Suicidal Commando raid on St Nazaire
28th March 1942: 'Operation Chariot'- British 'Combined Operations' launch the most devastating raid on Nazi occupied Europe yet
In April 1918 the Royal Navy had launched the Zeebrugge Raid when ships packed with explosive had been forced into the Belgium port being used as a U-Boat base. Despite very high casualties on that occasion it was decided that a similar method might be used to disable the French base of St Nazaire, a potential home base for the Tirpitz if she ventured into the Atlantic.
This time it was a joint Royal Navy - Commando raid. On the 23rd March Hitler had himself warned of the probability of 'English' raids on the European coast - some said he had an uncanny ability to foresee these things. Nevertheless the raid achieved considerable surprise.
Captain Robert Ryder1 was in command of the Naval force and was to describe the progress of the force up the Loire river, which they edged up as far as possible before they were challenged and came under gunfire - to which they responded vigorously: