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USS Buchanan (DD-131)/ HMS Campbeltown
USS Buchanan (DD-131)/ HMS Campbeltown was a Wickes class destroyer most famous for its part in the raid on St. Nazaire in 1942.
The Buchanan was named after Franklin Buchanan, the first superintendent of the naval school at Annapolis, holding that post in 1845-1847, after a thirty year naval career. He then went on to serve in the Mexican War and in Perry's expedition to Japan, but who ended up in the Confederate Navy during the Civil War.
The Buchanan was laid down at Bath, Maine on 29 June 1918, launched on 2 January 1919 and commissioned on 20 January 1919. She joined Division 18, Destroyer Squadrons, Atlantic Fleet, in Cuban waters in February 1919 and took part in the winter manoeuvres of 1919. In April she moved back to New York. She was then allocated to Division 13, the force of destroyers that served as plane guards for the transatlantic flight of four Navy -Curtiss NC flying boats. The Buchanan took up her station on 11 May, and after a brief return to port to land a sick sailor was in place when NC-1, NC-3 and NC-4 flew past on 16 May. NC-4 went on to complete the flight, the first successful transatlantic flight by heavier than air aircraft.
In July 1919 the Buchanan was used to carry Rear Admiral Charles P. Plunkett, Vice President Thomas Riley Marshall and other dignitaries as they went to visit President Woodrow Wilson as he returned from the Paris Peace Conference. Later in the month she departed for the west coast, where she took part in a series of fleet reviews before joining her new unit. On 9 February 1920 she was placed into the rotating reserve, and she spent the next two years operating with a reduced complement, before she was decommissioned on 7 June 1922.
In 1929 the Buchanan was chosen to replace one of the destroyers with worn-out Yarrow boilers. The work was partly carried out by the crew of the worn out destroyer Somers (DD-301), and on 10 April 1930 the Somers was decommissioned and the Buchanan recommissioned, while the crew swapped ships. The Buchanan joined the Battle Force and took part in six months of exercises. Amongst her crew in 1930-32 was James Henry Doyle, who went on to command the US fleet during the Inchon landings of 1950.
In the first half of 1931 she combined operations with the fleet and work as plane guard for the Saratoga (CV-3). In early August she took naval reservists on a two week long training cruiser before returning to normal operations.
In January 1932 she departed for Hawaii, to take part in Army-Navy Grand Joint Exercise No.4. She was then used as a radio relay vessel for battleships before taking part in Fleet Problem XIII, which covered all aspects of convoy warfare. She then returned to California, where she joined Destroyer Squadron 2 for more exercises.
In 1933 she took part in Fleet Problem XIV, a mock battle between Hawaii and the West Coast. She spent the rest of the year and the first months of 1934 operating along the US west coast. Her captain from 2 February 1934 was Theodore E. Chandler, who went on to serve as an admiral in most theatres of the Second World War.
In April 1934 she moved to the West Indies to take part in that year's exercises, before returning to the west coast. Later in 1934 she was used for a naval reserve officer training cruise, before on 14 July she joined the rotating reserve.
On 19 December 1934 the Buchanan received a new crew, and rejoined the active fleet. She remained on the west coast until April 1935 when she departed for Hawaii to take part in Fleet Problem XVI. The rest of the year was spend on the west coast, with a brief spell at the Naval Research Laboratory where she was used to test out possible camouflage schemes.
In 1936 she spent most of the time in normal operations on the west coast. She also took part in Fleet Problem XVII and the celebrations to mark the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge, where she acted as a plane guard. On 9 April 1937 she was decommissioned once again.
On 30 September 1939 she was recommissioned to take part in the Neutrality patrol. She joined DesDiv 56, DesRon 32 and in December 1939 moved to Puerto Rico, where she remained for a month. She operated with the Neutrality Patrol in the Caribbean, South American waters and the Gulf of Mexico. In June 1930 she took part in operations to shadow the British cruiser HMS Diomede, but otherwise she only saw neutral or American ships.
As HMS Campbeltown
The Buchanan was one of the destroyers chosen for the 'destroyers-for-bases' deal. She reached Halifax on 6 September and on 9 September she was decommissioned from the US Navy and joined the Royal Navy, where she became HMS Campbeltown.. She joined the First 'Town' Flotilla, and reached Belfast on 26 September 1940. She was then allocated to the 7th Escort Group, based at Liverpool, to operate in the Western Approaches. Her first spell of RN duty ended on 3 December 1940 when she was damaged in a collision in Liverpool. The repairs lasted until March 1941, and while they were underway she was allocated to the Royal Netherlands navy. However this plan collapsed after the Dutch wanted to rename her, breaking the connection with an American town. Instead part of her crew was provided by the Polish Navy.
The Campbeltown returned to convoy escort duties once the repairs were over. On 15 September she rescued survivors from the Norwegian tanker Vinga after she was sunk by air attack. On 25 January 1942 she shot down a German aircraft.
By now plans were in place for a daring raid on the French port of St. Nazaire, and in particular the Normandie Dock, the only drydock on the French Atlantic coast that could take the German battleship Tirptiz. The Campbeltown's role in the attack would be to act as a massive bomb. She would be stuffed full of 24 depth charges, rammed into the dock gates and scuttled. The depth charges were detonate two and a half hours later.
The Campbeltown set sail for St. Nazaire on 26 March 1942. The attack began just after midnight on 27 March, and the Campbeltown successfully carried out her part in it. She rammed the dock gates at 0134, and her landing parties were able to get ashore and damage some of the machinery. The explosion went off as planned, putting the dock out of use for the rest of the war. Her commander, Lt. Comdr Beattie, was awarded the Victoria Cross for his part in the attack.
2 shaft Parsons turbines
3,800nm at 15kts on trial (Wickes)
Armour - belt
Armaments (as built)
Four 4in/50 guns
29 June 1918
2 January 1919
20 January 1919
28 March 1942
HMS Campbeltown (I42)
The HMS Campbeltown (ID: I42) was a destroyer in the Royal Navy and the first ship to bear this name. She belonged to the American Wickes class and had joined the Royal Navy in the fall of 1940 as part of the destroyer-for-base agreement . The 50 destroyers that the Royal Navy and the Royal Canadian Navy received through this agreement formed the Town class there . Temporarily used by the Royal Netherlands Navy from January to September 1941 , Campbeltown was returned to the Royal Navy in September and was used again to secure convoy to West Africa.
From January 1942, the conversion for use in Operation Chariot took place in Devonport . As part of this commando operation, the ship was deliberately sacrificed on March 29, 1942 in St. Nazaire as a mobile explosive device against the dry dock there .
