St. Nazaire Raid
The St Nazaire Raid or Operation Chariot was a successful British amphibious attack on the heavily defended Normandie dry dock
Louis Joubert Lock
The Louis Joubert Lock also known as the Normandie Dock, is a lock and major dry dock located in the port of Saint-Nazaire, in Loire-Atlantique northwestern France...

 at St Nazaire in German-occupied France during the Second World War. The operation was undertaken by the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 and British Commandos
British Commandos
The British Commandos were formed during the Second World War in June 1940, following a request from the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, for a force that could carry out raids against German-occupied Europe...

 under the auspices of Combined Operations Headquarters on 28 March 1942. St Nazaire was targeted because the loss of its dry dock would force any large German warship in need of repairs, such as the Tirpitz
German battleship Tirpitz
Tirpitz was the second of two s built for the German Kriegsmarine during World War II. Named after Grand Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, the architect of the Imperial Navy, the ship was laid down at the Kriegsmarinewerft in Wilhelmshaven in November 1936 and launched two and a half years later in April...

, to return to home waters rather than having a safe haven available on the Atlantic coast.

The obsolete destroyer
In naval terminology, a destroyer is a fast and maneuverable yet long-endurance warship intended to escort larger vessels in a fleet, convoy or battle group and defend them against smaller, powerful, short-range attackers. Destroyers, originally called torpedo-boat destroyers in 1892, evolved from...

 HMS Campbeltown
HMS Campbeltown (I42)
HMS Campbeltown was a "Town"-class destroyer of the Royal Navy during the Second World War. She was originally an American destroyer , and, like many other obsolescent U.S. Navy destroyers, she was transferred to the Royal Navy in 1940 as part of the Destroyers for Bases Agreement. Campbeltown...

, accompanied by 18 smaller craft, crossed the English Channel to the Atlantic coast of France and was rammed into the Normandie dock gates. The ship had been packed with delayed-action explosives that detonated later that day, putting the dock out of service for the remainder of the war. A force of commandos landed to destroy machinery and other structures. Heavy German gunfire sank or immobilised all the small craft intended to transport the commandos back to England; the commandos had to fight their way out through the town to try to escape overland. They were forced to surrender when their ammunition was expended and they were surrounded.

After the raid only 228 men returned to Britain; 169 were killed and 215 became prisoners of war
Prisoner of war
A prisoner of war or enemy prisoner of war is a person, whether civilian or combatant, who is held in custody by an enemy power during or immediately after an armed conflict...

. German casualties were over 360 dead, mostly killed after the raid when Campbeltown exploded. To recognise their bravery, 89 decorations were awarded to members of the raiding party, including five Victoria Cross
Victoria Cross
The Victoria Cross is the highest military decoration awarded for valour "in the face of the enemy" to members of the armed forces of various Commonwealth countries, and previous British Empire territories....

es. After the war St Nazaire was one of 38 battle honours awarded to the Commandos; the operation has since become known as The Greatest Raid of All.


St Nazaire is on the north bank of the Loire
Loire (river)
The Loire is the longest river in France. With a length of , it drains an area of , which represents more than a fifth of France's land area. It is the 170th longest river in the world...

 400 km (250 miles) from the nearest British port, it had a population of 50,000 in 1942. The St Nazaire port has an outer harbour known as the Avant Port, formed by two piers jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean. This leads to two lock gates before the Basin de St Nazaire. These gates control the water level in the basin so that it is not affected by the tide. Beyond the basin is the larger inner dock called the Basin de Penhoët, which can accommodate ships up to 10000 long tons (10,160.5 t). There is also an old entrance to the Basin de St Nazaire located northwest of the Normandie dry dock
Louis Joubert Lock
The Louis Joubert Lock also known as the Normandie Dock, is a lock and major dry dock located in the port of Saint-Nazaire, in Loire-Atlantique northwestern France...

. Built to house the ocean liner
Ocean liner
An ocean liner is a ship designed to transport people from one seaport to another along regular long-distance maritime routes according to a schedule. Liners may also carry cargo or mail, and may sometimes be used for other purposes .Cargo vessels running to a schedule are sometimes referred to as...

 SS Normandie
SS Normandie
SS Normandie was an ocean liner built in Saint-Nazaire, France for the French Line Compagnie Générale Transatlantique. She entered service in 1935 as the largest and fastest passenger ship afloat; she is still the most powerful steam turbo-electric-propelled passenger ship ever built.Her novel...

, this dock was the largest dry dock in the world when it was completed in 1932. The "Old Mole" jetty juts into the Loire halfway between the southern pier of the Avant Port and the old entrance into the basin.

On 24 May 1941, the Battle of the Denmark Strait
Battle of the Denmark Strait
The Battle of the Denmark Strait was a Second World War naval battle between ships of the Royal Navy and the German Kriegsmarine, fought on 24 May 1941...

 was fought between the German
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 ships Bismarck
German battleship Bismarck
Bismarck was the first of two s built for the German Kriegsmarine during World War II. Named after Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, the primary force behind the German unification in 1871, the ship was laid down at the Blohm & Voss shipyard in Hamburg in July 1936 and launched nearly three years later...

 and Prinz Eugen
German cruiser Prinz Eugen
Prinz Eugen was an Admiral Hipper-class heavy cruiser, the third member of the class of five vessels. She served with the German Kriegsmarine during World War II. The ship was laid down in April 1936 and launched August 1938; Prinz Eugen entered service after the outbreak of war, in August 1940...

 and the British ships HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Hood
HMS Hood
Three ships of the Royal Navy have been named HMS Hood after several members of the Hood family, who were notable Navy officers: was a 91-gun second-rate ship of the line, originally laid down as HMS Edgar, but renamed in 1848 and launched in 1859. She was used for harbour service from 1872 and was...

. The Hood was sunk and the damaged Prince of Wales was forced to retire. The Bismarck, also damaged, ordered her consort to proceed independently while she headed for the French port of St Nazaire, which was the only port on the Atlantic coast with a drydock able to accommodate a ship of her size. She was intercepted by the British and sunk en route.

