Winged Chariot

Vital in the execution of Operation Chariot, ‘The greatest raid of all’, was the involvement of the Royal Air Force, although their role has often been misunderstood, misinterpreted or underplayed. Now, on the 75th anniversary of the raid, Peter Lush sets out the detail of the RAF’s important involvement.

RAF Support for the St Nazaire Raid

The pilot of an ASR Lysander gets ready for the next ‘op’. Lysanders of 277 Sqn operated in the east of the English Channel whilst 276 Sqn operated in the west. (1940 MEDIA)
Air Marshal Arthur Harris, AOC-in-C Bomber Command.
Vertical of St Nazaire taken on 25 March 1942. The five boats of the 5th Torpedo Flotilla (1) can be seen tied up alongside in the submarine basin.
Lockheed Hudsons of 233 Squadron who flew searches from RAF St Eval, here seen over Northern Ireland while based at Aldergrove. (1940 MEDIA)

The only real criticism at the time (and ever since) has been of the RAF’s so-called diversionary raid…”. Thus wrote Air Chief Marshal Sir Patrick Hine in his foreword to the recently published ‘Winged Chariot’, a complete account of the RAF’s support role during the raid on St Nazaire in March, 1942. On the 75th anniversary of the raid, that perception still prevails. Mention of the RAF at St Nazaire draws such comments as: “I didn’t know they were there”, or: “We fouled up there, didn’t we?” With this latter comment coming from a serving RAF station commander, it is surely timely that the record should now be set straight.

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