed a bridge separating them from their objective and proceeded to clear the first block. Within thirty minutes all platoons had crossed and were engaged in clearing their assigned blocks, enemy mortar shells fell on and near the bridge with no effect, the company were safely across. The operation lasted two and a half hours, sniper fire was frequent but no casualties were reported, the platoons occupied their respective blocks. At 1050hrs heavy sniping was encountered in the area of 2nd platoon, two casualties were inflicted, Pte Menas Giwergis was killed and Cpl Giwergis Shabo was wounded, as a result the Sherman Tank was brought into action and silenced most of the sniping. In the evening a section from 2nd platoon killed an E.L.A.S. brandishing a Sten sub-machinegun, sniping was reported throughout the day but no further casualties were inflicted. The next evening, at 1800hrs Lt Boe led a patrol that encountered enemy activity and had a short fire fight, a second patrol led by Lt Reeves encountered no activity and returned to their temporary base. At 1930 Lt Peterson led a patrol that led to an enemy strong point, fifteen minutes after departure the patrol returned and reported that they bumped into a party building a roadblock and were fired on, they also reported Lt Peterson as being hit and possibly killed.

Sgt Benyamin Shlimon, a Private at the time recalls the incident:

It was very dark, we started crossing a road, Lt Peterson was in the lead and followed by Sgt Ismail Nissan, the rest of us waited to be called to cross. As soon as Lt Peterson was halfway across, machineguns opened up from the other side, we pulled back just in time, we pushed hard with our back on a wall, but we could see Lt Peterson he was laying in the middle of the road, he had been hit and wasn’t moving, we tried several times to get to him but failed every time, the enemy fire was very heavy.

Major Hudson immediately took out a patrol to recce the area of the roadblock and found a great deal of enemy activity, he returned to prepare for offensive action. Major Hudson, Capt Clarke, CSM Hutton and two Levies made their way towards the roadblock and took up positions, on command they fired on the enemy with a Bren, Thompson sub-machineguns and grenades, CSM Hutton under cover of 77 smoke grenades made his way forward to where Lt Peterson had fallen and found no sign of him, the patrol then returned to base.

On the 21st December at 0900hrs, Major Hudson led the 1st Assyrian platoon to clear the houses on either side of the road leading up to the road block; in support were Lt Reeves with the 3rd Kurdish platoon, two tanks and a section of engineers. The houses were cleared and the Tanks were reported to have had a good shoot, the enemy machinegun positions from the previous night were found and demolished. Lt Peterson’s Beret was found covered in blood where he was reported to have fallen, civilians were questioned, and some said that he was badly wounded and a prisoner of the E.L.A.S.

Two standing patrol positions were found overlooking the roadblock and were occupied later by the company. Commanding officer of the Hampshire’s regiment began negotiations with the Red Cross in an attempt to secure the release of Lt Peterson through a prisoner exchange arrangement; Lt Peterson was later reported to have died in captivity. At 1830hrs the two previously found positions for standing patrols were occupied by patrols led by Major Hudson and Lt Reeves, a short time later they exchanged fire with the enemy in the area of the roadblock for two hours until there was no further movement by the E.L.A.S. the patrols returned to base soon after.

At 2100hrs Lt Boe on patrol bumped into one civilian who fired at him with a pistol, the Lieutenant returned fire from his Thompson killing the civilian and seizing his weapon. The following three days the company carried out patrols in the area, searching houses and engaging the enemy with mortars and rifle fire, on one such patrol Cpt. Clarke searched three suspect houses and found a large stash of German ammunition, four civilians were arrested and sent back for questioning.

29th December 0700 one section from 2nd platoon and another from the 3rd platoon were sent to assist the 2nd Kings own Regiment that were attacking across the company’s front, one paratrooper from 3rd platoon [Pte Hussain Mohd] was wounded by a sniper. On the 30th December at 0700hrs the company moved forward to commence its own attack on the enemy, in support were two armoured cars and a section of engineers. At 0730 the company moved forward, heavy rain and cold weather adding to the hazards of street fighting, by 1200hrs the operation was completed, six prisoners and some ammunition were captured.