Britain's Naval Intelligence Division first proposed a commando raid on the dock in late 1941. When the German battleship Tirpitz
German battleship Tirpitz
Tirpitz was the second of two s built for the German Kriegsmarine during World War II. Named after Grand Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, the architect of the Imperial Navy, the ship was laid down at the Kriegsmarinewerft in Wilhelmshaven in November 1936 and launched two and a half years later in April...

 was declared operational in January 1942, the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 (RN) and Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

 (RAF) were already drawing up plans to attack her. Planners from Combined Operations Headquarters were looking at potential scenarios if the Tirpitz escaped the naval blockade and reached the Atlantic. They decided the only port able to accommodate her was St Nazaire, especially if, like the Bismarck, she was damaged en route and needed to pull in for repairs. They came to the conclusion that if the dock at St Nazaire was unavailable the Germans were unlikely to risk sending Tirpitz into the Atlantic.
Combined Operations examined a number of options while planning the destruction of the dock. At this stage of the war the British government still tried to avoid civilian casualties. This ruled out a bombing attack by the RAF, which at the time did not possess the accuracy needed to destroy the dock without serious loss of civilian life. The Special Operations Executive
Special Operations Executive
The Special Operations Executive was a World War II organisation of the United Kingdom. It was officially formed by Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Minister of Economic Warfare Hugh Dalton on 22 July 1940, to conduct guerrilla warfare against the Axis powers and to instruct and aid local...

 were approached to see if its agents could destroy the dock gates. They decided that the mission was beyond their capabilities because the weight of explosives required too many agents just to carry them. The RN were also unable to mount an operation, as St Nazaire is 8 km (5 miles) up the Loire Estuary. Any naval ships large enough to cause sufficient damage would be detected well before they were within range.

The planners then examined whether a commando force could be used. There was an unusually high spring tide due in March 1942, which would allow a light ship to pass over the sand banks in the estuary and approach the docks, bypassing the dredged and presumably well-defended channel. It would still be too shallow for infantry landing ships, but specially lightened destroyers might succeed.


The raid had three objectives: the destruction of the Normandie dock, the destruction of the old gates into the Basin de St Nazaire together with the water pumping machinery and other installations, and any U-boats or other shipping in the area. The initial Combined Operations plan required two specially lightened destroyers to carry out the raid. The first would be packed with explosives and rammed into the dock gates. Commandos on board would subsequently disembark and use demolition charges to destroy nearby dock installations, searchlights and gun emplacements. The destroyer would then be blown up and the second ship would come in and evacuate the ship's crew and the commandos. At the same time the RAF would carry out a number of diversionary air raids in the area.

When the plan was presented to the Admiralty
The Admiralty was formerly the authority in the Kingdom of England, and later in the United Kingdom, responsible for the command of the Royal Navy...

, they refused to support it. The certain loss of one or both destroyers to eliminate the dry dock was out of the question. They suggested they could provide an old Free French ship, the Ouragan and a flotilla of small motor launch
Motor Launch
A Motor Launch is a small military vessel in British navy service. It was designed for harbour defence and submarine chasing or for armed high speed air-sea rescue....

es to transport the commandos and evacuate them afterwards. Approval for the mission, codenamed Operation Chariot, was given on 3 March 1942. Using a French ship would involve using the Free French forces and increase the number of people aware of the raid. Consequently it was decided the navy would have to provide a ship of their own. The RAF complained that the raid would draw heavily on their resources; the number of aircraft assigned by RAF Bomber Command
RAF Bomber Command
RAF Bomber Command controlled the RAF's bomber forces from 1936 to 1968. During World War II the command destroyed a significant proportion of Nazi Germany's industries and many German cities, and in the 1960s stood at the peak of its postwar military power with the V bombers and a supplemental...

 was reduced time and again before the day of the raid. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

 further complicated matters when he ordered that bombing should only take place if targets were clearly identified.

Combined Operations Headquarters worked closely with several intelligence organisations to plan the raid. The Naval Intelligence Division compiled information from a variety of sources. A detailed plan of the town of St Nazaire was provided by the Secret Intelligence Service
Secret Intelligence Service
The Secret Intelligence Service is responsible for supplying the British Government with foreign intelligence. Alongside the internal Security Service , the Government Communications Headquarters and the Defence Intelligence , it operates under the formal direction of the Joint Intelligence...

, information on the coastal artillery nearby was sourced from the War Office's Military Intelligence branch. Intelligence about the dock itself came from pre-war technical journals. The RN's Operational Intelligence Centre selected the route and timing for the raid based on intelligence about the location of minefields and German recognition signals sourced from Enigma
Enigma machine
An Enigma machine is any of a family of related electro-mechanical rotor cipher machines used for the encryption and decryption of secret messages. Enigma was invented by German engineer Arthur Scherbius at the end of World War I...

 decrypts and knowledge of Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. It is also the official name for two of the four historic German air forces, the Wehrmacht air arm founded in 1935 and disbanded in 1946; and the current Bundeswehr air arm founded in 1956....

 patrols compiled by the Air Ministry's Air Intelligence Branch. When all the plans had been pulled together and the timing worked out, the raid was expected to last no longer than two hours. The commandos and crew from Campbeltown would board the motor launches at the Old Mole jetty and then return to base.

Composition of the raiding force

The revised Combined Operations plan required one destroyer to ram the dock gates and a number of smaller craft to transport the Commandos. The Royal Navy would therefore provide the largest contingent for the raid, under the overall command of the senior naval officer, Commander
Commander is a naval rank which is also sometimes used as a military title depending on the individual customs of a given military service. Commander is also used as a rank or title in some organizations outside of the armed forces, particularly in police and law enforcement.-Commander as a naval...

 Robert Ryder. The ship selected to ram into the dock gates was HMS Campbeltown
HMS Campbeltown (I42)
HMS Campbeltown was a "Town"-class destroyer of the Royal Navy during the Second World War. She was originally an American destroyer , and, like many other obsolescent U.S. Navy destroyers, she was transferred to the Royal Navy in 1940 as part of the Destroyers for Bases Agreement. Campbeltown...

, commanded by Lieutenant Commander
Lieutenant Commander
Lieutenant Commander is a commissioned officer rank in many navies. The rank is superior to a lieutenant and subordinate to a commander...

 Stephen Halden Beattie
Stephen Halden Beattie
Captain Stephen Halden Beattie VC was a Welsh recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.-Details:...

. The Campbeltown was a First World War destroyer and had previously been the USS Buchanan
USS Buchanan (DD-131)
USS Buchanan , named for Franklin Buchanan, was a Wickes-class destroyer in the United States Navy.Buchanan was transferred to the United Kingdom under the Destroyers for Bases Agreement in 1940 and served as HMS Campbeltown . She was destroyed during the St...

 in the United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

. She had come into RN service in 1940 as one of 50 destroyers transferred to the United Kingdom under the Destroyers for Bases Agreement
Destroyers for Bases Agreement
The Destroyers for Bases Agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom, September 2, 1940, transferred fifty mothballed destroyers from the United States Navy in exchange for land rights on British possessions...


