ST NAZAIRE: OLD ENTRANCE






The 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.

             


The 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 vulnerable to fire emanating from the area of the clearly visible U-Boat complex.

The  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. 




Taken 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.