ST NAZAIRE: OLD ENTRANCE
OLD ENTRANCE, shown both above and, in plan view, below, was the
designated landing site for the six Motor launches carrying
Captain Micky Burn's 'GROUP 2' Commando force - a total of seven
officers and seventy-seven other ranks. Of the six MLs, only the very
last - Sub Lieutenant Mark Rodier's ML177 - actually managed to land
its troops (TSM George Haines' party) successfully. ML156, commanded by
Lieutenant Leslie Fenton, was able to withdraw in spite of being badly
knocked about: however, all the rest were destroyed with heavy loss of
life. So great was the failure here, with the flimsy wooden
launches being quickly set ablaze or shot to pieces, that Colonel
Newman's tiny HQ party, landed from the gunboat (MGB314), could do
little more than station itself in the area of the Ponts et Chaussees
building, and hang on grimly until Haines and his party appeared.
area held by Newman was directly south of Bridge 'G', the sole link by
means of which the northern parties landed from HMS CAMPBELTOWN might
later withdraw. Both the HQ area and the small bridgehead held north of
'G' by Captain Donald Roy's 5Troop party, were under sustained
all-arms fire from German positions on the west side of the Bassin de
Saint-Nazaire: from the guns on top of the Entrepot Frigorifique
('Frigo'); from riflemen and machine-gunners both within and on top of
the U-Boat Pens; from the guns mounted high above bridge 'M', on
the roof of the old Caserne des Douanes; and from the many different
types of weapons carried by the Minesweepers, patrol Boats, etc,
backing and filling within the confines of the Basin.
The degree to which German fire positions dominated the Old Entrance area is
illustrated by the image below, which shows a sloop entering the
landing area on the same course Ryder's MLs had been briefed to follow.
The shot is taken from close by the steps where Lieutenant Dunstan
Curtis, CO of MGB314, put Colonel Newman's party ashore. Note that the
extreme Spring tide which made the landings possible in the
first place would have caused the small boats to ride much higher than
those shown in the photograph, this making them even more
fire emanating from the area of the clearly visible U-Boat complex.
massive concrete structure shown right of picture, is the
Fortified Lock - an edifice which now houses the decommissioned French
submarine 'ESPADON'. Its huge bulk sits directly on top of the open
quayside where Commander Ryder stepped ashore to inspect the smoking
hulk of CAMPBELTOWN, and from which Lieutenant Ted Burt was
forced to hurriedly re-embark ML262's newly landed Commando parties.
Heavily engaged throughout by German positions both in, and around, the
Basin, the ill-fated ML262 was also receiving fire from the multiple
cannon of MaFLA809, whose batteries were spread along the eastern
estuary shoreline in positions from which they were able to dominate
the immediate harbor approaches.
from the roof of the Fortified Lock, the image below clearly
shows the all-important Bridge 'G', as well as the lock gates torpedoed
by Sub Lieutenant Wynn. Fitted with delay fuzes, these missiles did not
explode until long after CAMPBELTOWN, their unexpected eruption
shattering not only the lock gates, but also the fragile peace which
had begun to settle on the port in the wake of the raid.