31st December 1830, the company was ordered to relocate to Goudhi barracks for further operations, the next day at 1500hrs the company arrived at the new location, most were not impressed with their new accommodation describing them as being very dirty. Orders were issued as such; the Brigade was to carry out a night attack on a three company front, and the company’s objectives were a workhouse and a home for aged, the latter was suspected of being an ELAS stronghold.

On the 2nd of January the company took its position at the starting line on the corner of Athens and Kifissia Roads as right flank. 1st Assyrian platoon moved first and took up covering positions, they were soon followed by the rest of the company, Lt Reeves leading 3rd platoon on reaching the corner of his objective [block one] was challenged, when challenged a second time he opened fire and the enemy returned heavy fire, the rest of the platoon were screened from this barrage but were unable to move forward. 2nd platoon were sent to the left of 3rd platoon in an attempt to give covering fire, this was not possible however due to a seven foot wall surrounding the objective, they then moved forward to their own objective [block two], Lt Reeves managed to place two sections from 3rd platoon across the road to give covering fire, with concentrated fire they forced the enemy to withdraw to block two, the platoon was then able to climb over the wall and occupy their objective.

The second platoon working their way around the buildings and prior to reaching their objective came under heavy fire from block two and three and another two gun positions, 1st platoon engaged and destroyed these two gun positions with mortar bombs, they drew the attention of the enemy and were fired on receiving three casualties, they were ordered to occupy a block of buildings across from their objective [block three] and joined the fire fight. The 2nd platoon moved forward and engaged both blocks, they could not move further however owing to heavy fire from the enemy, they suffered three killed and five wounded, after three hours of fierce fighting they were withdrawn to block one. The third platoon was also engaging the enemy entrenched in block two and a church to their right in a fierce fire fight.

The next morning at 0715 five Tanks arrived to assist the company that has been in constant battle for twelve hours, soon after a company of the 2/4 Hampshire’s arrived and attacked from the right flank and Para company moved forward from the left, by 0750 the area was clear, the enemy had held to the last minute, inflicting two casualties on the Hampshire’s and one on the company’s Sergeant Major [Giwergis Zorzan].

As suspected, the Blocks of houses were used by the ELAS as headquarters and was occupied by 110 of the enemy,

The following armaments were found:

  • 5 Breda Guns and 7 spare barells
  • Three German Mortars/ 47 shells
  • 43 rifles, one revolver
  • 25,700 rounds
  • 37 Molotov cocktails
  • 70 grenades
  • 120, 1 pound gun cotton
  • 69 cartons of dynamite
  • 200 yards fuse

Casualties:

  • Enemy 16 killed
  • Company 3killed, 8 wounded

On the fifth of January at 0800hrs the company relinquished defence to the East Surreys and commenced a new operation, their task was to clear another area suspected of housing ELAS armaments, at 1000hrs the company crossed the starting line and by 1200hrs the task was accomplished without incident, the next day on the 6th the company was engaged in another operation that also past without incident but a large amount ammunition was found and confiscated. On the 7th Major Hudson visited O.C. 4th Division for further orders and was told that the company is to return to Hassani, on the 8th the company moved by Motor Transport and arrived back in their billets at Hassani. January 13th major Hudson was in conference with officer comanding. Wing and a number of issues were discussed. Major Hudson presented a report on the morale of the Assyrian and Kurdish troops resulting from the casualties and other experiences from the street fighting in Athens, after a lengthy discussion the O.C. Wing decided that the company should return to Iraq.

Sgt Benyamin Shlimon commenting on the Morale report:

After our experiences in Athens we became very upset about our dead and wounded, we knew the widows would not receive any help from the British and our wounded would be discharged to fend for themselves, the British commando receives much better pay and if he dies his family wouldn’t starve, we didn’t want the same pay as them but we wanted things to be a little fair, we didn’t want our widows to beg for food if we die, after all we were fighting as hard as the commando and dying just the same, we talked with the Kurds and they felt the same, so we made our feelings felt to the British officers and they didn’t like it.

