I was rewatching an old documentary and felt inspired to draw a little piccy: [link]
In 1942, the German battleship Tirpitz was the most feared thing on the waves. Supply convoys were already being torn apart by U-Boat packs, and if the Tirpitz were to ever sail into the fray, they would have been broken entirely, leaving Britain to starve.
The Royal Navy had nothing in its arsenal that could match the Tirpiz, so a different approach was taken. Rather than destroy the battleship, they would destroy the only installation on the Atlantic coast that could be used to repair it, thus making the Germans less eager to let it sail into battle in the first place.
That facility was the Normandie Dock in St. Nazaire, France, and the action taken against it became known as “The Greatest Raid of All”.
A lone destroyer, HMS Campbeltown, and a fleet of little escort boats were disguised as German vessels and were sailed up the estuary beyond which St Nazaire lay.
Under the noses of the enemy, the destroyer rammed the gates of the Normandie Dock, stranding itself on top but failing to breach them.
British Commandos then disembarked and set about razing every important mechanism they could find.
Successful in their part of the operation, the commandos then made to rendezvous with the escort boats that were to take them home.
Unfortunately; they’d more or less all been blown to pieces.
Now trapped, the commandos decided to fight their way out of St Nazaire and head for Spain, despite the local garrison outnumbering them 20 to 1.
Unsurprisingly, all but 5 were captured or killed.
The Germans patted the British on the back for the attempt. It was a bold move, they thought. A bold move, but an ill-planned one. There was no way a rather flimsy ship like the Campbeltown could ever have breached the gates.
The Brits were, of course, well aware of this fact, too.
Which is why they’d loaded the thing with 4 tons of high explosives and a long fuse....