Mairie de St-Nazaire
http://credibsantnazer.hautetfort.com 'Centre for Research and Promotion of Breton Identity' (CREDIB) - a society dedicated to
the preservation of the
Breton identity and to the promotion of cultural and historical links
with the UK and Ireland.
Their page contains an article on René-Yves Creston, who
was one of several local
sources supplying the British with information essential to the
success of the raid.
http://www.couleurs-armor.fr/en/index.php There is so much more to do in this area to make a visit worthwhile, Check out this
images of Brittany, surely France's most characterful/spiritual region.
www.battlefieldtours.co.uk (Led by Peter Lush, of the St-Nazaire Society)
www.commandoveterans.org/site An exceptionally
well-organised site exploring the whole Commando experience:
www.netherlandsnavy.nl/Townclass.htm - (HMS CAMPBELTOWN)
www. geocities.com/rurmuseum - Royal Ulster Rifles Museum, Belfast
GERMAN FORCES AT ST NAZAIRE
www.lambert-plans.com - (MLs; MGB; MTB)
TEASER (for a documentary on the extraordinary life of Captain Michael 'Micky' Burn, MC, 6 Troop 2 Commando - PoW Oflag 1VC, Colditz)
number of Charioteers, including Lieutenant (now Maj-Gen, retd) Corran
Purdon, Sub-Lieutenant R.C.M.V 'Mickey' Wynn, and Captain
Micky Burn, eventually
graduated to Colditz, where there is now a museum relating to its
wartime incarnation. Among the exhibits is the
once highly secret radio 'hide',
initially placed in an almost inaccessible corner of an attic. Operated
by Dick Howe, Jimmy Yule, Jim
Rogers and the above-mentioned Micky Burn, it lay
undiscovered for many years. Below is a photograph, by Scott Van Osdol,
position 63 years on. For information on the castle and its 'guests',
see - www.colditzcastle.net: if you would like to contact the museum
direct, email Renate Lippmann at - firstname.lastname@example.org
he returned safely from the raid on St-Nazaire, Captain Joe Houghton
was yet another Charioteer to spend time in Colditz.
Captured during Operation
'Musketoon', he was one of several Commandos eventually executed in
line with Hitler's notorious Commando
order. Details and photos can be found at - www.colditzcastle.net/british-pows/7-commandos
One of the stranger features
of Operation CHARIOT is the paucity of accounts written by the men who actually
were there. Those which do exist, and are listed below, tend to
be biographical in nature, mentioning the raid solely as one part
of more generalized life stories. Be that as it may, they are well
written and make fascinating reading, opening the door to another,
arguably better, time when honor and self-sacrifice were not the
increasingly rare gems for which we must mine so deeply today.
'TURNED TOWARDS THE
SUN', by Michael Burn, commander of 6Troop, 2 Commando and leader of
all Commando parties of Group 2: (Michael Russell Publishing: now available in paperback).
'SPECIAL SERVICE OF A HAZARDOUS NATURE', compiled
by Dennis Reeves, tells the story of the involvement of the Liverpool
Scottish, Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders (TA) in Special Forces
Operations in World War Two - these operations including the Raid on
St-Nazaire. The book is available via the Liverpool Scottish website -
see link at the top of this page: 390 pp: illustrated. (The painting on
this site's index page shows Captain Donald Roy's kilted Liverpool
Scottish troops disembarking from HMS Campbeltown under fire.)
'ST NAZAIRE COMMANDO',
by Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Chant-Sempill, who as Lieutenant Stuart
Chant, led the all-important demolition team for the Pumping Station:
(John Murray, 1985).
'LIST THE BUGLE', by Major General Corran Purdon, as
Lieutenant, leader of the demolition party for the northern Winding
House: (Greystone Books, 1993).
'THE ATTACK ON ST NAZAIRE', by Captain
Robert Ryder, VC, RN, CHARIOT Naval Force Commander: (John Murray,
'ANATOMY of the
SHIP: the DESTROYER CAMPBELTOWN', by Al Ross, (Conway Maritime Press,
'ALLIED COASTAL FORCES of WW11', by John Lambert and Al Ross,
(Conway Maritime Press): Vol 1 - Fairmile Designs and US Submarine
Chasers, 1990: Vol 2 - Vosper MTBs and US ELCOs, 1993.
'BRITISH COMMANDOS: The Origins and Special Training of an Elite Unit', by James Dunning, (Paladin Press, Boulder Colorado): previously published in the UK as 'It Had to be Tough', an excellent description of the Commando training experience at Achnacarry Castle ('Castle Commando')
speaking, the history of
documentaries purporting to tell the Operation CHARIOT story, has not been a
happy one. The work
prepared for the BBC in 1974, written by Michael Burn and populated by
many of the raid's most noteworthy personalities, is certainly worth
viewing. Since that time, however, a
number of new treatments have appeared, some of which can best be
described as triumphs of style over content (comments to follow).
'North One' Productions have now produced a new documentary based largely on my personal research and presented
by Jeremy Clarkson. Having been
contacted on a number of occasions by other researchers
asking for information, whose grasp of, and interest in, the topic
seemed tenuous at best, I must applaud 'North One'
for having allowed themselves to be guided towards personal and historical accuracy.
