Forces TV

The First Test For The Commandos: St Nazaire

The commandos in WWII are rightly famous for their covert operations, but none so much as the daring raid on St Nazaire to knock out German...

Second World War commandos are rightly famous for their covert operations, but none so much for the raid on St Nazaire. Situated on the West Coast of France, the dry dock was the only port the Germans could feasibly repair ships such as the Tirpitz and Bizmark deployed in the Atlantic.

Too large for conventional ports, if Germany wanted any meaningful battleship presence between the US and Great Britain, the German’s would need a functional dry dock at St Nazaire to base the ship.

A combined force of commandos and the Royal Navy was deployed in 1942 to destroy the dock. Using an old First World War destroyer, HMS Campeltown, gifted in 1940 from the Americans, they planned to convert the ship into a nautical battering ram.

Converted to reduce its weight and filled to the brim with explosives. The plan was to ram the gates and detonate explosives hidden in the ship’s hull once the commandos were clear. The commandos would spread out and aim to knock out nearby dock emplacements and machinery.

HMS Campeltown at St Nazaire
The silhouette of HMS Campeltown rammed into the dock gates at St Nazaire

The German defensive force consisted of 5000 troops manning 43 anti-aircraft guns and 28 large calibre guns to defend against sea attack. The guns were silenced after a brief salvo to try and hide the port in the early morning darkness and then again after the British appealed as a friendly ship over the radio.

Despite the charges in the bow set to explode at 4:30 am, it wasn’t ‘til noon that they exploded. 320 people died in the explosion on top of destroying the dry dock, putting it out of action for the remainder of the war.

The surviving commandos from the St Nazaire raid
The remaining men being captured and sent to POW camps

The mission was a success, but of the 622 men who took part, 215 were captured in addition to the 169 fatalities.

The modern amphibious assault keeps being developed and The Marines keep developing their assault skills, including some very nasty knives