Mairie de St-Nazaire


        '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.

      There is so much more to do in this area to make a visit worthwhile, Check out this
                                                                               link to images of Brittany, surely France's most characterful/spiritual region.                                                                    

        (Led by Peter Lush, of the St-Nazaire Society)



        An exceptionally well-organised site exploring the whole Commando experience: recommended                                 
        -  (HMS CAMPBELTOWN)




              www.     - Royal Ulster Rifles Museum, Belfast           



       -   (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)



A 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, of Micky
                in position 63 years on. For information on the castle and its 'guests', see - if you would like to contact the museum
                direct, email Renate Lippmann at -

                Although 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 -



              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, 1947).

'ANATOMY of the SHIP: the DESTROYER CAMPBELTOWN', by Al Ross, (Conway Maritime Press, 1990)

'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')


Generally 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 respect.

The 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 muddy depths. 

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)

2001: 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

For the 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'. But to place too high a priority on its flaws would certainly do a disservice to the one documentary which can really claim to have brought CHARIOT 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 Military Cross.

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,