Converting Campbeltown for the raid took ten days. She had to be lightened to raise her draught
Draft (hull)
The draft of a ship's hull is the vertical distance between the waterline and the bottom of the hull , with the thickness of the hull included; in the case of not being included the draft outline would be obtained...

 to get over the sand banks in the estuary. This was achieved by completely stripping all her internal compartments. The dockyard removed her three 4 inch (100 mm) guns, torpedo
The modern torpedo is a self-propelled missile weapon with an explosive warhead, launched above or below the water surface, propelled underwater towards a target, and designed to detonate either on contact with it or in proximity to it.The term torpedo was originally employed for...

es and depth charge
Depth charge
A depth charge is an anti-submarine warfare weapon intended to destroy or cripple a target submarine by the shock of exploding near it. Most use explosives and a fuze set to go off at a preselected depth in the ocean. Depth charges can be dropped by either surface ships, patrol aircraft, or from...

s from the deck and replaced the forward gun with a light quick–firing 12 pounder
QF 12 pounder 12 cwt naval gun
The QF 12 pounder 12 cwt gun was a common calibre naval gun introduced in 1894 and used until the middle of the 20th century. It was produced by Armstrong Whitworth, Elswick and used on Royal Navy warships, and exported to allied countries...

. Eight 20 mm Oerlikons
Oerlikon 20 mm cannon
The Oerlikon 20 mm cannon is a series of autocannons, based on an original design by Reinhold Becker of Germany, very early in World War I, and widely produced by Oerlikon Contraves and others...

 were installed on mountings raised above deck level. The bridge and wheelhouse were given extra armour-plate protection and two rows of armour were fixed along the sides of the ship to protect the Commandos on the open deck. Two of her four funnels were completely removed and the forward two were cut at an angle to resemble those of a German destroyer. The bow was packed with 4.5 tons of high explosives, which were set in concrete. It was decided that the explosive charge would be timed to detonate after the raiders had left the harbour. To prevent the Germans towing her away, the crew would open the ship's scuttles
Scuttling is the act of deliberately sinking a ship by allowing water to flow into the hull.This can be achieved in several ways—valves or hatches can be opened to the sea, or holes may be ripped into the hull with brute force or with explosives...

 before abandoning the ship. Should she become disabled or sunk before getting to the dock, four motor launches had been detailed to take off the crew and put the commandos ashore. The charge would be reset to explode after the last boat had left.

Other naval units involved were two Hunt class destroyer
Hunt class destroyer
The Hunt class was a class of Destroyer escort of the Royal Navy. The first vessels were ordered early in 1939, and the class saw extensive service in World War II, particularly on the British East Coast and Mediterranean convoys. They were named after British fox hunts...

s, HMS Tynedale
HMS Tynedale (L96)
HMS Tynedale was a Hunt class destroyer of the Royal Navy during the Second World War. In service from its commissioning in 1940 until 1943, Tynedale was sunk by German U-boat U-593 on 12 December 1943.-Commissioning and trials:...

 and Atherstone, which would accompany the force to and from the French coast and remain out at sea during the raid. A Motor Gun Boat
Motor Gun Boat
Motor Gun Boat was a Royal Navy term for a small military vessel of the Second World War. They were physically similar to the Motor Torpedo Boats but equipped with a mix of guns instead of torpedoes. Their small size and high speed made them difficult targets for E-boats or torpedo bombers, but...

 (MGB 314) was the headquarters ship for the raid, with Commander Ryder and the commanding officer of the Commandos on board. A Motor Torpedo Boat
Motor Torpedo Boat
Motor Torpedo Boat was the name given to fast torpedo boats by the Royal Navy, and the Royal Canadian Navy.The capitalised term is generally used for the Royal Navy boats and abbreviated to "MTB"...

 (MTB 74), commanded by Sub-Lieutenant
Sub-lieutenant is a military rank. It is normally a junior officer rank.In many navies, a sub-lieutenant is a naval commissioned or subordinate officer, ranking below a lieutenant. In the Royal Navy the rank of sub-lieutenant is equivalent to the rank of lieutenant in the British Army and of...

 Michael Wynn
Michael Wynn, 7th Baron Newborough
Robert Charles Michael Vaughan Wynn, 7th Baron Newborough DSC was a British Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve officer who played a decisive role during the St. Nazaire Raid in 1942 where he commanded a motor torpedo boat. Captured after his boat had to be abandoned, he was sent to Colditz after an...

, had two objectives: If the outer Normandie dock gates were open, she had to torpedo the inner dock gates. If the gates were closed she would instead torpedo the gates at the old entrance into the St Nazaire basin. To assist in transporting the Commandos, 12 motor launch
Fairmile B motor launch
The Fairmile B motor launch was a type of Motor Launch built by Fairmile Marine during the Second World War for the Royal Navy for coastal operations.-Design:...

es (ML)s were assigned from the 20th and 28th Motor Launch flotillas. These boats were re-armed with two Oerlikon 20 mm guns mounted forward and aft to complement their twin Lewis guns. At the last minute another four MLs were assigned from the 7th Motor Launch flotilla (see Footnotes for flotilla details). These four boats were also armed with two torpedoes each. Instead of transporting the Commandos, these boats were to engage any German shipping found in the estuary. All the MLs had a 500 gallon auxiliary fuel tank fixed to the upper deck to increase their range. The S class submarine
British S class submarine (1931)
The S-class submarines of the Royal Navy were originally designed and built during the modernisation of the submarine force in the early 1930s to meet the need for smaller boats to patrol the restricted waters of the North Sea and the Mediterranean Sea replacing the British H class submarines...

 HMS Sturgeon
HMS Sturgeon (73S)
HMS Sturgeon was a British S class submarine built by HM Dockyard, Chatham. She was laid down on 1 January 1931 and was commissioned on 15 December 1932. She was one of the four submarines that formed the First Group of the S class, and the only one of these to survive the war.-Career:Sturgeon...

 would leave before the rest of the convoy and be in position to act as a navigational beacon to guide the convoy into the Loire estuary.
The man selected to lead the Commando force was Lieutenant Colonel
Lieutenant colonel
Lieutenant colonel is a rank of commissioned officer in the armies and most marine forces and some air forces of the world, typically ranking above a major and below a colonel. The rank of lieutenant colonel is often shortened to simply "colonel" in conversation and in unofficial correspondence...

 Charles Newman
Augustus Charles Newman
Lieutenant-Colonel Augustus Charles Newman VC, OBE, TD, DL was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces....

; his own No. 2 Commando
No. 2 Commando
No. 2 Commando was a battalion-sized British Commando unit of the British Army during the Second World War. The No. 2 Commando unit was reformed three times during the Second World War. The original No. 2 Commando, unlike the other commando units, was formed from volunteers from across the United...

 would provide the largest Commandos contingent, 173 men, for the raid. The Special Service Brigade
Special Service Brigade
The Special Service Brigade was a formation of the British Army during the Second World War.It was formed in 1940, after the call for volunteers for Special Service who eventually became the British Commandos.-Background:...

 headquarters used the raid to provide experience for their other units and 92 men were drawn from Nos 1
No. 1 Commando
The No. 1 Commando was a unit of British Commandos and part of the British Army during the Second World War. It was raised in 1940 from the ranks of the existing independent companies. Operationally they carried out a series of small scale cross channel raids and spearheaded the Operation Torch...