Yhdysvaltain laivasto tilasi hävittäjän No. 131 Bathista Mainesta Bath Iron Worksiltä, missä köli laskettiin 29. kesäkuuta 1918. Alus laskettiin vesille 2. tammikuuta 1919 kumminaan Charles P. Wetherbeen puoliso ja otettiin palvelukseen Bostonin laivastontelakalla 20. tammikuuta ensimmäisenä päällikkönään Roy Pfaff, joka oli varsinaisen päällikön Howard H. J. Bensonin sijaisena 27. tammikuuta saakka. 
Varustamisen päätyttyä alus lähti 31. tammikuuta 1919 Newportiin Rhode Islandille, missä sen radiolaitteet kalibroitiin ennen Kuubaan lähtöä 1. helmikuuta. Alus saapui 5. helmikuuta Guantanamonlahdelle, mistä se jatkoi edelleen Guacanayabonlahdelle tulevaan yksikköönsä Atlantin laivaston 18. hävittäjäviirikköön. Alus oli Kuuban vesillä aina 5. huhtikuuta saakka. Se lähti 9. huhtikuuta laivaston mukana pohjoiseen New Yorkiin lepoon. Alus laski ankkurinsa North Riveriin 14. huhtikuuta, mistä se lähti varhain aamulla 1. toukokuuta USS Upshurin kanssa Newportiin. 
Alus otettiin Kuninkaallisen laivaston palvelukseen 9. syyskuuta 1939 Halifaxissa nimellä HMS Campbeltown. Alus siirrettiin Newfoundlandin kautta Plymouthiin, jonne se saapui 26. syyskuuta. Se siirrettiin huolto- ja muutostöitä varten Devonportin telakalle 29. syyskuuta. 
Campbeltown aloitti 1. marraskuuta koeajot, joiden päätyttyä se aloittaisi palveluksen Läntisen reitin alaisuudessa 17. hävittäjälaivueessa Liverpoolissa. Alus vaurioitui lievästi 2. marraskuuta, kun se kolaroi SS Risoyn kanssa. Se kykeni kuitenkin jatkamaan matkaansa palveluspaikkaansa. Törmäysvauriot korjattiin 7. marraskuuta Liverpoolissa, ja alus palasi telakalta laivueeseensa 24. marraskuuta. 
Alus kärsi pahoja vaurioita 3. joulukuuta törmäyksessä SS Comuksen kanssa, ja niiden vuoksi se palautettiin telakalle. Korjausten aikana aluksen neljäs savuhormi lyhennettiin. Alus siirrettiin 28. maaliskuuta 1941 palvelukseen palatessaan Alankomaiden laivastolle, jolloin se liitettiin 7. saattajaryhmään saattueiden suojaksi. 
Alus oli kesäkuun korjattavana telakalla, mistä se palasi palvelukseen heinäkuussa. Alus suojasi laivueen mukana Atlantin saattueita, kunnes se syyskuussa päätettiin palauttaa Kuninkaallisen laivaston hallintaan. Alus siirrettiin koulutettavaksi, minkä jälkeen se palasi Saattajaryhmäänsä lokakuussa. 
Alus suojasi lokakuusta alkaen saattueita kotimaan ja Länsi-Afrikan välillä, kunnes se siirrettiin joulukuussa Devonportiin korjattavaksi. Alus siirrettiin tammikuussa 1942 Devonportin telakalle, jossa ollessaan se määrättiin operaatio Sotavaunuihin. Alus poistettiin palveluskäytöstä ja sen muutostyöt operaatiota varten aloitettiin. 
Operaatio Sotavaunut Muokkaa
Aluksen muutostyöt sisälsivät kolmannen ja neljännen savuhormin poiston ja kahden jäljelle jääneen lyhentämisen. Muutoksilla pyrittiin jäljittelemään Saksan laivaston Möwe-luokan torpedoveneiden ulkonäköä. Aluksen uppoumaa pienennettiin poistamalla kaikki varastot ja laitteet alukselta. Sen tykit poistettiin ja niiden tilalle keulakannelle asennettiin 12 naulan ilmatorjuntatykki ja yläkannelle 20 millimetrin Oerlikon-ilmatorjuntatykki. Aluksen komentosilta panssaroitiin, ja sen uumeniin asennettiin sytyttimin varustettuina 24 syvyyspommia. 
Aluksella suoritettiin muutostöiden jälkeinen koeajo, minkä jälkeen alukselle nousi operaatioon valittuja kommandosotilaita ja vain tarvittava miehistö aluksen kuljettamiseksi kohteeseen sekä aseiden miehistöiksi. 
Devonportista alus lähti 25. maaliskuuta Falmouthiin liittyäkseen moottoriveneisiin ja moottoritykkiveneisiin, jotka osallistuivat operaatioon. Seuraavana päivänä alus lähti Falmouthista ja hinasi moottoritorpedovene MTB74:ää, joka toimisi operaation komentoaluksena. Osaston suojana olivat HMS Atherstone ja HMS Tynedale. 
Osaston saavuttua Saint-Nazaireen HMS Campbeltown törmäsi Normandie-telakan sulkuportteihin. Saksalaiset pioneerit yrittivät purkaa tuhopanoksen mutta epäonnistuivat tehtävässään. Alus räjähti kymmenen tuntia törmäyksen jälkeen tuhoten sulkuportit ja surmaten useita lähistöllä olleita saksalaisia sotilaita. 
HMS Campbeltown was originally the Wickes-class destroyer USS Buchanan, DD-131. She was commissioned in 1919 and transferred to the UK as part of the "Destroyers for Bases" deal between the US and Britain in 1940. In exchange for 50 aging "four-piper" destroyers like the Buchanan/Campbeltown (obsolete for fleet duties, but still useful as convoy escorts) for the Royal and Royal Canadian navies, the US got basing rights in the Caribbean and Newfoundland.
HMS Campbeltown is one of the most well-known of the traded ships, as she was famously expended as a floating bomb in the "Operation Chariot" raid by British commandos on the St. Nazaire docks in March of 1942. The purpose of the raid - and it succeeded - was to deny the use of the St. Nazaire dry dock to heavy German units such as the battleship Tirpitz.
Revell's 1/240 four-piper destroyer kit has been around since the 1960s and has been issued many times as the USS Ward, the USS Buchanan, and the HMS Campbeltown.
It's basically the same kit every time it comes out, except for the decals. However, even though the decal sheet for this reissue includes the White Ensign of the Royal Navy, the hull number included is still the 131 (in US-style lettering) that goes with USS Buchanan.
