SECTION ONE: ENGLISH LANGUAGE BOOKS ENTIRELY DEVOTED TO THE RAID
"In what has been described as the greatest raid of all, Operation Chariot saw heavy destruction of the enemy-occupied port of St Nazaire by British forces. Winged Chariot examines the role that the RAF played during this epic raid on 28th March 1942. With focus on the planning and actions of the operation, St Nazaire Society committee member Peter Lush explores the three functions carried out by the RAF; the sweeping of the Bay of Biscay, the diversionary raid and protecting the withdrawing survivors. He also outlines the importance of the Photographic Reconnaissance Unit to the raid and the development of the Bomber and Coastal Commands particularly through the sorties flown by Coastal Command two days before the attack started.The book also highlights the difficulties that occurred for the RAF when the diversionary raid was carried out with impossible conditions, and the ensuing loss of aircraft across Yorkshire and in the Channel. (Peter) Lush examines whether greater success could have been achieved if the RAF had not been marginalised during the planning process for Operation Chariot." (Amazon UK)
Hardcover: 192 pages
Author: Peter Lush
Publisher: Grub Street Publishing (13 Sept. 2016)
"On the night of 28 March 1942, the Royal Navy and British Commandos assaulted the German-held French Atlantic port of Saint-Nazaire in one of the most audacious raids of the Second World War. Their plan was simple: to drive an old destroyer packed with three tons of explosives at full speed into the outer gate of the Normandie dock. Its complement of Commandos would then rush out to engage the town's garrison, and blow up a series of carefully selected targets. Destroying the dock would deny the formidable Tirpitz battleship, then lurking menacingly in the Norwegian fjords, a base from which it could inflict devastation upon the convoys supplying Britain from the United States. It would also prove that the British were capable to striking back, at a time when the nation's very existence seemed in peril. Operation Chariot was dramatically successful, but at a great cost. Fewer than half the men who went on the mission returned from the maelstrom of fire and bullets provoked by their assault. In recognition of their extraordinary bravery, eighty-nine decorations were awarded, including five Victoria Crosses. Into the Jaws of Death is a gripping story of high daring that demonstrates how the decisive courage of a small group of men brought hope and light during one of their country's darkest hours." (Amazon UK)
Hardcover: 352 pages: Also available in paperback:
Author: Robert Lyman
Publisher: Quercus; First Edition edition (4 July 2013)
Kindle edition £4.99
This, author and webmaster James Dorrian's most recent book on the subject of Operation CHARIOT, is designed to act as a comprehensive guide of equal value both to those who wish only to read about this amazing feat of arms, and to those whose intention it is to one day visit Saint-Nazaire and follow in the footsteps of Colonel Charles Newman's gallant Army Commandos. Largely based on the personal testimony of the soldiers and sailors who were actually there, the extensively illustrated text is supplemented by essential travel information and a detailed tour encompassing all the primary Commando targets, the CHARIOT memorial and the awe-inspiring U-Boat pens. As demonstrated by Jeremy Clarkson in his moving documentary 'The Greatest Raid Of All Time' - for which James acted as programme consultant - many of the major features of the 1942 battlefield remain to the present day, the giant 'Normandie' dock still welcoming some of the largest ships in the world.
Paperback: 224 pages
Author: James Dorrian
Publisher: Leo Cooper Ltd (16 Mar. 2006)
Kindle edition £0.99
Military Historian Jon Cooksey's extensively illustrated account of the raid, with contributions from historians James Dorrian and Robin Neillands, is an easy to digest introduction to a Combined Operations raid whose finer details are still the subject of ongoing research. In the opinion of the webmaster the structure of the book lends itself particularly to teachers and presenters seeking to convey an understanding of Operation Chariot as a launchpad for more detailed individual research.
Paperback: 144 pages:
Author: Jon Cooksey
Publisher: Leo Cooper Ltd (20 Jan. 2004)
Kindle edition £5.59
At 96 pages as against Jon Cooksey's 128, this is, of necessity, a very basic introduction to the raid on Saint-Nazaire. Heavily reliant on illustrations and rather short on detail, it will be best suited to readers seeking only a general overview of what was, in reality, a hugely complex military operation involvng many hundreds of sailors and Army Commandos.