, 3
No. 3 Commando
No. 3 Commando was a battalion-sized commando unit raised by the British Army for service during the Second World War. Formed in July 1940 from volunteers for special service, it was the first such unit to carry the title of "Commando"...

, 4
No. 4 Commando
No. 4 Commando was a battalion-sized British Army commando unit, formed in 1940 early in the Second World War. Although it was raised to conduct small-scale raids and harass garrisons along the coast of German-occupied France, it was mainly employed as a highly-trained infantry assault unit.The...

, 5
No. 5 Commando
No. 5 Commando was a battalion-sized commando unit of the British Army during the Second World War.Formed in July 1940, the unit took part in a couple of small-scale raids in France in 1941 and contributed some personnel to Operation Chariot before taking part in the landings on Madagascar in 1942...

, 9
No. 9 Commando
No. 9 Commando was a battalion-sized commando raised by the British Army during the Second World War. They took art in raids across the English Channel and in the Mediterranean ending the was in Italy as part of the 2nd Special Service Brigade...

, and 12
No. 12 Commando
No. 12 Commando was a battalion-sized commando unit of the British Army during the Second World War. Formed in 1940 in Northern Ireland, they carried out a number of small-scale raids in Norway and France between 1941 and 1943 before being disbanded and its personnel dispersed to other commando...

 Commandos. The Commandos were divided into three groups; One and Two would travel in the MLs, three would be in the Campbeltown. Under the command of Captain
Captain (British Army and Royal Marines)
Captain is a junior officer rank of the British Army and Royal Marines. It ranks above Lieutenant and below Major and has a NATO ranking code of OF-2. The rank is equivalent to a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy and to a Flight Lieutenant in the Royal Air Force...

 Hodgeson, Group One had the objectives of securing the Old Mole and eliminating the anti-aircraft gun positions around the southern quays. They were then to move into the old town and blow up the power station, bridges and locks for the new entrance into the basin from the Avant port. The capture of the mole was a major objective, as it was to be the embarkation point for the evacuation after the mission. Group Two, under the command of Captain Burn, would land at the old entrance to the St Nazaire basin. Their objectives were to take out the anti-aircraft positions in the area and the German headquarters, to blow up the locks and bridges at the old entrance into the basin and then to guard against a counter-attack from the submarine base. Group Three was under the command of Major William 'Bill' Copland, who was also the Commandos' second in command
Second in Command
Second in Command is a 2006 action film directed by Simon Fellows, starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. It was released direct-to-video in the United States, Belgium, and Germany on May 2, 2006. It has been rated R by the MPAA for violence and some language. The film was made in Bucharest, Romania.-Plot...

. They were to secure the immediate area around the Campbeltown, destroy the dock's water-pumping and gate-opening machinery and the nearby underground fuel tanks. All three groups were subdivided into assault, demolition and protection teams. The assault teams would clear the way for the other two. The demolition teams carrying the explosive charges only had sidearms
Side arm
A side arm is a weapon, usually a pistol but can be a dagger, as used in pre-modern times, which is worn on the body in a holster to permit immediate access and use. A side arm is typically required equipment for military personnel and sometimes carried by law enforcement personnel...

 for self defence, so the protection teams, armed with Thompson submachine gun
Thompson submachine gun
The Thompson is an American submachine gun, invented by John T. Thompson in 1919, that became infamous during the Prohibition era. It was a common sight in the media of the time, being used by both law enforcement officers and criminals...

s, were to defend them while they completed their tasks. The Commandos were aided in their planning for the operation by Captain Bill Pritchard of the Royal Engineers
Royal Engineers
The Corps of Royal Engineers, usually just called the Royal Engineers , and commonly known as the Sappers, is one of the corps of the British Army....

, who had pre-war experience as an apprentice in the Great Western Railway
Great Western Railway
The Great Western Railway was a British railway company that linked London with the south-west and west of England and most of Wales. It was founded in 1833, received its enabling Act of Parliament in 1835 and ran its first trains in 1838...

 dockyards and his father was the dock master of Cardiff Docks
Cardiff Docks
Cardiff Docks is a port in south Cardiff, Wales. At its peak, the port was one of the largest dock systems in the world with a total quayage of almost...

. In 1940, while part of the British Expeditionary Force
British Expeditionary Force (World War II)
The British Expeditionary Force was the British force in Europe from 1939–1940 during the Second World War. Commanded by General Lord Gort, the BEF constituted one-tenth of the defending Allied force....

 in France, his duties had included examining how to disable the French dockyards if they were captured. One of the dockyards he had studied was St Nazaire and he had submitted a report detailing how to put the dock out of action.

German forces

The Germans had around 5,000 troops in the immediate area of St Nazaire. The port was defended by the 280th Naval Artillery Battalion under the command of Kapitän zur See Edo Dieckmann. The battalion was composed of 28 guns of various calibres from 75 mm to 280 mm railway gun
Railway gun
A railway gun, also called a railroad gun, is a large artillery piece, often surplus naval ordnance, mounted on, transported by, and fired from a specially designed railway wagon. Many countries have built railway guns, but the best known are the large Krupp-built pieces used by Germany in World...

s, all positioned to guard the coastal approaches. The heavy guns were supplemented by the guns and searchlights of the 22nd Naval Flak Brigadeunder the command of Kapitän zur See Karl-Konrad Mecke. The brigade was equipped with 43 anti-aircraft guns ranging in calibre from 20 to 40 mm. These guns had a dual role as both anti-aircraft and coastal defence weapons. Many were in concrete emplacements on top of the submarine pens and other dockside installations of the St Nazaire submarine base
Saint-Nazaire submarine base
The submarine base of Saint-Nazaire is a large fortified U-Boot pen built by the Germans during the Second World War in Saint Nazaire.It is one of the five large submarine bases built by the Third Reich in Occupied France.- History :...


The harbour defence companies were responsible for local defence and for the security of the ships and submarines moored in the harbour. These companies and the harbour defence boats used to patrol the river were under the command of Harbour Commander Korvettenkapitän Kellerman. The 333rd Infantry Division
333rd Infantry Division (Germany)
The 333rd Infantry Division was a division of the German Army during World War II. It was formed in November 1941, as a static division from cadres supplied by the 76th Infantry Division and the 293rd Infantry Division.-Commanders:*Major Genaeral Rudolf Pitz...

 was the German Army unit responsible for the defence of the coast between St Nazaire and Lorient
Lorient, or L'Orient, is a commune and a seaport in the Morbihan department in Brittany in north-western France.-History:At the beginning of the 17th century, merchants who were trading with India had established warehouses in Port-Louis...

. The division had no troops based in the town, but some were located in villages nearby and would be able to respond to any attack on the port.

