St Nazaire Raid Part One: The World In 1942

March 11, 2019 by crew

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On previous Weekender shows, the OnTableTop team (well, mainly Warren) has been talking about the St. Nazaire Raid or “Operation Chariot”, but what was it, when was it and why was it so important? Over this short series of articles in the run-up to the 28th March (the day of the raid), I will try my best to explain all.

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First, I think it is best to explain what the situation was like for Britain at the time.

The Situation In Europe So Far

It's early 1942 in Europe. Poland and France have both fallen to the Germans and their use of Blitzkrieg tactics. Operation Dynamo (or the Dunkirk Evacuation) has happened and was a huge success!

Britain is high on the “Dunkirk Spirit”, but now has thousands of extra mouths to feed due to all of the British soldiers being rescued. By 1942, most of the French troops rescued had returned to France. A lot of them had been captured and put into Internment camps but some were able to evade capture and join the French Resistance or even just return to civilian life.

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Dunkirk Evacuation

Britain was also having a real tug-of-war situation in North Africa but by the end of 1941, the British had forced the Germans and Italians back to Libya. This would be a short-lived victory however, as, by January 1942, the Germans advanced back into Egypt with renewed strength.

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Desert Warfare

The Battle of France was over and the fight in the skies, The Battle of Britain, had been won by the daring of the RAF and their allies.

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The Battle Of Britain

Although Britain didn't know it, “Unternehmen Seelöwe” or “Operation Sealion” was indefinitely postponed and would, ultimately, never be put into action.

The Wider Conflict

Japan had launched the unprovoked attack of Pearl Harbour, forcing the United States of America to enter the war. As the Japanese had signed an agreement with the Germans and Italians beforehand, the Americans joined the Allies. Luckily for Britain, the Americans had agreed on the Lend-Lease Agreement so supplies were flowing back and forth.

As the Americans were now looking to send troops to Europe and North Africa, it would start to relieve some pressure on Britain. However, it wasn't going to be all one way and to keep up with their end of the agreements, Britain was forced to send a fleet to the Pacific to help combat the Japanese.

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Devastation At Pearl Harbour

Sending a fleet to the Pacific doesn't sound too bad, right? The Battle of Britain was over so Britain had air superiority in case there was a German invasion but the Battle of the Atlantic was still raging.

The Peril Of The U-Boats

In his memoirs, Churchill stated that he was more concerned about the Battle of the Atlantic than he was for the Battle of Britain. He said that the only thing that ever truly terrified him was the U-Boat peril that was threatening to strike.

For those who are not aware, the Battle of the Atlantic was the name given to the fighting between the German U-Boats and the Allied convoys transporting supplies between Britain and America. With them joining the conflict and both sides needing supplies ferried one side to the other, convoys were the only way of transporting supplies across the Atlantic.

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The Tirpitz

The job of the U-Boats was to sink as much shipping as possible in an attempt to starve Britain...and they were winning. Thousands of tonnes in shipping was being sunk by their brutal raids. Britain was beginning to starve. Britain didn't have the resources to be 100% self-sufficient and things were getting desperate. It was then that the British learned of what would become its biggest nightmare...The Tirpitz.

Make sure to join me in the run-up to the anniversary of the St Nazaire Raid over the coming weeks as we explore the background and history of it all, delving next into The Tirpitz and the threat posed on the waves.

By Matt Buck

Are you getting ready to celebrate this raid on the tabletop yourself?

"Churchill stated that he was more concerned about the Battle of the Atlantic than he was for the Battle of Britain..."

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"The job of the U-Boats was to sink as much shipping as possible in an attempt to starve Britain..."

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