Hardcover: 96 pages: also available in Paperback
Author: Ken Ford
Publisher: Greenwood Press (9 Feb. 2004)
Kindle edition £11.51
In his very moving documentary about Operation CHARIOT, 'The Greatest Raid of All Time' Jeremy Clarkson alluded to the fact that this amazing feat of arms continues to enjoy only limited exposure outside military circles - this is spite of the fact that it garnered a total of five Victoria Crosses, the largest number awarded for a single action during World War Two. Generally regarded as a 'Commando' raid (although the Navy, who won three of the VCs might beg to differ) there is also the fact that the Commandos who fought through the docks at Saint-Nazaire were not the 'Royal Marines' Commandos of the present day, but rather the ARMY Commandos, a wholly volunteer force which initially existed only between 1940 and 1946, and who were responsible for establishing the Commando concept against a background of suspicion and hostility emanating from those within the military hierarchy who saw no place for such contentious elites. In 'Storming St Nazaire', his first book on the raid, the webmaster has sought to make this distinction clear in a narrative based largely on his extensive series of interviews with most of the the then surviving veterans who really did achieve the impossible all those years ago.
Paperback: 304 pages: also available in Hardcover
Author: James Dorrian
Publisher: Pen & Sword Books Ltd; New edition edition (15 Mar. 2001)
Kindle edition £4.31
Dating from 1970, this consice, but useful, account of the raid is heavily illustrated and includes informative plans and maps.
Paperback: 160 pages
Author: David Mason
Publisher: Ballantine Books, 1970
Initially published back in 1958 and now reissued, Lucas Phillips' account was the only complete study of Operation Chariot in existence until the 1990s. In fact it was the book which encouraged the webmaster to meet and interview the majority of the 120 raid veterans extant at that time. Even after all these years, this remains a good general read, marred only by occasional jingoism, and a failure on the author's part to extend his interviews to a sufficient number of 'other ranks' - especially given that rank was a distinction with little meaning in the ranks of the Army Commandos. In the years since its publication, the vast majority of official documents relating to the raid have been opened for research.
Paperback: 304 pages (Hardcover copies can sometimes be obtained used)
Author: C.E. Lucas Phillips
Publisher: Pan; New edition edition (11 Aug. 2000: originally published 1958)
Author Robert Ryder, as a Lieutenant-Commander RN, was the commander of all naval forces during the raid and, along with Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Newman, largely responsible for planning it. Both men were awarded the Victoria Cross for their contributions to its success. Begun in 1942, this account, published immediately after the war concentrates primarily on the raid as experienced by its naval element.
Hardcover: 118 pages
Author: Robert Ryder
Publisher: John Murray; 1st edition (1947)
SECTION TWO: FOREIGN LANGUAGE BOOKS ENTIRELY DEVOTED TO THE RAID
Written by Luc Braeuer and Bernard Petitjean, this high-quality heavily illustrated A4-sized volume is written in French, in spite of which its excellent images and illustrations still make it a valuable asset to anyone researching the raid in any detail. It is particularly rich in material relating to the German defences and the civilian population.
Paperback: 168 pages. Also available in Hardcover
Authors: Luc Braeuer and Bernard Petitjean
Author Jean-Charles Stasi travelled to London as part of his research, to access the National Archives files and meet with the webmaster and some of the surviving veterans.
Softcover: 269 pages
Author: Jean-Charles Stasi
Publisher: Coop Breizh 2014
This recently published volume, with separate colour maps, contains many illustrations and alludes to the 1918 raid on the port of Zeebrugge, while devoting the majority of its text to Operation Chariot.
Hardcover: 278 pages
Author: Krzysztof Kubiak
Publisher: Tetragon, 2016
SECTION THREE: BOOKS BY, OR ABOUT, INDIVIDUAL RAID VETERANS
SECTION FOUR: DOCUMENTARY FILMS
Parts two and three of this generally excellent disc are devoted to the raid on Saint-Nazaire. Part two is the narrative element, relating a significant portion of the story of the raid with great accuracy and enthusiasm: part three shows how the programme was made, this including the construction of a 24-foot long pewter replica of HMS Campbeltown. Unlike a number of other versions of the story which have appeared on our TV screens, the producers of this programme actually did their homework, including engaging the webmaster as historical consultant. The extra effort really does show and this is without doubt one of the best raid-related documentaries yet made.
