Related Units and Organisations

The Related Units and Organisations section[1] aims to give short contextual summaries of the units and organisations that surround the Popski story. It only includes the headline links at the moment, while we continue our research and get around to actually writing the articles! These article stubs not only show where our thinking is going but are also there to act as search-engine fly-paper, helping topic-knowledgable people to find us and tell us more.

The section will contain articles about particular units and organisations that are associated with or fought alongside (or against) Popski and PPA, and will be developed under Phase 2 funding. This generally excludes the major Allied and Axis formations. See About this website. To start with though we have added some interesting photos about the Libyan Arab Force.

Related Regular Units

King Idris with British Staff Officers, reviewing his Libyan Arab Force troops<br />(foPPA Archives, Geoffrey Lunn Collection)
King Idris with British Staff Officers, reviewing his Libyan Arab Force troops
(foPPA Archives, Geoffrey Lunn Collection)
Libyan Arab Force and
Libyan Arab Force Commando

The units that Popski first served in or commanded in 1941-42.
Rag-tag force built around 27th Lancers and PPA to hold the Adriatic end of the Gothic Line in 1944.
Glider Pilot Regiment
Part of 1st Airborne Division who earned their spurs in Sicily in 1943, but first trained PPA in glider-borne operations.
28th Garibaldi Brigade
Italian Partisans who distinguished themselves in the liberation of Ravenna in 1944.
27th Lancers
The so-far unheralded WWII-only cavalry regiment mainly drawn from 12th Lancers, also known as the "Desert Mice".
9 Commando
Supported PPA on Operation Astrolabe in the summer of 1944.

9 Commando's part of "Operation Astrolabe" was called "Operation Pipsqeak"[2]. Some 9 Commando veterans approached us just before the unveiling of the PPA Memorial in 2008 but, under severe time and budgetary pressure to deliver the event, we weren't able to give them the attention that they deserved or include them in the event, which we greatly regret.

Related Special Forces and Intelligence Units

The intelligence-gathering and special-forces raiding units operating during the North African and Italian Campaigns were many and various, not always co-ordinated nor co-operating (at the AFHQ level - generally much better relations at the sharp end). No historian has yet (as far as we know) pulled together all these threads to give a comprehensive picture of how they all fitted in (especially in Italy). This section is an attempt to at least give a nod to those involved, perhaps eventually clarifying PPA's position within all this clandestine activity.

The Light Car Patrols of WWI and Compagnie Autosahariane of the inter-war years are included to give some background to the formation of Britain's irregular forces, woefully disdained by career officers. The rather ad-hoc "Jock Columns" of the Western Desert are not included, as it remains unclear to us what they really contributed, strategically or tactically (nor who they were - does anyone know?).

Also not really part of our focus here, but ever-present, are the Field Security Sections, responsible for arresting spies identified by SIS (MI6) or SOE, and interrogating POWs - "300 FSS" was yet another cover name for SOE in Italy (see below). Post-war, by 1947 PPA's Corporal Alain Locke MM, now a Captain, was a Field Security Officer in 253 FSS, running operations against Jewish and Arab arms smugglers in the Sinai desert, in PPA-type Jeeps. Some "special duties" Naval units operating into the Adriatic and Tyrrhenian Seas may eventually appear here, as research into Massingham continues.

Light Car Patrols
Formed in 1916, this is the original motorised desert patrol unit and forerunner of the LRDG. They invented sandladders and suncompasses.
Compagnie Autosahariane
Formed in 1933, the five Italian CA's are the poorly-recognised bridge in time, technique and tactics, between the LCP and the LRDG.
Long Range Desert Group
Formed in 1940, the much-admired parent of PPA and classic desert exploration, survey and intelligence-gathering unit.
No 1 Special Force
(Special Operations Executive)

Cover name for SOE's Italian and Balkan operations.
Special Air Service Regiment
Formed in 1941, almost the definitive Special Forces unit and still going strong. Worked alongside PPA in North Africa and Italy.
'A' Force (Advanced)
Deception, escape and evasion unit based in Cairo, covername for MI9. Popski worked with them in the LAFC before PPA.
Phantom (GHQ Liaison Regiment)
Special reconnaissance unit formed in 1939 who served in Italy alongside the SAS.
Office of Strategic Services
US equivalent of SOE that ran many Operational Groups in Italy and elsewhere. Later became the CIA.
Sonderkommando Dora
Abwehr desert survey and Intelligence gathering unit, reporting directly to Berlin. Attacked an LRDG/PPA patrol in Wadi Zemzem.
GSI (Civil Liaison) Branch, Eighth Army
This innocuous-sounding section co-ordinated Allied Special Forces, Italian Partisan and local population intelligence-gathering activities.
Italian Liaison Section, G-2, Fifth Army
Fifth Army's equivalent of Eighth Army's GSI (CL) section.
Nucleo "I"
"Italian headquarters responsible for administering Italian Intelligence Liaison Officers at formations and units."
No 1 Intelligence Unit
(Secret Intelligence Service)

Cover name for MI6's North African, Italian and Balkan operations.