In my opinion, this is one of the best of the older ship kits. Unlike some Revell kits of similar vintage (the whole "Picture Fleet" line, for instance) it's accurate below the waterline, with shafts and screws as well as a rudder. And unlike many kits of the era, rather than heavy molded railings, it has stanchions that may be rigged with thread. Before there were photo-etched railings, this was about as good as it got! Overall, the relatively large scale (1/240) really works in the kit's favor. Other nice features include open scuttles and relatively good detail on the decks and bulkheads.
The kit's parts have plenty of the flash and molding marks associated with kits of this era, but cleanup isn't too bad.
With all the sprues in one bag, you do have to be careful about losing parts - I usually try to identify loose ones and put them into a baggie right away to prevent this.
I started my build by attaching the two hull halves.
Next I assembled the two deck pieces and attached the kit-provided stand to a wooden display board. The stand doesn't look like much as is, but once painted it can be an attractive part of the finished model.
Before the Campbeltown was turned into WWII's version of the Trojan Horse, she did escort duty on the Western Approaches and wore an attractive camouflage scheme of white and light blue. I opted to go with this look for the model, a very different one from how she appeared in US service.
I primed the hull with black spray paint and masked the boot topping.
Next step was to spray the deck grayish blue and the hull (after spraying the part below the boot topping red) with its main color of white.
After masking the areas that would remain white I sprayed sky blue for the camouflage pattern, painting the two small charcoal-colored areas by hand.
Next I moved on to the various hull structures and small parts, assembling, priming, and painting them as units.
The kit's instructions are very clear and cover each major subassembly one at a time.
One of the prominent features of the Campbeltown in Royal Navy service was a cut-down fourth funnel that's a fairly easy modification to make using a razor saw.
The only part of the kit that is really unacceptable for use, in my opinion, is the searchlight tower. For some reason, the detail is molded on the inside of the parts, and the sides that face the outside world are flat and very unrealistic.
I replaced these parts with a structure I scratch built from brass rod and stretched sprue. It's not completely accurate, but it looks better than the kit parts. I also added splinter shields made from card stock to the bow and stern guns, to match how they appeared while in British service. I liked the covers on the ship's boats that are shown in the box art, so I fabricated those from paper towels.
So here's the finished product:
The railings were rigged with thread other rigging was done with stretched sprue. Weathering was done with pastels, and the kit's hull number was replaced with decals from my spares box to match how she appeared in British service.
One other comment: as noted, HMS Campbeltown's great claim to fame was her role in the St. Nazaire raid. However, she was heavily modified prior to that operation, specifically, altered to resemble a German torpedo boat so as to help her get as far into the harbor as possible without alerting the enemy. It would take a lot of scratch building to alter this kit in such a way as to yield a model of Campbeltown as she appeared in the raid.
BUCHANAN DD 131
This section lists the names and designations that the ship had during its lifetime. The list is in chronological order.
- Wickes Class Destroyer
Keel Laid 29 June 1918 - Launched 2 January 1919
This section lists active links to the pages displaying covers associated with the ship. There should be a separate set of pages for each incarnation of the ship (ie, for each entry in the "Ship Name and Designation History" section). Covers should be presented in chronological order (or as best as can be determined).
Since a ship may have many covers, they may be split among many pages so it doesn't take forever for the pages to load. Each page link should be accompanied by a date range for covers on that page.
This section lists examples of the postmarks used by the ship. There should be a separate set of postmarks for each incarnation of the ship (ie, for each entry in the "Ship Name and Designation History" section). Within each set, the postmarks should be listed in order of their classification type. If more than one postmark has the same classification, then they should be further sorted by date of earliest known usage.
A postmark should not be included unless accompanied by a close-up image and/or an image of a cover showing that postmark. Date ranges MUST be based ONLY ON COVERS IN THE MUSEUM and are expected to change as more covers are added.
>>> If you have a better example for any of the postmarks, please feel free to replace the existing example.
USS Buchanan (DD-131)/ HMS Campbeltown - History
HMS Campbeltown - Build details and Crew
SPECIAL ALTERATIONS FOR 'CHARIOT'
To minimise the effect of alterations on her draught, all unnecessary ammunition and fittings were removed, and Campbeltown shipped only sufficient fuel and water for a one-way trip. To allay suspicion ashore, however, she was stored as though to feed the crew for a return voyage.
Her four triple torpedo tubes were removed, as was her main armament of 4” guns, her depth-charges and their throwers and traps. To give her the silhouette of a German Möwe class boat her two aft funnels were cut down and blanked off, and her forward two funnels cut back at a slant. As the forward funnel of the German vessel was larger than its companion, Campbeltown’s forward funnel was also enlarged. To trap and drag torpedo nets rather than have them pass underneath and foul the screws, a large hook was fitted at the base of her stem.
As the essence of the attack plan was to achieve surprise and thus pass safely by the medium and heavy German coastal batteries before being engaged by lighter anti-aircraft guns, Campbeltown was armed only with light weapons. A total of eight 20mm Oerlikon cannon were shipped, four on the Midships Gun Platform, two on elevated bandstands above the main deck, and two on the Aft Deckhouse. The 12-pounder normally mounted on the Aft Deckhouse was moved to the Fo’c’sle and single .5” Browning machine-guns were mounted on either bridge wing. Two Commando teams would crew 3” mortars mounted on the foredeck to port and starboard of the bridge. To mitigate the effect of searchlights, the ship was painted in a dusky shade of mauve known as Plymouth, or Mountbatten, Pink.
To give side – but not overhead - protection to the Commandos who would by lying on her deck as the ship approached the lock gate, 4 rows of armour plating were fixed to the deck amidships. The bridge and wheelhouse were also encased in splinter mats and ¼” case-hardened steel plate, leaving only vision slits for Captain and helmsman exposed. This was judged to give adequate protection against missiles of up to 20mm, though even the lighter German batteries would also possess 37mm
This rather desolate Bundesarchiv image taken shortly before she exploded with heavy loss of life to German personnel on board and in the immediate dry dock area, shows the extreme precision with which Campbeltown was driven into the outer caisson of the 'Normandie' dock. With her bow astride the gate the way was clear for her Commando parties to scramble down the ladders shown on either side. The image also shows two men standing casually beside the 12-pounder gun-shield, just a handful of metres above the ship's undiscovered four-plus ton (total weight) demolition charge.
