Operation Corkscrew

Operation Corkscrew was the code name for the Allied invasion of the Italian island of Pantelleria (between Sicily and Tunisia) on 11 June 1943, prior to the Allied invasion of Sicily during the Second World War. There had been an early plan to occupy the island in late 1940 (Operation Workshop),[3] but this was aborted when the Luftwaffe strengthened the Axis air strength in the region.[4]

Operation Corkscrew
Part of the Battle of the Mediterranean & the Allied invasion of Sicily
Men of 1st Battalion advance past a burning fuel store on Pantelleria.jpg
Men of the 1st Battalion, Duke of Wellington's Regiment, part of the 3rd Brigade of the British 1st Division, advancing inland during Operation Corkscrew.
Date11 June 1943
Location36°47′15″N 11°59′33″E / 36.78750°N 11.99250°E / 36.78750; 11.99250

Allied victory

  • Allied Occupation of the islands
 United Kingdom Kingdom of Italy Italy
Commanders and leaders
United Kingdom Walter E. Clutterbuck Kingdom of Italy Gino Pavesi
14,000 12,000
Casualties and losses
15 aircraft shot down[1] 40 killed
150 wounded[2]
11.000 prisoners


The Allied focus returned to Pantelleria in early 1943. The radar installations and airfield on the island were seen as a real threat to the planned invasion of Sicily (codenamed Operation Husky). The Italian garrison on the island was 12,000 strong in well-entrenched pillboxes and 21 gun batteries of a variety of calibres. In addition, there was an opportunity to assess the impact of bombardment upon heavily fortified defences.[5] It was decided to see if the island could be forced into submission by aerial and naval bombardment alone. Failing this, an amphibious invasion was planned for 11 June.


Starting in late May, the island was subjected to steadily increasing bombing attacks. In early June, the attacks intensified and 14,203 bombs weighing 4,119 tons were dropped on 16 Italian batteries.[citation needed] On 8 June, a Royal Navy task force of five cruisers, eight destroyers and three torpedo boats carried out a bombardment of the main port on the island.

The engagement was observed by General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander in the Mediterranean, and Admiral Andrew Cunningham from the flagship HMS Aurora.[5][6] From 8 May to 11 June 5,285 bombing sorties were flown by fighter-bombers, medium and heavy bombers, dropping a total of 6,202 tons of bombs on the island.[5]

Two demands for the garrison to surrender went unanswered and, on 11 June, the amphibious assault went ahead. About an hour before the landing craft reached the beaches, the accompanying ships opened fire. Unknown to the attackers, the commander of the garrison on Pantelleria had sought permission to surrender from Rome the previous evening and received it that morning.[5] When the first of the British Commandos landed, the Italians surrendered.


An assessment by British analyst Professor Sir Solly Zuckerman reported that the defences were reduced to 47 percent effectiveness by the intense ten-day air bombardment. Out of 80 guns bombed, 43 were damaged (10 beyond repair). All control communications were destroyed, along with many gun emplacements, ammunition stores and air-raid shelters. The ease of this landing led to an optimistic assessment of the effectiveness of aerial bombing, which was not always later borne out in practice.

The Italian garrisons on other nearby islands (Lampedusa and Linosa) quickly fell. The operation cleared the way for the invasion of Sicily a month later.


  1. ^ Evans, Bryn (2014) The Decisive Campaigns of the Desert Air Force 1942-1945 en Pen & Sword, p. 96. ISBN 9781783462605
  2. ^ Marco Gioannini, Giulio Massobrio (2007). Bombardate l'Italia. Storia della guerra di distruzione aerea 1940-1945. Rizzoli, p. 300. ISBN 9788817015851 (in Italian)
  3. ^ Winston Churchill (1949). "Desert Victory". Their Finest Hour. Houghton Mifflin Company. p. 552. ISBN 0-395-41056-8.
  4. ^ Winston Churchill (1950). "The Mediterranean War". The Second World War: The Grand Alliance. Houghton Mifflin Company. p. 52. ISBN 0-395-41057-6.
  5. ^ a b c d Rogers, Edith C. (1947). The Reduction of Pantelleria and Adjacent Islands, 8 May-14 June 1943 (PDF). monograph 52. US Air Force, Air Force Historical Research Agency. Retrieved 30 March 2009.
  6. ^ "The Evening Independent - Jun 11, 1943". Google News Archive. Retrieved 23 May 2013.

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