- Wright, Ken
- WWII operations
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- December 2010 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Colonel Newman was also awarded the VC as were three Royal Navy personnel, Commander Robert Ryder, Lieutenant Commander Beattie, and Able Seaman William Savage, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, who was a gun-layer on a pom-pom in one of the motor launches. Completely exposed and under heavy fire, he engaged enemy shore positions with cool and steady accuracy on the way to the harbour. He continued to engage attacking enemy ships until he was killed at his gun. Eighty other personnel were decorated for gallantry and fifty one were ‘Mentioned in Dispatches’. Of the 611 soldiers and sailors who took part in the raid, 169 were killed, 200 were taken prisoner (most were wounded) and 242 managed to return to England. Of those killed, 64 were commandos and 105 were naval personnel.
For the British, the raid was strategically a huge success and a great morale booster although at a heavy cost. The U-Boats were only inconvenienced for about 24 hours as the dry dock was not necessary for their entry or exit to the St. Nazaire port but the dry dock was unable to be used again until well after the war was over. The raid also gave the French people a glimmer of hope that one day, their liberation from the dark days of the Nazi occupation would come.
Raid not necessary
With the benefit of hindsight, Operation Chariot was in fact, not necessary if the purpose was solely to deny the Tirpitz repair facilities as she spent a little over thirty three months hiding in various Norwegian fjords away from the waiting guns of the British Home Fleet. However much Hitler would have wanted Tirpitz to trade blows with the British navy, her massive armament of eight fifteen inch guns had never exchanged fire with enemy surface ships. Battle with the British navy was, in this case, irrelevant as by her very presence, the Tirpitz had, until her loss, achieved a great psychological victory for Germany.
There are many excellent books available on the subject therefore I have omitted many details from this account, hoping the reader will follow up with further reading of the raid and the bravery of the VC winners. If a copy can be found, Operation Chariot was made into a feature film in 1952 called The Gift Horse starring Trevor Howard. HMS Campbelltown was called HMS Ballantrae.