The German Navy
The Kriegsmarine was the name of the German Navy during the Nazi regime . It superseded the Kaiserliche Marine of World War I and the post-war Reichsmarine. The Kriegsmarine was one of three official branches of the Wehrmacht, the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany.The Kriegsmarine grew rapidly...

 had at least three surface ships in the Loire estuary: a destroyer, an armed trawler and a Sperrbrecher
A Sperrbrecher , was a German auxiliary ship of the Second World War that was intended to serve as a type of minesweeper, by sailing ahead of other vessels through minefields, intending to detonate any mines in their path...

 (minesweeper), the latter being the guard ship for the port. On the night of the raid there were also four harbour defence boats and ten ships from the 16th and 42nd Minesweeper flotillas
M class minesweeper (Germany)
The M class were the standard minesweeper of the German Navy during World War II.-M1935:The first series; the M1935 were ordered in the late 1930s to replace worn out World War I vintage boats. These ships proved versatile and seaworthy. The vessels could also undertake convoy escort,...

 berthed in the basin, while two tankers were berthed inside the Normandie dock. The 6th and 7th U-Boat flotillas, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Georg-Wilhelm Schulz
Georg-Wilhelm Schulz
Georg-Wilhelm Schulz was a German U-boat commander of the Second World War. From September 1939 until retiring from front line service in September 1941, he sank 19 ships for a total of 89,885 GRT. For this he received the Knight's Cross, among other commendations.-Early life:Schulz was born on...

 and Korvettenkapitän Herbert Sohler respectively, were permanently based in the port. It is not known how many submarines were present on the day of the raid. The submarine base had been inspected by the U-Boat Commander in Chief, Vizeadmiral Karl Dönitz
Karl Dönitz
Karl Dönitz was a German naval commander during World War II. He started his career in the German Navy during World War I. In 1918, while he was in command of , the submarine was sunk by British forces and Dönitz was taken prisoner...

, the day before the raid. He asked what would they do if the base was subject to an attack by British Commandos. Sohler replied that "an attack on the base would be hazardous and highly improbable".

Outward journey

The three destroyers and 16 small boats left Falmouth, Cornwall
Falmouth, Cornwall
Falmouth is a town, civil parish and port on the River Fal on the south coast of Cornwall, England, United Kingdom. It has a total resident population of 21,635.Falmouth is the terminus of the A39, which begins some 200 miles away in Bath, Somerset....

 at 14:00 on 26 March 1942. They formed into a convoy
A convoy is a group of vehicles, typically motor vehicles or ships, traveling together for mutual support and protection. Often, a convoy is organized with armed defensive support, though it may also be used in a non-military sense, for example when driving through remote areas.-Age of Sail:Naval...

 of three lanes, with the destroyers in the middle. On arrival at St Nazaire the portside MLs were to head for the Old Mole to disembark their Commandos, while the starboard lane would make for the old entrance to the basin to disembark theirs. Not having the range to reach St Nazaire unaided, the MTB and MGB were taken under tow by the Campbeltown and Atherstone. On 27 March at 07:20 Tynedale reported a U-Boat on the surface and opened fire. The two escort destroyers left the convoy to engage the U-Boat, later identified as U-593
German Type VII submarine
Type VII U-boats were the most common type of German World War II U-boat. The Type VII was based on earlier German submarine designs going back to the World War I Type UB III, designed through the Dutch dummy company Ingenieurskantoor voor Scheepsbouw den Haag which was set up by Germany after...

. The U-Boat promptly dived and was unsuccessfully attacked by depth charge
Depth charge
A depth charge is an anti-submarine warfare weapon intended to destroy or cripple a target submarine by the shock of exploding near it. Most use explosives and a fuze set to go off at a preselected depth in the ocean. Depth charges can be dropped by either surface ships, patrol aircraft, or from...

s. The two destroyers returned to the convoy at 09:00. The convoy next encountered two French fishing trawlers. Both crews were taken off and the ships sunk for fear they might report the composition and location of the convoy. At 17:00 the convoy received a signal from Commander-in-Chief Plymouth
Plymouth is a city and unitary authority area on the coast of Devon, England, about south-west of London. It is built between the mouths of the rivers Plym to the east and Tamar to the west, where they join Plymouth Sound...

 that five German torpedo boats
German torpedoboats of World War II
The German torpedoboats of World War II were armed principally, if not exclusively, with torpedoes and varied widely in size. They should not be confused with the larger destroyers, nor with the smaller, torpedo-armed Schnellboote .-Raubvogel and Raubtier :The six Raubvogel class torpedo boats were...

 were in the area. Two hours later another signal informed them that another two Hunt class destroyers, and , had been dispatched at full speed to join the convoy.

The convoy reached a position 65 nautical miles (120.4 km) off St Nazaire at 21:00 and changed course toward the estuary, leaving Atherstone and Tynedale as a sea patrol. The convoy adopted a new formation with the MGB and two torpedo MLs in the lead, followed by Campbeltown. The rest of the MLs formed two columns on either side and astern of the destroyer, with the MTB bringing up the rear. The first casualty of the raid was ML 341, which had developed engine trouble and was abandoned. At 22:00 the submarine Sturgeon directed her navigation beacon out to sea to guide the convoy in. At about the same time the Campbeltown raised the German naval ensign
Reichskriegsflagge was the official name of the war flag used by the German armed forces from 1867 to 1945. A total of seven different designs were used during this period.-Imperial Germany:...

 in an attempt to deceive any German lookouts into thinking she was a German destroyer.

At 23:30 on 27 March, five RAF squadrons (comprising 35 Whitleys
Armstrong Whitworth Whitley
The Armstrong Whitworth A.W.38 Whitley was one of three British twin-engine, front line medium bomber types in service with the Royal Air Force at the outbreak of the Second World War...

 and 27 Wellingtons
Vickers Wellington
The Vickers Wellington was a British twin-engine, long range medium bomber designed in the mid-1930s at Brooklands in Weybridge, Surrey, by Vickers-Armstrongs' Chief Designer, R. K. Pierson. It was widely used as a night bomber in the early years of the Second World War, before being displaced as a...

) started their bombing runs. The bombers had to stay above 6000 feet (1,828.8 m) and were supposed to remain over the port for 60 minutes to divert attention toward themselves and away from the sea. They had orders to only bomb clearly identified military targets and to drop only one bomb at a time. As it turned out, poor weather over the port (10/10ths cloud) meant that only four aircraft bombed targets in St Nazaire. Six aircraft managed to bomb other nearby targets.

The unusual behaviour of the bombers concerned Kapitän zur See Mecke. At 00:00 on 28 March, he issued a warning that there might be a parachute landing in progress. At 01:00 on 28 March, he followed up by ordering all guns to cease firing and searchlights to be extinguished in case the bombers were using them to locate the port. Everyone was placed on a heightened state of alert. The harbour defence companies and ships' crews were ordered out of the air raid shelters. During all this a lookout reported seeing some activity out at sea, so Mecke began suspecting some type of landing and ordered extra attention to be paid to the approaches to the harbour.

