Branch remembers the brave heroes of Operation Chariot
The branch had a substantial presence at St Nazaire on 28 March 2012 for the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of Operation Chariot which took place on 28 March 1942. Operation Chariot was a successful amphibious attack on the dry dock at St Nazaire on the north bank of the Loire River in western France) by combined Royal Navy and Marine Commando forces. During the raid the obsolete destroyer, HMS Campbeltown, along with other small craft crossed the Channel. HMS Campbeltown was loaded with delayed-action explosives and rammed the dock gates – the bombs went off later in the day – while the commandos attacked various land targets.
The idea of the raid was to prevent the Germans from using the dry dock for repairs to their large ships such as the battleship Tirpitz. That part of plan worked very well, putting the dry dock out of action for ten years, but the Germans sunk or immobilised all the smaller craft and the commandos had to fight their way out through the town to try to escape overland. They were forced to surrender when their ammunition was expended and they were surrounded.
Sadly, 169 British were killed, 215 taken prisoner of war, and only 228 returned to England. To recognise their bravery, 89 decorations were awarded to members of the raiding party, including five Victoria Crosses. After the war St Nazaire was one of 38 battle honours awarded to the Commandos; the operation has since become known as The Greatest Raid of All.
The ceremony on the 28th March 2012 was to commemorate the bravery of all these men, some are still alive and were at the ceremony.
The Royal British Legion Central Brittany Branch was represented by its Standard; and a wreath was laid by branch chairman Rodney Curtis. There were seven other legion members present.
It was a moving experience for all present, especially seeing the veterans with all their medals for bravery, and to see them inspecting the troops; of course, there was the traditional vin d’honneur afterwards.
Branch chairman, Rodney Curtis, gets ready to lay a wreath on behalf of the branch
British Military Attaché and the Mayor St Nazaire at the rear
This is the highly-decorated General Corran Purdon MC who was in charge of blowing up the pump station to the docks
Jacques Chaigneau President ANT-TRN Region Bretagne and branch member alongside chairman Rodney Curtis