Perhaps because of this the young men who gave everything for what they
believed was a cause
worth dying for, will at last be remembered with due reverence and
final scenes with Jeremy and the team from 'North One' were,
incidentally, shot in the midst of a violent storm, our
voyage through the estuary in a Pilotage fast 'Vedette',
corkscrewing and bucking through a 2-metre sea, being the
highlight of that particular expedition (certainly the closest I've ever been to sea-sickness). There is also excellent
footage shot both deep within the
bowels of the Pumping Station so comprehensively destroyed by Lt Stuart
Chant and his team, and within the dry 'Normandie' Dock itself,
its 260,000-plus cubic-metre volume dwarfing all who descended into its
'THE RAID ON SAINT-NAZAIRE':
1974: a BBC/ORTF co-production written and narrated by (Captain) Micky Burn, and produced by Tony Broughton. This remains head and shoulders above many more recent treatments, firstly because it was actually shot in St-Nazaire, and secondly because it features both British and German participants describing the raid in their own words.
'HISTORY'S RAIDERS': Target St Nazaire
2001: by Nugus/Martin for the History Channel: a fairly low-budget, but accurate, attempt at a treatment using lots of stock footage, some of which is drawn from the above documentary. There is some Commando reenactment filmed, it would appear, at the King George V dock in Southampton, where some of the actual demolition training took place. The footage has some very valuable shots of the small boats - particularly the MLs - in action. (available as DVD+R, from the History Channel shop)
a 'Windfall Films' production for Channel 4 (UK). Four episodes,
including one on Operation CHARIOT. A very difficult series to review
as I was involved in providing material for the CHARIOT episode - not
that there is any evidence in the final production of this information
ever having been used. Sketchily assembled and error- strewn
this contrasts starkly with the rigourously researched 'North
One' production reviewed below: very sad, especially bearing in mind
that the correct information was freely
provided - not just by myself in relation to CHARIOT, but by the
Commando Association in respect of the overall 'Commando' subject
matter. Characterized by tedious 'reconstructions', shaky camera work
and opaque imagery,
this will appeal only to those whose knowledge of the subject is
limited indeed. 'Commandos', a book in similar vein, was written to
accompany the series.
'THE GREATEST RAID OF ALL' 'North One', for the BBC, 2007
Here Jeremy Clarkson's
obvious enthusiasm for the subject matter is nicely balanced by profound
respect for all that these young men achieved. For once a major effort
was made to get things right, and in general the end result is a
tribute both to the thoroughness of North One's research, and to
Jeremy's skill in making what in other hands might have been a rather
dry recitation of facts and statistics, accessible to everyone.
Certainly the various discussion forums on the web are replete with
positive comments, often asking why it is that Operation CHARIOT has managed to
slip through the cracks for so long. For a sample of these, go to
pedants among us, yes, there were obvious omissions and errors - this
in spite of my having corrected the dubbing script just a week before
transmission. Some space should have been found to recognise all five
Victoria Cross winners; and, as is all too often the case, the story of
CAMPBELTOWN overwhelmed that of the flotillas of little ships and the
Commando parties they tried so valiantly to put ashore. The myth of Operation CHARIOT having kept TIRPITZ
out of the Atlantic somehow still managed
to find its way back into the script, as did the erroneous claim
that the St Nazaire raid led to Hitler issuing his infamous 'Commando Order'.
place too high a priority on its flaws would certainly do a disservice
to the one documentary which can really claim to have
to a broad and appreciative audience.
On one or two of the
forums there seems to be confusion relating to the award of the DSC to
Lieutenant Nigel Tibbits, who was killed on his way out of the estuary
on board ML 177. As contributors rightly point out, having been Killed
in Action, he should only have been awarded either a
Mention-in-Dispatches, or a Victoria Cross. In fact his death was not
confirmed until many weeks later, and the award of the DSC was based on
the belief, held, immediately post-raid, that he was simply 'missing'.
His wife, Elmslie, did not in fact learn of the actual circumstances of
his death until Lieutenant-Commander Beattie wrote to her after his
release from POW camp, in June of 1945.
Operation CHARIOT has thus far featured in two rather poor attempts to bring this amazing story to the big screen: 'THE GIFT HORSE', with Trevor Howard appeared in 1952, and in 1968 Lloyd Bridges starred in 'ATTACK ON THE IRON COAST'.
Neither of these is of any real value in explaining exactly what took
place on the Loire that night: and in fact 'The Gift Horse' was more
about the story of HMS Campbeltown than
about the actual mechanics of the raid. Hopefully we will soon be able to rectify this neglect of such
moving subject matter: certainly, as a first
step, 'TURNED TOWARDS THE SUN' -
the autobiography of Captain Micky Burn (in command of 6 Troop 2
Commando), is in the process of being optioned for a documentary
film which will, amongst other facets of his remarkable life, highlight
the contribution to the success of the raid which won for him the
British have traditionally displayed an often frustrating reticence
when it comes to blowing their own trumpets: but there is really no
excuse for having so neglected the episode in which more Victoria
Crosses were won than for any single action during World
War 2. Real heroes are few and far between: perhaps we can at last look forward to the 'Charioteers'
of 1942 being remembered with the respect long due to them?
Memories of a magical day, interviewing Micky Burn, North Wales, March 2008
©2008, Van Osdol, www.vanosdol.com