Anders Lassen VC, MC of the SAS, Mike Langley

Anders Lassen VC, MC of the SAS, Mike Langley

Anders Lassen was one of the most remarkable men to serve with the SAS and SBS during the Second World War. Starting as an exiled Dane at a time when the British weren’t entirely sure what to do with Danes, he went on to make his name during raids across the Adriatic, winning the Military Cross and two bars and a posthumous Victoria Cross.

Lassen was born into a prominent Danish family, but when the Germans invaded in 1940 he was working as a seaman, and was at sea. He and his fellow crewmen chose to make their way to an Allied port so they could continue the fight, only to discover that the British hadn’t decided how to treat Danish refugees, as the Danish government had come to terms with the Germans. Eventually he was spotted by the British Special Forces, and chosen for a daring raid to cut out Axis ships that were sheltering in neutral Fernando Po on the west coast of Africa. After that he underwent Commando training, before taking part in the controversial Sark raid that helped trigger Hitler’s infamous ‘Commando Order’. After that he served with the SAS and SBS in the Middle East. His most successful period came with the SBS in the Aegean, where the many scattered islands made a perfect target for the SBS. Expeditions to Yugoslavia were less successful, and Lassen’s luck finally ran out during the final battles in Italy in 1945 when he was killed during a diversionary attack to support the Eighth Army break out into the Po Valley.

Lassen turns out to have been a rather controversial figure at the time. At one end of the scale were his admirers, who considered him to be just about the perfect Special Forces soldier and a remarkable individual. At the other end were those who found him to be too brutal, or too willing to take risks, or didn’t like him much out of combat, although everyone seems to have admired at least part of his character. The author remarked that by the time he had finished the book he admired Lassen more, but liked him less, which seems a fair conclusion.

This is more than a simple adventure story - the author analyses the more controversial raids that Lassen took part in, in particular the Sark raid and some of the more brutal raids in the Aegean. He also looks at Lassen’s s attitude towards the Germans, and the impact it had on his style of combat to produce a picture of a man who was clearly more complex than he sometimes appears in more general books on the SAS or SBS.

Chapters
1 – Butcher and Bolt
2 – The Persistent Volunteer
3 – A Wild Child
4 – The Maid Honor Force
5 – Under Sail
6 – Fernando Po
7 – Anderson Manor: Commando Camelot
8 – Operation Aquatint
9 – Sark
10 – The Schau Strain
11 – Crete and Beirut
12 – Athlit
13 – Jellicoe's Men
14 – Simi
15 – Boots for the Greeks
16 – The Killer School
17 – Santorini
18 – Yugoslavia and Salonika
19 – Comacchio
20 – Lassen, VC

Author: Mike Langley
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 254
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 1988


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