The main prize, the island of Rhodes, fell to a swift attack by a German armoured brigade. Nevertheless, British forces landed on several islands, most notably Kos and Leros, and together with the Italian forces located there, there were hopes of eventually regaining Rhodes. On 13 September 1943 thirty-eight Liberators from North Africa bombed the three airfields on the island of Rhodes effectively grounding the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) aircraft, while SBS units landed on Kos, occupying the port and the airfield near the village of Antimachia. On the 14 September two Beaufighters and a number of Spitfires from 7 Squadron, SAAF flew on to the airfield. On the night of the 14/15 September 120 paratroopers from 11th Parachute Battalion were dropped by Dakotas of No. 216 Squadron RAF on the island. The paratroopers were welcomed by the Italian garrison who laid straw on the landing zone.
At first light on 15 September, a standing patrol of two Spitfires of No. 7 SAAF Squadron was maintained over Kos to give cover to the transport aircraft and ships bringing stores and reinforcements. Among these were the first troops of the RAF Regiment who flew from the British Mandate of Palestine with nine Hispano-Suiza HS.404 guns for anti-aircraft defence, followed two days later by a second detachment, which brought up to strength one of the first of the Regiment's Squadrons to be transported to the battlefield by air with all its weapons.
On the ground, the Allied force consisted of the 1st Battalion, Durham Light Infantry, 120 men from A Company, 11th Battalion Parachute Regiment, a number of men from the Special Boat Service (SBS) and Royal Air Force (RAF) personnel under the command of Lt. Col. L.R.F. Kenyon. The force totalled ca. 1,600 British (although only 1,115 were combatants, 880 army and 235 from the RAF Regiment) and about 3,500 Italian servicemen from the original garrison.