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The Assyrian Levies in Albania

It turns out that British Commandos weren’t the only allied forces involved in the raid on Sarande in 1944. Landing with the British were 200 men from the 1st Parachute Squadron of the Assyrian Levies.

The Levies were attached to the RAF and came into existence as a result of the Paris peace conference of 1919. Britain decided to try and maintain control in its mandated Middle Eastern territories through air power. As a result the RAF recruited the Levies – who were also known as the RAF levies – from among the local population, primarily the Assyrians. They, rather than regular British troops, provided security for airbases and troops on the ground.

The 1st Parachute Squadron was made up of roughly 150 Assyrians and 50 Kurds. In the picture below, taken in 1945 the Albanian flag is clearly visible in the front row.

As far as I know they landed with the Commandos on ‘Sugar Beach’, north of Sarande, and were then shipped to a southern landing point known as ‘Parachute Beach’.

The Levies attacked form the South, while the commandos attacked from the North. Four of their men died during the assault:

Sergeant Odisho Sulaka

Corporal Yokhana Mikhail

Sergeant Yokhana Sliwo

L/Corporal Lazar Loko

These four men are commemorated at the Athens Memorial Cemetery in Greece. (Though I cannot find a record for Lazar Loko on the CWGC database).

You can read more about the Levies and the attack on Sarande here. This site is also the source of the images of the badge and the Parachute Squadron. It has more information about the Levies, including their time in Albania and many more photographs.

Thanks to Joni who sent me these photographs of the 'Bay of the English'. This is 'Sugar Beach' where the initial landing took place.


vloraboy said…
Interesting article. I love reading about subjects like this one. They are historical events with a tale-like character. What amuses me so much is the fact that there is so much history that was hidden from us (or mistold) by the regime. "Gazeta Shqiptare" is another source where I have read many "Dossier" type articles.

Anyway, I got really distracted in the end after I saw all the pictures. At that point, history didn't matter anymore to me. I just want to leave the cold, snowy Chicago and be on that beach right now...yeah right. (I will be there in July though)
Ed said…

I got your blog from the blog of the guy in Prague who complied the list of decent blogs from ex-soviet bloc. I'm also on the list, for croatia, with Balkanbaby. I'm visiting Albania in May as part of a six week huge pan-balkan journey (as far north as Ukraine/moldova, west to italy, east to bulgaria, and south to greece and everything else yugoslav in the middle!).

So, here's what I was wondering, do you know anywhere where i can get some really cheap accomodation for a night or two when im there? I visited tirana a couple of years ago and the hotels were so expensive. When you're travelling like a crazy man for 6 weeks you can't afford the ritz every night!

Anyway, check my blog too, i have some photos you might be interested in from when i visited Kosova too.

Take care,
Genci said…
Hey Ed.

For cheap hotel/motel reservations in Albania go to

Hope this helps. :)


PS. Alwyn, great job on this blog. It's always great to hear what foreigners think about Albania.
Milena said…
Great historical post. You should do that as a job (if you're not alredy doing it). :)
ourmanintirana said…
Hi Vloraboy. Glad you liked the story. At some point I would love to get into the Albanian archives and find out if there is any record of the events there and how the story is told.

Maybe we can meet up when you come out here.

Ed - I was hoping other people might weigh in with suggestions, so thanks to Genci. I would also suggest the following link

This is a useful online guide to Tirana (and a little bit of the South of the country as well). You can download it for free in pdf format. The Where to Stay section has information on hotels, hostels and private accommodation.

Genci - It's good to get positive feedback. I try to be honest about my impressions but don't want to cause offence. Thanks.

Milena - thanks also. I would love to do it as a job, but unfortunately no-one would pay me. So I do it as a hobby. I'm hoping to do some research in the British National Archives next time I'm in London, so there may be a few more postings yet.
vloraboy said…
Alwyn, I would love to get some coffee or a Heineken with you when I am in Tirana in July.
ITS said…
"vloraboy said...
Alwyn, I would love to get some coffee or a Heineken with you when I am in Tirana in July. "

Me too, me too!

Maybe I can show Alwyn that my mom's Mercedes papers are legit!
Anonymous said…
There is an hostel in Tirana, from a swiss architect, if I am not wrong, it is also listed in the hostel's homepage. It is smwhere at rruga Elbasani. It is funny, but I read the new in a swiss day news paper, that's how I know it :) Good Luck!
Milena said…
""ITS said...
"vloraboy said...
Alwyn, I would love to get some coffee or a Heineken with you when I am in Tirana in July."
Me too, me too!""

Me too!!! I wannna meet both Alwyn and ITS!
ourmanintirana said…
OK - so it looks like we should have a big get together in July. You can email me at alwyntatgmaildotcom. Let me know when you are all going to be around and we can sort something out - and anyone else out there who wants to come along.

ITS - even if every other car in Albania was stolen I would never question your mum's integrity!

Ed - how is the hotel/accommodation search going?
Milena said…
Great Alwyn, I'll tell you when I'm gonna be there as soon as I actually get to organise the trip(can't wait!).

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