8 September 2014 | howardmorley
Inspired by H.M.S. Campbeltown
Viewers might as well know the inspiration for the screenplay to this 1952 movie based on facts gleaned from Wikipedia.
Based on the lend/lease arrangement of the UK/USA during WW2, Britain was leased an old destroyer by the US Navy.This was used in the St Nazaire raid of 1942. An explosive charge consisting of 24 Mark VII depth charges—containing a total of 4.5 short tons (4.1 t) of amatol high explosive—was fitted into steel tanks installed just behind the steel pillar that supported her most forward gun mount. The charges were to be detonated by multiple eight-hour time pencils connected together by cordtex, set before steaming out and cemented in to prevent any interference with the detonation.HMS Campbeltown steamed from Devonport to Falmouth, Cornwall on 25 March 1942 to join the other ships that would take part in the operation. The crew —which would be evacuated with the commandos—was reduced to 75 men, under the command of Lieutenant-Commander Stephen "Sam" Beattie.
A flotilla of 21 vessels—Campbeltown, 16 Fairmile B motor launches, one motor torpedo boat, and a Fairmile C motor gun boat acting as the troops′ headquarters—left Falmouth at 14:00 on 26 March 1942, escorted for most of the crossing to France by two "Hunt"-class escort destroyers. Apart from a brief clash with German submarine U-593, whose captain misreported the task force's course and composition, the ships reached France unmolested. One motor launch suffered mechanical problems and had to return to England.
The preliminary air raid carried out through heavy cloud by 35 Armstrong Whitworth Whitleys and 25 Vickers Wellingtons was much smaller than originally planned and was ineffective, merely alerting the defenders of something unusual happening. Nevertheless, by flashing genuine German recognition signals, the force, with Campbeltown flying the flag of the Kriegsmarine, approached to within less than 1 mi (1.6 km) of the harbour before being fired upon. Campbeltown—as the largest target—drew most of the fire. During the final approach, the crew of Campbeltown lowered the emblem of the Kriegsmarine and hoisted the White ensign of the Royal Navy.
At 01:34 on 28 March, four minutes later than planned, Campbeltown rammed the dock gate. The Commandos and ship's crew came ashore under heavy German fire, and set about demolishing the dock machinery. 162 of the raiders were killed (64 commandos and 105 sailors) out of the 611 men in the attacking force. Of the survivors, 215 were captured and 222 were evacuated by the surviving small craft. A further five evaded capture and travelled overland through France to Spain and then to Gibraltar, a British territory.
German photo of HMS Campbeltown, taken before it exploded The charges in Campbeltown exploded at noon, an hour and a half later than the British had expected. Although the ship had been searched by the Germans, the explosives had not been detected. The explosion killed around 250 German soldiers and French civilians, and demolished both the front half of the destroyer and the 160 short tons (150 t) caisson of the drydock, with the rush of water into the drydock washing the remains of the ship into it. The St. Nazaire drydock was rendered unusable for the rest of the war, and was not repaired until 1947.
The delayed-action torpedoes fired by the motor torpedo boat into the outer lock gate to the submarine basin detonated, as planned, on the night of 30 March. This later explosion led to panic, with German forces firing on French civilians and on each other. Sixteen French civilians were killed and around thirty wounded. Later, 1,500 civilians were arrested and interned in a camp at Savenay, and most of their houses were demolished, even though they had had nothing to do with the raid.Lt-Cdr Beattie—who was taken prisoner—received the Victoria Cross for his valour, and in 1947 received the French Légion d'honneur.The Victoria Cross was one of five that were awarded to participants in the raid, along with 80 other military decorations.
I rated this film 6/10 as above average and certainly not up to the level of "The Cruel Sea" (1952) produced in the same year, which which some users have compared it.