Operation Chariot – Falmouth remembers the ‘greatest raid of all time’: the St Nazaire Raid 80 years on

The Falmouth deputy mayor leaving a wreath and paying respect to those in the raid | Jory Mundy

On Sunday the 3 April, members of the public, military personnel and politicians from the local area gathered in Falmouth to remember the heroes of the St Nazaire raid which was launched from Falmouth during WW2. Before the men left they were reportedly told by their commander that the job was dangerous and he didn’t expect anyone to return.

Despite the success of the raid, only 228 men (out of 612) returned to Britain with 169 being killed and 2015 becoming POWs.

On the 28 March 1942 the British Navy launched a daring raid on the dry dock at St Nazaire which allowed large German warships such as the Tirpitz to wreak havoc in the North Atlantic. The obsolete WW1 destroyer HMS Campbeltown was slammed into the dry docks as it was rigged with explosives, whilst British commandos successfully destroyed other objectives around the base. The delayed explosion later destroyed the dry dock until 1947, preventing the launch of large battleships from German-occupied France which would normally target shipping in the Atlantic. Despite the success of the raid, only 228 men (out of 612) returned to Britain with 169 being killed and 2015 becoming POWs.

HMS Seahawk led the parade from the Moor and back | Jory Mundy

Delegates all met on Falmouth Moor around 10 AM with the parade starting soon after. Being led by HMS Seahawk from RNAS Culdrose, the parade headed towards the Prince of Wales Pier for the service at 11 AM led by Reverend Bill Gates. They were joined by deputy mayor (Kirstie Edwards) the majors of Penryn and Helston as well as several councillors from the area, representatives from the Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall, RNAS Culdrose and a dozen others including the local MP and others who had connections to those involved in the raid. A wreath was also laid by representatives from Falmouth, Exeter, and the FXU. A minute’s silence was also held to remember those who died in the raid.

A Wreath left by both Universities in Cornwall | Jory Mundy

Steve Eva, Falmouth’s mayor—who was unable to attend due to sickness—had previously visited St Nazaire the week before for the 80th anniversary of the raid. This was also the first full service with a parade and the general public since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The service concluded with the Lord’s Prayer and the British national anthem being sung before the parade marched back to the Moor, and delegates were invited inside for refreshments.