DVD Release Date: 31 Oct. 2011
The 'raid' portion of the programme is now also available as a download from the BBC Store - https://store.bbc.com/jeremy-clarkson-greatest-raid-of-all-time
As mentioned in the books section, above, Captain Michael 'Micky' Burn, was the officer in charge of number 6 Troop, 2 Commando. A Wykehamist, son of Sir Clive Burn, Chancellor of the Duchy of Cornwall, Micky's obvious and safe career options did not appeal at all to a man who, throughout his long life, always favoured the path less travelled. Life in an Oxford College paled in comparison with time spent with the gilded elite in Le Touquet, following which he spent several years in Germany, in the company of National Socialism's upper-class admirers, such as Unity 'Bobo' Mitford. The promise initially offered by National Socialism was speedily replaced by Marxism, and its excesses prompted him to join the Queen's Westminster Rifles, becoming, upon the outbreak of war, an officer in the Rifle Brigade. Always well-connected socially Micky toyed with the Auxiliaries and the Special Operations Executive, before settling into Commando life in 6 Troop. During the raid on Saint-Nazaire, his ML was destroyed with considerable loss of life. Later taken prisoner he fetched up in Colditz Castle, where he completed his abandoned Oxford degree. This intimate and inspirational portrait of a remarkable man, filmed while Micky was in his '90s and co-produced by the webmaster, follows him through a voyage to the past, to Munich and Hitler's favourite eating place, the then Osteria Bavaria; to Saint-Nazaire where he is filmed along with fellow veterans Corran Purdon and Bill 'Tiger' Watson; and on to the grim fortress of Colditz where the only recently discovered 'secret' radio room was opened specially for him. (Trailer - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XAZk5GoW33A)
Studio: Matchbox Film
DVD Release Date: 4 May 2015
Run Time: 103 minutes
"Building on the success of various Commando Raids during 1941, Headquarters Combined Operations moved up the scale of size and complexity by electing to attack and deny the only dry dock that could take a German battleship for repairs, the Normandie Dock at St Nazaire on France's Atlantic coast. The problem was that the port was miles up an estuary that was well defended by the Germans. To deliver an explosive charge big enough to demolish the massive lock gates, an old ship HMS Campbeltown was converted to look like a German destroyer, so as to bluff their way into the heart of the port. With Campbeltown ramming the lock gates the Army Commandos were to fan out across the dock to demolish pumps and winding gear to comprehensively deny the dock to the Kriegsmarine for a significant period of time. Under cover of dark the bluff worked well, up to a point. Campbeltown rammed the gates but the Commandos found that the Germans were alert and had great difficulty in reaching their objectives. Shot on location in the usual BHTV style of expert commentary from naval and commando historians. During shooting the team secured unrivaled access to parts of the harbour and pumping houses that simply can not be seen by normal visitors to St Nazaire. These great location shots are complemented by testimony from the surviving veterans, detailed maps, essential for proper understanding of the raid, and some illustrative re-enactment." (Pen & Sword website)
Imprint: Pen & Sword Digital (http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Special-Operations-St-Nazaire-Raid-DVD/p/7875)
Published: 9th November 2015
Running Time: 80 (mins)
This single disc contains a full six-episode series devoted to World War Two raids, of which the raid on Saint-Nazaire is one - 'Storm at St Nazaire'
DVD Release Date: 12 Jun. 2006
Duration: 139 mins.
Narated by: Robert Powell
On March 27, 1942, British Commandos embarked on a daring mission to destroy the massive dry dock at St Nazaire, home to the Tirpitz, Germany's largest battleship. Losing it would directly affect Germany's strategy in the North Atlantic. 'Target St Nazaire' is filled with first person accounts and commentary from esteemed scholars that chronicle every step of the pivotal raid, one of the war's most daring missions. (History Channel - disc 4 of an 8 disc set)
Target St Nazaire
SECTION FIVE: SOURCES RECOMMENDED FOR RESEARCH
This largely illustrated book provides detailed photographs and drawings of HMS Campbeltown (originally the USS Buchanan). The beautifully-crafted drawings include deck, weapon and equipment plans.