Parachute Sergeant Hormis Youkhana describes his experience after being wounded in Albania:

After I was wounded in Albania I was told by the doctors that I would need two years of physical therapy to heal, but I was discharged after six months medically unfit, I couldn’t get a job after that, they wouldn’t even have me working in the camp kitchen.

On the 30th January 1945 the company departed to Italy and was back in Iraq in late April 1945. On returning to Habbanyia the company maintained a very high standard of morale and discipline, and during the spring of 1946 they received excellent reports on their training with the 6th airborne division and in addition won the Wing Drill competition. In December of the same year, the company was disbanded and the personnel contained into regular levy squadrons.

Albania Parachute and Sugar Beach

Company casualties, Killed in action:

  • 235930 Lt Peterson [British] - Greece
  • 4246 CSM Gerwergis Zozan [Assyrian] – Greece 3.1.45
  • 1246 Sgt Odisho Sulaka [Assyrian] – Albania 9.10.44
  • 1463 Sgt Youkhana Sliwo [Assyrian] – Albania 9.10.44
  • 1726 Cpl Youkhana Mikhail [Assyrian] - Albania 9.10.44
  • 4750 Cpl Hormis Daniel [Assyrian] – Albania 19.10.44 died of wounds in hospital.
  • 10575 Pte Menas Gerwargis [Assyrian] – Greece 19.12.44
  • 1879 Pte Dawid Odisho [Assyrian] Greece 3.1.45 – was also wounded in Albania
  • 4077 Pte Iskhaq Gewergis [Assyrian] – Greece 3.1.45
  • 10389 Pte Paulos Essa [Assyrian] - Albania 15.10.44 died of wounds in hospital.
  • 1083 Pte Zaia Enwia [Assyrian] - Albania 15.10.44 died of wounds in hospital.

Company casualties, Wounded in action:

  • 134163 Cpt Ellice Clark [British] – Greece
  • 207773 Lt R. W. Sherwood [British] – Albania
  • X95 R.K. Shlimon Bukho [Assyrian - Albania
  • 1395 Sgt Odisho Essi [Assyrian] – Albania
  • 2026 Sgt Hormis Youkhana [Assyrian] - Albania
  • 1319 Sgt Sliwo Shabander [Assyrian] - Albania
  • 1477 Cpl Hormis Tooma [Assyrian] - Greece
  • 1617 Cpl Giwargis Shabo [Assyrian] - Greece
  • 1437 L/C Warda Enwia [Assyrian] - Albania
  • 4539 Pte Odisho Shlimon [Assyrian] - Greece
  • 2009 Pte Youkhana Patros [Assyrian] - Greece
  • 10887 Pte Mati Aboodi [Assyrian] - Greece
  • 10949 Pte Lazar Eshu [Assyrian] - Albania
  • 4755 Pte Hussain Shiekh Mohd [Kurdish] Greece
  • 4324 Pte Gabro Elias [Assyrian] Greece, stepped on German Mine.
  • 1518 Pte Dinkha Dawid [Assyrian] – Albania
  • 1577 Pte Chaba Mawa [Assyrian] – Greece
  • 2098 Pte Enwia Hormis [Assyrian] – Albania
  • 1827 Pte Noona Eshu [Assyrian] – Albania
  • 6354 Pte Kader Nader [Kurdish] – Albania
  • 4648 Pte Hormis Mansoor [Assyrian] – Albania
  • 10562 Pte Oraham Hormis [Assyrian] – Albania
  • 6052 Pte Amin Karim [Kurdish] - Albania
  • 10820 Pte Hanna Mikhail [Assyrian] – Albania

Mentioned in dispatches:

  • 52034 Major G.E.C. Hudson – [British] company commander
  • 251515 Lt G.C. Boe – [British] platoon commander
  • 153183 Lt D. Reeves – [British] platoon commander
  • 1171 Cpl Gewergis shaino [Assyrian]
  • 1288 L/Cpl Benyamin Khoshaba [Assyrian]
  • 10575 L/Cpl Menas Gewergis [Assyrian] deceased