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75th Anniversary Programme, March 2017
With this being such a special occasion, arrangements, given that they now involve so many different civilian and military participants and contributors both here and in France, have taken rather longer to gell than is usually the case. This year, as well as Members and Associate Members of the St. Nazaire Society and their families and friends, we will be privileged to have present a marching contingent from 24 Army Commando Regiment - this in honour of the Royal Engineers who played such a vital role in both planning and executing the raid's complex demolition plans.
The Royal Navy will also be present, as will representatives of the Paris Embassy, local officials and VIPs, a team of British Legion Bikers, and men from 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery.
This year our main commemoration will be at the Old Mole, rather than at the Place du Commando, which is now the site of significant commercial redevelopment. The Monument du Commando has been moved to the new location, although whether this a permanent move remains to be seen.
The programme below can be generally regarded as complete. however, with some aspects still developing, you should watch this page for updates and possible revisions.
At the conclusion of the various ceremonies, this page will feature relevant news and images - in respect of which the Society will welcome submissions.
For those intending to drive to Saint-Nazaire, this RAC website will provide very necessary information -
EVENT LOCATION - FALMOUTH
Thursday March 16th: Lecture Evening at Falmouth Poly.
Peter Lush will be giving a lecture on Operation Chariot, at 19.30 hrs. Tickets for the event are £6, with proceeds to be split between the St. Nazaire Society and the Falmouth Sea Cadets. Tickets are available online, by 'phone from the Poly, or direct from the Box Office.
SUNDAY MARCH 19th: 75th Anniversary Parade.
Leading from the Town Square to the Operation Chariot memorial on Prince of Wales Pier: commencing at 10.30 hrs, with a service scheduled for 10.45 hrs.
The parade will be led by the band of HMS Seahawk, who will also lead the parade through the town to the official reception following the service. The parade will include a contingent from the NATO minesweeping fleet led by HMS Ramsey. Representatives from the HMS Ganges Association will follow, along with the remainder of the parade, this expected to include members of the St. Nazaire Society, Commando Veterans, the RN Association, local Cadet Forces, and British Legion Bikers.
EVENT LOCATION - LONDON
FRIDAY MARCH 24th: St. Nazaire Society Anniversary Luncheon in Fishmongers' Hall
The St. Nazaire Society is extremely grateful to the Prime Warden and the Court for allowing the use of the Hall for this special occasion. The lunch is by ticket only, and open to Society Members and Associate Members and their guests. As befits such an occasion, VIPs will be present, and the guest of honour will be Vice-Admiral John McAnally, whose last active posting, after 39 years in the Royal Navy, was as Commandant of the Royal College of Defence Studies.
EVENT LOCATION - SAINT-NAZAIRE
SUNDAY MARCH 26th: arrivals, familiarisation and initial dock area tours.
Peter Lush has offered to lead two tours of the dockyard area, these set for 10.00 hrs and at 14.00 hrs. A third tour is pencilled in for the morning of the 27th, with details to be posted when available.
The Grand Blockhaus Museum at Batz will be open over the perriod of the 75th. This museum is located at the site of one of the Coastal Artillery Batteries and is largely contained within a substantial concrete German Command Post constructed later in the war. Details of the museum can be found here - http://www.grand-blockhaus.com/
Although visitors to the port will be staying at a number of different locations, we would hope to meet for drinks, and possibly a meal, in a central location. We have, in the past, used Le Ponton Bar within the U-Boat Pens; however, our sources have identified alternative restaurants/bars within the same general area.
MONDAY MARCH 27th: 09.30 - 12.30 hrs. Chariot Exhibition at Maison du Paludiers, Saille
Thanks to the efforts of Associate Member Thierry Guiheneuf, who is a native of Saint-Nazaire, there will be the opportunity this year to visit the pretty village of Saille (http://maisondespaludiers.fr) to view an exhibition of material related to the raid on St. Nazaire between 09.30 hrs hrs and 12.30 hrs. Exhibits will include aerial photographs and Admiralty Charts, vintage newspapers, and raid-related magazines and books. It is hoped the event will include the screening of material on video. The nearby restaurant Le Vieux Carillon - http://www.le-vieux-carillon.com/ - presents an excellent option for lunch.
MONDAY MARCH 27th: 15.00 hrs. Ceremony at La Baule/Escoublac War Cemetery
At around 15.00 hrs, the small cemetery will be the site of the Society's tribute to the fallen of Operation Chariot. In addition to Society Members, Associate Members, and guests, the men of 24 Commando will be in attendance, as will delegations from visiting warships. British Legion Bikers will be there, and we understand that local school children will plant crosses on the graves of each of the fallen. Full details of this developing ceremony will be posted when available.
MONDAY MARCH 27th: 18.00 hrs. Proposed drinks gathering
As for Sunday 26th, and at the conclusion of activities scheduled for the morning and afternoon, we will all hope to met up at around 18.00 hrs to renew old friendships, and cement new ones, this born of our common interest in preserving the memory of the raid.
MONDAY MARCH 27th: 19.00 hrs. St. Nazaire Society Dinner
At 19.30 hrs, the St. Nazaire Society's official dinner for our French hosts will be held in the Hotel Berry. As space in the hotel is limited, the staging of a second dinner in another location is being considered.
TUESDAY MARCH 28th: 10.00 hrs. Breton Ceremony
Our Breton friends will be gathering at the Old Mole, prior to the main parade, to pay their own, particularly Celtic, tribute to all the Commandos and Sailors of Operation Chariot. As ever, everyone is more than welcome to attend.
TUESDAY MARCH 28th: 11.30 hrs. Operation Chariot Parade.
Normally held at the seafront location in the Place du Commando, the main parade will this year have as its focal point, the Old Mole, which was one of the three landing points for Commandos coming ashore in 1942. Present, in addition to Members and Associate Members of the Society and their guests, will be a marching contingent from 24 Army Commando Engineer Regiment, French Military representatives, the RN Attache Paris, British Legion Bikers, and representatives from naval vessels in port. Wreaths will be laid, and speeches given on behalf of the Society, and of the French.
TUESDAY MARCH 28th: 12.00 hrs. Vin d'Honneur at the Town Hall (open to everyone)
TUESDAY MARCH 28th: 13.00 hrs. Local Government Lunch (open to Veterans and invited guests only)
Images from previous anniversaries, showing the wide diversity of military and civilian attendees. Shown left, carrying wreaths, are commando Bill 'Tiger' Watson, who landed at the Old Mole from ML 457, and sailor Stephen Barney, who served on board the escort destroyer HMS Atherstone