Prince Philip met relatives of soldiers who fought in the St Nazaire Raid (Operation Chariot) during the Second World War at a reception at Fishmongers’ Hall in London on Friday.
The St Nazaire Raid – sometimes referred to as ‘The Greatest Raid of All’ – was a successful attack on the occupied Normandie dry dock in France in 1942 to harm the German forces, as it would require that any damaged German warship use the English Channel or GIUK gap, both of which were defended by the British.
The HMS Campbeltown and 18 small ships were used in the raid and rammed into the Normandie Dock. Delayed-action explosives detonated later that day, rendering the dock unusable for the rest of the war – and for five years afterwards.
German forces retaliated, and heavy gunfire saw most of the smaller ships destroyed during the retreat. Only three returned to the open waters outside battle, although German aeroplanes attempted to sink them unsuccessfully.
Of the 622 men who took part in the St Nazaire Raids, only 228 survived and returned home to England. There were 169 men who were killed, and 215 became prisoners of war. Five Victoria Crosses were awarded, and 89 decorations were given out.
Prince Philip attended the 75th-anniversary reception in his capacity as the patron of the St Nazaire Society, a position he has held since 1980.
Prince Philip served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War and was promoted to lieutenant in 1942. He served on various warships, and while second in command of the HMS Wallace, he saved it from night bombers during the invasion of Sicily.
A series of events in St Nazaire from 26-28 March will commemorate the 75th anniversary of the raid, including a dock tour, an exhibition, ceremonies at the La Baule/Escoublac War Cemetery and Breton Cemetery, a dinner, parade, and lunches, explains the St Nazaire Society’s website.