The run-in

The convoy had just entered the Loire at 01:22 on 28 March when searchlights on both banks of the estuary highlighted the ships and a naval signal light
Signal lamp
A signal lamp is a visual signaling device for optical communication . Modern signal lamps are a focused lamp which can produce a pulse of light...

 demanded their identification. Before they could reply to the challenge, some shore batteries opened fire. A German-speaking signaller replied to the challenge using German signals:
"Urgent—have two damaged ships following enemy engagement. Demand immediate entry" and "ship considering herself to be under fire from friendly forces"
This deception lasted only a few minutes before the German guns opened fire again. At 01:28, with the convoy under sporadic fire and only 1 miles (1.6 km) from the dock gates, Beattie ordered the German flag lowered and the White Ensign
White Ensign
The White Ensign or St George's Ensign is an ensign flown on British Royal Navy ships and shore establishments. It consists of a red St George's Cross on a white field with the Union Flag in the upper canton....

 raised, the intensity of the German fire increased. The guard ship opened fire but was quickly silenced when every ship in the convoy responded, shooting into her as they passed. By now all the ships in the convoy were within range to engage targets ashore and were firing at the gun emplacements and searchlights. Despite being hit a number of times Campbeltown had increased speed to 19 kn (37.2 km/h). The helmsman on her bridge was killed and his replacement was wounded, he was also replaced. Blinded by the searchlights, Beattie only knew they were close to their objective when the MGB turned into the estuary. Still under heavy fire, Campbeltown cleared the end of the Old Mole, crashed through an anti-torpedo net strung across the entrance, and at 01:34 rammed the dock gates, only three minutes later than scheduled. The force of the impact drove the ship 33 feet (10.1 m) onto the gates.

Disembarkation from the Campbeltown and the MLs

The Commandos on Campbeltown now disembarked: two assault teams, five demolition teams with their protectors and a mortar
Mortar (weapon)
A mortar is an indirect fire weapon that fires explosive projectiles known as bombs at low velocities, short ranges, and high-arcing ballistic trajectories. It is typically muzzle-loading and has a barrel length less than 15 times its caliber....

 group. Three demolition teams were tasked with destroying the dock pumping machinery and other installations associated with the drydock. Another team successfully destroyed four gun emplacements, losing four men. The fifth team also succeeded in completing all their objectives but almost half its men were killed. The other two Commando groups were not as successful. The MLs transporting Groups One and Two had almost all been destroyed on their approach. ML 457 was the only boat to land its Commandos on the Old Mole and only ML 177 had managed to reach the gates at the old entrance to the basin. That team succeeded in planting charges on two tugboats moored in the basin. There were only two other MLs in the vicinity: ML 160 had continued past the dock and was engaging targets upriver, ML 269 appeared to be out of control and was running in circles. By this time the crew of the Campbeltown had detonated the scuttling charges and gathered at the rear of the ship to be taken off. ML 177 came alongside the destroyer and took 30 men on board including Beattie and some of the wounded. Major Copland went through the Campbeltown and evacuated the wounded towards the Old Mole, not knowing that there were no other boats there to take the Commandos off.

Lt Col Newman aboard the MGB, need not have landed, but he was one of the first ashore. One of his first actions was to direct mortar fire onto a gun position on top of the submarine pens that was causing heavy casualties among the Commandos. He next directed machine-gun fire onto an armed trawler, which was forced to withdraw upriver. Newman organised a defence that succeeded in keeping the increasing numbers of German reinforcements at bay until the demolition parties had completed their tasks.

Some 100 Commandos were still ashore when Newman realised that evacuation by sea was no longer an option. He gathered the survivors and issued three orders:

To do our best to get back to England;

Not to surrender until all our ammunition is exhausted;

Not to surrender at all if we can help it.

Newman and Copland led the charge from the old town across a bridge raked by machine gun fire and advanced into the new town. The Commandos attempted to get through the narrow streets of the town and into the surrounding countryside, but were eventually surrounded. When their ammunition was expended they were forced to surrender. Not all the Commandos were captured; five men reached neutral Spain, from where they eventually returned to England.

Small ships

Most of the MLs had been destroyed on the run in and were burning. The first ML in the starboard column was the first boat to catch fire; her captain managed to beach her at the end of the Old Mole. Some starboard boats managed to reach their objective and disembark their Commandos. ML 443, the leading boat in the port column, got to within 10 feet (3 m) of the mole in the face of heavy direct fire and hand grenades before being set on fire. The crew were rescued by ML 160, one of the torpedo MLs which had been looking for targets of opportunity such as the two large tankers reported to be in the harbour. The commanders of MLs 160 and 443, Lieutenants T Boyd and T D L Platt, were awarded the Distinguished Service Order
Distinguished Service Order
The Distinguished Service Order is a military decoration of the United Kingdom, and formerly of other parts of the British Commonwealth and Empire, awarded for meritorious or distinguished service by officers of the armed forces during wartime, typically in actual combat.Instituted on 6 September...

 for their bravery. The rest of the port column had been destroyed or disabled before reaching the mole. MLs 192 and 262 were set on fire, there were only six survivors. ML 268 was blown up, one man survived. ML 177, the launch that had successfully taken off some of the crew from Campbeltown, was sunk on her way out of the estuary. ML 269, another torpedo armed boat, had the unenviable task of moving up and down the river at high speed to draw German fire away from the landings. Soon after passing Campbeltown it was hit and its steering damaged. It took ten minutes to repair the steering. They turned and started in the other direction, opening fire on an armed trawler in passing. Return fire from the trawler set their engine on fire.

ML 306 also came under heavy fire when it arrived near the port. Sergeant
Sergeant is a rank used in some form by most militaries, police forces, and other uniformed organizations around the world. Its origins are the Latin serviens, "one who serves", through the French term Sergent....

 Thomas Durrant of No. 1 Commando, manning the aft Lewis gun
Lewis Gun
The Lewis Gun is a World War I–era light machine gun of American design that was perfected and widely used by the British Empire. It was first used in combat in World War I, and continued in service with a number of armed forces through to the end of the Korean War...

, engaged gun and searchlight positions on the run in. He was wounded but refused to leave the gun for treatment. The ML reached the open sea but was attacked at short range by the German torpedo boat Jaguar. Durrant returned fire, aiming for the destroyer's bridge. He was wounded again but remained at his gun even after the German commander asked for their surrender. Firing drum after drum of ammunition, he refused to give up until after the ML had been boarded. Durrant died of his wounds and was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross
Victoria Cross
The Victoria Cross is the highest military decoration awarded for valour "in the face of the enemy" to members of the armed forces of various Commonwealth countries, and previous British Empire territories....