Hardcover: 127 pages
Author: Al Ross
Publisher: Conway Maritime Press (1990)
For historians and researchers, this detailed volume 'Fairmile Designs and US Submarine Chasers', is very much the 'bible' when it comes to descriptions of the various Coastal Forces vessels, including with reference to the raid on Saint-Nazaire, the Fairmile 'B' Class Motor Launch, and the Fairmile 'C' class Motor Gun-boat. Covering the vessels' construction and armament, you will also find here details of their equipment and engines. For research into the Vosper 70' Motor Torpedo Boat, the companion volume 'Vosper MTBs and US ELCOs' is the perfect source. The volumes are by Al Ross, as above, and illustrator John Lambert, who has produced excellent drawings of the variants, and their equipment.
Hardcover: 256 pages
Authors: John Lambert and Al Ross
Publisher: Conway Maritime Press
The cover illustration is of the impressive Commando Memorial at Spean Bridge, close to Fort William and in the heart of that portion of Scotland which, during World War Two, was known as 'Commando Country'. The original wholly volunteer Army Commandos, as opposed to today's Royal Marines Commandos, were, prior to the raid on Saint-Nazaire, brought to nearby Loch Ailort to undergo a very new style of training pioneered by specialists in skills such as mountaineering, wilderness survival and hand-to-hand combat. In 1942 this 'Commando' training became more formalised and based at Achnacarry Castle - soon to become 'Castle Commando'. Jimmy Dunning was an instructor at Achnacarry, and his informative and entertaining book describes just how 'ordinary' but highly motivated, young men were transformed into Special Forces as we still understand them today. In the 1940s the training was geared towards producing elite soldiers; however the lessons relating to what actually can be achieved with the right attitude and guidance, still resonate today.
Paperback: 256 pages
Author: James Dunning
Publisher: Frontline Books
Kindle edition: £8.39
NOTE: One of the stranger facts about Operation Chariot is that, with the exception of the Naval side of the story as told in Commander Robert Ryder VC's 1947 book 'The Attack on St Nazaire', no veteran of the raid has ever written an account devoted solely to it: rather their individual raid experiences are recounted as part of more widely-ranging stories. Where books have been written by raid veterans, the same caveat applies, meaning that important research into the raid was left to historians whose subsequent publications are shown above. There are numerous other publications relating to Commandos, raids or naval strategy, which include the raid on Saint-Nazaire but do not feature it exclusively. Given their number, and the fact that, in general, they offer little that is not covered in greater detail in the listed books and DVDs, they are not included here. While some books are now out of print, used copies can often be obtained. A number are now available on Amazon Kindle, and where this is the case, the Kindle price - (subject to change) - is shown. As there may be other editions of some books, particularly where older volumes have been reprinted, publication details are offered for guidance only. For readers wondering about Captain Michael Burn's excellent 1974 documentary prepared for the BBC, this has not been released for sale.
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Books and Documentaries
Able Seaman Bill Savage was a gunner on board the headquarters gun boat, MGB 314. Having stood to his gun all through the worst of the action in and around the harbour of Saint-Nazaire, he was killed during the withdrawal of the surviving boats, the sole victim of a chance encounter with a German vessel. At the insistence of the gun boat's captain, Lieutenant Dunstan Curtis, Savage's body was returned to the UK for burial. He now lies in Falmouth Cemetery, Sec. K. Row C. Grave 15.Bill was awarded the Victoria Cross in recognition both of his own courage, and that of the naval force.
Paperback: 76 pages
Author: Chris Sutton
Publisher: Smethwick Heritage Centre Trust (2012)
Commander Robert Ryder was instrumental in planning the raid on Saint-Nazaire - for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross - and led its naval contingent. Having already enjoyed an 'eventful' naval career, he later became involved both in the attack on Dieppe, and in Commander Ian Fleming's secret intelligence-gathering organisation, 30 Assault Unit. From Antarctica through 'Q' ships to clinging, alone, to a piece of wreckage adrift in the broad Atlantic, this biography describes a life very well lived.
