SMHS Meeting - The St Nazaire Raid

19 Dec 2012

Those who had attended the SMHS 2012 Study Day and heard Simon Bellamy's talk "The Channel Dash - Tactical Defeat, Strategic Victory!" were licking their lips in anticipation of Simon's sequel "The Daring St Nazaire Raid - The Greatest Raid of All." Or perhaps it was Elizabeth and Maggie's festive mince pies that had us licking our lips?!

Simon is a Member of the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Services and a Royal Naval Reservist - he has a unique, analytical approach which we would do well to replicate in our own studies. Our December meeting was set to be a cracker!

Early 1942 was a dark hour for the Allies, Singapore fell and there had been withdrawals from Greece and Crete in 1941. For the British, the humiliation of The Channel Dash” was injurious to our reputation amongst the Allied Forces and we needed to strike back.

Churchill's major concern was maintaining supply lines. He placed the importance of protecting the Atlantic convoys above offensive operations elsewhere. This was illustrated by the engagement of the entire British fleet in tackling the Bismarck. Once damaged in combat the Bismarck was limping to St Nazaire when she was finally set upon and destroyed. St Nazaire had the only dry dock on the Atlantic coast of occupied France of sufficient size to service the Bismarck and her sister ship Tirpitz. The Bismarck's attempt to make it to St Nazaire was decisive; Combined Operations would attempt to put the dry dock out of service. The absence of a repair facility should guarantee that Tirpitz would be kept out of the Atlantic…..

On 28th March 1942 a commando raid was launched, 611 men were to ram HMS Campbeltown into dock at St Nazaire, blow her up and make for home.

The raid was a success, Simon's analysis fascinated us not only with details of the operation itself, but also covering strategic background, the influence of the Raid on future Operations, highlighting the part played by various individuals, he even had a hand-drawn map and tried to educate us on the effects of the tide! Our enjoyment and appreciation was obvious from the volume and duration of the post-talk applause.

Stewart Angell (Membership and Treasurer) rounded off another excellent year for the Society by bidding us all a Happy Christmas.

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7.30pm for 8.00pm start
Function Room of the
Royal Oak Public House,
Station Street, Lewes,
East Sussex.

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