Op Chariot: 60 Seconds. Credit BFBS Creative

History

Op Chariot: The Greatest Commando Raid Ever

Operation Chariot played an important part in World War Two

Op Chariot: 60 Seconds. Credit BFBS Creative

It has come to be known as the greatest commando raid ever, but what exactly happened in St Nazaire in 1942?

BFBS Creative gave themselves 60 seconds to explain it all.

During World War Two, the Atlantic Ocean was an important area of interest as the Royal Navy could operate from several different ports in the UK.

However, the Germans only had one dry dock in St Nazaire.

 A dry dock is a narrow basin that can be flooded to allow a vessel to be floated in, and then drained so the vessel rests on a platform.

Britain wanted to cut off this dock from the Germans, and so began to plan how it would do just that. The Royal Air Force was unable to drop bombs due to the risk of civilian casualties, and the dock was far too inland for the Royal Navy to attack in its normal way.

This left only one option - a commando raid.

With a team of 265 Commandos and 346 Navy personnel against 5,000 German Troops, HMS Campbeltown was to be the secret weapon.

Can Op Chariot Be Explained In Sixty Seconds?

On 28th March 1942, the commando raid, known as Operation Chariot, started with a distraction from the RAF, which dropped bombs near St Nazaire.

HMS Campbeltown was spotted off the coast of St Nazaire, but the crew identified themselves as friendly which ultimately bought them a few extra minutes to carry out the plan.

However, the German defenders saw through the guise and opened fire, killing a helmsman, but it was not enough to stop HMS Campbeltown from making her way through.

At 01:34, HMS Campbeltown was rammed into the Normandy deck and she was full of explosives on a timer.

The timer allowed for the British to get off the ship and engage in fighting  German forces, while demolition teams started destroying important equipment.

At sea, most of the flotilla was destroyed by the Germans, which meant the British were left without a way for the majority of them to evacuate.

HMS Campbell. Credit Bundesarchiv

The commandos that were left on shore began to fight their way through the town, but they were running out of ammunition and were ultimately outnumbered, which led to their capture.

Seven and a half hours later, while a group of 40 senior German officers were inspecting HMS Campbeltown, the explosives detonated.

The explosion killed the 40 officers and 320 others, as well as destroying the dry dock completely.

The raid meant that the Germans never sent their largest warship to the Atlantic Ocean, which could have been a game-changer for the outcome of the war.

Even though the raid was a success, only 240 men returned to Britain - 169 were killed and 215 were captured.

There were five men who did escape through the town and made their way across France with the help of the French resistance.

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