Lt Cdr Stephen Halden 'Sam' Beattie, RN
Lt Christopher Hugh Clare Gough, RN
Lt Nigel Thomas Bethune Tibbits, RN
Gunner (T) Mr Harold Hargreaves, RN
W/Engineer Wilfred Harry Locke, RN
Surg. Lt William James Winthrope, RCNVR,
Chief PO Henry Percival Booth, RNZN
Chief PO Albert Percy Wellsted, RN
PO Steward Albert Edward Love, RN
PO William James Newman, RN
PO Telegraphist Harry Berwick Scott, RN
PO William F. 'Bill' Stocker, RN
Signalman Albert Westwell, RN
Cook Walter Edward Rainbird
Ordinary Cook T.R. 'Roy' Bryant
Ordnance Artificer Frank Wherrell, RN
Leading Seaman Ronald James Bailey, RN
Leading Seaman Peter Mawby, RN
Able Seaman Alfred Sydney Baker, RNVR
Able Seaman Ernest William Bennett, RN
Able Seaman Douglas Frank Bowman, RN
Able Seaman Jim W 'Bill' Demellweek
Able Seaman Thoman Findlay, RN
Able Seaman William Ritchie Findley, RN
Able Seaman Samuel Walter Giles, RN
Able Seaman Victor Howard, RN
Able Seaman Frank Hutchin
Able Seaman Joseph Miller, RNVR
Able Seaman Harry Elvin Nelson, RN
Able Seaman Allenby Rollin, RN
Leading Seaman James Smith, RN
Ordinary Seaman Harold Edward Bott, RN
Ordinary Seaman E Davidge
Ordinary Seaman B.V Nelthorpe
Ordinary Seaman Alexander Ross, RN
ERA Richard Ruthven Nelson, RN
Sto. PO Reginald Joseph Charles Hodder, RN
Sto. PO Daniel Charles Pyke, RN
Sto. PO Reginald Francis Underhill, RN
Sto. PO Albert Thomas Frederick Wade, RN
A/Sto. PO John William Purver, RN
L/Stoker Claude William Hyston Baxter, RN
L/Stoker William Henry Berry, RN
L/Stoker William C Brenton, RN
L/Stoker Frank Edgar Pritchard
L/Stoker Leonard John Newbold, RN
L/Stoker James Bernard Reville, RN
Stoker (11) David Manning Vyall, RN
Stoker Harry Albert Stevens, RN
Builder – Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine: Launched – January 2, 1919: Commissioned – January 20, 1919
Beam – 30’ 8” (9.24m): Displacement – 1090 tons standard: 1154 tons laden: Length – 314’ 4 1/2” (95.8m)
Draught – 9’ 1 3/4” (2.8m) ave: weight of armour etc plus the tendency of her stern to squat at speed would bring this perilously close to the maximum depth of shoal water in the estuary.
Shaft horsepower – twin shafts: 24,200 horsepower at 430rpm: Length – 314’ 4 1/2” (95.8m)
Speed – 35 knots max: Range – 3,400 nm at 20 knots: Crew – normally 120 plus, reduced to 76 for the raid
Armament – 8 x 20mm single Oerlikons: 1 x 12-pounder: 1 x single .5” machine-gun in each bridge wing
Operational history – decommissioned June 7 1922, and spent the next 8 years in reserve. Recommissioned April 1930. Decommissioned again April 1937. Recommissioned September 1939 and transferred to RN service in the 1st Town Flotilla, as HMS Campbeltown, September 9, 1940, at Halifax Nova Scotia. Committed to Operation CHARIOT, March, 1942.
'The Destroyer Campbeltown', Al Ross, 1990
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Campbeltown's armoured bridge and wheelhouse.
Oerlikon mountings 5 & 6, above armoured screens
Build details, HMS Campbeltown/USS Buchanan
HMS Campbeltown (I 42)
Upon her arrival at Devonport, England, 29 September 1940, HMS Campbeltown was allocated to the 7th Escort Group, Liverpool, in the Western Approaches Comm and. In January 1941 she was provisionally allocated to the Royal Netherlands Navy, but reverted to the Royal Navy in September 1941. Between September 1941 and March 1942 she served with Atlantic convoys and was attacked on several occasions by enemy U-boats and aircraft, but escaped without damage. On 15 September 1941 she picked up the survivors of the Norwegian motor tanker Vinga, damaged by an enemy air attack.
Destroyed as explosive vessel against the gate of the massive dry dock Normandie at St. Nazaire, France (to deny large German surface ships the use of it for repair). The commander of the destroyer, Lt. Cdr. Stephen Halden Beattie, RN, who was taken prisoner of war, was awarded the Victoria Cross for this raid.
Commands listed for HMS Campbeltown (I 42)
Please note that we're still working on this section.
|1||Lt. Isaac William Trant Beloe, RN||9 Sep 1940||Jan 1941|
|2||Lt.Cdr. (emergency) Lord Teynham, RN||29 Oct 1941||13 Mar 1942|
|3||Lt.Cdr. Stephen Halden Beattie, RN||13 Mar 1942||28 Mar 1942|
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Notable events involving Campbeltown include:
29 Nov 1940
HMS Campbeltown rammed and sank the British merchant ship Fiddown (319 GRT) in the Mersey estuary. The Fiddown was later raised.
4 Nov 1941
HrMs O 9 (Lt. H.A.W. Goossens, RNN) participated in A/S exercises off Lough Foyle together with HMS Alisma (A/Lt.Cdr. M.G. Rose, RANVR), HMS Chelsea (Lt.Cdr. A.F.C. Layard, RN), HMS Exmoor (Lt.Cdr. L.StG. Rich, RN) and HMS Campbeltown (Lt.Cdr.(Emgy.) Lord Teynham, RN). ( 1 )
16 Nov 1941
HMS H 44 (Lt. J.S. Stevens, DSC, RN) conducted A/S exercises off Lough Foyle with HMS Dahlia (T/Lt. M.S. Work, RNR) and HMS Campbeltown (Lt.Cdr.(Emgy.) Lord Teynham, RN). ( 2 )
28 Mar 1942
HMS Campbeltown was used as an explosive vessel against the massive dry-dock / entrance lock dock at St. Nazaire, France (to deny large German surface ships the use of it for repair). ( 3 )
- File 2.12.03.6368 (Dutch Archives, The Hague, Netherlands)
- ADM 173/16787
- Personal communication
ADM numbers indicate documents at the British National Archives at Kew, London.
