...The St. Nazaire Raid 1942, from Casemate Books
Title: Operation Chariot
Author: Jean-Charles Stasi
Publisher: Casemate Books
A new book in the Casemate Illustrated series, a book originally published in French by Heimdal, and together we see it in English language. A 128-page softcover book which details the famous St Nazaire raid of 1942. It revolved around the Biritsh desire to disable the huge Joubert dock, also known as the 'Normandie' dock, as it was where the famous French liner was built. It was the one large dock on the French West coast which would have been large enough to accommodate the Tirpitz in the event she was to make a foray into the Atlantic and then needed a base for maintenance. Hence an operation planned to deny the dock to the Kriegsmarine.
The book details the planning to disable the dock, which doubled as a lock between the port and the Loire estuary. The operation centred on an old destroyer, HMS Cambeltown, Built in 1918 the ship had originally been the USS Buchanan and was one of the 50 obsolete destroyers donated by the USA to Britain at the start of WW2. While the ship was to ram the huge dock gates, other support ships were to land Commandoes who were tasked to destroy other port facilities. The support vessels were a variety of MLs, which though with a shallow draught and fast, they were made of wood and therefore vulnerable to enemy artillery fire from this heavily defended port. As well as the Cambeltown, an MTB, number 74, was also modified to launch delayed action torpedoes if Cambeltown had a problem.
The book details all the plans and as well as a good selection of archive images from the time, there are also some excellent colour profiile artworks. The bulk of the plan worked, and delayed action charges in the bow of the Campeltown did successfully destroy the dock gate, and which was not repaired until after the war. Other aspects of the plan did not work so well, and many of the support vessels were destroyed, burnt out. Casualties were significant, and the detail coupled with some excellent maps of the port and the operation help enormously with understanding what went on. One thing the operation did not do was prevent the continued operation of the huge U-Boat pens also located in the St Nazaire docks. For modellers there is a good large scale model of MTB 74 available from Italeri, so this would be a useful reference in understanding it. An excellent and interesting book.
Published by Casemate Books, who kindly provided my review copy.