Brothers in Arms
The 'Monument du Commando' sits beside HMS Campbeltown's salvaged 12-pounder gun, at the intersection of the Boulevard de Verdun and the East Jetty of the Avant Port. Close by is the Memorial to the tragic loss of the troopship Lancastria, in 1940 (Bing Images)
The maintenance of close ties with the town and people of Saint-Nazaire was a founding principle of the Society; and right from the first Committee meeting the placing of a simple plaque somewhere in the dock area had been a subject of much discussion. When the French authorities were approached, they were most enthusiastic: in fact they designed the Memorial, chose the site and organised an inaugural reception, with some 150 Charioteers sailing to Saint-Nazaire from Portland, on board the cruiser HMS Sirius.
As reported in the Society's fourth newsletter, the unveiling was carried out on August 2nd, by none other than the Premier of France, M. Ramadier, who placed the raid in its true historical perspective by stating that - 'You were the first to bring us hope'.
HMS Sirius is shown left, entering the lock which had, during wartime, been used by the U-Boats of the 6th and 7th U-Flotillas to access the Atlantic shipping lanes. Top left can just be seen the mass of the port's immensely strong U-Bunker, while spanning the lock's northern extremity sits the lifting bridge, known to the Charioteers as the Bridge of Memories. This was the structure the survivors knew they had to cross if there was to be even a chance of freedom. That they succeeded in the face of overwhelming odds will always remain a testament to their courage and determination.
HMS Sirius arriving in the New Entrance Lock
1947: the Monument du Commando
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