Combined Ops Pilotage Party 2
"PP2" in the PPA War Diary below. COPP2's job was to secretly check behind-the-lines coastlines for later landings.
Special Boat Section
The seaborne equivalent of the SAS, led at one time by Major the Earl George Jellicoe, Popski's flat-mate in Alger.

Raiding Support Regiment
A kind of heavy-weapons backup to the SAS and similar units.

Some of these secret units (and their branches) confusingly operated simultaneously under different names, or the names were changed as the war progressed, or bits were spun off, or attachments were made. For instance, attached to the LRDG in North Africa was the Indian Long Range Squadron, long overdue for a decent book about them, although we have no evidence of their particular operational connection to Popski or PPA - the point of this page.

SOE is arguably the worst for name-fudge - its Baker Street HQ was known as ISRB, the Inter-Services Research Bureau, by way of explaining why many different nationalities were popping in and out all the time. They referred to themselves as the "Baker Street Irregulars". In Cairo SOE was known as Force 133 or MO4 ("Military Operations 4", employing PPA's Lieutenant Jan Caneri to plant limpet mines in Benghazi harbour). The joint UK-US base in Algiers (i.e. for SOE and OSS), established after the "Operation Torch" landings in November 1942, was called "Massingham", but the unit was called ISSU6, Inter-Services Signals Unit 6. In Bari and Monopoli SOE operated as No 1 Special Force, Force 133 or Force 266 (mainly into the Balkans), with the base called "Maryland". In Popski's book, published in 1951 but still under the cosh of the censor, he refers to SOE but indexes it as "Subversive Operations Europe". "Military Mission 102" was the SOE attachment to the Libyan Arab Force, probably the connection through which Popski passed his intelligence reports from Cyrenaica before the battles of El Alamein.

Reports about the OSS in Italy sometimes refer to "Operational Groups" (roughly equivalent to SAS squads) or to the "MU", the Maritime Unit making use of highly-regarded Italian Navy specialists and their fast boats.

In January 2012 we reproduced a Personal Stories article about "D" Company, 2677th Regiment OSS Lieutenant George Hearn that we found some time ago, explaining his hitherto poorly-recognised part in PPA's April 1945 capture of the entire German garrison at Chioggia in Northern Italy. This partly in response to a recent burst of new information regarding OSS activities in Italy making sense of information that we already had in the archives.

GSI Group.

GSI Group. (See Image Credits)

This great photo shows many of the men involved in behind-the-lines operations in northern Italy including Lieutenant Richard Kelly OBE[3], CO of the OSS Maritime Unit; Captain Alphonse Thiele OBE, CO of the OSS Detachment at Eighth Army; Major Archie Colquhoun MBE[4], CO of the GSI (Civil Liaison) branch of Eighth Army and Major Jan Caneri MC[5] CO of PPA. Can anyone name the others? The photo is from the collection of Harry Bland who was Major Colquhoun's driver and a long-time foPPA supporter until his death in 2014.

  CESENA 12 C.O. established at Main Army with L.O. Lieut Derrett[6]. Here begins the formulating of plans for the part PPA is to take in the forthcoming offensive. Close co-operation is maintained between the C.O. and G.Ops (Lt-Col J.C.Smuts), G.S.O.I (Plans) (Lt-Col Sir I.S.V.Marling Bt), G.S.I. (C.L) (Major A.Colquhoun), G.S.I.(Air) (Major I.R.S.Crosby), N.L.O. Commander (N.H.Whatley), No 1 Special Force (Capt E.Mc'Dermott), O.S.S. (Lieut Kelly), O.C. P.P. 2 (Capt Freeman). Conference will be held daily and the 2nd I/C Capt J.D.Campbell[7] is re-called from Ski Course. The Unit is to stand by for operations as from 25 Mar 45.  

Related Organisations

PPA Association
The post-war association for PPA veterans, discontinued after Popski's death but now reborn as foPPA.
The National Association of Italian Partisans.
Anglo-Garibaldi Association
Post-war but we cannot find anything about it: only a single sheet of headed notepaper.

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Copyright © 2018 foPPA
2 March 2018

Further information
  1. ^ This section moved under "The Popski Story" in November 2013 for simplicity.
  2. ^ This was almost certainly a witty reference to the Daily Mirror cartoon characters "Pip, Squeak and Wilfred", within which cartoon strip often appeared the mad Russian Bolshevik bomber "Professor Wtzkoffski" and his faithful dog "Popski". See Newsletter 1.
  3. ^ Lieutenant George Hearn's boss.
  4. ^ Major Colquhoun accompanied Popski's widow Pamela to the unveiling of Popski's marble memorial plaque in the Basilica di Sant'Apollinare in May 1952. He died in the 60's but we haven't yet found his family.
  5. ^ At the time this photo was taken Captain Caneri was a temporary Major as CO of PPA, while Popski was in the UK recuperating from the loss of his left hand.
  6. ^ This is the day that Lt Derrett joined PPA.
  7. ^ Captain John Campbell is foPPA Chairman and still cannot ski.