Preserving and protecting the memory of OPERATION CHARIOT, the great Combined Operations raid on the French Atlantic port of St. Nazaire, March 26-9, 1942
THE VICTORIA CROSS
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The History and Aims of the Society
The Men Who Achieved the Impossible
In the above illustration by Ross Watton (www.rosswatton.com), HMS Campbeltown is shown at full speed and under heavy fire, approaching the German Naval dockyard at Saint-Nazaire. Her target, the outer caisson of the mighty 'Normandie' dry dock would, when destroyed, render inoperative the only facility on the Atlantic coast capable of repairing Germany's most powerful warships. Carried on board the Campbeltown and the fleet of small ships accompanying her, a force of highly-trained Army Commandos stood ready to demolish all the dock's ancilliary services. This task had always been considered impossible and so, when finally undertaken, it was in the knowledge that most of the men were unlikely to come home. The fact that they succeeded has always been a matter of huge pride to those associated with the raid - an emotion carried into the future first by the Raiders themselves, and now by their extended families and all those who are determined that the memory of their audacious feat of arms must never be forgotten.
Saint-Nazaire's great distance from British ports meant that the Commandos, whose job it was to land at several locations in the port and complete a complex plan of demolitions, had to be transported by sea. Normally a task that would have been assigned to warships of suitable size and armament, the treacherous shallows which blocked their route to the port meant instead that much smaller and more vulnerable vessels had to be used. Drawn from Coastal Forces these were constructed from wood and powered by high-octane petrol whose volatility would lead to significant loss of life. Contrasting vividly with this unavoidable Naval compromise, was the high state of readiness of the Army Commandos, hand-picked men whose courage, rigorous training regimes and high morale were to form the basis of today's Special Forces. Organised into 'Assault', 'Protection' and 'Demolition' Parties their actions on shore would be instrumental in establishing the enviable reputation all Commandos still enjoy today.
Cdr. R.E.D. Ryder, VC, RN
Lt. Col A.C Newman, VC
Lt. Cdr S.H. Beattie, VC, RN
AB. W.A.Savage, VC, RN
Sgt. T.F. Durrant, VC
The St. Nazaire Society