USS Buchanan (DD-131)/ HMS Campbeltown - History
Born in Baltimore, Md., 17 September 1800, Franklin Buchanan entered the Navy as a Midshipman on board Java in 1815. He organized the Naval Academy and served as its first superintendent (1845-47). He commanded the sloop Germantown in the Mexican War the steam sloop Susquehanna, flagship of Perry's Squadron, in the expedition to Japan in 1852 and in 1859, became Commandant of the Washington Navy Yard. In 1861 he joined Confederate forces at Richmond, Va., and for gallant and meritorious conduct he was promoted to Admiral, the ranking officer in the Confederate States Navy. He was twice wounded severely and was taken prisoner of war, 5 August 1864. Admiral Buchanan died at his home "The Rest" in Talbot County, Md., 11 May 1874.
(DD-131: dp. 1154 1. 3.14'5" b. 31'8" dr. 9' s. 35.4 k.
cpl. 122 a. 4 4", 13", 12 21" TT. cl. Wickes)
The first Buchanan (DD-131) was launched 2 January 1919 by Bath Iron Works, Bath, Maine sponsored by Mrs. Charles P. Wetherbee and commissioned 20 January 1919, Lieutenant H. H. J. Bensen in command.
Buchanan reported to Commander, Destroyer Force, at Guantanamo, Cuba, and was temporarily attached to Destroyer Squadron 2 until ordered to the Pacific Fleet in July 1919 for duty with Destroyer Flotilla 4. From 7 June 1922 until 10 April 1930 Buchanan was out of commission at San Diego. She then joined Destroyer Division 10, Destroyer Squadrons, Battle Force, and operated on the west coast in routine division, force, and fleet activities and problems. In the summer of 1934, after making a cruise to Alaska with ROTC units aboard, she was placed in reduced commission attached to Rotating Reserve Destroyer Squadron 20 at San Diego.
Again placed in full commission in December 1934, she resumed operations with Division 5, Destroyers, Battle Force. Buchanan was again out of commission at San Diego from 9 April 1937 until 30 September 1939. She was then refitted for action with Division 65, Destroyer Squadron 32, Atlantic Squadron, and from December 1939 until 22 February 1940 operated with the Neutrality Patrol and Antilles Detachment. She was then assigned to patrol In the Gulf of Mexico, operating out of Galveston, Tex., and later off Key West and around the Florida Straits. She arrived at Boston Navy Yard 2 September and then proceeded to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where on 9 September 1940 she was decommissioned and transferred in the destroyer-land bases exchange to the United Kingdom.
Commissioned in the Royal Navy on the day of transfer she was renamed HMS Campbeltown. Upon her arrival at Devonport, England, 29 September 1940,
Campbeltown was allocated to the 7th Escort Group, Liverpool, in the Western Approaches Command. In January 1941 she was provisionally allocated to the Royal Netherlands Navy, but reverted to the Royal Navy in September 1941. Between September 1941 and March 1942 she served with Atlantic convoys and was attacked on several occasions by enemy U-boats and aircraft, but escaped without damage. On 15 September 1941 she picked up the survivors of the Norwegian motor tanker Vinga, damaged by an enemy air attack.
Her end came as a fitting conclusion to her fine career, for she acted as blockship in the lock entrance at St. Nazaire during the raid of 28 March 1942. Early that morning she was driven straight at her objective under withering fire. Her commandos scrambled ashore and commenced their demolition work. After scuttling her, her crew escaped in motor boats. Eleven hours later, her five tons of delayed action high explosives blew up, inflicting heavy casualties among the German members of an inspection party who had gone on board and wrought great havoc in the port. Campbeltown's captain, Lieutenant Commander S. H. Beattie, R. N., who was taken prisoner of war, was awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry.
(DD-484: dp. 1630 1. 348'3" b. 36'1" dr. 17'5" s. 37.4
k. cpl. 276 a. 4 5", 5 21" TT. cl. Gleaves)
The second Buchanan (DD-484) was launched 22 November 1941 by Federal Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co., Kearny, N. J. sponsored by Miss Hildreth Meiere, greatgranddaughter of Admiral Buchanan and commissioned 21 March 1942, Commander D. L. Roscoe, Jr., in command
Buchanan got underway for the Pacific 28 May 1942 She played an effective role in the landings at Guadalcanal and Tulagi (7-9 August) and on 9 August she was present during the Battle of Savo Island and rescued many survivors of Astoria (CA-44), Quincy (CA-39), Vincennes (CA-44), and HMAS Canberra, sunk during the battle. In September she escorted Wasp (CV-7) and other units to Noumea, New Caledonia. Shortly thereafter, as part of TF 64.2, Buchanan assisted in the occupation of Funafuti Island in the Ellice Islands.
On the night of 11-12 October, as a unit of TG 64.2, Buchanan took part in the Battle of Cape Esperance. On 12 November the destroyer was damaged during the initial stages of the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal when she was accidentally hit by U. S. naval gunfire. She suffered the loss of five of her crew and had to withdraw from the action. After undergoing repairs, she was assigned to convoy escort duty until February 1943.
After leave in Sydney, Australia, Buchanan joined the screen of TF 15. On 30 April 1943, while screening in convoy, the ship ran aground off the southern coast of Guadalcanal and, after jettisoning heavy gear and ammunition, she was eased off the reef by three tugs. She proceeded to Espiritu Santo, New Hebrides, for repairs. Repairs completed, she participated in the New Georgia Group operations (30 June- 13 July) and while under heavy attack she effectively bombarded the enemy shore batteries during the invasion of Rendova. She participated in the bombardment of Munda (12 July) and the Battle of Kolombangara (13 July). Buchanan was damaged when she collided with Woodworth (DD-460) during the latter engagement and retired to Noumea for repairs. During the ensuing months, Buchanan convoyed ships to Noumea, Espiritu Santo, and Guadalcanal. She participated in the Treasury-Bougainville operation (1-11 November), taking part in the Rabaul and Buka-Bonis strikes. Next, as a, unit of TF 38, she bombarded Shortland Island and Bougainville (8 and 13 January 1944). On 22 January, while going to the rescue of the torpedoed oiler Cache (AO-67), Buchanan hunted down and sank the Japanese submarine RO-37 in 11'47' S., 164'17' E.
During February the destroyer participated in various phases of the Bismarck Archipelago operation (15 February-1 March). She covered the Green Island landings and took an active part in the bombardment of Kavieng, Rabaul, and New Ireland before steaming to the United States to undergo a yard overhaul at Mare Island.