After the Commando headquarters group had landed, Commander Ryder went to check for himself that Campbeltown was firmly stuck in the dock. Some of her surviving crewmen were being taken on board the MGB. Ryder returned to the boat and ordered the MTB to carry out its alternative objective and torpedo the lock gates at the old entrance to the basin. After a successful torpedo attack, Ryder ordered the MTB to leave. On their way out of the estuary they stopped to collect survivors from a sinking ML and were hit and set on fire. Back at the docks the MGB had positioned itself in midriver to engage enemy gun emplacements. The forward 2 pounder was manned by Able Seaman
Able seaman
An able seaman is an unlicensed member of the deck department of a merchant ship. An AB may work as a watchstander, a day worker, or a combination of these roles.-Watchstander:...

 William Alfred Savage
William Alfred Savage
William Alfred Savage VC was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.-Details:...

. Commander Ryder reported that
"The rate of supporting fire had evidently been felt, and the Commandos in the area of the Tirpitz dock had undoubtedly overcome the resistance in that area. There was an appreciable slackening in the enemy's fire."

Ryder could see no ships other than seven or eight burning MLs. He then realised that the landing places at the Old Mole and the entrance to the basin had both been recaptured by the Germans. There was nothing more they could do for the Commandos, so they headed out to sea. On their way they were continuously illuminated by German searchlights and were hit at least six times by the German guns. Passing ML 270, they ordered her to follow and made smoke to hide both boats. When they reached the open sea the smaller calibre guns were out of range and stopped firing but the heavier artillery continued to engage them. The boats were about 4 miles (6.4 km) off-shore when the last German salvo straddled them and killed Savage, who was still at his gun. He was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross for his exploits. His citation recognised both Savage and the bravery of "the many unnamed crews of the Motor Gun Boat, Motor Torpedo Boat and Motor Launches who continued to carry out their duties in exposed positions, in the face of close range enemy fire."

Return journey

At 06:30 the five German torpedo boats that the convoy had evaded the previous day were sighted by HMS Atherstone and Tynedale. The two destroyers turned toward them and opened fire at a range of 7 miles (11.3 km). After ten minutes the German boats turned away, making smoke. The destroyers sighted the MGB and two accompanying MLs soon after and transferred their casualties to the Atherstone. Not expecting any more boats to arrive, they headed for home. Just after 09:00 the destroyers Brocklesby and Cleveland arrived, sent by Commander-in-Chief Plymouth. Shortly after this the ships were spotted by a Heinkel 115 floatplane of the Luftwaffe. The next aircraft on the scene, a Junkers 88, was engaged by a RAF Bristol Beaufighter
Bristol Beaufighter
The Bristol Type 156 Beaufighter, often referred to as simply the Beau, was a British long-range heavy fighter modification of the Bristol Aeroplane Company's earlier Beaufort torpedo bomber design...

 which had appeared in the area earlier. Both machines crashed into the sea. Other German planes arrived but were driven off by Beaufighters and Hudsons
Lockheed Hudson
The Lockheed Hudson was an American-built light bomber and coastal reconnaissance aircraft built initially for the Royal Air Force shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War and primarily operated by the RAF thereafter...

 from Coastal Command. The Atlantic weather conditions deteriorated. Amid concerns about the growing German threat and the realisation that the damaged small ships would not be able to keep up, Commander Sayer ordered the crews off the smaller boats and had them sunk.

Three of the small vessels managed to return to England: MLs 160, 307 and 443. They had reached the rendezvous and waited until 10:00 for the destroyers to appear. Having already been attacked once, they moved further out into the Atlantic to try and avoid the German Air Force, but a Junkers 88 appeared overhead at 07:30 and approached them at low level for a closer look. The ships opened fire and hit the Junkers in the cockpit. The plane went into the sea. The next aircraft to appear was a Blohm and Voss seaplane
A seaplane is a fixed-wing aircraft capable of taking off and landing on water. Seaplanes that can also take off and land on airfields are a subclass called amphibian aircraft...

 which attempted to bomb the ships, but left after being damaged by machine-gun fire. The surviving MLs eventually reached England unaided the following day.

Campbeltown explodes

The explosive charges in HMS Campbeltown detonated at noon on 28 March 1942, and the dry dock was destroyed. Both tankers that were in the dock were swept away by the wall of water and sunk. A party of 40 senior German officers and civilians who were on a tour of the ship were killed. In total, the explosion killed about 360 men. The wreck of the Campbeltown could still be seen inside the dry dock months later when RAF photo reconnaissance planes were sent to photograph the port.

The day after the explosion, Organisation Todt
Organisation Todt
The Todt Organisation, was a Third Reich civil and military engineering group in Germany named after its founder, Fritz Todt, an engineer and senior Nazi figure...

workers were assigned to clean up the debris and wreckage. On 30 March at 16:30 the torpedoes from MTB 74, which were on a delayed fuse setting, exploded at the old entrance into the basin. This raised alarms among the Germans. The Organisation Todt workers ran away from the dock area. German guards, mistaking their khaki
This article is about the fabric. For the color, see Khaki . Kaki, another name for the persimmon, is often misspelled "Khaki".Khaki is a type of fabric or the color of such fabric...

 uniforms for British uniforms, opened fire, killing some of them. The Germans also thought that some Commandos were still hiding in the town, and made a street by street search, during which some townspeople were also killed.


The explosion put the dry dock out of commission until the end of the war. The St Nazaire raid had been a success, but at a cost. Of the 622 men of the Royal Navy and Commandos who took part in the raid, only 228 men returned to England. Five escaped overland via Spain and Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...

. 169 men were killed (105 RN and 64 Commandos) and another 215 became prisoners of war (106 RN and 109 Commandos). They were first taken to La Baule and then sent to Stalag 133
Stalag 133
Frontstalag 133 was a temporary German prisoner of war camp during World War II located near Rennes, northern France. It operated from late 1940 to October 1943. It housed prisoners from French Colonial Forces....

 at Rennes
Rennes is a city in the east of Brittany in northwestern France. Rennes is the capital of the region of Brittany, as well as the Ille-et-Vilaine department.-History:...


To recognise their achievement, 89 decorations were awarded for the raid. This total includes the five Victoria Crosses awarded to Lieutenant Commander Beattie, Lieutenant Colonel Newman and Commander Ryder, and posthumous awards to Sergeant Durrant and Able Seaman Savage. Other decorations awarded were four Distinguished Service Orders, four Conspicuous Gallantry Medal
Conspicuous Gallantry Medal
The Conspicuous Gallantry Medal was, until 1993, a military decoration awarded to personnel of the British Armed Forces and formerly also to personnel of other Commonwealth countries, below commissioned rank, for conspicuous gallantry in action against the enemy at sea...

s, five Distinguished Conduct Medal
Distinguished Conduct Medal
The Distinguished Conduct Medal was an extremely high level award for bravery. It was a second level military decoration awarded to other ranks of the British Army and formerly also to non-commissioned personnel of other Commonwealth countries.The medal was instituted in 1854, during the Crimean...

s, 17 Distinguished Service Crosses
Distinguished Service Cross (United Kingdom)
The Distinguished Service Cross is the third level military decoration awarded to officers, and other ranks, of the British Armed Forces, Royal Fleet Auxiliary and British Merchant Navy and formerly also to officers of other Commonwealth countries.The DSC, which may be awarded posthumously, is...

