LITANI RIVER is the untold story of No.11 (Scottish) Commando’s daring raid behind enemy lines on 9-10 June 1941. The book follows the unit’s officers and men from its formation in Galashiels, through arduous commando training on the Isle of Arran, and their voyage to the Middle East.

The story climaxes with the unit taking part in the first opposed amphibious landing on an occupied shore by a complete Commando Force. Where they were tasked to attack the enemy from the rear and hold the ground around the Litani River, while the 21st Australian Brigade crossed and advanced to Beirut. The Commando, formed by its indomitable Commanding Officer, Lt Col Dick Pedder, includes a cast of characters that would go on to become legends of the Second World War including: Geoffrey Keyes VC, Sir Tommy Macpherson MC & Two Bars of the SOE, and Blair ‘Paddy’ Mayne DSO & Three Bars of the SAS.

Divided into three parties, X, Y and Z, they ran into difficulties immediately; in rough seas and with the danger of their landing craft capsizing, the landing was aborted in clear view of the enemy. The second attempt the following night also had its problems, and instead of landing behind the enemy they were landed in front and left with no option but to mount frontal assaults against heavily armed and fortified enemy troops who knew exactly when and from where they were coming.

However, despite being out numbered and suffering incredible misfortune and difficulties they were able to hold the line long enough for the Australians to cross the river and continue their advance to Beirut. For their gallantry four Military Crosses, a Military Medal and two Distinguished Conduct Medals were awarded.

LITANI RIVER tells the story of their hard-fought battle from the words of the men themselves, through official reports, personal recollections, and from a series of interviews and correspondence with surviving members of the Commando.


December 1941 – German U-Boats dominate the war in the North Atlantic and Britain is desperate for a breakthrough in cracking their naval codes. The admiralty needs an intelligence pinch, and a Kriegsmarine shore-based wireless station in the Norwegian town of Vågsøy is the target. Lieutenant Robert Bolt and his section of hand-picked commandos, led by the tough and uncompromising Corporal Sam Butcher, are tasked with the secret mission.

Just hours before a major combined operations assault on the town, they are launched from a submarine with orders to silently take control of the wireless station, kill the operators and pinch the codes before a full commando force lands. But the Germans have a plan for such an eventuality, and Bolt and his men will need to be at their most ruthless if they are to get the codes without compromising their mates.


August 1942 – Captain Robert Bolt and his men are on a secret mission in occupied France. The commandos, led by the formidable Sergeant Sam Butcher, have a straight forward job – or so it seemed. Carry out the task and then link up with Allied troops mounting a major raid on the French coast, they’d been told. But when the raid goes wrong they’re left trapped behind enemy lines.

Betrayed and on the run, they uncover a secret German plan. One so terrifying that not only could it change the course of the war, but also kill thousands of innocent people in the process. Butcher and Bolt know they have no choice but to get the details back to Britain. With time running out, and a ruthless enemy closing in, they have no option but to fight their way home.


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