The old Calcutta

I AM researching a little-known Scottish regiment’s role in a particular Second World War operation. It was codenamed Longshanks and Creek and took place on 8-9 March 1943 and involved 23 men from various British units seeking to remove a German merchant ship which had taken refuge in Mormugao Harbour in the Portuguese enclave of Gao.

Portugal was, of course, neutral so the raid was classified as Most Secret and remained so after the war. Nothing was known about it until the publication of the book Boarding Party (1978) and the film The Sea Wolves (1980). Both book and film were a mixture of fact and fiction, and the writers of both were severely constrained by the very limited amount of information the participants, even 30 years after the event, were prepared to divulge.

I have found several files in the National Archives, quietly released in the 1980s, and have now a much more accurate idea of what went on and have identified all those who took part, with the exception of a party from the Calcutta Scottish ­Volunteers.

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The Calcutta Scottish was an Indian Army Auxiliary Unit and was an all-European infantry battalion composed of Scotsmen resident or working in Bengal.

All accounts I have found agree that four men from the Calcutta Scottish took part in Operation Longshanks/Creek, but such mentions are limited to passing remarks that they had been recruited in Calcutta, had arrived in Cochin, and were seen climbing up the side of the German target. And that’s it – no mention of ranks, what they were supposed to do and whether they actually did it.

I have not been able to find the records of the Calcutta Scottish, who disbanded on Indian Independence in 1947. Their King’s and Regimental Colours are in Edinburgh Castle. Apart from that, and a brief Wikipedia entry, I can find no trace of them.

Therefore I am asking anyone with knowledge of this unit in general, or of those who participated in the raid on Goa in particular, to contact me.

I appreciate it is unlikely that any of the actual participants are still alive, but most war veterans told their families about their experiences (usually late in life, as they were modest men) and some also wrote short summaries of their careers which they left among their papers.

I would be grateful if readers could contact me so that I will be able to give names to these four brave men.

David Miller

Newton Abbot, Devon