, 11 Military Cross
Military Cross
The Military Cross is the third-level military decoration awarded to officers and other ranks of the British Armed Forces; and formerly also to officers of other Commonwealth countries....

es, 24 Distinguished Service Medals
Distinguished Service Medal (United Kingdom)
The Distinguished Service Medal was a military decoration awarded to personnel of the Royal Navy and members of the other services, and formerly also to personnel of other Commonwealth countries, up to and including the rank of Chief Petty Officer, for bravery and resourcefulness on active service...

 and 15 Military Medal
Military Medal
The Military Medal was a military decoration awarded to personnel of the British Army and other services, and formerly also to personnel of other Commonwealth countries, below commissioned rank, for bravery in battle on land....

s. Four men were awarded the Croix de Guerre
Croix de guerre
The Croix de guerre is a military decoration of France. It was first created in 1915 and consists of a square-cross medal on two crossed swords, hanging from a ribbon with various degree pins. The decoration was awarded during World War I, again in World War II, and in other conflicts...

 by France, another 51 were mentioned in dispatches
Mentioned in Dispatches
A soldier Mentioned in Despatches is one whose name appears in an official report written by a superior officer and sent to the high command, in which is described the soldier's gallant or meritorious action in the face of the enemy.In a number of countries, a soldier's name must be mentioned in...


Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 was furious that the British had been able to sail a flotilla of ships up the Loire unhindered. His immediate reaction was to dismiss Generaloberst Carl Hilpert
Carl Hilpert
Carl Hilpert was an officer in the German Army during World War II.Hilpert was born in Nuremberg, Bavaria....

, chief-of-staff to the Commander in Chief West
OB West
The German Army Command in the West The German Army Command in the West The German Army Command in the West (Oberbefehlshaber West (German: initials OB West) was the overall command of the Westheer, the German Armed Forces on the Western Front during World War II. It was directly subordinate to...

. The raid refocused German attention on the Atlantic Wall
Atlantic Wall
The Atlantic Wall was an extensive system of coastal fortifications built by Nazi Germany between 1942 and 1944 along the western coast of Europe as a defense against an anticipated Allied invasion of the mainland continent from Great Britain.-History:On March 23, 1942 Führer Directive Number 40...

, and special attention was given to ports to prevent any repeat of the raid. By June 1942 the Germans began using concrete to fortify gun emplacements and bunkers in quantities previously only used in U-boat pens. Hitler laid out new plans in a meeting with Armaments Minister Albert Speer
Albert Speer
Albert Speer, born Berthold Konrad Hermann Albert Speer, was a German architect who was, for a part of World War II, Minister of Armaments and War Production for the Third Reich. Speer was Adolf Hitler's chief architect before assuming ministerial office...

 in August 1942, calling for the construction of 15,000 bunkers by May 1943 to defend the Atlantic coast from Norway to Spain.

The battleship Tirpitz never entered the Atlantic. She was bombed and capsized by the RAF in a Norwegian fjord
Geologically, a fjord is a long, narrow inlet with steep sides or cliffs, created in a valley carved by glacial activity.-Formation:A fjord is formed when a glacier cuts a U-shaped valley by abrasion of the surrounding bedrock. Glacial melting is accompanied by rebound of Earth's crust as the ice...

 on 12 November 1944 during Operation Catechism
Operation Catechism
Operation Catechism was the last of nine attempts to sink or sabotage the Kriegsmarine battleship Tirpitz during World War II. On November 12, 1944, the RAF Bomber Command dispatched 30 Avro Lancaster heavy bombers from No. 9 Squadron RAF and No. 617 Squadron RAF Operation Catechism was the last of...



St Nazaire was one of the 38 battle honours presented to the Commandos after the war. The raid has since been called The Greatest Raid of All. The survivors formed their own association, the St Nazaire Society, which is a registered charity in the United Kingdom.

A memorial to the raid erected in Falmouth bears the following inscription:
A new HMS Campbeltown
HMS Campbeltown (F86)
HMS Campbeltown was a Batch 3 Type 22 frigate of the British Royal Navy. Built by Cammell Laird Shipbuilders Ltd. in Birkenhead, she was part of the third batch of Type 22s, which were considerably larger than their predecessors and incorporated more advanced weaponry after lessons learnt from the...

, a Type 22 Frigate
Type 22 frigate
The Type 22 Broadsword class is a class of frigate built for the British Royal Navy. Fourteen of the class were built in total, with production divided into three batches. With the decommissioning of HMS Cornwall on 30 June 2011, the final Type 22 of the Royal Navy was retired from service...

, was launched on 7 October 1987. She carries the ship's bell from the first Campbeltown which was rescued during the raid and had been presented to the town of Campbelltown, Pennsylvania
Campbelltown, Pennsylvania
Campbelltown is a census-designated place in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, United States. The population was 2,415 at the 2000 census.-Geography:Campbelltown is located at ....

 at the end of the Second World War. In 1988 the people of Campbelltown voted to lend the bell to the present ship for as long as she remained in Royal Navy service.
HMS Campbelltown being decommissioned, the bell was returned to Campbelltown, PA on 21 June 2011

On 4 September 2002, a tree and seat at the National Memorial Arboretum
National Memorial Arboretum
The National Memorial Arboretum is a national site of remembrance at Alrewas, near Lichfield, Staffordshire, England. It gives its purpose as:-Origins:...

 were dedicated to the men of the raid. The seat bears the inscription:
In memory of the Royal Navy Sailors and Army Commandos killed in the raid on St Nazaire on 28 March 1942


Organisation of the Motor Launch Flotillas of the St Nazaire Raid
28th Motor Launch flotilla 20th Motor Launch flotilla 7th Motor Launch flotilla
ML 447 Lieutenant Commander
F N Woods
ML 192 Lieutenant Commander
Bill Stephens
ML 156 Lieutenant Leslie Fenton
Leslie Fenton
Leslie Fenton was an English-born American actor and film director. He appeared in 62 films between 1923 and 1945....

ML 298 Lieutenant Bob Nock ML 262 Lieutenant Ted Burt ML 160 Lieutenant Ton Boyd
ML 306 Lieutenant Ian Henderson ML 267 Lieutenant E H Beart ML 177 Sub Lieutenant Mark Rodier
ML 307 Lieutenant Norman Wallis ML 268 Lieutenant Bill Tillie ML 270 Lieutenant Charles Stuart Bonshaw Irwin
ML 341 Lieutenant Douglas Briault
ML 443 Lieutenant T D L Platt
ML 446 Lieutenant Dick Falconer
ML 457 Lieutenant Tom Collier

External links

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