Upon completion of overhaul and refresher training Buchanan returned to the Pacific and served with the transport screen during the assault and capture of the southern Palaus (6 September-14 October 1944). She next participated in the strikes against Luzon between 14 and 16 December. On 18 December she was damaged by a typhoon in the Philippine Sea. Upon completion of repairs she engaged in attacks on Luzon, Formosa, and the China coast (6-16 January 1945) in support of the Luzon operation. During the remainder of World War II she participated in the Iwo Jima invasion (15 February-5 March) Okinawa operation and supporting 3d and 5th Fleet raids (16 March-30 June) as well as the 3d Fleet operations against Japan (10 July -15 August 1945).
On 29 August she entered Tokyo Bay escorting South Dakota (BB-57). On 1 September she carried Fleet Admirals Nimitz and Halsey from their respective flagships to Yokohama where they met with General MacArthur and then returned them to the fleet. The following day she carried General MacArthur to Missouri (BB63) where he accepted the Japanese surrender and then returned him to Yokohama. She remained on occupation duty in the Par Bast until 8 October and then departed for San Francisco where she arrived 20 October. Buohanan steamed to Charleston, S. C., for pre-inactivation overhaul and went out of commission in reserve there 21 May 1946.
Buchanan was recommissioned 11 December 1948 at Charleston and underwent shakedown and refresher training with a nucleus Turkish crew aboard. On 29 March 1949 she got underway for Goleuk, Turkey, where she was turned over to the Turkish Navy 28 April 1949.
Buchanan received the Presidential Unit Citation and 15 battle stars for her World War II service.
I’ve always had a staunch, somewhat old school take when it comes to traditional naval ship names. In short, it is hard for a plank owner rushing aboard to bring a new ship to life if it is named after some smarmy politician who never wore a uniform or activist and be told to “live up to the legacy” of that person. Ships should be named for five things: maritime heroes (Halsey, Farragut, Munro, Puller et. al), historical former ships (Wasp, Wahoo, Ranger), places (especially if they are also former famous ships, e.g. Nevada, Brooklyn), battles (Lexington, Midway, Hue City), and aspirations (Independence, Freedom).
That goes not just for the U.S. Navy but for any fleet.
With that in mind, the word from First Sea Lord Admiral Tony Radakin this week that the first five names for the future Type 31 frigates for the Royal Navy are familiar.
Each name has been selected to represent key themes and operations which will dominate and shape the global mission of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines: carrier operations (Formidable) operational advantage in the North Atlantic (Bulldog) forward deployment of ships around the globe to protect UK interests (Active) technology and innovation (Venturer) and the Future Commando Force (Campbeltown).
We’ve covered the unsinkable aircraft carrier HMS Formidable (R67) in a past Warship Wednesday, but HMS Cambeltown (notably the ex-USS Buchanan, DD-131), famous for the St. Nazaire Raid the sixth HMS Bulldog (H91), the destroyer whose capture of a complete Enigma machine and codebooks from the German submarine U-110 in 1941 no doubt helped shorten the war the 12th HMS Active (F171), the frigate whose blistered 4.5-inch gun chased Argentine troops across every hill around Port Stanley in 1982 and the third HMS/m Venturer (P68), the only submarine in history to have sunk another (the very advanced Type IXD2 U-864) while both were submerged are no less important to naval history.
The well-known image of the fifth and most famous HMS Formidable on fire after the kamikaze hit on 4 May, photograph A 29717 from the collections of the Imperial War Museum
The “Trojan Horse Destroyer” HMS Campbeltown rests on the St Nazaire dock gate shortly before she will explode, March 1942
HMS Bulldog, in her three-shades-of-blue North Atlantic camouflage. IWM Photo No.: FL 1817
RN photo of frigate HMS Active escorting Lanistes through the Straits of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, mid-1987 Armilla patrol
HMS/m Venturer in Holy Loch in 1943. Because of her, U-864 and her cargo of 65 tons of mercury as well as Junkers Jumo 004B jet engine parts (used in the Messerschmitt Me 262) never made it to Japan as a result of an amazing underwater action. IWM A-18832.
Sacrifice at Saint-Nazaire
As the spring of 1942 approached, the British Admiralty had its hands full with the Battle of the Atlantic, which had been raging for two and a half years. U-boat wolf packs, surface raiders, and warplanes had sent about eight million tons of Allied shipping to the bottom, and the situation was getting worse. Slipping out from their havens in the western French ports of Brest, Lorient, La Pallice, Bordeaux, and Saint-Nazaire, the German submarines were now preying on merchant shipping along the U.S. East Coast while continuing to sink Allied vessels at the rate of almost two a day in the North Atlantic.
Brest and Saint-Nazaire were the most heavily fortified German naval bases on the French Atlantic coast. Ringed with mine and torpedo barriers, antiaircraft guns, coastal batteries, and ship patrols, their U-boat pens were bunkers of reinforced concrete several yards thick. But Saint-Nazaire, situated near the mouth of the Loire River, was much more than a secure refuge for submarines, and its significance haunted the admirals and strategists in Whitehall.
The port contained an enormous wet and dry dock—built in peacetime for the 82,800-ton French luxury liner Normandie—that was the only facility on the Atlantic coast where the German Navy could accommodate its two biggest battleships, the 42,900-ton Tirpitz and 41,700-ton Bismarck. The Royal Navy had sunk the latter on 27 May 1941 after an epic chase, but the Tirpitz, operational since mid-January 1942 and a prime threat to the British, was lurking in the fiords of Norway.
If the Tirpitz broke out into the Atlantic to prowl along shipping lanes and wreak havoc on convoys, the Normandie dry dock would be her only realistic refuge for repairs. The other option would be to run the gauntlet of the Strait of Dover or cross the heavily patrolled North Sea to reach the Baltic naval base at Kiel. The Admiralty reasoned that the big Saint-Nazaire dry dock’s destruction would force the battleship to remain in Norwegian waters.
To ensure the Germans considered these risks not worth taking, the dock must be put out of action. Previous Royal Air Force (RAF) bombing raids had proved futile, and a frontal attack would be suicidal—unless an intricate hoax was devised to hoodwink the Germans into enabling attackers to reach the dock before the defenders realized what was up. So a bold raid was seen as the only solution.
Preparations for the Raid
The daunting assignment was handed to Lord Louis Mountbatten’s Combined Operations Command, whose all-volunteer British Commandos had been making small-scale hit-and-run attacks against German coastal installations since 1940. Mountbatten, Royal Navy Commodore John Hughes-Hallett, and their aides busily prepared Operation Chariot, which would be the largest Combined Operations raid yet mounted.
The chosen plan, drawn up in strict secrecy, called for an old destroyer laden with explosives to ram the steel outer lock gate, or caisson, of the Normandie dry dock and then be scuttled. Three eight-hour fuses on board would detonate the charges. The operation was to involve a 300-mile sea voyage and a five-mile run up the Loire estuary.
