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Report - St Nazaire U Boat Pens, and Operation Chariot. June 2012

Discussion in 'European and International Sites' started by sidibear, Jun 26, 2012.

  1. sidibear

    sidibear 28DL Regular User
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    Two reports in one as they are kinda linked.
    In the port area of St Nazaire in Western France are the U Boat pens where the German navy kept and repaired its U Boats during WW2. The U Boats would go out into the Atlantic ocean and attack the supply convoys crossing the ocean bringing supplies to England. St Nazaire is on the estuary of the river Loire and to stop the base being attacked by water it was heavily defended along its shores. To stop it being attacked by air, there were many gun emplacements and also the roof was constructed to resist bomb damage by having a reinforced secondary roof.

    From Wiki:
    Before the Second World War, Saint-Nazaire was one of the largest harbours of the Atlantic coast of France. During the Battle of France, the German Army arrived in Saint Nazaire in June 1940. The harbour was immediately used for submarine operations, with U-46 arriving as soon as 29 September 1940.
    In December, a mission of the Organisation Todt (Oberbauleitung Süd) inspected the harbour to study the possibilities to build a submarine base invulnerable to air bombing from England. Work soon began under the supervision of engineer Probst.
    The selected space was that of the docks and buildings of the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique, that were rased. Building began in February 1941 with pens 6,7 and 8, completed in June 1941. From July 1941 to January 1942, pens 9 through 14 were built; and between February to June 1942, pens 1 through 5. Work was eventually completed by the building of a tower.
    Between late 1943 and early 1944, a fortified lock was built to protect submarines during their transfer from the Loire river and the pens. The lock is 155 metre long, 25 metre wide, and 14 metre high; the roof features anti-aircraft armament.

    The base is 300 metre long, 130 metre wide and 18 metre high, amounting to a 39,000 m² surface on the ground, and a volume of concrete of 480,000 m³. The roof is 8 metre deep, featuring four layers: the first one is a 3.5 metre sheet of reinforced concrete; the second is a 35 cm granite and concrete layers; the third is a 1.7 metre deep layer of reinforced concrete, and the fourth, is a "Fangrost" layer of steel beams, 1.40 metres deep. The roof is dotted with anti-aircraft weaponry, machine guns and mortars.


    The first thing you notice as you approach is its bloody big:eek:
    Bit of a bad camera day, fitted a polarizing and ND filter which vignetted the edges, didn't notice until I put them on the PC when I got back.

    Taken from the roof of the u boat lock building
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    Taken from the ramp leading to the roof.

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    Bomb resistant roof construction
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    Couple of internal shots
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    To be honest, if you are thinking of going it would be best to be passing and dropping by rather than making a special journey, there isn't really a lot there to see.
    I however, had other things to see.....

    Operation Chariot. aka The greatest raid of all time.
    Now, my old neighbour once told me about how he was a commando during the war and that they rammed a boat deep into the heart of German territory and blew up a dock. He said the Germans treated them like hero's once they were captured. He passed away about 15 years ago but I would have loved to have told him that I have now been there and show him how it now looks.
    The Tirpitz was a huge boat and was built to attack the Atlantic convoys during WW2. If it was damaged there was only one dry dock big enough to take it so it could be repaired, that dry dock is at St Nazaire.
    As it was very close to the u boat pens, the area was heavily defended. A plan was hatched to disguise an old British boat as a German boat, fill it with 4 tons of explosive, drive it up the river and ram the gates of the dry dock and blow it up.
    All went pretty much to plan, the Germans didn't notice what was wrong until it was too late and opened fire on the British boat, HMS Campbeltown, which smashed into the dry dock gate doing a lot of damage, but the explosives didn't go off until the following morning. The explosion destroyed the dock gate, the Campbeltown had on deck lots of German sightseers, parts of which were found on the roof of the nearby u boat pens some 400 yards away !
    169 British were killed and 215 were taken prisoner, one of which was my old neighbour. Five Victoria Crosses were awarded for this operation. one went to Tom Durrant, a machine gunner who took on a German destroyer and despite being hit several times by German gun fire, still returned fire until he passed out through blood loss. After it was over, the German captain tracked down a captured British officer and said whoever it was on the boat deserves the greatest honour, which he was awarded posthumously.He was 23.
    All the British soldiers killed were buried with full military honours by the Germans.

    The dry dock gate as seen from the sea, its to the right of the blue hut. Imagine trying to hit it with a fast moving ship at night while being shot at.
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    From the roof of the u boat lock building.
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    The dry dock itself. 350m long, 50m wide and 15m high, holds approx 260,000 cubic metres of water
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    Random crane porn.
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    Front gun off the Campbeltown.
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    Memorial
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