By Erald Capri
Memorie.al / The news about the withdrawal of German troops from Shkodra on November 29, 1944, remained an unverified rumor. Along with this interesting fact, in a report of the British military intelligence, which refers to the developments in our country at the end of the Second World War, a host of other circumstances are revealed that shed light on the situation on the eve of liberation. According to him, the way the events unfolded at the end of the war was not made clear and the day when Albania was completely freed from the enemy was never specified. The document in question contains a report by the British Intelligence officer, Dickinson, who was sent to Albania on November 22, 1944, together with other British, to gather information on the behavior of the German troops and their withdrawal.
The special mission of a secret nature sought to confirm the accuracy of newly received information, according to which there were data that German troops were seeking to desert in masse. For this operation in the field, Enver Hoxha was specially informed, who allowed the special force to operate, but in fact it failed to provide the required information, since the partisan brigades located in the North did not provide information about them and did not they were allowed to work.
Officer Dickinson’s detailed report, while revealing these details of the top-secret operation, asserts the fact that, had these barriers with the partisan leaders been overcome, the movement of German troops on the ground would have been better ascertained, and light might have been thrown on the exact moment of the departure of the German troops from Albania.
So the date of the liberation of the country would be finally illuminated. “At this stage, on November 29, it is underlined in the report of the British military, I signaled the command in Bari, for the unwillingness of the partisans, to let me collect the information I needed. A few hours later, rumors spread that Shkodra had been evacuated by the enemy. We decided that evening to get a confirmation and we met people on the road leading to Shkodra, who were clearly coming from Shkodra, that same day.
In the meantime, we returned to Laç and signaled the LFA, reporting that we were leaving for Shkodër the next morning, on November 30, to clarify this information”! Thus, information from the British about the arrival of other German troops in Albania, after December 4, remained unverified.
On the other hand, the British officer gives an interesting clue. According to him, the partisan leaders of the brigades had no contact with the civilian population in Shkodër, because they considered the entire population of the city as collaborators with the enemy. “The leaders of the brigade knew nothing about Germans imprisoned by them and that the partisan force had no contact with the civilian population in Shkodër.
In fact, according to them, the entire population of Shkodra was a collaborationist. However, they agreed to let me go forward with them, so that I could interrogate every prisoner, and at any subsequent battle, they promised to inform me when they were ready to move.” , the British report cites.
Directed: Command PWB Unit no. 9
By: Captain D.H Dickinson
Report on the “Border” operation, November 22-December 12, 1944
On November 22, I was sent to the North of Albania with a mission to detail and discover the state of morale of the German XXI Division of mountain troops, to report on their individual behavior, in connection with the desertion of German officers, to give priority plates for dropping and distributing propaganda pamphlets, as well as to gather any other information of value related to this matter.
2- ORDER OF EVENTS
Upon my arrival in Lezha on November 22, I discussed my project with the LRDG patrols, regarding the mission, as well as who was engaged in the ground preparations for my arrival, knowing that an important officer was coming from Italy, with a special mission in Albania.
It was decided that I should introduce myself to the partisans, as part of the personal staff representing Deputy Marshal Elliot, and that we should try to get the partisan force closer to the enemy in order to advance with the LRDG patrol, while two other patrols that would stay in Lezha, would wait for other developments.
On November 23, I met with the partisan commander of the Lezha area, who expressed to me what was the opinion and opinion of all the partisan commanders there, which meant that the Germans could not escape from the pocket they were trapped in, but who had nothing to lose, so eventually they would fight to the last soldier, as they did in Tirana.
However, he was willing to leave me on my way, and preparations were made for the movement of the VIIth Brigade on the following day. A German prisoner who had been captured near Lezha 3 days earlier and had been interrogated gave me names and information about many officers of the 522nd Regiment.
In Heimel I met a local priest who spoke German and told me about the war behavior of some of the German officers he had known. Contrary to the partisan view, he believed that a large number of Germans would want to surrender to a British military force and never to the partisans. In the evening of November 25, the headquarters of the 7th Brigade stopped in Laç and the mission was discussed with the brigade leaders.
They gave the position of the Germans around Shkodra and this was signaled to the LFA, to drop propaganda pamphlets or as a target for bombing. The leaders of the brigade knew nothing about Germans imprisoned by them and that the partisan force had no contact with the civilian population in Shkodër. In fact, according to them, the entire population of Shkodra was collaborationist.
They agreed, however, to let me go forward with them in order to interrogate every prisoner, and at each subsequent battle they promised to inform me when they were ready to move. On the morning of Monday, November 27th, I looked for them and found that they moved forward without notifying me of the matter. The bridges over the Drin River that had been taken had been blown up and it was impossible to cross the river with the mules and the radio equipment we had, so I left the LRDG patrol in Laç and went after the partisans in Ndrefushe.