Hardcover: 224 pages
Author: Richard Hopton
Publisher: Pen & Sword Maritime; 1st edition (17 Nov. 2011)
Kindle edition: £0.99
The two books shown left, 'Commando to Colditz' and 'Turned Towards the Sun' are dealt with together as they both relate to the life of one of Operation Chariot's great characters, the bisexual poet, author, and socialite commander of number 6 Troop of 2 Commando, Captain Micky Burn, MC. At one time favouring National Socialism, but abandoning this in favour of Marxism, he had met Hitler, and been involved in a lengthy affair with notorious KGB agent Guy Burgess, before falling in love with, and later marrying, the beautiful Mary Booker.
Following the raid, during which many of the boys of his beloved 6 Troop were lost, Micky was the subject of an attempt by the Germans to coerce him into collaboration, and as a consequence of his refusal to comply was sent to grim Colditz Castle - where he upset Douglas Bader, amongst others, by lecturing on the advantages of Marxism.
'Commando to Colditz' describes in some detail Micky's close attachment to the young Commandos of 6 Troop, an attachment carried on by his parents while he was a PoW, during which time they remained in touch with all the 6 Troop families - creating a flood of correspondence now contained in Micky's extensive archive.
Late in life, Micky penned the autobiography 'Turned Towards the Sun', on which was based the feature documentary of the same name, detailed below in the DVD section. The webmaster and he were close friends for many years, his passion for living acting as an inspiration for which all those who knew him remain truly thankful.
Commando to Colditz'
Paperback: 304 pages
Author: Peter Stanley
Publisher: Pier 9, Murdoch Books (21 Sept. 2009)
Kindle edition: £7.20
'Turned Towards the Sun'
Hardcover: 320 pages. Also in Paperback, although regrettably neither edition is currently in print.
Author: Michael Burn
Publisher: Michael Russell Publishing Ltd (28 July 2003)
Ralph Batteson was a crew-member on board Motor Launch 306, scheduled to land Commando parties on the fortified Old Mole. Denied this because of the intensity of German fire the ML began an early attempt to withdraw up the estuary, only to meet a flotilla of much larger German Torpedo Boat Destroyers returning to harbour. One of these, Jaguar, was detached to 'deal with' the British ship, whereupon a duel ensued during which Sergeant Tom Durrant's gallant last stand at the ML's machine-guns resulted in him being awarded the Victoria Cross. From Saint-Nazaire, through PoW camps and on to becoming an extra in the loosely Saint-Nazaire-based film 'The Gift Horse', shot in Shepperton, Ralph's unique story is of a young man who went through a real hell, only to then find himself repeating it on a movie set.
Paperback: 172 pages
Author: Ralph Batteson
Publisher: Highedge Historical Society; 1st Edition (26 Jan. 1996)
As a young officer in the Royal Ulster Rifles, Corran Purdon's introduction to Special Service was to 'borrow' a pick up truck in defiance of his CO's refusal to let him volunteer, and drive to where Number 12 Commando was forming up, there to join and leave it up to others to sort out the paperwork. Thus began a military career that would take Corran from Norway, through Saint-Nazaire, to PoW existence in Spangenberg Castle (from which he escaped) and lastly to the fortress of Colditz. Since the war, Corran has seen service in Palestine, Malaya, Cyprus, Sarawak, and other theatres of conflict too numerous to mention. He retired in 1976 as General Officer Commanding Near East Forces, and remains today a passionate supporter of his beloved Royal Ulster Rifles. He is also Patron of Port 20 Productions' plans to bring the story of Operation Chariot, at long last, to the big screen. This, his autobiography is sadly out of print, although, as with other books shown on this page, it can sometimes be obtained used.
Paperback: 376 pages
Author: Major-General Corran Purdon (Retd.)
Publisher: Greystone Books Ltd (Dec. 1993)
Author Stuart Chant-Sempill, as Lieutenant Stuart Chant, commanded a demolition party during the raid. Wounded on board HMS Campbeltown, he nevertheless led his small team into the bowels of the Normandie Dock's Pumping Station, there destroying all of its vital impeller pumps. Wounded again, during the Commando breakout attempt, Stuart was taken prisoner and operated on in spite of his anaesthetic having failed to work. This excellent book describes his part in the raid, and his progression through PoW Camps, including Spangenberg Castle, mentioned above. Stuart later took the name Sempill when his wife Ann succeeded to the Barony of Sempill.
Hardcover: 200 pages
Author: Stuart Chant-Sempill
Publisher: John Murray Publishers Ltd; (22 July 1985)