Raid on St Nazaire: 75 years ago today

On March 28, 1942 more than 600 men left Falmouth in Cornwall in a flotilla of three destroyers and 16 smaller boats.

The special fleet included HMS Campbeltown which was packed with explosives and was to be used to ram into the gates of the docks of the French port of St Nazaire.

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

The raid put the dry dock out of commission until the end of the war – but success came 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.

One hundred and sixty-nine men were killed and another 215 became prisoners of war. The fallen British raiders were buried at the Escoublac-la-Baule cemetery, near St Nazaire, with military honours.

Five of the raiders escaped overland via Spain.

Eighty-nine awards and medals were bestowed for the raid, including five Victoria Crosses.

*A version of this article was first published on jonkilkade.com

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