The destroyer chosen for the raid was the 1,090-ton HMS Campbeltown, formerly the USS Buchanan (DD-131). She was one of the 50 four-stack, flush-deck World War I–era destroyers turned over to the Royal Navy by the Roosevelt administration in September 1940 in exchange for British bases in Bermuda, the West Indies, and Newfoundland. For her “Trojan horse” role, the decrepit, flimsy vessel was heavily modified, in part to reduce her displacement enough to allow the ship to traverse the Loire estuary’s shallows and avoid its more heavily defended channel. The destroyer’s explosive charge consisted of 24 400-pound depth charges concreted in a specially built steel compartment below her foredeck. She also would carry two assault and five demolition teams of Commandos.
The raiding force assembled in the Cornwall port of Falmouth on the craggy southwestern tip of England. Besides the centerpiece Campbeltown, the vessels comprised a motor gunboat (MGB-314), a motor torpedo boat (MTB-74), and 16 unarmored motor launches. Manned by 346 naval personnel, the boats and destroyer were to carry 265 Commandos armed Bren light machine guns, Thompson submachine guns, hand grenades, and explosive charges. The vessels would be escorted by the Hunt-class destroyers Atherstone and Tynedale, which would remain outside the estuary, and additional support was to be furnished by the destroyers Cleveland and Brocklesby.
The force leader was ruggedly handsome Royal Navy Commander Robert E. “Red” Ryder, who made the Atherstone his headquarters ship. The Campbeltown was commanded by bearded Lieutenant Commander Stephen H. “Sam” Beattie, and the officers and other ranks of No. 2 Commando were led by pipe-smoking Lieutenant Colonel Augustus C. Newman of the Royal Essex Regiment.
Early on the breezy, sunny afternoon of 26 March 1942, the flotilla eased out of Falmouth Harbor, regrouped into an arrow-shaped formation, and headed west and then south toward the Bay of Biscay. Told of their destination during the voyage’s first leg, the seamen and Commandos sang songs and snacked on ham and raisins morale was high. At dusk, large German “flags of convenience” were hoisted above each vessel, intended to deceive the enemy during the approach.
Just after 0700 the next day, Ryder’s lookouts spotted a U-boat idling on the surface 130 miles west of Saint-Nazaire. Flying a German flag, the Tynedale headed for the submarine, which stayed on the surface. The destroyer opened fire at 4,000 yards, and the U-boat crash-dived. The Tynedale dropped a pattern of depth charges, fired her 4-inch guns and automatic weapons, and then sped off to rejoin the flotilla.
Commander Ryder was anxious that the submarine would radio a warning to Saint-Nazaire, but he decided to press on. Having seen the Tynedale steam southwest to rejoin the flotilla, the German skipper assumed all the British vessels were going in that direction, away from the coast. So he radioed Saint-Nazaire, “British naval force sailing on a westerly course.”
At this time, Admiral Karl Dönitz, the dour chief of Germany’s U-boat force, was inspecting the concrete pens at Saint-Nazaire. When he asked the port commander about defensive measures, the officer said a plan was ready, but he considered a raid unlikely. “Well, I would not be so sure about that,” Dönitz remarked.
Late in the afternoon of the 27th, Commander Ryder became disturbed anew when several French trawlers neared his flotilla. Ryder’s sailors boarded and searched two of the vessels, and their crews were taken aboard the Tynedale. The Frenchmen were befuddled. Their English-speaking captors wore British uniforms, but the German flag flew overhead.
The flotilla sailed on closer to its objective as darkness fell. At midnight antiaircraft-gun flashes and the glow of bombs to the northeast told Ryder and his men that 65 RAF bombers were making a prearranged diversionary attack. About an hour later, the Saint-Nazaire shoreline became faintly visible to the tense sailors and Commandos. All hands prepared for the perilous dash into the Loire estuary. Newman’s men pulled on Bergen rucksacks filled with grenades and explosives and strapped razor-sharp fighting knives to their legs. Time fuses were set on board the Campbeltown.
A few miles away ashore, the RAF raid had made some Germans fearful that trouble was brewing. Huddled in his Saint-Nazaire command bunker, Kriegsmarine Captain Karl C. Mecke grew suspicious when he observed that the bombers were not flying in formation and one or two were making passes over the port. He fired off a signal to all defense posts: “I don’t understand the behavior of the enemy. I suspect parachutists.”
Shortly after 0100 on 28 March, Mecke received a warning that unlighted ships were sailing up the Loire estuary leading into the Saint-Nazaire harbor. Rushing to an observation post, he squinted through a telescope and discerned the dark shapes of about 15 vessels. Captain Mecke called for searchlights to be switched on, and Ryder’s flotilla was outlined brightly.
The Kriegsmarine officer was hesitant to give an order to open fire because one of the intruding vessels, the Campbeltown, appeared to be German, but the others did not. Yet all were flying German flags. He ordered a shell to be fired across the bow of the leading craft, and moments later the British fired a green flare that split into three red stars, the German recognition signal.
Flanked by enemy guns on both sides of the Loire, the flotilla moved carefully between mudflats and sandbanks, churning steadily onward. It was less than a mile from the Normandie dock at 0130 when the German batteries opened up with a deafening roar. While flotilla guns fired back, the German flags were rapidly lowered and replaced by Royal Navy ensigns. The British deceit had paid off, and the raiders had managed to penetrate the enemy lair before being identified as hostile.
‘Here We Are’
Shells battered the Campbeltown, killing and wounding a number of sailors and Commandos. Standing calmly on the bridge while tracer fire hissed around him, Commander Beattie could see the dock clearly outlined by the searchlights’ glare. “Full speed ahead!” he shouted. “Prepare for ramming!” Rocked by the shells, his vessel lurched toward the massive dock gate as flame, smoke, and flying debris filled the air. Closer and closer went the Campbeltown at 15 knots until, with a grinding crunch, she slammed into the gate dead center. Ten yards of her bow was sheared open like a tin can, but she came to rest with her forecastle hanging over the heavily damaged caisson.
The jarring impact knocked the seamen and Commandos down. The unruffled Beattie scrambled to his feet and remarked to the officers on the bridge, “All right, here we are.” Glancing at his wristwatch, which read 0134, he added with a hint of disappointment, “Four minutes late.” The Commandos swiftly clambered down her sides. The gallant Campbeltown had fulfilled her sacrificial duty, and her crew disembarked after the Commandos as Saint-Nazaire Harbor became an inferno of exploding shells, smoke, and tracer streams.