There we found the senior representatives of the XXII Brigade, who reported a battle of the previous night, in which 4 German prisoners had been captured, so on November 28, I moved towards Drishti and there they told me the full story of the XXII Brigade. He (one of the brigade staff) was very skeptical, telling me that he did not know where the German prisoners were and confirmed that they did not have any kind of civilian representative in Shkodër, information that I did not believe and later discovered that what they were telling me was not true.
He did not know the plans for what would happen in the future, but he told me that nothing would happen in the next 24 hours. In the meantime, I returned to Laç, to take with me the LRDG patrol, together with the radio set, to Drisht. At this stage, on November 29, I signaled the command in Bari, about the unwillingness of the partisans not to let me gather the information I needed. A few hours later, rumors spread that Shkodra had been evacuated by the enemy.
We decided to get a confirmation that evening and met people on the road leading to Shkodra, who were clearly coming from Shkodra that same day. In the meantime we returned to Laç and alerted the LFA, reporting that we were leaving for Shkodër the following morning, 30 November, to clarify this information, examine the aerodrome and locate the RAF pilot, whose tracks were found 3 days earlier.
BRITISH ARCHIVE DOCUMENT
“The situation in the North of Albania, at the end of the fighting”!
“The Germans refused to surrender to the partisans”!
“The communists claimed that the entire population of Shkodra had been collaborators of the enemy”
Conversations with random civilians from Shkodra supported the theory that there was a British force next door and that a large-scale German desertion would occur there. The RAF pilot had similar information from the prison guards, in the month he had been held prisoner, along with other Italian prisoners, who went daily and worked in the city.
However, the Germans were clear with Albania and the “Border” operation seemed to be coming to an end. The information collected was transmitted to the LFA on December 1, with the intention to return to Shengjin, to join the other LRDG patrols, with the intention of leaving.
This suggestion was made at the same time as the original plan was drawn up, to include those in the Yugoslav territory, always, if approval was given by those authorities. But, when all the patrols had gathered, already on December 5 in Shengjin, the alarming signal was given by the LFA that maybe the XXI mountain corps of the Germans had returned to Albania.
Meanwhile, I returned to Shkodër on December 6, with the idea of obtaining the permission of the partisans to visit the houses of civilians, in which German officers were sheltered and kept, in order to learn their behavior in relation to these desertions.
The goal was initially for me to approach the partisan command, through the British mission in Shkodër, but finding the British mission was impossible on December 7th, so I was caught by the partisans and sent to their headquarters, to be taken questioned a commissioner. His behavior was very harsh.
He knew about our LRDG work and clearly and in a planned way, he revealed that we no longer had a place in Albania and that the Germans had already left. He received full details of the number of British troops in Albania, along with their names. I told him what I wanted to do in Shkodër, while he told me that my presence in Albania was unnecessary and that such information could be obtained from the British mission.
I objected by telling him that the British mission was there for liaison duties with the partisan force, while my mission was to do with the German armies and that I had the special qualification to find the information I needed myself.
I felt surprised that he had no idea that the presence of my mission was known by General Enver Hoxha, who had been informed the day before by Italy about my arrival and further, that I expected their cooperation and did not I was getting nothing as expected. In a vague manner, he apologized and said that he would refer this matter to Tirana and in the meantime he would give me directions to send me to the British mission.
I accidentally discovered at noon on December 8, that during a day and a half, their headquarters declared that they had no idea where the British mission was, when meanwhile the same partisan headquarters had interrogated the British mission about me, affirming the same thing, that they did not know where I was. It was clear that they wanted to keep us apart, without learning anything, until an answer would come from Tirana.
Meanwhile, a message came from the LRDG in Shengjin that our whole group would have to leave for Italy. The brigade commander was very hostile, with the exception of the commissar of the 3rd troop, who became friendly as soon as he learned that I was leaving Albania. On the other hand, it was planned that the partisans would not allow the slightest intervention of the British officers, in the final phase of the battle, between the pockets created Shkodër-Podgorica.
There was no doubt that they would let me do my own work and investigation. Guides and partisan guards were assigned to me, to send me back, making sure I didn’t meet a single civilian. On the second visit I made to Shkodër, I was a complete suspect and guarded all the time, but according to the partisans, this was “protection” for me.
Meanwhile, it was almost impossible to gather detailed information regarding the manner and conduct of the desertion of the German mountain troop, No. 21, but on the other hand, indications as far as I could gather, although hindered for political purposes, showed that the Germans wanted to surrender to the British or American troops, but not to the partisans.
This situation required the “Border” operation to start earlier. Contact with German troops and civilians, who were not necessarily Quislings, was quite possible, before the partisans came to the area of Lesh, and that the scheme would work at that time, when the Germans left the coastline, before the areas from partisans and surely the operation would have been successful. Memorie.al