The motor launches crammed with Commandos, meanwhile, had run into a hornets’ nest of fierce German shell and machine-gun fire. Several boats were sunk and their swimming survivors gunned down, and other craft turned back, their decks covered with dead and wounded men. As they tried to escape, the survivors were intercepted by German torpedo boats returning to the estuary. These were driven off by the supporting destroyers, but only four of the launches ultimately survived.
But other Commandos managed to scramble ashore under fire and begin blowing up their assigned targets. Within half an hour of the Campbeltown’s ramming, they had destroyed the dry dock’s machinery and mechanisms. They also disabled the winding gear of the gate, but their efforts to attack the U-boat pens were unsuccessful.
Pandemonium in Saint-Nazaire
With their mission completed, the Commandos regrouped to take a breather and tend their wounded. Under increasing enemy fire, Lieutenant Colonel Newman and the 150 weary men he had left took up a defensive position behind some trucks near the embarkation point, the port’s Old Mole. They waited patiently for the motor launches to return, but none arrived. As the minutes passed, it became all too clear that they were marooned in Saint-Nazaire and surrounded by thousands of Germans. The Commandos were not surprised they had been warned that their chances of getting away were slim at best.
Newman ordered his men to split into small groups and try to slip or fight their way to the countryside and then work their way south to neutral Spain or Portugal. But there was little hope of survival for the hapless Commandos the port was teeming with search parties. The Britons hid in back streets, bombed buildings, gardens, and cellars to evade capture, and exchanged fire with the enemy, but the Germans captured most of them one by one after their ammunition ran out.
Pandemonium had taken hold in Saint-Nazaire, meanwhile, and gunfire was echoing at daybreak. Believing that an Allied invasion had begun, French Resistance fighters had emerged and were picking off German soldiers. Convinced that he was facing a major “terrorist” uprising, the port commander called for more troops and declared a state of emergency.
But the chaos did not deter German curiosity about the Trojan horse jammed in the wrecked Normandie dry-dock gate. Forty officers climbed aboard for an inspection tour. Rumors had spread that the mess and store rooms in the Campbeltown contained quantities of chocolate, coffee, whiskey, and cigarettes, so scores of enemy seamen and soldiers soon swarmed through the ship. An inspection team failed to find the explosives and delayed-action fuses.
The British skipper was interrogated that morning at the local German headquarters. Beattie merely shrugged his shoulders at the questions of Kriegsmarine intelligence officers, and they concluded he was probably an incompetent officer who got excited when the shooting started, lost control of his ship, and crashed her into the dock gate.
Suddenly, without warning at 1035, a deafening explosion shook the Saint-Nazaire area as the Cambeltown’s charges detonated, destroying the forward part of the ship and the dry-dock caisson and killing up to 400 Germans still on board and two captured Commando officers who knew that the ship was about to blow up but did not say so. The blast also disabled the Normandie dock for the rest of the war. When they heard the explosion, the officers interrogating Beattie stared at each other in disbelief. The Campbeltown skipper remained expressionless.
At 1632 the next day, another explosion rocked Saint-Nazaire when an MTB-74–launched torpedo with a delayed-action fuse detonated against one of the Bassin de Saint-Nazaire’s Old Entrance gates. While frantic German officers inspected the damage, a second torpedo went off. Pandemonium erupted again. Panicky French workers tried to storm the dockyard gates, and German sentries opened fire, killing about 250 of them. The Kriegsmarine commander closed the harbor area for the rest of the week and ordered a search for more delayed-action explosives.
The Far-Ranging Fallout
Operation Chariot was pronounced a great success. It proved that such a raid could reap strategic dividends, and encouraged Mountbatten’s Combined Operations to attempt a bolder venture, the 19 August 1942 “reconnaissance in force” against the French port of Dieppe by 1,000 British Commandos, 5,000 Canadian infantrymen, 50 U.S. Rangers, and two dozen Free French troops. But Operation Jubilee proved disastrous. The Channel port was strongly defended, and almost 4,000 Allied troops were killed or captured. Nevertheless, Jubilee provided an invaluable lesson for the planners of the 1944 Normandy invasion.
The Saint-Nazaire operation denied the mighty Tirpitz a haven on the western French coast, virtually ruling out the possibility of her operating in the Atlantic. Prime Minister Winston Churchill exulted over “the brilliant and heroic exploit” at Saint-Nazaire, and spirits rose through the Admiralty. The Tirpitz remained in the Norwegian fiords, persistently menacing the British convoys to Russia, and was eventually attacked near Tromso by 32 RAF Lancaster heavy bombers and sunk on 12 November 1944.
The high command in Berlin predictably dismissed the raid as a complete failure, but a number of enemy correspondents paid generous tribute to the Britons. “Even after being isolated from the main force,” wrote one, “certain British units continued bitter resistance.” According to propaganda reactions, the operation dealt a serious blow to enemy morale. It also convinced German leaders of the vulnerability of the long Atlantic coast and forced them to start diverting critical men and materials for its defense.
The success of Operation Chariot lifted the morale of the British, numbed by bombing and many military and naval setbacks, and was headlined triumphantly. But the cost was high. Of the 611-man force, 169 were killed (64 Commandos and 105 naval personnel) and 200 captured—a 60 percent casualty rate.
Of the Commandos left behind, five managed to reach Spain and sail home from Gibraltar, while those captured spent the rest of war in prison camps. Two weeks after the Saint-Nazaire raid, the commandant of a camp in Germany had his British captives formed up in the compound with an honor guard of Wehrmacht soldiers. Then he read the citation for the Victoria Cross that had been awarded to Commander Beattie, skipper of the Campbeltown.
Another VC was pinned on Lieutenant Colonel Newman after he was eventually repatriated and returned to England. Britain’s highest award for valor also went to Commander Ryder, the assault force commander Sergeant Tom Durrant, who gave his life defending one of the motor launches against a German destroyer and Able Seaman William A. Savage of MGB-314, who kept firing his 2-pounder pom-pom until killed by a shell splinter.
Saint-Nazaire was the first operation of the war in which so many VCs were awarded. A total of 83 decorations were given to participants in the raid, including 14 Distinguished Service Crosses to naval officers.
The Campbeltown’s Transformation
Over nine days in March 1942 the destroyer HMS Campbeltown—the former USS Buchanan (DD-131)—was heavily modified for her role in the Saint-Nazaire raid. The goals were to lighten the ship and fool the Germans into thinking the old destroyer, as she approached Saint-Nazaire, was a Kriegsmarine Möwe-class submarine chaser. Changes included: